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How you celebrate Memorial Day weekend sets the tone for the rest of the summer ahead. If you decide to try something new or check out a new place for your long weekend, chances are that you will be more inspired to be adventurous and keep exploring all summer long.
Fortunately, there are a lot of exciting things happening on Memorial Day weekend in Georgia if you know where to look. In cities, towns, and natural areas around the state, it’s easy to get outside and experience the best parts of the season. Here are our top suggestions for a Memorial Day weekend getaway in Georgia this year!
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There’s always some type of festival going on in Atlanta during the summer months, and the festival season kicks off with the Atlanta Jazz Festival. This is one of the largest free jazz festivals in the entire country, and it takes place over three days of Memorial Day weekend at Piedmont Park. Both jazz legends and up-and-coming artists will take the stage with incredible performances that will entertain you and renew your appreciation for this style of music. Performers include the Robert Glasper Experiment, Macy Gray, Marquis Hill Blacktet, Freddy Cole, and many more. It’s also fun to browse the artisan market in between performances to see what local artists and artisans are up to. Lots of food and beverage vendors will be onsite as well. The Loews Atlanta Hotel is the official host hotel of the jazz festival and offering special rates for festival attendees.
Callaway Gardens is a fun weekend getaway spot any time of the year with its water sports, trail hikes, and beautiful flowers. But Memorial Day at Callaway Gardens is extra special because this is when the Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament takes place each year. The tournament showcases the skills of some of the greatest water sports athletes on Robin Lake, and spectators can set up on the beach to watch it all. There will also be other beach activities taking place, live music performances, a movie on the beach, fireworks, food and drink specials, and a kids’ zone for the little ones. You can purchase a weekend package to get admission to the tournament, the Memorial Day weekend festivities, and all of the regular attractions too. Callaway Gardens has its own lodge, inn, cottages, villas, and vacation homes if you want to stay close by.
Helen is a Bavarian-themed town in North Georgia that’s fun to visit and feel like you’re in an entirely different place of the world. Bavarianfest is a festival in Helen that takes place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. This evening festival costs $8 per person, but admission is free for active and retired military members and veterans with one guest. Come here to listen to a live oomph band, see traditional dancing, and taste delicious German foods and beers. This is a family-friendly event at the Festhalle that really showcases Helen’s unique vibe. You can make a full weekend getaway out of this festival trip by checking out the fun shops in Helen, hiking on the nearby trails, and visiting the beautiful waterfalls in this part of Georgia.
Whitewater rafting is a thrilling experience no matter where you do it, but many travelers don’t realize that some of the best rapids in the region are right here in Columbus. There’s a 2.5-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River in Uptown Columbus that offers everything from a lazy river to easy Class I rapids and up to a famous Class V called Cutbait. What’s great about planning a Memorial Day weekend getaway to Columbus is that you can combine this water adventure with lots of other outdoor fun, like biking the 20+ miles of RiverWalk and watching live music performances. Kayak and SUP adventures are available through local guide companies too. There are also some great restaurants along the RiverWalk and some unique boutiques for shopping.
Amusement parks are a classic Memorial Day experience, and there’s an awesome one to spend your weekend at in Austell. This is the place to come in Georgia for thrilling roller coasters, fun kids’ rides, and a refreshing water park. Some favorite rides here are Batman: The Ride, Blue Hawk, the Dahlonega Mine Train, Devil Dive, and the Georgia Scorcher. Hurricane Harbor, the water park inside of Six Flags over Georgia, opens in May and has a fun tropical theme to cool off. The water park fee is included in your amusement park admission cost. It’s also fun to check out the Shennanigun’s Comedy Wild West Show on your weekend getaway here. The park opens at 10:00 am or 10:30 am on each day over Memorial Day weekend and stays open until 10 pm or 7 pm each evening. Recommended hotels nearby include the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta West/Lithia Springs and the Hampton Inn & Suites ATL-Six Flags.
A weekend at the beach is a perfect way to spend Memorial Day weekend, and there are some amazing beaches along Georgia’s coast. One of the best beach areas in the region is at St. Simons Island. This is a place where you can really get away from your daily routine and enjoy the pristine beauty of nature. Popular things to do here are kitesurfing, sand-sculpting, biking, kayaking, boating, wildlife watching, and sunbathing. Lifeguards are present on the beach Memorial Day weekend from 11 am to 4 pm at the Massengale and Coast Guard beaches. Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the beach Memorial Day weekend between 9 am and 6 pm, except between beach access points one through six.
Stone Mountain is an excellent weekend getaway destination for families, and there are special events going on Memorial Day Weekend. The park is open from 10:30 am to 8 pm on memorial day weekend, with laser shows and fireworks at 9:30 pm. Active and retired military personnel will receive a free pass and discounts for family members this weekend. You can listen to live music on the lawn and participate in a 5K or 2.2K race on your holiday weekend at Stone Mountain this year.
There’s always something special about spending your Memorial Day weekend on boat, and Lake Lanier is an excellent place to do exactly that. There are over 30,000 acres of water on this lake and rental opportunities if you don’t own a boat. Choose between wave runners, ski boats, party barges, deck boats, or even a 16-passenger houseboat. Going for a boat ride is one thing, but living on a boat for the entire weekend is a truly unique and memorable experience! Standard houseboats here come equipped with four private bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a full kitchen, upper deck with water slide, and satellite TV.
To walk on the wild side this Memorial Day head to the Georgia/Florida border to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This is a massive swamp area that offers camping, hiking, and close encounters with wildlife. There are several different entrances to the park and historic sites inside as well, such as the Chesser Island Homestead. A daily pass costs $5 per vehicle and is valid for seven days. When you visit over Memorial Day, don’t miss the 7.5-mile Swamp Island Drive, which is great for biking, and Billy’s Island, which is only accessible by boat from Stephen C. Foster State Park. The Wilderness Canoe Trails and the Upland Discovery Trail are worth seeing also.