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Springtime in Atlanta? Outdoor beauty is healthy, convenient, and inexpensive. $2 can buy you a new state of mind.

By David Martin, RN, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

If you’re in Georgia, and join me in believing a day outside – whether it’s hiking, gardening, golfing, or just being – is good for the body, mind, and the soul, we’re both especially fortunate right now.

Thanks to the foresight of Georgia’s leaders, who were among the first in the country to set aside land for state parks, you can spend every weekend in April – for the next 10 years – at different park. Many of them are less than three hours from Atlanta.

Aside from just being able to visit these sites for $2 a car, and having access to all manner of picnicking and grilling venues, the time outdoors can boost your immune system, increase emotional stability, improve positive outlook, and help with your recall of happy memories.

A recent study performed in Korea’s Chonnam University, wherein study participants were shown images of wilderness settings while undergoing MRI scans, showed that spending time in nature, even if it is virtual, decreases stress and anxiety, and in some cases, lowers the feeling of depression.

Another study reveals that women spending 2-5 hours in the woods for two days in a row have a 50 percent increase in white blood cells, which helps in fighting cancer!

For Atlantans needing a mood and immunity boost, here are USA Today Travel Tips, written by freelance writer Lisa Floyd and based on information from Georgia State Parks, with your best bets for visits within a two-hour drive of Atlanta:

North

About 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, at Cartersville, is Red Top Mountain State Park. Just off Interstate 75, the 1,776-acre park features the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona, complete with boating and water skiing, fishing, swimming and amenities like marinas, ramps, docks and beaches. Also at the park, you will find tennis courts, miniature golf, picnic and group buildings, and tent, trailer, RV and cottage camping. The park has more than 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking.

West

In Lithia Springs, about 18 miles west of Atlanta, is Sweetwater Creek, near Interstate 20. The 2,549-acre park has a 215-acre lake for fishing and canoeing. It has nine miles of hiking trails with views of river rapids. About 50 miles from Atlanta, south of Interstate 20, is the 138-acre John Tanner State Park, featuring two lakes with swimming and boating. There are nature trails, tent, trailer and RV campsites, as well as a lodge and motel-like units. Both include picnic areas, group shelters and playgrounds.

East

Along Interstate 20, about 50 miles east of Atlanta is the nearly 6,000-acre Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge. The secluded park is home to a golf course; two lakes with swimming, fishing and boating; equestrian centers; group camps; picnicking; nearly 25 miles of hiking; a playground and cottage, tent, trailer and RV camping. North of Hard Labor Creek, about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta in Winder, is Fort Yargo State Park along state highway 11. On more than 1,800 acres, you’ll find a lake, camping, hiking, pavilions, tennis and disc golf.

South

About 20 miles southeast of Atlanta is the 1,300-acre Panola Mountain in Stockbridge. Partake in hiking, biking, birding, tree climbing, fishing on two lakes, picnicking and seasonal events throughout the year. Just over 50 miles southeast of Atlanta in Flovilla, you’ll find Indian Springs State Park covering more than 500 acres. It has a 100-acre lake and beach, picnic, museum, playground, small nature trail, group pavilions, and cottage, group, tent, trailer and RV camping.

Other Parks

In addition to the large state parks surrounding Atlanta, there are a couple of Georgia State Park historical sites. At the Etowah Indian Mounds at Cartersville, you can visit a museum and picnic area.
Archaeologists believe the Muscogean Indians built the pyramid-shaped burial mounds between 950 and 1450 A.D. Among artifacts turned up at the site are two marble statues of humans, possibly ancient worship figures. About 30 miles northwest of Atlanta in Dallas, you’ll find the 765-acre Pickett’s Mill Battlefield, a Civil War battlefield featuring a visitor’s center, trail hiking and group centers.

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