19 Best Day trips from Atlanta, Georgia from a Local

Are you visiting Atlanta and want to see more of the Peach State? Good news- you’ve come to the absolute best place. As a lifelong resident of this beautiful state, I can share the best day trips from Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta is a fantastic city with a great food scene, rich history, music traditions, and a sports center. Sometimes, it is nice to get out of the city and see more of the great state of Georgia. Atlanta is a terrific base to explore, and within hours, you could be in the mountains, relaxing on a lake, checking out an incredible college town, or hiking the Little Grand Canyon.

Having spent most of my life in the suburbs of Atlanta, I’ve explored all regions of the state. Follow along as I share my expert advice on the best trips out of the city. I’m excited to share my favorite spots in the state and why I love calling Georgia home. 

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Truist Park

Atlanta’s Weather

Atlanta’s weather is generally amazing in the fall, spring, and early summer. Our shoulder seasons tend to be warmer than other parts of the country, but don’t be surprised by an 80-degree day in October or April. The spring can be rainy, so plan for that, too, and pack rain jackets and umbrellas. 

Summer is amazing, but it is also hot and humid. If you aren’t from the South, you may be shocked by the humidity. Plan to wear light-colored clothing that is also lightweight. You may even want to pack a different outfit for the evening if you are going out to dinner or a show at the Fox. The heat really picks up in mid-July and lasts through September. Expect many days in the 90s, and wear sunscreen!

As for winter, you are in for a real treat! Our winters are incredibly mild compared to other parts of the US. Generally, we hover in the 40’s and 50’s, so a light coat will suffice. We do experience a few cold snaps where the temps do drop and on a rare occasion we luck out with some snowflakes. 

Pro tip- check the weather before you leave!

Ponce City Market is a must do while in Atlanta

Best Day Trips out of Atlanta

1. Athens

Distance: 72 miles

As the home to the University of Georgia, Athens is more than just a college town. I was fortunate to call it home for four wonderful years and adore Athens.

A little over an hour’s drive out of the city, Athens is known for its beautiful college campus, music scene, and fun downtown area. UGA’s campus sprawls throughout town, and it’s worth walking through North Campus, the historic part. Make sure to ring the bell, but avoid walking through the arch. Legend says to wait to walk through the arch until you graduate. 

Athens, Georgia on a college football game night

Also, you can browse small shops and breweries downtown, check out the college bar scene, or participate in Athens’ culinary greatness. Last Resort is my favorite brunch and dinner spot, so grab reservations. Creature Comforts brewery is downtown, while Terrapin is a short drive away.

Outside the downtown area, I suggest the Georgia Museum of Art or walking through Five Points and eating dinner at the Five & Ten. If the weather is nice, explore the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. I loved the walking trails while in college. 

Tips-

  • If you are NOT a college football fan, I would avoid Athens on game days. To say it is packed is an understatement. 
  • Football tickets are pricey but don’t forget some other fun UGA athletics, such as gymnastics, basketball, or baseball. 
  • Check out the music calendar of the Georgia Theatre, a fun tradition in Athens and a rite of passage for many. 
  • Twilight is a bike race every spring through town. Visitors flock to Athens for the festivities. 

2. Lake Oconee

Rent a boat for the day on Lake Oconee

Distance: 84 miles

Lake Oconee is a little over an hour’s drive to the east along I-20. In recent decades, the lake’s popularity boomed with new developments, golf communities, and a high-end resort at the Ritz Carlton. You can book spa treatments at the hotel or a pool cabana for the day. 

The Ritz property is stunning but also pricey. You may prefer renting a boat for the day. You stop into Publix and pick up some subs, snacks, and sunscreen for a beautiful and relaxing lake day.

3. Madison

Distance: 59 miles

On your way out to the Lake, take a quick detour to the historic town of Madison, Georgia. Here, you will find one of the largest collections of antebellum homes in the state. In the Civil War, General Sherman destroyed a significant amount of private property on his famous March to the Sea. Although different variations exist for the rationale, Sherman spared Madison, and today, guests can marvel at the beautiful architecture of these homes. 

4. Augusta

Augusta, Georgia is a fun day trip from the city

Augusta, Georgia

Distance: 145 miles

Sitting on the Augusta River dividing Georgia & South Carolina lies the beautiful town of Augusta. Known famously for the Masters Tournament held every April, there’s much more of the city. By the way, if you ever get the opportunity to visit the golf course- you must! Even if you aren’t a golf fan, the grounds are stunning, and for many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

While in town, spend some time exploring the Augusta Riverwalk or kayaking down the Augusta canal. History fans can learn about President Wilson’s early life at his childhood home or visit the Augusta Museum of History.

Georgia

5. Stone Mountain Park

Distance: 25 miles

Those who enjoy the outdoors should consider visiting Stone Mountain on the city’s east side. Guests can hike, play in the playground, ride the scenic train, picnic, or enjoy the Lake. At the end of the night, stay for a fireworks display. 

6. Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier

Distance: 49 miles

Lake Lanier is a favorite summer activity for many Atlantans. The Lake spans several counties north of the city, so there are numerous points of access. You can easily rent a boat for the day, but make sure to pack sunscreen and a map of the Lake—it is massive, and you could get lost easily. 

If traveling with kids, consider buying a day pass to Lanier Islands Water Park. The kids will have a blast, and it may be easier than renting a boat for the day. You can also rent a boat through the park.

At Lake Lanier Islands, guests can spend hours riding water slides, playing on the beach, paddle boarding, kayaking, or having fun at Margaritaville. If visiting in December, check out their vivid holiday light show. 

Tips—

  • If you decide to rent a boat, make sure to pack sunscreen, water and plenty of snacks. 
  • Lake Lanier is also very deep, and unfortunately, drownings occur every summer. Make sure your group has life jackets for everyone on board, as required by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources. You will receive a ticket, and you will want to keep your loved ones safe.
  •  Kids under 13 must wear a life jacket when boating. 

7. Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens Chapel

Distance: 81 miles

Callaway Gardens is a little treasure to the southwest of the city. As a kid, I fondly remember going there to see their Christmas light display twinkle and charm guests. If you visit after Thanksgiving, make this day trip!

I’ve returned with my kids and stayed in one of the cute rental homes on site. We enjoyed a day of biking, walking the trails, and visiting the butterfly center. In the summertime, guests can also enjoy water sports at their lake.

If you desire a peaceful retreat from the city, then carve out time for Callaway Gardens.

8. Warm Springs

Little White House

Little White House in Warm Springs

Distance: 85 miles 

While at Callaway, stop at FDR’s Little White House in Warm Springs. President Roosevelt struggled with discomfort after his polio diagnosis and sought relief in the natural springs in the small town of Warm Springs in Central Georgia.

Over time, he built his little White House, which was here when he passed away in 1945. Today, guests can learn about the region’s healing springs, Roosevelt’s presidency, and contributions to the local area. It is an excellent place for history buffs, and my oldest & I enjoyed a day trip here. 

If you are traveling with kids, book an appointment at the Wild Animal Safari in nearby Pine Mountain. You can drive your car, but I highly recommend renting one of their cars with open windows. Each guest receives a cup of food, and you’ll have the best time feeding animals like zebras, giraffes, and camels. Trust me- your kids will love it! 

Wild Animal Safari is a fun day trip out of the city

Wild Animal Safari

North Georgia

North Georgia is the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains and is perfect for weekend getaways. Regardless of your destination, you will enjoy a scenic drive. Below I listed some of the most beloved mountain towns for Georgians. 

9. Blue Ridge

Distance: 93 miles 

Blue Ridge is one of the most popular mountain destinations for Atlantans. Just a short drive north up 75 & 575, you are in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in no time. 

Downtown Blue Ridge consists of quaint stores and great restaurants. Blue Ridge is also home to my favorite Apple Orchard, Mercier. If you are visiting in the early fall, check it out. Tip from a seasoned visitor- If you want to go apple picking- avoid weekends or go when they go in the morning to avoid massive crowds. Mercier is still a great stop for its shop and delicious bakery in other seasons!

apple picking in Blue Ridge

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is another favorite activity in the area. Fall Foliage trips and seasonal themes, such as Santa in December, are popular. Book early, as tickets disappear quickly. 

For the outdoorsy types, you can swim and boat on Lake Blue Ridge, mountain bike, go horseback riding, go fishing, or hike to Long Creek Falls, a beautiful waterfall.

10. Dahlonega

Distance: 65 miles 

Dahlonega is another favorite mountain destination. The first gold rush in the state occurred in Dahlonega. Today, guests can “mine” for gold, visit local attractions dedicated to mining, or take tours. 

I highly recommend stopping at Amicalola Falls State Park to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. You can hike to see the waterfall, park at the top, and walk down a little. There are numerous trail options based on your desired level of difficulty. 

Dahlonega emerged as a leader in Georgia’s newer wine industry in recent years. Dotted through North Georgia, guests can explore the Georgia Wine Highway. I’ve visited many of these wineries, and it is the best day trip out of Atlanta as a girl’s day or romantic date!

Montaluce Winery

Montaluce

 Some of my favorites include the Italian-inspired Trattoria di Montaluce, Wolf Mountain, or Frogtown. Many offer lunch and tastings. My recommendation is to start at a winery with brunch or lunch before the tastings start. If planning a wine tour overwhelms you, don’t worry! There are great tour options to take the stress out of planning. 

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11. Clayton

Clayton is one of the best day trips from Atlanta, Georgia

downtown Clayton, GA

Distance: 108 miles

Although less popular than Blue Ridge, Clayton is an excellent day trip option, so don’t sleep on it. Clayton has so much to offer in the North Georgia mountains. 

First, our family loves downtown Clayton. We love the community feel and some of the local shops, such as Wander. In recent years, new and fresh restaurants have opened, too. Check out Rabun Social, Fortify, Universal, and Fortify Pi. 

For the outdoorsy type, you’ve come to the right place. You can hike the Tallulah Gorge or opt for a smaller hike to Minnehaha Falls, an ideal walk with little kids. You can rent a boat on Lake Burton for a full day of water activities. You will fall in love with this beautiful place just as our family has. 

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Pro tip: On the drive out of Atlanta, take the 985 route. The drive will take you by Jaemor Farm, a favorite of our family’s. You must pick up some fresh produce, kettle corn, and, most importantly, homemade strawberry ice cream!

12. Helen

Distance: 87 miles

If you want something a little different, try Helen, Georgia. As you enter the town, you’ll feel like you’re nestled in the Bavarian Alps of Germany instead of North Georgia. Shops, restaurants, and hotels resemble a Bavarian town.

Helen fully embraces this image by hosting Oktoberfest every fall and promoting German restaurants and beer halls. Atlantans flock to Helen for these festivities, and adventure lovers can ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster! I also highly recommend stopping at Anna Ruby Falls. There’s a paved path all the way to the falls, and it’s very kid—and stroller-friendly. 

Helen, Georgia

Besides its unique charm, Helen sits directly on the Chattahoochee River, and visitors can raft or tube down the river. Don’t worry—it’s not whitewater rafting but a calm and relaxing ride. In the summertime, the river is packed on the weekends, so aim for a weekday if possible!

Helen is truly one of a kind!

13. Rome

Distance: 67 miles

Rome is northwest of the city and is another excellent option. Schedule a day trip to see the minor league team, the Rome Braves, during baseball season.

Rome, Georgia

We spent a day in downtown Rome several years ago after strawberry picking. I loved the wide streets winding through downtown, and we enjoyed a fantastic meal at a local restaurant before shopping in the local stores. If you visit in the spring, pick fresh strawberries at LCCL Strawberry Farm.

The Heritage Trail System is an extensive set of walking and biking trails through town. The 13.5 miles parallel Rome’s three rivers. 

History buffs will want to drive around Berry College, hands down one of the most beautiful college campuses in the state. The Martha Berry Museum will highlight Martha Berry’s impactful role in educating young people in the area. 

14. Lookout Mountain

Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain

Distance: 121 miles

Lookout Mountain sits right on the Georgia-Tennessee state line and offers many fun activities for visitors. Ruby Falls is one of the most visited attractions due to its spectacular views, which allow guests to see several states at once. The Incline Railway is another fun option for visiting the top of the mountain. 

In neighboring Chattanooga, you can visit the Tennessee Aquarium. Some guests actually prefer it over the Georgia Aquarium, as the setup flows better for large crowds. While in town, you’ll want to walk across the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River to see scenic views of the city. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

15. Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of the best day trips from Atlanta, Georgia

Distance: 120 miles

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a stunning masterpiece in Northwest Georgia. We visited several years ago, and it was always on my bucket list. Guests can explore walking trails, including the popular route to the beyond of the canyon, where they can see the majestic waterfall.

Guests can enjoy mountain biking, horseback riding trails, disc golf, and picnicking.

Central & South Georgia

16. Macon

Cherry Blossoms in Macon

Distance: 85 miles

Macon captures the spirit of Central Georgia as a bigger city with southern charm. Known for its rich music tradition, it is the home of the Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Jason Aldean. You can tour the Big House, where members of the Allman Brothers called home for several years in the 1970’s.

History buffs will want to visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, a prehistoric American Indian site. Macon also offers the Museum of Arts & Sciences, the Tubman African American Museum, and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

17. Savannah

Savannah, GA

Distance: 249 miles

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia, founded in the 1730s by the first settlers. Its historic homes and cobbled streets charm visitors, and fresh seafood and delicious Southern food are easily accessible. 

We spent a spring break here with the kids a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We walked Savannah’s downtown, the Riverwalk, and explored the newer development of Plant Riverside.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a day trip unless you were dying to go and only had a day. The drive is long, and sometimes the traffic south of Atlanta in Henry County is terrible so it takes longer than anticipated. Plus, you are going to want more than one day here!

18. Providence Canyon

Providence Canyon

Distance: 148 miles

Known as the Little Grand Canyon, this is a remarkable and unique state park in Georgia. The canyon’s magnificent views show deep gullies caused by poor farming techniques. If you want to visit but are uninterested in strenuous hiking, there’s a rim trail for guests to walk.

19. Columbus

Distance: 107 miles

Columbus sits directly on the GA/Alabama state line and is known for its large military base, Fort Moore (formerly Fort Benning). Many bypass Columbus on the way to the beach, but it is a great day trip for visitors. With its rich military history, popular stops include the National Infantry Museum and the National Civil War Naval Museum. 

I recommend the Coca-Cola Space Museum, the Columbus Botanical Gardens, and Flat Rock Park. The Whitewater Express is on my bucket list—I’m just waiting for the kids to get a little older!

best day trips from Atlanta, GA

In Conclusion: Best Day trips from Atlanta, Georgia

I hope my guide on the best day trips from Atlanta, Georgia, helps you plan your next great adventure. Georgia is a beautiful state just waiting for you to come explore it!

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