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!

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Lake Lanier Islands, Buford A boat on Lake Lanier
A boat on Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier Islands, Buford (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 nearby.

Athens, Georgia The downtown Main Square and clock in Athens
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The downtown Main Square and clock in Athens

Athens, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 performing arts center and sports stadiums to catch a college game.

Toccoa Falls, Georgia Toccoa Falls
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Toccoa Falls

Toccoa Falls, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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
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Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 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
Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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. Something that makes this mountain truly unique is the Confederate memorial carving on the mountainside. 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 The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens
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The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 Vineyard in Dahlonega
Vineyard in Dahlonega

Dahlonega, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

Dahlonega is one of the best cities 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 tip.

Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin, Georgia Dramatically colored cliffs at Providence Canyon State Park
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Dramatically colored cliffs at Providence Canyon State Park

Providence Canyon State Park, Lumpkin, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

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 in 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
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Etowah Indian Mounds

Cartersville, Georgia (Hotel Prices & Photos)

It’s only a little over an hour’s drive from Atlanta to Cartersville, a small town that 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
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Downtown Greenville

Greenville, South Carolina (Hotel Prices & Photos)

Another out-of-state destination that’s well worth making the drive for is Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is only a couple 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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