16 Best Day Trips From Atlanta, Georgia (2024 Guide)

Looking for the top day trips from Atlanta? Here are our top 16 best Atlanta day trip ideas!

Georgia is an incredible state in the US South that has so much to offer.

After spending a few days exploring Atlanta, which in itself is a fascinating city packed with attractions, embark on a day trip into regional parts of the state!

You can road trip up to northwest Georgia and even cross the border into Tennessee to see historic sites like Chattanooga.

Head over to northeast Georgia to tour wineries, alpine towns, and the lush landscapes of Chattahoochee National Forest.

Or stick closer to the city and visit a local gem, such as Lake Lanier. Here you can go horseback riding around the lake or get on the water and try kayaking, boating, or fishing.

Whether you want to immerse yourself in the nature of a state park or state forest, or visit charming mountain towns and go wine-tasting or museum-touring, these day trips from Atlanta allow you to do it all!

Check out our list of the best things to do in Atlanta for inspiration while you’re in the city.

16 Best Day Trips From Atlanta

From seeing Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon to touring amazing museums in Birmingham, Alabama, here are some of the top day trips from Atlanta. You can find mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife parks, wineries, museums, railroads, and so much more in the landscapes around Atlanta!

The best way to explore regional Georgia is to rent a car, though we’ll link to a few top-rated day trips if you’d prefer to book a guided tour.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Providence Canyon State Park

  • Distance from Atlanta: 148 miles
  • Driving Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Providence Canyon State Park, often referred to as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” is a breathtaking natural wonder located in southwestern Georgia.

Carved by centuries of erosion, the park features a stunning display of colorful, towering canyon walls that reveal a mesmerizing array of sedimentary layers. The canyon spans over 1,000 acres and reaches depths of up to 150 feet, creating a landscape that is both dramatic and unique.

Visitors to Providence Canyon State Park can explore a network of hiking trails that wind through the canyon, providing opportunities to witness the vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and purple that characterize the canyon walls. The park is not only a haven for geology enthusiasts but also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a picturesque and tranquil escape.

Beyond its geological marvels, Providence Canyon State Park offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors. Picnic areas and camping facilities are available, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the surrounding environment.

The park’s diverse flora and fauna, including wildflowers and bird species, contribute to its ecological significance. Educational programs and guided tours further enhance the visitor experience by providing insights into the geological processes that shaped the canyon and the importance of preserving this unique ecosystem.

Providence Canyon State Park is without a doubt, one of the best day trips from Atlanta. The views are simply breathtaking!

Providence Canyon State Park
Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon” is one of the most beautiful places in the state.

2. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

  • Distance from Atlanta: 92 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway also offers an enchanting day trip from Atlanta. Departing from the charming town of Blue Ridge, just a few hours’ drive from Atlanta, this vintage train journey takes passengers on a scenic voyage through the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As the train winds its way along the Toccoa River, passengers are treated to breathtaking views of lush forests, rolling hills, and quaint small towns. The train’s historic rail cars add a touch of nostalgia to the experience, transporting visitors back in time as they traverse the stunning scenery.

During the approximately four-hour round trip, travelers can relish the comfort of the train’s vintage coaches or opt for the open-air car for a more immersive experience.

The railway also offers themed rides and special events throughout the year, such as the popular “Santa Express” during the holiday season. Upon arrival in Blue Ridge, passengers can explore the town’s unique shops, dine in local restaurants, or take a leisurely stroll along the charming streets.

Whether seeking a family adventure or a romantic day out, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway promises a memorable journey that showcases the beauty of Georgia’s natural landscapes.

If you have time for a weekend trip, consider heading down to the beautiful Savannah, Georgia!

3. Helen

  • Distance from Atlanta: 92 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen, Georgia, is an Alpine-inspired town that captivates visitors with its quaint ambiance and charm.

Approximately a two-hour drive from Atlanta, Helen transports visitors to a picturesque village reminiscent of the Bavarian Alps. The town is often called “Alpine Helen” due to its architecture which so closely resembles a European mountain village.

The cobblestone streets of Alpine Helen are lined with specialty shops, restaurants, and charming boutiques, creating a delightful atmosphere that makes it feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. The buildings are adorned with vibrant flower boxes, and the town is surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

One of Helen’s notable attractions is the Chattahoochee River, which flows through the heart of the town. Visitors can enjoy tubing, kayaking, or simply strolling along the scenic riverwalk.

The town hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating its German heritage with Oktoberfest being a major highlight.

Unicoi State Park and Lodge is also a highlight of the area. Boasting over 1,050 acres, Unicoi State Park features hiking trails and outdoor activities, whereas the lodge offers comfortable accommodations surrounded by mountains and nature.

Helen is one of the most charming day trips from Atlanta, and a walking tour is a great way to ensure you make the most of your time there!

4. Springer Mountain

  • Distance from Atlanta: 71 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Hikers should definitely add Springer Mountain to their bucket list! Situated at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, this peak stands as a symbolic gateway to the iconic long-distance hiking trail that stretches over 2,000 miles to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, the mountain is a popular starting point for thru-hikers embarking on the arduous journey through the Appalachian Mountains.

The trailhead is marked by a bronze plaque that signifies the beginning of the trail, and a short side trail leads to the Springer Mountain Shelter, providing a rustic place for hikers to rest and take in the scenic surroundings.

The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, providing a fitting introduction to the diverse landscapes that thru-hikers will encounter on their trek northward. The lush forests, rolling hills, and occasional vistas create a picturesque setting that captures the essence of the Appalachian Trail experience.

Hiking Springer Mountain is a fun and rewarding way to spend a day trip from Atlanta.

5. Lake Lanier

  • Distance from Atlanta: 49 miles
  • Driving Time: 50 minutes

Another excellent day trip from Atlanta is Lake Lanier, located in the foothills of the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, This sprawling reservoir spans over 38,000 acres and boasts more than 690 miles of shoreline.

Originally created by the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River in the 1950s, Lake Lanier has become a multifaceted recreational paradise for residents and visitors alike.

The lake’s water is crystal-clear which is the perfect setting for a number of water activities, including fishing, boating, and of course swimming. With several marinas, the lake is a haven for boaters, offering opportunities for sailing and cruising amidst the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills.

Surrounding Lake Lanier, there are numerous parks, campgrounds, and recreational areas that cater to outdoor enthusiasts. The Lake Lanier Islands Resort, located on the lake’s shores, features a water park, golf courses, and luxurious accommodations, making it a popular destination for both day trips and extended vacations.

The lake is also known for hosting events and festivals throughout the year, drawing crowds for activities like the Magical Nights of Lights during the holiday season. Lake Lanier is a beloved location in Georgia and is one of the top day trips for getting out in the fresh air and trying water sports.

Lake Lanier Sunset
Try to catch the sunset after an exciting day on Lake Lanier!

6. Athens

  • Distance from Atlanta: 71 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Athens, Georgia is a city known for its vibrant cultural scene, rich history, and dynamic college town atmosphere. Home to the University of Georgia and steeped in Southern charm, Athens seamlessly blends historic architecture with a youthful energy.

The city’s downtown area is a bustling hub of activity, featuring eclectic shops, diverse restaurants, and a lively music scene that contributed to its reputation as the birthplace of famous bands like R.E.M. and the B-52s.

Athens boasts a plethora of cultural attractions, including the Georgia Museum of Art and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. The city’s historic district, anchored by landmarks like the Tree That Owns Itself, exudes a nostalgic ambiance.

As the “Classic City of the South,” Athens also showcases antebellum architecture, with stately homes and landmarks such as the double-barreled cannon.

Beyond its historic charm, Athens is renowned for its passionate sports culture, with the University of Georgia Bulldogs commanding a fervent following.

Whether exploring the vibrant arts scene, enjoying the lively atmosphere of downtown, attending community events, or cheering on the Bulldogs, Athens is a cool place to learn about the local culture and spirit of Georgia.

Looking to explore South Carolina as well? Check out our list of the best things to do in Charleston!

7. Amicalola Falls State Park

  • Distance from Atlanta: 71 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 12 minutes

Located in the North Georgia mountains, Amicalola Falls State Park is a natural haven that beckons travelers with its stunning landscapes and the majestic Amicalola Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the southeastern United States. Many even proclaim this to be the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River!

The centerpiece of the park, Amicalola Falls, cascades down a staggering 729 feet, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The park provides a variety of nature trails, including a challenging stairway leading to the top of the falls, offering hikers both a rewarding workout and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Beyond the falls, the park encompasses over 2,000 acres of wilderness, providing ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife observation on day trips from Atlanta.

In addition to its natural wonders, Amicalola Falls State Park serves as the southern gateway to the Appalachian Trail, making it a starting point for intrepid hikers embarking on the iconic long-distance trek.

The park also features the Amicalola Falls Lodge, a rustic yet comfortable mountain retreat that allows guests to immerse themselves in the tranquility of the surrounding nature.

Amicalola Falls State Park is not only a haven for hikers and nature lovers but also a place to find solace and connection with the awe-inspiring landscapes of the South.

8. Toccoa Falls

  • Distance from Atlanta: 94 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Toccoa Falls is a breathtaking natural wonder located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in the mountains of northern Georgia. It’s an easy and wonderful day trip from Atlanta!

The falls plunge an impressive 186 feet, making them one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. There is a viewing area that allows visitors to appreciate the sheer beauty and power of the falls, with mist rising from the cascading water creating a tranquil atmosphere.

Surrounded by the lush foliage of the Toccoa Falls College campus, the waterfall provides a picturesque backdrop, making it a popular destination for nature lovers, photographers, and those seeking a peaceful escape.

Visitors can access the falls through a short and easily accessible trail that leads to the viewing platform. Whether appreciating the falls from the viewing platform or taking a leisurely stroll through the campus, Toccoa Falls offers one of the most peaceful and beautiful day trips from Atlanta.

Heading further north? Try this 3 Days in Asheville, North Carolina Itinerary!

9. Rock City Gardens

  • Distance from Atlanta: 121 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Situated atop Lookout Mountain at the border of Tennessee and Georgia, Rock City Gardens is a geological wonder and botanical paradise that offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and whimsical attractions.

Known for its stunning rock formations, the highlight of Rock City is the Enchanted Trail, a meandering pathway that winds through towering rock formations, narrow passages, and lush gardens.

Perhaps the most iconic feature is the “See Rock City” barn advertisements that have become a cultural landmark, enticing travelers to explore this extraordinary natural attraction.

At Lover’s Leap you can enjoy panoramic views of seven states! The enchanting landscapes at Rock City Gardens create a memorable experience for all who wander through its pathways.

Beyond its geological wonders, Rock City Gardens is a testament to the vision of Frieda Carter, who, along with her husband, transformed the site into a garden wonderland. The gardens feature a diverse array of plant life, including vibrant flowers, native plants, and unique sculptures that add to the enchantment of the surroundings.

The Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village showcase whimsical dioramas and fairy tale characters, adding a touch of magic to the natural beauty of the site.

Rock City Gardens remains a cherished day trip destination, inviting families, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking a unique adventure to discover the wonders that await atop Lookout Mountain.

Rock City Gardens
There are some incredible viewpoints in Rock City Gardens.

10. Stone Mountain Park

  • Distance from Atlanta: 25 miles
  • Driving Time: 30 minutes

Another one of the top day trips from Atlanta for those looking to explore nature is Stone Mountain Park. Located just east of downtown Atlanta, this sprawling recreational oasis has both natural beauty and historical significance.

The centerpiece of the park is the iconic Stone Mountain, a massive granite monolith that rises prominently from the surrounding landscape. The mountain’s summit offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Atlanta skyline and the Appalachian Mountains.

Visitors can reach the top by hiking or taking the Summit Skyride, a cable car that provides a scenic ascent.

Carved into the northern face of Stone Mountain is the Confederate Memorial Carving, an impressive sculpture depicting Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, adding a historical layer to the park.

In addition to its geological marvels, Stone Mountain Park offers a myriad of recreational activities and family-friendly attractions.

The park features a scenic railroad, a historic plantation, and a picturesque lake with opportunities for fishing and pedal boating.

The Lasershow Spectacular, a multimedia show set against the backdrop of the mountain, is a popular evening attraction featuring fireworks, lasers, and music.

Stone Mountain Park is one of the most popular day trips from Atlanta for families and people of all ages. You can even join a group tour from Atlanta if you don’t want to drive yourself.

11. Pine Mountain

  • Distance from Atlanta: 85 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

A great way to escape the city life of Atlanta is take a day trip to Pine Mountain. Nestled amidst the rolling hills and woodlands of western Georgia, Pine Mountain is a quaint town that offers a charming escape to nature and leisure.

Pine Mountain provides visitors with access to an array of activities, with Callaway Gardens being a highlight of the area.

Callaway Gardens, a renowned resort and nature preserve, spans over 2,500 acres and features lush gardens, walking trails, and recreational facilities. The Butterfly Center and the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl are just a few highlights, showcasing the region’s botanical richness.

Pine Mountain is also home to the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari Park, where visitors can embark on a thrilling safari adventure to observe exotic animals roaming in a natural habitat.

Beyond its natural attractions, Pine Mountain boasts a delightful downtown area with charming shops, restaurants, and Southern hospitality. The town exudes a relaxed atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a tranquil retreat.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park, is also in close proximity, offering additional opportunities for hiking, camping, and enjoying the serene beauty of Pine Mountain’s surroundings. Whether exploring the natural wonders like Callaway Gardens or simply savoring the small-town ambiance, Pine Mountain is one of the top day trips from Atlanta.

Explore Tennessee with our list of the best things to do in Nashville.

12. Chattanooga, Tennessee

  • Distance from Atlanta: 118 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Located on the banks of the Tennessee River amidst the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga, Tennessee, is another popular day trip from Georgia.

Renowned for its scenic beauty, Chattanooga is surrounded by natural wonders such as Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, and the Tennessee River Gorge, offering residents and visitors ample opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and water sports.

Lookout Mountain, in particular, provides stunning vistas of the city and the surrounding landscape, while Rock City and Ruby Falls, two iconic attractions, showcase the region’s unique geological formations.

Chattanooga’s revitalized downtown is a hub of activity, featuring a pedestrian-friendly waterfront, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the historic Walnut Street Bridge. The city has embraced sustainability initiatives and developed a thriving arts and music scene.

A Historic segway tour is a great way to cover some ground and get your bearings in this exciting city. Visitors can also explore the Riverwalk, a scenic path along the Tennessee River, or take a riverboat cruise to appreciate the city’s beauty from a different perspective.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo, a former train station turned hotel and entertainment complex, pays homage to the city’s rich railroad history.

Those interested in history can also visit Chattanooga National Military Park. This historical site provides visitors with a poignant and educational experience as they explore the landscapes where crucial battles unfolded during the Civil War, including the Chickamauga Civil War Battlefield.

If you’re interested in nature, history, or just casual exploration, this lovely historic town has something for everyone!

13. Anna Ruby Falls

  • Distance from Atlanta: 98 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Another one of the top day trips from Atlanta for nature lovers is Anna Ruby Falls in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This captivating natural gem is formed by the convergence of two pristine mountain streams. The stunning double waterfall descends a total of 153 feet, surrounded by lush greenery and hemlock trees.

Anna Ruby Falls is accessible via a well-maintained half-mile trail that meanders through the scenic forest, providing visitors with an enjoyable hike that culminates in a viewing platform overlooking the cascading waters. It’s a great day trip destination for photographers!

Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the falls are part of the Anna Ruby Falls Scenic Area, which also features picnic areas and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The area is known for its diverse plant and animal life, adding an extra layer of natural beauty to the experience.

Anna Ruby Falls serves as a testament to the captivating landscapes found in the North Georgia mountains, and its accessibility makes it an ideal spot for a refreshing day trip from Atlanta.

Anna Ruby Falls
Immerse yourself in nature at Anna Ruby Falls.

14. Birmingham, Alabama

  • Distance from Atlanta: 147 miles
  • Driving Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Why not explore another state on one of your day trips from Atlanta? Alabama is just a short drive away, and the fascinating city of Birmingham is just over a two hour drive.

This vibrant city in the heart of the Deep South is renowned for its rich history, cultural diversity, and industrial heritage. Once a powerhouse of the steel industry, Birmingham has transformed into a modern metropolis that balances its historical roots with a thriving arts and culinary scene.

The city played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute stands as a powerful testament to this history, offering a comprehensive and moving exploration of the struggle for civil rights in America.

Birmingham boasts a rich cultural landscape with notable museums like the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the McWane Science Center, offering diverse experiences ranging from art and history to science and human rights.

The downtown area is also a hub of activity, featuring a mix of historic architecture, contemporary developments, and green spaces. The Railroad Park, a sprawling urban oasis, provides a picturesque setting for outdoor activities and community events.

The city is also known for its delicious cuisine, with a burgeoning food scene that reflects Birmingham’s diverse cultural influences. From soul food to upscale dining, Birmingham offers a culinary journey that showcases the flavors of the South.

With its blend of history, culture, and modern amenities, Birmingham is a dynamic city that invites exploration and appreciation of its Southern charm.

Planning to head south into Florida? Here is our list of the best places to visit in the Sunshine State!

15. North Georgia Wine Country

  • Distance from Atlanta: 90 miles
  • Driving Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Georgia’s Wine Country is a charming and burgeoning wine region known for its picturesque landscapes and thriving vineyards. Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this region is home to numerous wineries that produce a diverse array of wines, from crisp whites to robust reds.

The unique terrain, characterized by rolling hills, elevation changes, and a moderate climate, creates an ideal environment for grape cultivation.

Visitors to North Georgia Wine Country can explore the various wineries along scenic routes, often enjoying not only exquisite wines but also stunning views of vineyards against the backdrop of the mountains.

The towns of Dahlonega and Helen are central to North Georgia’s wine scene, offering a charming atmosphere with tasting rooms, boutique shops, and delightful restaurants. Many wineries host events, festivals, and live music, providing a lively and enjoyable experience for wine enthusiasts.

Not many people think of wine when they think of day trips from Atlanta. But North Georgia Wine Country has become a popular day trip destination for both locals and tourists seeking a relaxing and flavorful escape from the city.

16. Greenville, South Carolina

  • Distance from Atlanta: 145 miles
  • Driving Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes

Greenville, South Carolina, is a beautiful city situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Renowned for its picturesque downtown, Greenville offers a perfect blend of Southern charm, modern amenities, and natural beauty.

Falls Park on the Reedy River, located in the heart of the city, is a stunning oasis with walking trails, gardens, and the iconic Liberty Bridge, offering panoramic views of the cascading falls.

The vibrant downtown area is characterized by a mix of historic architecture, trendy boutiques, diverse dining options, and a lively arts scene. Main Street, lined with tree-shaded sidewalks and outdoor plazas, serves as a hub for community events, festivals, and the city’s popular weekly farmers’ market.

In addition to its cultural and recreational offerings, Greenville is known for its incredible hiking trails and outdoor activities. The Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile multi-use greenway, winds through the city, providing residents and visitors with opportunities for biking, running, and walking.

Greenville has also attracted attention for its economic revitalization, with adaptive reuse projects transforming historic mills into mixed-use developments and enhancing the city’s urban fabric.

With a strong sense of community, a thriving arts scene, and a welcoming atmosphere, Greenville is a gem of South Carolina that makes one of the top day trips from Atlanta!

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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