Smyrna lies just 1.5 kilometres northwest of Atlanta’s city limits and 25 km from downtown Atlanta. Even so, the city is proud of its welcoming ‘small town’ atmosphere.
This area of northern Georgia was first settled by white Americans in 1832, but didn’t become known by the name of Smyrna until 40 years later.
The town played an important role in the American Civil War, with two battles fought in the area and homes occupied by Unionist general Sherman.
Smyrna is therefore of interest to anyone with a curiosity in the American Civil War. Alongside this, there are spectacular nearby natural attractions and the fact that all the delights of Atlanta are just a short distance away.
Let’s check out the 15 best things to do in and around Smyrna, Georgia.
1. Smyrna History Museum
To better get to grips with Smyrna’s two centuries of history a great place to start is Smyrna History Museum.
Located inside a reconstructed historic train depot from 1910, this guardian of Smyrna’s history protects thousands of objects and documents, from early artefacts to photographs.
Exhibits begin when the Smyrna area was the ancestral home of the northern Georgia’s native American peoples, and continues through the Civil War period to the present day.
Smyrna History Museum is located on Atlanta Road, at the heart of the downtown district.
2. Jonquil City Historical Trail
Smyrna is also known as Jonquil City because of the number of these flowers, also called rush daffodils, that bloom here each spring.
The Jonquil City Historical Trail highlights some of Smyrna’s most important sights, and is centred around Atlanta Road, a native American trail adopted by the first European-American settlers.
The trail includes the city’s earliest settlement, now Market Village, which was the location of the Smyrna religious campground from where the city took its eventual name.
Follow the trail and you’ll also be able to take in the city’s first Baptist Church, built in 1924, and Aunt Fanny’s Cabin.
Sitting opposite the history museum, this building was once a famous restaurant that only closed its doors in 1994 after decades of service.
3. Reformation Brewery
One of a new generation of breweries popping up across the state of Georgia, Reformation Brewery has opened its taproom to huge acclaim.
Here, at a delightful position on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, visitors can explore an entire world of authentic and even humorous craft beers – and that’s no exaggeration.
Beers change from month to month, but can include American Pale Ales, Belgian-style ‘tripels’, Japanese rice lagers, and rich, dark porters.
You don’t need to be a beer buff to enjoy a couple of hours at Reformation Brewery either, which has a friendly, family-oriented ambience.
4. Ruff’s Mill and Concord Covered Bridge
This complex of historic buildings contains a grist (corn)mill, miller’s home, and a covered bridge, all typical of Georgia in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
It was also the site of the Civil War Battle of Ruff’s Mill, which was the only battle where the Confederate south’s earthwork defences were overrun during the Atlanta campaign.
The mill was saved because it was designated as a field hospital, with bullet holes still visible on its stone exterior.
The covered bridge crosses Nickajack Creek, and is one of only 16 such structures still in existence in the entire state.
The mill and battle site are approximately six kilometres southeast of the city centre.
5. Fox Creek Golf Course and Driving Range
On the northern edge of Smyrna, Fox Creek Golf Course offers golfers a 62-par executive-style course that is both challenging and suitable for players of all abilities.
The centre also contains a 100-tee driving range which is partly lit come dusk, allowing you to practice your swing both day and night.
It has been ranked as one of the top 50 public driving ranges in the US by the Golf Range Association of America.
With holes designed by Larry Nelson and John LaFoy, this is one of the best places to tee-off in the Atlanta region.
6. Six Flags White Water
Meanwhile, the Six Flags White Water theme park is the largest in America’s southeast, and rated as within the top 12 when it comes to visitor numbers.
Spanning 28 hectares, the park has twenty different attractions to delight visitors.
It is divided into four different sections, including Wildwater Lagoon and Pine Valley. Wildwater Lagoon is home to the Mutiny Chute plunge slide and 20 metre Typhoon Twister, as well as the child-friendly Lizard’s Tail slides.
Pine Valley boasts the park’s wave pool, as well as its lazy river tube ride. The Slippery Ridge section contains the Dragon’s Tail speed slides, while Flash Flood Canyon has the park’s tallest single slide, Dive Bomber.
The park is less than ten kilometres north of Smyrna, in Marietta.
7. The Anne Frank Exhibit
Developed in conjunction with Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House, this museum space is in the city of Sandy Springs, roughly 20 kilometres east of Smyrna.
It uses the story of this young German-Jewish girl’s experience hiding from the Nazi’s in occupied Europe during the Second World War to discuss the realities behind the holocaust of the Jewish people.
Frank’s story is told using extracts from her famous diary, and more than 500 photographs, in addition to a reconstruction of the room in which she hid with her family.
A film also details more of Frank’s life, which sadly ended at the age of 15 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
8. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Also in Sandy Springs is the headquarters and visitor centre to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Cared for by the US National Park Service, this recreation area protects 77 kilometres of mature, unspoilt riverside.
One of the country’s first National Water Trails, the park provides access to its waterways by a variety of means, including canoes and kayaks, meaning people are able to paddle to the sound of chirruping birds and splashing fish.
Among them are 23 species of game fish, which can be reeled in with a Georgia fishing licence.
9. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Kennesaw Mountain Park is the second important battlefield site around Smyrna dating from the Civil War period.
The battle took place in 1864 as part of the Atlanta Campaign and involved some 150,000 troops, 35,000 horses, and almost 450 cannons.
The visitor centre contains a small museum, while Peter Valentine Kolb’s farmhouse, which was also involved in the battle, has been fully restored to its former glory.
The park’s 12 square kilometres manages to cram in almost 30 km of interpretive hiking trails, taking in artillery emplacements and earthwork defences.
The park is around 12 minutes west of downtown Smyrna by road.
10. Centennial Olympic Park
This urban park takes its name from the fact that the Atlanta Summer Olympics of 1996 came 100 years after the first games of the modern era.
Ringed by the gleaming tower blocks of downtown Atlanta, the park occupies almost nine hectares of prime real estate.
Its most famous feature is the 251 computer-controlled water jets of the Fountain of Rings, which moves to the rhythm of music several times a day with jets soaring three to ten metres into the air.
Other features include a number of sculptures, and SkyView Atlanta, a 20-story Ferris wheel offering views right across the city from its pods.
Follow Interstate 75 south and you’ll reach downtown Atlanta in around 20 minutes.
11. Sweetwater Creek State Park
Around one hundred times larger than Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park is Sweetwater Creek State Park, 35 km southwest of Smyrna.
Home to attractive waterways, including Sweetwater Creek itself, the park is a wonderland for nature lovers, hikers and history fans.
One of its most ghostly features are the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, which was producing more than 300 kilos of cotton each day before being burned down by Union forces during the Civil War.
Perhaps more difficult to spot can be the park’s native wildlife species, which include beavers, bobcats, skunks, rattlesnakes and 33 species of bird.
12. Silver Comet Trail
Those looking for a slightly longer walk might be interested in the Silver Comet Trail, a paved footpath that runs along the route of the Silver Comet passenger train from Smyrna to Anniston in neighbouring Alabama.
The trail connects with the Chief Ladiga Trail at the state border, to create a continuous pathway 151 km in length – the second longest paved rail trail anywhere in the United States.
Also open to bicyclists and horse riders, the trail has a gradient of just 2% as it runs northeast.
13. Georgia Aquarium
The largest aquarium in the United States, and one of the largest anywhere in the world, Georgia Aquarium provides a home for hundreds of aquatic species and thousands of individual animals in downtown Atlanta.
Spanning both freshwater and seawater habitats, its space is divided into seven different themed areas, which include tanks so large they contain sharks, sealions, and manta rays.
The largest individual tank has a volume of 24,000 m3, and is the habitat of a whale shark, while the total volume of its tanks comes closer to 40,000 m3.
Visitors are able to take in the huge size of the whale shark tank from the viewing theatre, while they can enter a glass-walled tunnel in the Ocean Voyager section.
14. Tolleson Pool
Smyrna’s Tolleson Pool provides a place to cool off on hot Georgia days.
This large outdoor pool is open throughout the summer months, and has an average depth of 1.5 metres, making it suitable for hard-core swimmers and families just looking to enjoy the water.
Anyone who wants to show off their skills can head to the one and three metre diving boards, while younger children can also enjoy the Spray Park.
15. Vinings Gallery
While Smyrna might not have a municipal gallery, the Vinings Gallery in Roswell makes for a great alternative.
Its walls are hung with a collection of works by both newcomers to the art scene and nationally-recognised creatives.
Owned and run by artists and agents, the gallery claims to be hosting the Picassos of tomorrow.
While only time will tell on that matter, there’s nothing to stop you enjoying the displayed canvasses and sculpture in any case.
Roswell is approximately 25 kilometres from Smyrna.