Are you drowning in boredom? Is the nine-to-five pulling you down? Well, it’s time to soar. Shake off that humdrum ball and chain with a trip to Historic Banning Mills near Whitesburg, Georgia. Release your inner daredevil across 10 miles of zip lines and giant sky bridges. If the speed doesn’t make your heart pound, the height will. “We start with Level 1,” explains expert guide Caleb Henry. “People are getting nervous on the first bridge, they’re breathing heavy and hyperventilating, but by the end of the tour, on Levels 3 and 4, on these big 1,000-foot zip lines, they are having the time of their lives.” 

Not that we know from personal experience . . . but Caleb is adept at calming nervous souls while defying gravity. “Helping people push past their barriers of fear is really rewarding,” the energetic 22-year-old reveals. “You can tell they’re scared and this is far out of their comfort zone. It takes a lot of courage to step off that platform.” Look at the Screaming Eagle line for instance. Lean forward, and you’re quickly zooming 70 miles an hour, 150 feet above ground. Flight of the Falcon is even more of a gut-check with zippers flying headfirst like Superman, 200 feet high, for three-quarters of a mile. Both runs are part of an adrenaline rush Guinness World Records has certified as the longest zip-wire canopy tour on the planet.   

This rustic hideaway, nestled in Snake Creek Gorge forty-five minutes west of Atlanta, is the brainchild of Donna and Mike Holder. The retired nurse and American Airlines pilot purchased an overgrown 88 acres to construct a team-building ropes course in the late nineties. “When we bought it, we didn’t have any idea about the history or anything,” Donna recalls. “We couldn’t see a thing, so we just started investigating.” They ended up unearthing the forgotten ghost town of Banning Mills, rich with folklore of a bygone era. Today, the site stretches across 300 acres, and includes a cozy lodge with 60 rooms, a gourmet restaurant, luxury spa, zip-line adventure park, conservation center, and hiking trails to ruins dating back to 1826. Always growing, the newest project will present a circular walk within the tree line for pedestrians to explore the grounds. Donna describes the vision, saying, “When you’re on the sky trails, you’ll be able to look around and see a lot of wildlife. We have cougar and bears. The ecosystem here is very unusual for west Georgia.”

Equally unusual, are the Tree House suites. Guests traverse rope bridges to enter the octagon-shaped dwellings furnished with gas logs, cable TV, and Keurig Coffee machines. Tethered as tightly as an adventurer’s harness, the lodging and zip lines create the ultimate modern Swiss Family Robinson getaway.

Historic Banning Mills
205 Horseshoe Dam Rd, Banning, GA
(770) 834-9149, historicbanningmills.com

Illustration by Timothy Banks

SIDE TREKS

Adventure Tower:

Another Guinness record-holder, Adventure Tower is listed as the tallest freestanding climbing wall known. Alongside skilled guides, even beginners can quickly learn to scale its 14 stories, as well as rappel down two shorter, 95-foot walls.  The wall features nine climbing lanes, in addition to four overhangs that include a traversing overhang and chimney.

Birds of Prey:

Meet Liberty, a majestic bald eagle, and the newest resident and conservation ambassador at Banning Mills. She’s just one of many feathered creatures master falconer Dale Arrowood presents during on-site live shows, complete with flight demonstrations. Those interested can also accompany Dale on falcon hunts.

Day Spa:

Just think of how wonderful a massage will feel, after all of Banning Mills’ high-wire hijinks. Swedish, hot stone, and deep-tissue massages are all available in the spa at the top of the lodge. The aromatherapy loofah salt glow is also a favorite,
with mineral salts and aroma oils designed to
improve circulation and soften skin.