Atlanta is filled with glass high-rises in downtown, but it’s also a city with some exceptional landscapes. You’ll find small towns oozing southern charm, and rich history.
There’s natural beauty in spades to explore on walks and hikes, and a variety of other fun activities. Within just a couple of hours from Atlanta, you can explore on some amazing day trips, venturing out of the hustle and bustle into nature. Head out on your own trip, or join a guided tour, there’s no right way to explore Atlanta.
Take a look at our favorite day trips from Atlanta, that promise a fun and memorable experience – without having to travel too far.
Getting Around Atlanta and Beyond
Staying in Atlanta is a reasonably easy getaway. Visitors will be able to take advantage of the city’s robust public transport systems. Like most big cities, Atlanta is plagued by traffic woes so if you’re hiring a car, try to stay off the roads during peak times.
Having your own set of wheels will allow you the freedom to head out on day trips to explore at your own pace. However, with so many great guided day trips available from Atlanta, having a car isn’t essential.
- The transit rail system is your best bet for getting around within the city and beyond. It’s fast and reliable, and safe!
- Buses are great for getting around within the city, but fall short when heading out of Atlanta.
- It is a very walkable city. You can choose to walk or take a bike ride if you’re feeling energetic.
- The Atlanta Streetcar is relatively new on the scene. It operates in a loop, so it’s not ideal for accessing areas not on route, but it’s super fun.
- Taxis and ride shares operate everywhere – as per usual. Be conscious of distances, as fees can escalate pretty quickly. These are usually best for the ‘last mile’ when you need to get from the airport/train station to your accommodation.
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Half-Day Trips from Atlanta
Visitors who find themselves with a free morning or afternoon should check out half-day trips. They are a great way to see something fun, and experience warm Southern hospitality in spades.
The eclectic town of Athens is just 15 minutes from Atlanta, and has everything you’d expect from a small college town. The thriving music scene, music venues, and artsy vibe makes for a memorable and charming escape.
The historic downtown features restored Victorian-era buildings, a range of galleries, trendy shops, and dining venues. There’s a growing food scene, too, as well as a brewing beer brewing culture – see what I did there..
When you’re not touring breweries and exploring historic sites, enjoy a tranquil stroll through the State Botanical Garden or a visit to the Georgia Museum of Art. Athens boasts 17 historic districts where you can discover the history and heritage of the town.
Be sure to stop by the Tree That Owns Itself – a white oak on the edge of downtown Athens.
Suggested trip: Let’s Roam Athens Scavenger Hunt
The small Blue Ridge Mountains town of Summerville is a hidden gem about an hour and a half from Atlanta. The town is blissfully free of crowds of tourists, but there is still so much to see on your day trip from Atlanta.
With a steady stream of events and festivals year-round, there’s always something going on. The town has a pretty interesting history dating back to 1839.
Downtown Summerville has loads of old buildings, like the courthouse, the Historic Summerville Train Depot, and the Couey House – a traditional log home originally built in 1840.
Try and hike the Marble Mine Trails in James H Floyd State Park. It’s a relatively easy trail of only 1.7 miles, passing abandoned mining buildings and wildflowers, and ending at a lovely waterfall.
Make sure you don’t leave town without a stop at Paradise Garden – the creation of famous folk artist Rev Hoard Finster. Containing 22 structures, buildings, sculptures, and murals created by Finster, the Paradise Garden is a remarkable sight. If you’re keen to make a weekend of it, you can even stay in the onsite bungalow.
Full-Day Trips from Atlanta
Day trips from Atlanta will get you out and about exploring all the best bits of the region. Visit nearby towns and cities, and explore unbelievable natural settings all just a short drive from the heart of the city.
Two hours north of Atlanta, and across the Tennessee state lines, lies the city of Chattanooga.
The city’s location between the mountains of Southern Tennessee and the Tennessee River, makes it a dream destination for adventurers – there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore. Try your hand at rock climbing, road and mountain biking, hiking, rafting, or horseback riding! Chattanooga has loads of walking trails and picnic spots for those just wanting to relax and enjoy the fresh air.
History buffs can look forward to learning about the rich railroad history, military parks, and museums. There’s even a fascinating Native American heritage, civil war sites, and black history commemorations.
In downtown Chattanooga you’ll find restaurants, craft breweries, and distilleries. The area is so walkable, you can spend hours wandering the maze of streets through historic stone and brick buildings.
Suggested trip: Historic Downtown Chattanooga Segway Tour
Oozing Southern charm, the town of Macon is an enjoyable day trip just over an hour from Atlanta. With a rich and diverse history, the town is home to some fantastic sites.
The Tubman Museum has an extensive collection of African American art, history, and culture, while the Ocmulgee Mounds National Park offers a look into the Native American tribes of the region. Civil War buffs should check out the Cannonball House, while architecture enthusiasts must pay a visit to Hay House and the Grand Opera House.
There are acres and acres of parks and natural settings to explore in Macon. Amerson River Park is great for walking, riding, or running along the trails. It has kayaking, canoeing, or tubing on the river, too!
As you’d expect in the South, food is a massive part of the culture. Be sure to check out H&H Soul Food, Nu-Way Weiners, and The Rookery for DELICIOUS food.
Providence Canyon State Park
Also known as Georgia’s ‘Little Grand Canyon,’ Providence Canyon is a beautiful place for a day trip from Atlanta.
The canyon’s geological formations are the result of poor farming practices in the 1800s. Some of the gullies are as deep as 150 feet, creating a magnificent landscape for hiking.
As you explore the terrain, keep an eye out for the rare Plumleaf Azalea, which only grows in this area. For those visiting in July and August, you are likely to see the rare shrubs in bloom.
There are 16 different canyons at Providence Canyon, exposing layers of pink, orange, red and white soil. Climbers can try out the Canyon Climbers Club challenge, and those who want a more chilled visit can simply wander around.
You can extend your visit with a stay in this charming country house.
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has 867,000 acres of exceptional scenery, natural beauty, and pristine wilderness.
This enormous forest has over 86 trails for hiking, or simply walking. Immerse in magnificent views and unparalleled beauty. Photography enthusiasts – be sure to bring along your camera, there are some stunning viewpoints and scenic spots.
You can find a shady spot to enjoy a picnic, and go horse-riding, or mountain biking. The streams, lakes, creeks, and ponds are perfect for swimming, waterskiing, boating, and canoeing.
Fishermen will find lots of spots to cast a line, whether from the shoreline or in one of the top trophy trout streams. If the fishing’s good, consider extending your stay for a night or two at a hideaway cabin.
The city of Augusta is located near the South Carolina border, on the banks of the Savannah River. It is mainly known for the famed Augusta National Golf Course, which hosts the annual Master’s Tournament. If you’re keen to play a round of golf, be prepared – it doesn’t come cheap.
Augusta is a picturesque city and foodie’s paradise, with more than 100 restaurants. There is a huge collection of galleries and museums to entertain everyone too. From the Augusta Museum of History to the quirky and fun Pexchos’ American Dime Museum, Augusta has an interesting history to uncover.
The Savannah River is an attraction in itself, where you can hop on the popular Augusta Riverwalk along the banks. Augusta Canal has a waterfall where you can swim, and a spot for rock climbing. It is a great place to spend a summer’s day! Stay a little longer with this canal-side cottage as your home away from home.
Like many towns in Georgia, Blue Ridge has its roots in the railroad, and while it’s small in size, it’s big on charm.
The town’s central feature is the quaint main street lined with restaurants, bars, and antique stores. It’s picturesque, to say the least, and draws visitors in their numbers. Lucky Atlanta residents have a second mountain home here for weekend getaways.
There are several scenic hikes and trails around Blue Ridge, with creeks and rivers that are perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. Fly fishing is renowned here, with it being Georgia’s trout capital. Nature lovers be ready to stay a little longer in a gorgeous cabin.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a must-see if you are traveling with kids. The railway starts in downtown Blue Ridge, and travels along the original 1886 tracks to the sister towns of McCaysville and Copperhill (in Tennessee). Along the way, you’ll pass through the gorgeous Chattahoochee National Forest.
Plan a stay in Blue Ridge if you want to soak up more of the small town charm.
Tucked in a pretty wooded area on the Toccoa Falls College campus, you’ll find its namesake.
At 186ft tall, the Toccoa Falls is 26ft taller than Niagara Falls, and is one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi.
The word ‘toccoa’ means beautiful in the Cherokee language, and once you’ve visited, you’ll agree that the name is fitting. Don’t let the college campus fool you; the Falls are hidden away, far from the bustle of students in a 1,100-acre wooded area.
There’s a small entrance fee of $2 to visit the falls. The short walk is very accessible and easy for most visitors.
Toccoa Falls is a great place to enjoy a quiet afternoon strolling the grounds, and watching the falls. There are benches where you can sit and appreciate the wonderful setting. If you’d like to extend your visit, there are many great places to stay in the area, like the Treetop Cottage.
North Georgia Wine Country
A super popular day trip from Atlanta is a visit to the North Georgia Wine Country. This region has been producing commercial wines since the 1700s, and is now home to award-winning, family-owned wineries.
The town of Dahlonega, and the surrounding wine country, is about 2 hours from Atlanta. You can pop in to the various wineries, enjoy wine tours and tastings, and even purchase bottles to take home.
You’re in for a day of great food, excellent wine, live entertainment, and sunny patios to relax on and take in the view of rolling vineyards with the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.
It would be hard to pick a favorite experience to enjoy on a day trip from Atlanta, but a visit to the North Georgia Wine Country should not be missed. It’s one of the best things to do during an Atlanta trip.
Suggested trip: North Georgia Wine Country Tour from Atlanta
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Don’t Forget your Atlanta Travel Insurance
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
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Atlanta is a popular stop for visitors looking for rich history, diverse culture, and phenomenal scenery. Southern hospitality oozes from every nook and cranny, you’re guaranteed to feel right at home from the minute you arrive.
Surrounding Atlanta are quaint towns, quirky cities, waterfalls, vineyards, mountains, and more. Whatever your interests, there’s an Atlanta day trip for you.
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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