The spa, great food, hiking trails on site and an easy drive from home were the reasons we chose Brasstown Valley Resort for a weekend getaway from Atlanta.
The extras we found included the fireplace in our 5th floor room. Even though it was too warm for a fire, it upped the ambience, as did the magnificent mountain view.
Other bonuses were the indoor/outdoor pool and the Friday night seafood buffet where the fried shrimp was a highlight. A special shout-out to the merchandise in the gift shops. I rarely purchase anything while traveling, but we both found items we loved.
Located in North Georgia, just short of the North Carolina line, the 503-acre Brasstown Valley Resort is surrounded by national forests: Chattahoochee Natural Forest is to the south while Nantahala National Forest is just to the north.
While you may want to visit nearby hiking trails and enjoy cruising through the mountains, there’s plenty to do without setting foot off the resort.
Sometimes I wish I was more sedentary because there are so many delightful places to just chill out here – the lobby with a giant fireplace, the Adirondack chairs on the deck and the swings on the edge of the garden.
Then there’s also those magic mirrors ….
Chill out at The Equani Spa
I’ve been to some mountain inns where the spa was kind of an afterthought, housed in a small shed with one treatment room and zero amenities. This isn’t one of those.
Equani Spa is located across the street from the main buildings and a hotel shuttle zips you there in about five minutes. The lodge theme is carried over here and the décor and treatments pay homage to the Cherokee Indians, done in a respectful way that has the blessing of Joyce Dugan, former Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
That’s nice to hear because Georgia wasn’t so kind to the Cherokee Indians, forcibly removing them from their homes in 1838. Along with neighboring states South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Alabama, Georgia shuttled them all the way to Oklahoma.
It’s a good time to mention that the state of Georgia owns Brasstown Valley Resort and worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources during its development to respect the Native American traditions and burial sites.[Related story: Barrels of Fun at State Parks: Unicoi State Park Cabins]
But back to that spa. And believe me, I want to go back to that spa. It has a huge variety of treatments, a relaxation room with a fireplace and a large outdoor area with a thermal pool, lounge chairs and mountain views.
If time had allowed I would have parked myself on that terrace and spent a few happy hours taking in the scenery.
Take a hike on the trails right outside the front door
I loved that we could walk right outside the front door of the main lodge and across the parking lot and be on hiking trails in the Chattanooga National Forest.
Brasstown Valley has 9.2 miles of trails and although we had a map provided by the front desk, we had a bit of trouble following the path. It didn’t matter that we took a few wrong turns as we were never too far from where we started. Unlike some hikes we’ve been on where our safe return seemed questionable, I had complete confidence we would get back.
Depending on which trails you follow, you can go from an elevation of 2,000 feet up to 3,200 feet. Hey, maybe not a big deal to people on the West Coast, but that’s up there for us East Coast people.
Lounge poolside, no matter what the weather at Brasstown Valley Resort
It was hot, hot, hot when we were there and a dip in the outdoor portion of the pool was refreshing. It connects to an indoor part, perfect for cold or rainy days.
For out-of-water activities, there’s a ping-pong table by the pool, horseshoes are by the Sunset Pavilion and a bean bag toss is outside the Pro Shop.
Bait that hook and catch a fish
There’s a small pond right on the property. While it may not challenge avid fishermen, it’s fun for beginners and children. If you’re over 16 you do need a fishing license, which you can get online. Fishing equipment is available free of charge.
Play a round, or two, of golf at Brasstown Valley Resort golf course
Brasstown Valley has a highly acclaimed 18-hole championship golf course with practice facilities, a driving range and a pro shop. You can take a clinic or sign up for lessons.
Golfers report great views, well-groomed fairways and greens. It was named one of Golf Digest magazine’s top places to play.
Saddle up and take a ride
Take a one- or two-hour ride on five miles of natural mountain trails. If you have a group of people you can arrange for a hayride or opt for custom excursions or catered picnic rides.
The Stables has a 1,200-square-foot facility where small children can enjoy hand-led horseback rides.
Other activities include a fitness center, tennis courts and excursions can be arranged to a local vineyard or Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest mountain.
Some scheduled activities include Make Your Own Crafts, Selfie Scavenger Hunt, Wii Bowling and Brasstown Valley Bingo.
Buy a few gifts in the shops
I always look in hotel gift shops, but it’s rare when I purchase anything. Especially something branded with the property’s name. I made an exception at Brasstown Valley Resort.
Brasstown has two shops. The largest, and I do mean large, is the Brasstown Valley Pro Shop and Country Store. It’s packed with all kinds of clothing, jewelry and gifts.
The much smaller shop is The Emporium, which was maybe about the size of our hotel room. But this is where we found our treasures. My husband found a hoodie he loved and I bought a baseball cap for the first time in my life. I have dozens, but they were all giveaways.
This one was made of seersucker and had Brasstown Valley on it. A seersucker cap – how could I not buy it! It’s the fabric of the South!
Travel tip: In the email we received prior to our stay there’s a 10% off coupon at the bottom for The Emporium. People who read all the way through the email are rewarded.
Eat your weight in shrimp at the Friday night seafood buffet
We’re a bit wary of buffets, which can range from stellar to dismal, often falling into the latter category. But as a huge seafood lover, my husband was eager to try the Friday Evenings Seafood Lovers Buffet, offered every week.
Soon after we took a seat in the large dining room, we began to fill our plates. We enjoyed it all but found the real gem of the night – the fried shrimp.
We’ve both eaten our weight several times over in fried shrimp, so we know what we speak of. This fried shrimp was phenomenal. When I return I will probably forgo all the other delectable dishes and just fill up on shrimp. Or more, accurately, overfill.
Apparently the buffet is a favorite of the locals. We unwittingly came between one of them and the dessert table as we thought it was a serve-yourself situation and didn’t notice any type of line.
He called us an unrepeatable name, then said everyone in the vicinity was an unrepeatable name because we all broke in line. It seemed a bit of an extreme reaction for delaying his acquisition of a piece of coconut cake by a minute or two. It was so unexpected I just laughed.
Other buffets in The Dining Room are the Saturday Night Prime Rib Buffet and Sunday Brunch. All the buffets are popular so a reservation is recommended. The Dining Room has an a la carte menu daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One morning for breakfast we opted for room service as I’m not a fan of going out for breakfast. Those pajamas are not going to wear themselves on Sunday mornings. Our omelet came right on time, was nice and hot and huge enough for us to share.
Watch the game, grab a bite in Brassies Sports Bar & Grill
After our Saturday morning hike, we opted for lunch at Brassies Grill, located on the lower level. The large stone fireplace, dark plaid wallpaper and wooden tables and chairs give it a pub-like, cozy feel.
But the weather was nice so we sat outside, where we enjoyed a quesadilla and a salad.
Relax in the rooms at Brasstown Valley Resort
Guests have three choices of accommodations: The Lodge with 102 guest rooms, The Cottages with 32 rooms in four-bedroom cottages and a spacious 825-square-foot suite at the spa, which includes a private rooftop deck.
The Cottages have large wooden decks and a kitchen with basic cookware, refrigerator and gas grill. Some have wood-burning fireplaces.
For a special occasion, book the Equani Spa suite with mountain views, fireplace, Jacuzzi tub built for two and a kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave.
Brasstown Valley Resort has several handicap-accessible rooms, with a choice of queen or king beds.
We stayed in The Lodge, where 26 of the rooms have a gas fireplace and we were one of the lucky ones. Whether I end up using a fireplace or not, I just like the cozy feel of having one. The fireplace is flanked by two armchairs, perfect for sipping a beverage.
While our floor did not have balconies like some of the other floors, we did have fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our room had a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave.
And yay! It had a bathtub, an item that’s quickly disappearing from hotel rooms. I really like soaking in a tub after a long day of activities but it’s rare to find one these days. They are slowly disappearing, going the way of the shower cap. I mourn both losses.
The closet is also disappearing and there was not one here, but there is a rack where you can hang clothes. I don’t miss a closet so much.
Another thing we can be picky about is pillows and Brasstown Valley Resort ranks high in the category with a plethora of puffy pillows. And we had a very comfortable bed.
Even though it was August, a rain shower cooled the air down and we were able to sleep with our windows open and enjoy the sound of the waterfall in the garden below our window.
Now a word about the full-length mirror in our room. Every time I looked at myself, I thought, “Damn, I look good. This outfit is quite becoming.” Then it occurred to me. I don’t believe this was an ordinary mirror. I think they have Barney’s mirrors in the rooms. I appeared about five inches taller and 10 pounds thinner.
Remember the episode of “Seinfeld” when Elaine buys a dress at Barney’s because she looks so good in it, but then models it for Jerry and George and hates it? “Why did I buy it, because in the mirror, at Barney’s, I looked fabulous. This woman was just walking by said I looked like Demi Moore in ‘Indecent Proposal,'” she said. Then later, she said, “Skinny Mirrors! Barney’s has Skinny Mirrors, they make you look, like, 10 pounds lighter.”
I’m thinking Brasstown Valley has skinny mirrors too, and I loved it. Really, it’s shocking I even left the room I was so fond of looking at taller, slimmer me. It’s reason enough on its own to return.
Tour, shop and eat in Blairsville, Georgia
The only time we left the resort was Saturday evening, when we drove to Blairsville, Georgia, about a 15-minute drive. It’s a small community surrounded by lakes and mountains, with lots of gorgeous vacation homes tucked into the rolling hills.
It’s the kind of community where I look at the gorgeous scenery and wonder, could a city girl ever transplant herself up to the mountains to live? I ask myself this question pretty much any time I travel through beautiful countryside but am not at all sure of my ability to live more than 30 miles from a Trader Joe’s or a Costco.
We have friends who live in Montana. When they were selecting where to build their home, the wife’s criteria included being within 30 miles of a Costco. She got her wish.
Living in the country would be a bit easier with a place like Alexander’s Store nearby. We followed the multiple signs down a two-lane road to this stand-alone property that carries guns, ammo, clothing, shoes, gifts, jewelry, sporting goods, appliances and mattresses. It opened as a general store in 1953 and is still family owned.
Unlike some stores, my husband found enough to keep him interested in digging around for quite some time. He even found a shirt he wanted to buy while I uncharacteristically abstained from any purchases.
We were off to dinner at Michaelee’s Italian Life Cafe. Located in downtown Blairsville on the square, this small white-tablecloth restaurant also includes The Cellar downstairs with the same menu and an espresso bar, sweets and imported olive oils, balsamic vinegars and gelato from Milan.
One thing it doesn’t have is a liquor license, but there’s a wine and beer shop just a few doors down where you can pick up your beverage of choice and bring it in to enjoy with your dinner.
Our meal was fantastic. We started with fried ravioli, which I haven’t seen on a menu in a while. The secret to this dish is the quality of the marinara sauce, and Michaelee’s is delicious.
For entrees we had a ribeye special and chicken piccata. Chris is not one to turn down dessert so we opted for the coconut cream pie, which he declared is the best he’d ever had.
Opened in 2006, Michaelee’s is owned and run by Lisa Collins, whose husband worked with her until his death last year. Michael was a graduate of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York, and when he died their son Lenny, who had been working as a chef in Vero Beach, took over as executive chef.
Lisa used to own an international adoption agency, and her daughter is adopted from Russia and works at the restaurant as well.
Getting to Brasstown Valley Resort
Brasstown Valley Resort is about a two-hour, 15-minute drive from Atlanta, and approximately the same distance from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
When “The mountains are calling and I must go,” as John Muir said, head to Brasstown Valley Resort.
– Jan Schroder, Editor in chief