Atlanta is unique in that it has an urban feel but is also dotted with a plethora of greenery. A visit to Atlanta can go in so many directions—you could take pictures with the street art across the Beltline, watch an MLS or NFL game at Mercedes Benz stadium, and explore the historical sites like Martin Luther King, Jr Historical Park and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.
Whether traveling with family and friends or exploring solo, there are numerous activities available to visitors and Atlanta natives (known as ATLiens, locally). The College Football Hall of Fame and World of Coca-Cola are popular tourist attractions, as well as Centennial Olympic Park, which played host to the games of the 1996 Summer Olympiad.
While a road trip to Atlanta can be a vacation in itself, there are plenty of day trips to other Georgia attractions within driving distance of the city. Atlanta’s traffic is nationally reknown; however, once you get outside of the perimeter, it’s generally smooth sailing to expore the highways of Georgia and beyond. Check out these beautiful day trips from Atlanta to be sure you see some of the most unique destinations the region has to offer.
Providence Canyon State Park
Driving time: 2-2.5 hours
Providence Canyon State Park is the closest you can get to feeling like you’re at the Grand Canyon, at least when you’re east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line. This canyon came about as a result of erosion following years of less-than-desirable farming practices. A beautiful mistake, Providence Canyon has Instagram-worthy views, but the quiet serenity of the park will truly take you away from the Internet world.
Visitors are welcome to walk along the rim trail, where they’ll be able to see beautiful, multi-colored soil that gives Providence Canyon its unique look. If you’re looking to take more than a day, camping sites are available, as well as small rental cottages. In total, Providence Canyon State Park covers 1,003 acres of land.
Parking at Providence Canyon costs just $5, making it a budget-friendly day trip from Atlanta. The site also includes a museum and visitor center. If you plan ahead accordingly, you may be able to catch one of the special events offered at the park, such as ‘Campfire and S’mores’ or ‘Astronomy Night.’
Taking a day trip to Dahlonega can be incredibly relaxing. Think sitting outside in wooden chairs with a glass of wine in a field. Dahlonega is known for its vineyards and wineries, which often play host to local musicians. For a day trip, you can expect to hit about three different wine tasting locations (or more, depending on how long you choose to spend at each spot). Some ATLien favorites are Three Sisters Vineyards (try the Fat Boy Red) and Montaluce Winery and Resort.
If wine isn’t your thing, or if you’re just looking for a different kind of trip, there are other attractions to explore in Dahlonega. The town is rich with history, as it was the location for the first gold rush within the United States. Visitors may want to check out the historic tours, hike to the waterfalls, or even try their hand at gold mining. You can take a walk through the Chattahoochee National Forest or spend some time shopping at the cute local boutiques.
Lake Lanier Islands
Lake Lanier Islands Beach and Water Park is a man-made lake complete with a beach area and a waterpark. The lake offers opportunities for recreational boating and cruises. You could rent a boat and make your way to Cocktail Cove, a hangout where locals like to drop anchor and relax on the water all afternoon. Be very mindful of your safety out on the water. Locals know that Lake Lanier is famous for being haunted and has storied history of unexplained freak accidents. Whether or not you believe the folklore, always be sure to wear a life preserver when you’re out on the water!
One of the highlights of taking a day trip to Lake Lanier is exploring Margaritaville. This area of the park features a sandy beach, complete with tiki bars and music to set the scene. It is right next to the waterpark, which includes numerous slides, a gigantic wave pool (with free tubes available to borrow), mini golf, and a water area for smaller children. It is a rite of passage in Atlanta to ride The Intimidator—the steepest waterslide in the park—which starts out with the slider being nearly horizontal (so you have a few moments to think about how you can’t turn back) and then shifts to a steep, vertical decline all the way to the bottom.
Savannah is the longest drive on this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the extra time. Known for its icnoic period architecture covered in Spanish moss, Savannah is a great city to walk through block by block. In particular, visitors will want to check out River Street, which is a line of boutique shops, restaurants, and stores located right beside the river in Savannah. Catch yourself some seafood straight from the shore and finish it off with a famous praline candy from River Street Sweets.
Of course, no Savannah trip would be complete without a stop at the famous Forsyth Park Fountain, which is popular engagement and wedding photoshoot spot. Inspired by the fountains at Place de la Concorde in Paris, Forsyth Park fountain has been a Savannah icon since 1858.
Other attractions that are famous to Savannah include its riverboat cruises, historical tours, ghost tours, and a quick trip to nearby Tybee Island to see the ocean shore. If you’re wanting have a romantic evening, be sure to look into the horse and carriage rides throughout the city.
Stone Mountain Park
Since Savannah is quite the haul, this next trip idea is conveniently located close to Atlanta. Stone Mountain Park is an easy day trip and could even be seen in just a half-day, depending on your interests. The park includes hiking trails, a ropes course, a Dinotorium play area for children (with slides, games, and climbing structures), and different themed attractions depending on the season of the year.
One of the most popular attractions in this park is the actual rock that is Stone Mountain. Although there is the Summit Skyride tram that whisks guest up to the top, it’s more fun to actually hike up the mountain, and it’s only a mile to the top. While hiking difficulty can be somewhat subjective, a majority of the trail is relatively easy, although it does get fairly steep toward the top. Once you get up there, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the city of Atlanta and the Appalachian mountains. Pack a sweater in the cooler months; it gets very windy at the top.
It costs $20 to get into the park, which will get you access to the trails, the walking path to the mountain, the picnic tables, and the playground area. The Summit Skyride and other special attractions require payment for entry. Locals usually buy the yearly parking pass to get into the park, as it is only $40 and pays for itself if you go more than once.
Chattanooga is an picturesque town across the Tennessee border that serves as a perfect day trip from Atlanta. It features one of the top-rated aquariums in the country and offers a variety of opportunities for indoor and outdoor recreation. Explore the downtown boutiques, and be sure to have brunch at one of the local restaurants. Be on the lookout for happy hour specials across the city. Chattanooga is incredibly pedestrian-friendly and even offers a bike share program.
Those looking for a little more adventure will want to check out Walnut Street Bridge, which is one of the longest bridges in the country and offers sweeping views of the Tennessee River. Visitors may also be interested in visiting Ruby Falls (an underground waterfall) on Lookout Mountain. Whether you stay down by the river or make your way up the mountain, you won’t be disappointed by the views in Chattanooga.