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Georgia on My Mind


Article by Ava Roxanne Stritt

Photography by Ava Roxanne Stritt

Georgia has been on my mind lately, and in my heart. I lived there for more than two decades. I raised my kids there; I built a life there. I have so many memories of my life in the great state of Georgia, and I still have not grown tired of it. Now is the time to Explore Georgia

Today, I live in a bordering state, but “the peach state” continues to call my name. It calls me back, again and again. I feel drawn to return to a place that will always feel like home — only now, from a different perspective. I want to explore Georgia with a local’s knowledge, but a visitor’s curiosity.

I recently had the opportunity to do just that. I decided to make a getaway to North Georgia and make Rome (of Georgia, not Italy) my home base for the adventure. 

When in Rome

Rome, founded in 1834, has grown into the largest city in Northwest Georgia. It spans seven hills at the confluence of three rivers that magically come together in downtown. The city, tucked in the Appalachian foothills, is bustling with museums, great hiking trails, wildlife, shopping and interesting attractions, like Cave Spring, a natural limestone cave. 

Rome is the perfect blend of nature, culture, history and relaxation, making it the perfect road trip to make with your pups, your BFF or anyone else you want to make memories with. I decided to go with my two dogs and my husband. I cannot wait to take my entire family back. 

Where to Call Home 

The best place to stay in North Georgia is the Barnsley Resort, surrounded by 3,000 acres of land for outdoor adventure. Guests can ride horses, go golfing, shooting, hiking or even shopping and dining in the resort’s English-inspired village. Indeed, this resort is a full vacation destination, in and of itself.  

Many of the Barnsley Resort rooms are pet-friendly, but if you are traveling furbaby-free, you can opt for the new inn. The inn was designed to compliment the village architecture and vibe, inspired by a British architect who was famous for designing English country homes. 

We stayed in the traditional cottages. Not only are they pet-friendly, but they’re also meaningful for my family. I have fond memories of staying in one of these cottages after I dropped off my kids at camp at Winshape, near the Berry College in Rome. 

Rooms here are as cozy as you could imagine, with private fireplaces and clawfoot bathtubs. Our cottage, like the other 90 cottage rooms and suites, had a private porch, where we started the day sipping coffee and listening to the birds singing. 

Barnsley Resort offers guests all kinds of extras as part of their stay: parking, wifi, lawn games, access to great trails, canoeing, catch-and-release fishing, S’mores and even access to the Manor House Ruins and Gardens. 

Fill Up 

The Barnsley Resort has delicious, garden-to-table, on-site restaurants, from a casual beer garden to elegant dining. 

My favorite place for dinner was the Rice House, located in a 19th-century farmhouse. The ever-rotating, seasonally inspired menu here is designed by the resort’s executive chef, Nicolas Lebas. Ingredients come directly from the resort’s own garden, as well as in-season produce and meats from nearby farms. 

Our go-to place to hang out at the Barnsley was the beer garden. Beyond the beer and upbeat atmosphere, the food was quick and surprisingly divine. I’m still dreaming about the homemade chips and dip and the pizza we devoured while gathered around the crackling fire pit. Picnic tables were kept comfortable with heaters. Oh, and don’t overlook the beer garden for breakfast. We started our day here with huge, yummy biscuits. 

Beyond the resort’s perimeter, the city of Rome also has so many places to choose from it was hard to narrow down, but with the sun going down and a chill in the air, we chose the most dog-friendly place downtown.

We enjoyed dinner at the Harvest Moon Cafe, a charming Southern cafe in a historic building. Best of all, its rooftop bar welcomes dogs. We had the entire enclosed rooftop all to ourselves, while we enjoyed a menu spanning the likes lobster rolls, shrimp and grits, healthy salads and a ribeye with jalapeno cornbread. Harvest Moon Cafe also has a big Sunday brunch. 

Back at the Barnsley after dinner, make sure you swing by the lobby to pick up the complementary fixin’s to toast up some S’mores on the outdoor fire pits. 

Little-known fact: Rome is poised to have its own, soon-to-open full-scale winery, and we decided to check it out firsthand for ourselves. We arranged a private wine tasting at the Newby Farm and Vineyard. This local winery began with 300 vines in 2014 and has steadily grown, with plans to harvest enough grapes to turn into about 19,000 bottles of wine every year.

In addition to local wine, Newby sells locally made honey, syrups, jams, jellies and more. It is set to open this spring, so add it to your bucket list. 

Time to Unwind

No vacation is complete for me without time in the spa. Luckily, the 

Barnsley Resort Spa is an expert in the field of relaxation, restoration and wellness. Its beautiful, newly updated spa offers massage, facials, body treatments and other beauty services in 10 different treatment rooms. 

Start your experience in the male or female relaxation room, all designed to reflect the natural surroundings, or take in the views from the new co-ed lounge. Add into your treatment a visit to the steam room and sauna. 

The body treatments stand out for their garden-to-table ingredients: scrubs and wraps crafted with hand-picked herbs and botanicals from the resort’s garden. I found the spa attendants to be some of the most knowledgeable I have encountered on my spa travels. It was so lovely to be able to relax and know my care was top notch. 

Fresh is at the forefront of treatments like the Garden of Youth, which starts with a green smoothie and moves into a body exfoliation, a plant-infused skin mask and massage with a pear and green apple, vitamin-fortified “souffle.” Take a look at my glow below. I definitely was a happy spa travel gal and can't wait to return one day! 

Adventure Awaits

While the city of Rome is rich with hiking trails, you don’t have to venture far from your room to take in nature on two feet. The Barnsley Resort features more than 20 miles of trails right on its property. 

We took full advantage of those trails and hiked nearly 18 miles during our stay. The pups, Ellie and Lily, loved sniffing all the new smells of wildlife and the horses who also share the trails for guest rides. 

Rome highlights included other trails like the Heritage Trail, with jaw-dropping views of the rivers; start at the Town Green and follow it all the way through downtown Rome, if you want. The Mt. Berry Trail, the resort’s newest trail, is a four-mile round trip trek around Berry Campus. 

The resort also has a long list of additional activities guests can enjoy. A guided history tour on horseback. Ax-throwing classes. Disc golf. A guided tour of the historic manor house ruins. 

I chose to try a “forest yoga” class, which ended up moving inside to Town Hall at the resort, due to the morning temps dropping to about 18 degrees. While yoga in the forest sure sounded exquisite, the views inside the lovely building were also inspirational. Town Hall is sometimes used to weddings, due to its beautiful design.

It’s Your Turn

When planning your own trip to Rome, make sure to swing by the Welcome Center and GIft Shop first. The staff is so helpful and knowledgeable, especially right now in navigating what is open or closed. The gift shop here also features locally made products and art. It’s a fun place to look around and pick up a souvenir to bring home. 

The welcome center is also ideally located on Jackson Hill, near various historical sites and hiking trails.

I am already planning my next trip to the Rome area. I want to take my entire family this time: six people and three fur-babies. First up on the next visit is horseback riding and a meditative stroll through the hidd

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