Our team was determined to win the golf cart scavenger hunt. Even if it meant finding our way around 97 miles of golf cart paths in an unfamiliar town to take pictures of an eclectic list of things such as someone drinking coffee, “an old rugged cross,” and a skateboarder.

“Skateboader!” I yelled after we zipped around a bend at 15 miles an hour and saw a teen on a skateboard ahead. He turned onto another golf cart path, so we followed him, yelling, “Hey, stop!”

After a fun chase that felt like something out of a movie scene, he suddenly came to a halt and peered at us from under a fringe of long bangs. What he saw was four women in a golf cart with orange bandanas tied around their arms and heads, one of them with a camera aimed his way.

When we explained that we were on a scavenger hunt, and asked if we could take his picture, he grinned and posed. It was just another day in Peachtree City.

Golf carts are a way of life in Peachtree City, Georgia, a multi award-winning master-planned community 26 miles south – and a world away – from Atlanta. Golf cart paths connect the town’s five villages, as well as schools, commercial areas, and industrial parks. Kids can start driving them at 15, and most families think of them as their third car.

But while the community has won awards for being a great place to raise children, and also retire – it is also a fun place to visit as a vacation destination.

Located about 25 minutes from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the 23-square mile city has seven hotels and conference centers, large lakes, several golf courses, a tennis complex, an aquatics center and many recreational activities. Visitors can take film tours of the area, as several television shows are filmed there and in the nearby town of Senoia, and many movies have been shot there. In addition, the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater, a 2,500-seat outdoor venue nicknamed “The Fred,” hosts a calendar of events and big name entertainers from May through September.

Visitors often rent golf carts and get around town like the locals, because it’s adventurous and safe. The golf cart paths meander through woody areas and past lakes and golf courses while paralleling major roads and crossing over or under them via bridges and tunnels.

The friendly city’s 37,000 residents are used to seeing visitors on golf cart scavenger hunts, I discovered during my visit. Its hotels and conference centers offer golf cart photo safaris because they’re a great way for visitors to explore the community, which many locals affectionately call “The Bubble.”

“We feel we are in our own little world here,” Nancy Price, director of the Peachtree City Vacation and Visitors Bureau told me. “It’s safe, resort style living isolated from the rest of the world.”

During my stay I never felt like I was anywhere near Atlanta. The first night I stayed at the Dolce Hotel & Conference Center, a 40-acre resort in the heart of the city. My room in the Lakeside Lodge had a tranquil view of a large lake and surrounding woods, and I had access to a large fitness center, pool, tennis courts, and free bicycles.

At an evening reception, Chef Len Elias and his crew whipped up an assortment of tasty Southern tapas, which were served with White Peach Martinis. Vanessa Fleisch, Peachtree City’s mayor, was a guest. Once people move here, “they never want to leave, it’s so pretty,” she told me. “We’ve been working toward making it a destination.”

For visitors who like to play golf, three country club courses are located within the city: Planterra Ridge, Flat Creek, and Braelin. Another course at White Water Creek Country Club is just outside the city. They are open to visitors “who stay in one of our hotels,” Price says. The hotel can arrange for tee times at daily rates.

I met Peachtree City founder Joel Cowan during a visit to the Planterra course, which overlooks Lake McIntosh, one of three large man-made lakes. Cowan said he started envisioning the planned community when he was in college in 1957, even though he was very young and “very broke.” The land south of Atlanta then was mostly rural, and building an entire community in the middle of farmland required purchasing and piecing together about 100 parcels of land. He found an investor in New York and then visited country stores, where he chatted with farmers around pot belly stoves. Atlanta was oriented northward, where all the desirable communities were, and planning an entire community south “was a cultural thing to overcome,” he said. So he built golf courses, lakes, homes, and schools – and a culture to go with them.

On the second day of my trip, I checked into the Wyndham Hotel, another grand wooded resort. Traveling with a group of writers, we took the Southern Hollywood Film Tour to see sites in Peachtree City and Senoia where the television shows “Drop Dead Diva,” and “The Walking Dead” are filmed, and where movies such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and “Driving Miss Daisy” were shot.

“The Walking Dead” is filmed at Raleigh Studios, just outside Senoia. The studio is not open to the public, but the show’s fans flock to Senoia because some scenes are filmed there. The town is also a popular destination for Peachtree City residents because it’s historically quaint, with cute shops, good restaurants, and cozy bed and breakfasts. Peachtree City doesn’t have a downtown, so its residents have adopted Senoia as theirs. After exploring Senoia on foot, our group had lunch at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground, an eatery that specializes in creative southern-meets-south-of -the -border- entrees. After spending an afternoon relaxing at the Wyndham pool, we enjoyed another feast at Due South in Peachtree City, which specializes in southern cuisine.

While in town, we also visited The Fred for a Gladys Knight performance. The seating and sound at the outdoor venue is excellent. Knight’s performance kicked off the 20th anniversary season of the amphitheater’s summer concert series, which will also feature performances by The Beach Boys, Bret Michaels, and Styx.

The highlight of my trip however was the golf cart Photo Safari, led by organizer Frank Murphy, which left from the Wyndham. Armed with a disposable camera, a map, a list, and clues, we snapped pictures of ourselves touching or holding the objects of our quest as we competed with other teams. We were told to be creative, and thanks to some helpful Peachtree City residents and business people, including Karen LaPorte of Peachtree Florist and Accents, our “orange team” won. LaPorte found some objects that we needed in her shop and took pictures of us holding them. She even drank a cup of coffee at our request and posed for a picture.

What a sport.

Life in The Bubble sure is fun…even if you’re just visiting.

 

Great side trips from Peachtree City

Serenbe

A picturesque model community in the midst of Georgia farm country

The area south of Atlanta is still mostly rural, with rolling hills and winding country roads. From Peachtree City, Serenbe is a 30 minute drive northwest through beautiful farmland, and a fascinating side trip. A 1,000 acre planned model community still under development, it is designed around land preservation, agriculture, energy efficiency, green building, walkability, arts and culture and community living. Located in the Chattahochee Hills area, 30 acres of the hamlet are set aside for organic farming. When I arrived, I scrambled out of my car multiple times to snap idyllic pictures of grazing horses and fields of wildflowers that frame the outskirts of town. Serenbe Farms provides fresh, organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers to the community’s three restaurants: The Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop, The Farmhouse, and The Hill. Guests can stay at The Inn at Serenbe, which offers accommodations in the Main House, a restored 1905 farmhouse, and the Guest House, a restored, converted 1930’s horse barn, as well as several cottages. For more information, visit serenbecommunity.com.

 

180 Degree Farm

A nonprofit ministry devoted to “clean, natural” organic foods

Located in Sharpsburg, Ga., near Peachtree City, the family-run 180 Degree Farm specializes in growing food for the community that is free of pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. It is open to visitors on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and families are encouraged to bring their children to pet the animals. Scott Tyson and his wife purchased property in rural Sharpsburg seven years ago with the intent of building a house and starting a small recreational farm that they would work around their professional jobs in Atlanta. Their plans changed when their young son was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that had a high probability of being fatal. After researching the effects of food on health, they turned themselves into full time farmers. When a diet of all healthy fresh foods restored their son’s health, they decided they also needed to grow food for other people. They give foods to local food ministries and food banks, and teach food awareness, nutrition, and how to grow food organically. “There’s a lot to see here,” Scott Tyson says. “It’s a place to show kids where food really comes from. Eggs don’t come from a carton.” For more information, visit 180degreefarm.org.