Atlanta is a thriving and happening city in Georgia. Having played an integral role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and home to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site there is a lot of cultural and historical heritage to explore in Atlanta.
The state of Georgia borders Tennessee, Alabama, North and South Carolina and Florida too. Bordering such a versatile selection of states means that the day trip possibilities from Atlanta are practically endless. Whether you want to explore national parks or visit quaint rural towns, tick off must visit US cities or simply take in the views then there is a lot to keep you busy.
I’m an Atlanta local and travel is my passion. I’ve explore many regions of my home-state Georgia so I feel very qualified to show you some of the best day trips from Atlanta to kick start your wanderlust.
1. Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier is one of the favourite summertime hangout spots for Georgians and visitors alike. There is just so much to do, for hiking I would recommend the Sawnee Mountain as a great starting point.
If you’re travelling with children, or perhaps just want to connect with your inner child, then a day visit to the not-so creatively named LanierWorld is a great idea. Featuring dozens of water slides and a mini-golf course too, LanierWorld is a total novelty but totally good fun nonetheless.
Lake Lanier Islands are a small group of islands set on the lake itself. Home to zip lines, waterparks and more there is never a dull moment at Lake Lanier.
You may also like: 15 Best Lakes in Georgia
With its roots firmly in Tennessee the city of Chattanooga has a lot to explore. The Incline Railway is a lovely way to spend a morning. Chug along the steep hill up to Lookout Mountain before heading onto Ruby Falls and Rock City. Ruby Falls are simply magnificent; a 145 ft high waterfall that lies deep underground. There is nothing quite like this in Georgia, you’ve got to cross state line to experience this. It’s estimated that Ruby Falls is over 30 million years old.
Rock City is Chattanooga’s most famous landmark and supposedly, from the rocky ledge, you can lookout and see 7 states. I recommend visiting on a clear day so you’ve got the best view. Be brave and cross over the 200 ft long swing bridge, the view is worth it for sure.
Suggested tour: Chattanooga: Historic Downtown 2-Hour Segway Tour
Macon can be found in the very heart of Georgia and is easily accessible from Atlanta. Macon is home to some real architectural gems, namely Hay House and the Grand Opera House.
Lovers of music and musical history will thoroughly enjoy a day trip to Macron. Home to the The Allman Brothers Band Museum and the Museum of Arts and Science there is a lot of culture to take in in Macon. The Tubman African American Museum provides incredible insights into a vital part of America’s heritage. Featuring folk art and incredible modern sculpture, if you do just one thing when in Macon the Tubman African American Museum should be it.
If you’re going to visit be sure to check out my guide on Macon.
4. Providence Canyon State Park
Providence Canyon State Park is also affectionately referred to ‘Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon’ and deservedly so. If you don’t have time during your visit to the United States of America to head to the wild west then a visit to the Providence Canyon State Park will more than suffice.
With over 1,000 acres to explore you can take a leisurely stroll to the best lookout spots or challenge yourself to cover as much ground as possible during the course of the day. The choice is yourself and however you choose to explore Providence Canyon State Park you’ll have a truly memorable day for sure. It is a year round destination without a doubt, however, the park is most colorful in the autumn months.
Just to confirm, Athens Georgia certainly not Athens in Greece. What a day trip from Atlanta that would out to be. Athens, GA, is home to the ‘Tree That Owns Itself’ that is a must-visit for eco-lovers and tree huggers alike.
The Tree That Owns Itself was deeded ownership to itself by an eccentric, oddball professor back in the 1800s. Sticking with the nature theme, Athens is home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and feature an impressive conservatory that will inspire all you green-fingered horticulturalists out there.
As a college town there is a thriving music scene in Athens and a number of buzzing indie bars that should be experienced before you depart back to Atlanta.
Summerville is a super cute mountain town that lies about an hour and a half drive from Atlanta city center. Home to a number of festivals and community events throughout the year be sure to time your visit right so as not to miss out on the joy of Summerville in full flow.
The Paradise Gardens is a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon or perhaps the Azalea Park. The Wassamassaw Community Park is the best bet if you’re travelling with children, there’s a great playground there.
If you’re keen on history and architecture then I suggest you swing by the Colonial Dorchester State Historical Park.
Here you’ll find the beautiful ruins of a colonial era town.
7. Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest
A bit of a mouthful, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest spans across a humbling 866,468 acres. Of course, you cannot cover that distance in a meagre day trip from Atlanta but with over 86 trails to choose from there is a hike, walk or bimble to suit every fitness level and every interest.
Spreading over eight counties in Georgia, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is much loved by all who visit. There are a number of particularly beautiful spots along the walking trails that simply must be captured on camera.
Whether you’re an avid hiker, a budding photographer or an aspirational botanist you’ll surely fall in love with Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
8. Callaway Gardens
Whether you’re looking for a romantic retreat, a solo adventure or a day out for all the family Callaway Gardens ticks all the right boxes. With lakes offering fishing and good old fashioned boating Callaway Gardens is a relaxing and laid back trip from Atlanta. The azalea garden is particularly beautiful when in full bloom.
The pioneer log cabins are a piece of perfectly preserved history that are a joy to explore. There are a number of dining outlets at Callaway Gardens but feel free to bring your own picnic. At the Callaway Gardens Resort you can book in for a round of golf or even book in for a spa treatment.
Augusta is a peaceful city in Georgia and lies on the banks of the Savannah River. The Augusta Riverwalk is a lovely way to spend a day, perhaps romantic even. Lying close to the South Carolina border Augusta is home to the Augusta National Golf Club. Having hosted the world-famous Masters Tournament for decades Augusta is the holy grail for golf lovers. Although a round here costs and arm and a leg it is well worth it to played on such hallowed ground.
There is are perfectly manicured gardens to explore and a Golf Club restaurant too. Be sure to dress in adherence to the code else you’ll be kicked right out.
Nashville is the steeped in musical history, lovers of country and folk music will put a day trip to Nashville high on their agenda. The Country Music Hall of Fame not only features some of the genres biggest superstars but also tracks the evolution of the musical movement across the centuries.
Curiously, Nashville is also home to the Parthenon, a full sized replica of the same Parthenon that you would find in Athens. Placed in Centennial Park a visit to the Parthenon is the highlight to any visit to Nashville. Also see my guide on Nashville.
11. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
For a leisurely and picturesque day out in Georgia it seldom gets better than the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The village of Blue Ridge is one of the most quaint and charming in all of the state and is the gateway to the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The short 2-mile long scenic railway trip takes around 4-hours and meanders through the countryside landscapes through forest and fields following the flow of the Toccoa River. Many people choose to hop off the train at the halfway point of Copperhill and explore the cafes and gift shops, antique stalls and more. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a locally made ice cream.
12. Georgia Guidestones
The Georgia Guidestones are one of the state’s most iconic and impressive landmarks. Created in 1980 the stones feature inscriptions of 10 guidelines in eight languages. The inscriptions are noble and suggests rules for life in the modern day.
The eighth stone, for example, says ‘balance personal rights with social duties’ and the tenth ‘leave room for nature’. The Georgia Guidestones are said to be guidelines to an Age of Reason. The placement of the stones themselves has astronomical value.
When the sunbeam pierces through the capstone it marks noontime throughout the year. Translated into Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Swahili and more the Georgia Guidestones are a must-visit by all.
13. Toccoa Falls
Placed inside the Toccoa Falls College Campus is the impressive, majestic Toccoa Falls themselves. Running smoothly into the Mississippi River the Toccoa Falls stand at 186 ft tall. Making it 26 ft taller than Niagara Falls in New York state.
Did you know that ‘toccoa’ in the Cherokee language means ‘beautiful’? Well, you learn something new everyday and what an appropriate name for such a natural spectacle. Toccoa Falls College is a thriving Christian college set in a 1,000 acre wooded campus, the grounds make for a lovely walk of an afternoon. Students are friendly and welcoming to visitors on their campus.
The city of Charlotte is the most populated city in North Carolina, modern and thriving Charlotte makes for a great day trip from Atlanta. The uptown district is best known for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Celebrating everything from epic wins to the sport’s biggest personalities the NASCAR HoF is interactive and informative even for the most clued-up auto-enthusiast.
If you seek an adrenaline thrill then when in Charlotte take a few hours to explore Carowinds, a theme park in the outskirts of the city that features rollercoaster and waterslides a plenty. Another great place to visit in Charlotte with the family is Discovery Place, featuring an indoor rainforest and an IMAX theatre.
Suggested tour: Charlotte: Historic Uptown 90-Minute Segway Tour
15. Cherokee Forest
Established in the summer of 1920 the Cherokee Forest encompasses a breathtaking area of over 655,598 acres in Tennessee. Hiking up to Max Patch is a popular pastime as is hiking to Roan Mountain.
Watauga Lake is a tranquil lake open for fishing, kayaking and camping too should you not wish to return to Atlanta in a hurry. The Bald River Falls are a powerful series of waterfall that plumpets 90ft down jagged rocks into the pool below. Cold even on the most balmy of summer days perhaps it’s best just to dip your toes.
The photography opportunities in Cherokee Forest are endless and genuinely enjoyable, making in one of the best day trips from Atlanta.