No hop across the pond required!
The secret is really no secret. There is an idyllic region boasting European health spas, fifth-generation farms, and rolling vineyards. You’ve seen it, heard it, passed by it, most likely even bought some of its homegrown products. The region is more specifically a state, both literally and figuratively. Its name is Georgia.
Mention the word agritourism and you might be met with blank stares, yawns or blinder-fueled visions of cows and chickens. Agritourism is a marriage of Georgia’s top two economic sectors: agriculture and tourism. As with most things in the infantile stage, its growth is rapid and its end-product personality is yet to be solidified. The blend includes more obvious elements such as pumpkin patches, u-pick berry farms, and yes, even cows and chickens.
There is a lesser defined state of agritourism, one that is simmering under the surface. It’s ripe with possibilities, notoriety and an elevation of perception. Farm-to-table fueled celebrity restaurants, food and vineyard tours and world-class destination gardens can all be found as stand-alone or neatly integrated and packaged in resort destinations, spas and boutique shopping. To many, Georgia has become the state of luxury.
Where to visit
Exiting off I-75 North towards Adairsville leads you on a doubtful journey for the roughly remaining eight miles. And then you see the 19th century manor house ruins and luxury village cottages that form the beautiful and chic Barnsley Resort, part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection. Lanes lined by trees, not concrete curbs, are anchored by a common green area which features Adirondack chairs, fire pits and lawn games during most of the year.
Dine at the Rice House, an 1800s-era farmhouse, which serves local elements such as UGA caviar, North Georgia trout, and Georgia pecan pie. The chefs source local farm-grazed cattle and provide some seasonal garden-to-table elements straight from the adjacent garden. Not everything agricultural comes from under the ground though. At Barnsley’s on-site hunting preserve, SpringBank Plantation, hunting quail and pheasant is yet another mixture between Georgia’s agriculture and tourism industry. A golf course, named one of the Top Golf Resorts in the Southeast by Conde Nast Traveler, along with The Spa at Barnsley Resort help anchor the extensive amenities. And yes, they even have their own Fairy Godmother.
The most award-winning winery on the East Coast sits roughly an hour northeast of Atlanta off I-85. Entering through the gates of Château Élan is as close as you’ll come in Georgia to the feel of a manor-centric French countryside. In addition to inn and villa accommodations, the European-style spa includes 14 overnight guest suites. Taste of Georgia, a wine educational event available on select dates, pairs Château Élan wines with local cheeses, breads and samples from other local food artisans. At the wineries dining outlets you will find an infusion of local ingredients on the menu as well as a pletheora of the famous Château Élan wines.
Located on 220 acres in North Georgia and home to the largest Japanese garden of its kind, Gibbs Gardens is one of the nation’s largest residential estate gardens. The Manor House Garden, Japanese Garden and Waterlily Garden comprise the 3 feature gardens among the 16 total gardens. Streams, springs, waterfalls, bridges and ponds play supporting roles across the property.
A more laid back, mature version of area botanical gardens, Gibbs offers special twilight events for evening enjoyment where beer, wine and food are available for purchase. Adding a personal touch, Mr. Gibbs can be found many Saturdays greeting guests as they exit the Information Center into the gardens. Extending true southern hospitality, the back terrace of his Manor house is open for guests to take a rest in one of the iron rocking chairs and gaze across the gardens, as well as taking in a view of the mountain vistas.
For more information on Georgia’s Agritourism locations, please visit GeorgiaGrown.com/locator.