While Atlanta has plenty of big city amenities – award-winning restaurants, professional sports teams, museums, and ample green space – the rest of Georgia and surrounding states are worth exploring as well. From outdoor hikes to museums, wineries, historic sites, and small towns with a bit of everything, here are 12 can’t miss day trips from Atlanta.
Conyers, GA: Find Inner Peace at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Experience the tranquility and beauty of this Trappist monk community 30 miles removed from the city. Take a self-guided tour of the Monastic Museum, join the residing monks for mass or mid-day prayers, learn about the art of Bonsai at the Monastery Garden Center, or explore the stunning grounds and Gothic architecture via biking or walking along the property’s Rockdale River trail.
Getting There: The Monastery is a half hour drive from Atlanta via I-20 Eto GA to 212-E.
Travel Tip: Visit the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area just a few short miles up the road for hiking, biking, historic sites, and sweeping views of downtown Atlanta.
Tiger, GA: Drink Georgia-Grown Wine at Tiger Mountain Vineyards
Nestled in the north Georgia mountains, the award-winning Tiger Mountain Vineyards produces ten varietals grown on a fifth generation family farm. Sip on the signature Rabun Red, a bold five grape blend named for the winery’s home county or the dry, fruit-tinged viognier in the vineyard’s tasting room or eat onsite at the Red Barn Cafe, the dairy barn turned restaurant which serves up weekend dinner and brunch and breathtaking mountain views May through November.
Getting There: In non-rush hour traffic, the winery is an hour and 45 minutes drive via I-85 North and US-23 North.
Travel Tip: Consider purchasing a Peach Pass for access to express lanes on the highways and expedite your trip.
Chattanooga, TN: Explore Parks and Museums on the Waterfront
This former industrial center is now a nature lover’s paradise, thanks to downtown revitalization and the Tennessee Riverwalk trail. Explore the latter on foot or bike or book the two-hour historic downtown Segway tour, which includes points of interest like the Tivoli Theatre, Warehouse Row, and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Don’t miss the Tennessee Aquarium, home to the most diverse gathering of freshwater animals in the country, and the nearby Hunter Museum of Art, which focuses on American art and includes the work of Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol.
Getting There: Chattanooga is a one hour, 45 minute drive via I-75 N or a three hour, 30 minute ride via the 5:45 a.m. Megabus.
Sautee Nacoohee, GA: Visit the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia
Located near Helen, Georgia, the Folk Pottery Museum houses an extensive collection of folk pottery dating from the 1840s, including the work of Cheever and Lanier Meaders, the latter known for his ash and limestone face jugs. The museum also explore the role of folk pottery in Southern life and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Getting There: Located 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, the museum is a one hour, 40 minute drive via I-85 and I-985 N.
Travel Tip: Teachers, active military members, and veterans get free admission.
Tallulah Falls, GA: Hike the Canyon at Tallulah Gorge State Park
One of only three canyons in the state, Tallulah Gorge is nearly 2 miles long, 1,000 feet deep and boasts six stunning waterfalls as well as nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. Feeling adventurous? Brave the 200 foot long suspension bridge that towers 80 feet about the rocky floor for access to an observation deck deep inside the gorge. The park also includes a quieter, paved, and flat 3 mile Shortline Trail.
Getting There: The park is approximately 100 miles from Atlanta and a 1 hour, 40 minute drive via I-85 and US-23 N.
Travel Tip: The park issues 100 permits per day to hike the canyon floor, so check the schedule in advance for availability.
Cartersville, GA: Visit the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site
This 54 acre archeological site in Bartow County is the largest remains of the Mississippian culture in the Southeastern United States. Once home to several thousand Native Americans between 1000 and 1550 A.D., this National Historic Landmark contains six earthen mounds, including the largest temple mound, which stands 63 feet tall and is nearly 3 acres wide at its base. Tour the museum for artifacts and exhibits dedicated to this ancient civilization.
Getting There: Cartersville is 50 minutes via car and I-75 N.
Travel Tip: Drive into town and visit the Booth Museum, the world’s largest permanent exhibition space dedicated to Western art.
Athens, GA: Experience Award-winning Food, Beer, and Music
The birthplace of music giants like R.E.M. and Widespread Panic and home of the University of Georgia’s flagship campus, Athens is the perfect small town getaway. Tour and sample top-rated local beers at Creature Comforts and Terrapin breweries, stop by celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s celebrated Five and Ten restaurant, then catch live music from headlining and emerging bands alike at venues like 40 Watt and the Georgia Theatre.
Getting There: Athens is 70 miles east and approximately a 90 minute drive via I-85 and US-29 N.
Travel Tip: Unless tailgating and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic is part of your agenda, avoid the town on home football game weekends.
Brasstown Bald: Soak up the Views from Georgia’s Highest Point
AddressBrasstown Bald, Georgia 30546, USA
Towering nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s tallest mountain. Take a shuttle or hike the steep half mile trail to the mountain’s observation deck for panoramic views and sightlines to four states — including neighboring North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina, weather permitting. The visitor’s center features interactive displays dedicated to Georgia’s geological and natural history, and the surrounding Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests offer fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, and camping for outdoor enthusiasts.
Getting There: Brasstown is 100 miles and a two hour, ten minute drive from the city via I-19 N.
Travel Tip: Call ahead at (706) 896-2556 to ensure the facilities are open and note that some GPS systems provide inaccurate directions, so the park recommends using the coordinates N34.847894, W83.798567 or the intersection of Highway 180 and Spur 180 so you don’t get lost.
Plains, GA: Visit the Birthplace of a President
This tiny town rural farming community birthed the country’s 39th president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter. At the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, visit the president and First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s alma mater, Plains High School, which has been turned into a museum and visitors’ center dedicated to the couple, their political and business careers, family, and life post-presidency. The site also includes the Carter Boyhood Farm, the Plains Train Depot which served as Carter’s campaign headquarters, and the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, home of eight public butterfly gardens.
Getting There: Plains is a two hour, 20 minute drive from Atlanta. Head south via I-85, I-185 and then east via US-280.
Travel Tip: When his schedule permits, the former president still teaches his weekly 10 a.m. Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church. Arrive by 5:30 a.m. for a chance to attend the class. Access is granted on a first come, first served basis.
Greenville, SC: Explore Parks, Museums, and More
This scenic downtown in upstate South Carolina has something for everyone. Start your trip at Falls Park on the Reedy River and walk across the Liberty Bridge for views of downtown and the waterfalls below. Bike, walk, or run the 14 mile multi-use Swamp Rabbit Trail, which runs along the river. For indoor activities, try the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, with 19 exhibit galleries dedicated to the arts, sciences, humanities, and the environment for children ages one to 15 or catch a show at the renowned Peace Center, which hosts live performances, author readings, and traveling Broadway productions like Hamilton.
Getting There: Greenville is a two hour and 20 minute drive via I-85 N. Leave Atlanta before or after morning rush hour to avoid delays.
Travel Tip: Park in one of the downtown garages and leave your car for the day. Shops, pubs, restaurants, trails, and museums are all easily accessible on foot.
Birmingham, AL: Brush up on History at the Civil Rights District
This six-block area in the city’s downtown is dedicated to its pivotal role in the civil rights movement and includes several historic sites, including the the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Fourth Avenue Business District, Carver Theatre, and Kelly Ingram Park, site of many of the era’s protests and demonstrations. After a walking tour of these landmarks, visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which offers guided tours and permanent and rotating exhibits dedicated to significant events in the city’s history.
Getting There: Birmingham is 150 miles west of the city and a 2 hour and 15 minute drive via I-20 W or a three hour trip via Megabus, which offers two trips per day.
Travel Tip: In addition to a sizeable collection of African, Asian, European, Native American art, the Birmingham Museum of Art houses the largest collection of Wedgewood outside of England.
Pine Mountain, GA: Experience the Great Outdoors at Callaway Resort Gardens
This year-round, 2,500 acre outdoor resort offers a variety of activities, from miles of hiking and biking trails to world-glass golf and tree zip-lining to water sports on the property’s Robin Lake, the world’s largest, man-made white sand beach. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the Day Butterfly Center, a conservatory that houses over 1,000 butterflies as well as the extensive gardens and mesmerizing bird of prey shows.
Getting There: Pine Mountain is approximately 85 miles southwest of Atlanta and a one hour, 20 minute drive via I-85 S.
Travel Tip: If traveling during the holiday season, don’t miss the Fantasy in Lights, which is considered one of the world's top light displays.