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10 Best Day Trips from Atlanta, Georgia

In an average year, around 50 million people travel to visit Atlanta, which makes sense when you think about how many things there are to see and do in Georgia’s capital city. But what many travelers might not realize is how easy it is to take a drive to one of the nearby cities or towns to experience a different side of the region. So, consider renting a car on your next trip to Atlanta so you can take one of these fun day trips!

Lake Lanier Islands, Buford Lake Lanier
Credit: Lake Lanier by © Sandra Burm | Dreamstime.com

Lake Lanier Islands, Buford

Lake Lanier is the perfect place for a family getaway and outdoor recreation close to Atlanta. This is a man-made reservoir that’s only about an hour from Atlanta and the city’s prime spot for boating, water sports, and swimming. You can go zip lining or jet skiing here to get your adrenaline pumping or just go for a peaceful forest hike on the area’s trails, then stay at a cozy cabin nearby.

Athens, Georgia Athens
Credit: Athens by bigstock.com

Athens, Georgia

Athens is a college town that is a wonderful place to catch a live music performance and see historical southern architecture. It’s less than an hour and a half from Atlanta and home to the University of Georgia. This is a very walkable town, so take some time on a day trip here to tour some of the 18th-century homes and historical museums. There are lots of art galleries here, as well as a couple of performing arts centers and sports stadiums to catch a college game.

Toccoa Falls, Georgia Toccoa Falls
Credit: Toccoa Falls by bigstock.com

Toccoa Falls, Georgia

About an hour and 45 minutes from Atlanta you’ll find Toccoa Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Southeast. The falls are near the college but surrounded by cliffs to provide a stunning backdrop. It’s been referred to as “Georgia’s Niagara Falls” and is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Come here with a picnic lunch and your hiking boots for a relaxing day trip out in nature.

Chattanooga, Tennessee Chattanooga, Tennessee
Credit: Chattanooga, Tennessee by bigstock.com

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Heading out to an entirely different state for a day trip might sound like a lot to squeeze into your itinerary, but Chattanooga is only about two hours from Atlanta. This is a town that is packed with exciting attractions and fascinating history about the Civil War and the railroad. Some top attractions to visit are the Cravens House, Chickamauga Civil War Battlefield, and the 6th Cavalry Museum. There’s also a nice riverwalk in town and some great places to get lunch and local craft beer. With its rolling hills and scenic landscapes, Chattanooga is also an adventure seeker’s paradise, with plenty of opportunities for whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, and hang gliding.

Stone Mountain Park - Stone Mountain, Georgia Stone Mountain Park
Credit: Stone Mountain Park by © Natakuzmina | Dreamstime.com

Stone Mountain Park - Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain is a 3,200-acre park that surrounds a huge granite monolith that seems oddly out of place this close to Atlanta. If you’re up for a short, but challenging, hike, you can walk to the top of the mountain, or you can take a chairlift up and down it for incredible views. Stone Mountain is only about a half-hour from Atlanta, but there is a campground and several hotels here if you want to stay longer and explore all that the park has to offer.

Callaway Gardens - Pine Mountain, Georgia Callaway Gardens
Credit: Callaway Gardens by rjcox via Flickr

Callaway Gardens - Pine Mountain, Georgia

You’ll only need to drive a little more than an hour southwest of Atlanta to visit the stunning resort of Callaway Gardens. This is a lovely place to play a game of golf, go boating, and see the lovely plants that grow here. Soak up the serenity of the azalea, hydrangea, and holly gardens, and marvel at the butterflies that call these gardens home.

Dahlonega, Georgia Dahlonega gold museum
Credit: Dahlonega gold museum by bigstock.com

Dahlonega, Georgia

Dahlonega is one of the most charming mountain towns to visit in Georgia, and fortunately, it’s only about an hour and a half’s drive from Atlanta. This town allows you to step back in time to the days of Georgia’s gold rush, immerse yourself in nature on the many hiking trails in the area, and sip some fantastic wines in Dahlonega’s tasting rooms. Many vineyards have been established in the areas surrounding Dahlonega, so this is an ideal place for wine lovers to visit for a day trip.

Providence Canyon State Park - Lumpkin, Georgia Providence Canyon State Park
Credit: Providence Canyon State Park by © Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

Providence Canyon State Park - Lumpkin, Georgia

Waterfalls aren’t the only impressive natural formations that you can see on a day trip from Atlanta. You can also reach the impressive geological rock formations of Providence Canyon State Park is just a little over two hours from the city. Unsustainable agricultural practices actually caused the canyons to form, but there’s no denying that the result is picturesque today. This is a rare place in Georgia where you’ll see orange, red, and pink hues in the rock formations, and there are some great hiking trails in the park to explore them at your own pace.

Cartersville, Georgia Etowah Indian Mounds
Credit: Etowah Indian Mounds by bigstock.com

Cartersville, Georgia

It’s only a little over an hour’s drive from Atlanta to Cartersville, a small town that is great for a day of learning and exploration. A perfect day trip for families, Cartersville is home to the Etowah Indian Mounds, the Booth Western Art Museum, and the Tellus Museum. The Tellus Museum features hands-on experiments and lots of exhibits about fossils, minerals, and transportation. There’s also a planetarium here. Meanwhile, you can also take a tour of the popular Etowah Indian Mounds on a guided walk to learn more about the Native Americans that once lived here.

Greenville, South Carolina Downtown Greenville
Credit: Downtown Greenville by bigstock.com

Greenville, South Carolina

Another out-of-state destination that’s well worth making the drive for is Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is only a couple of hours from Atlanta and has a beautiful riverfront area with paths for walking and biking. Falls Park on the Reedy even has its own inner-city waterfall that makes for a perfect photo op. There are often festivals and musical performances taking place here that you can stop by and check out. Other top attractions are The Peace Center, Flour Field at the WestEnd, Paris Mountain State Park, and the Greenville Zoo. There are lots of delicious restaurants to choose from in Greenville for your day trip meal, including Soby’s, Smoke on the Water, and Tupelo Honey.

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