With everything going on, sometimes the best option for a vacation is to go on a road trip! Whether it’s for a day, a weekend getaway, or even a week, there are tons of awesome destinations within driving distance from Atlanta. With this in mind, we’ll be listing the 27 best road trips from Atlanta, Georgia.
We’ll begin with options for day trips to closer destinations, including Lake Lanier, Callaway Gardens, Athens, and the North Georgia Mountains. We’ll also review the best places for a longer getaway from Atlanta, like Charleston, Destin, or even New Orleans. So, whether you prefer a day trip to the mountains or a relaxing vacation to the beach, this article will help you choose an Atlanta road trip itinerary that’s ideal for you!
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Day trips from Atlanta
Stone Mountain Park (Stone Mountain, GA)
Distance from Atlanta: 20 miles (30 minutes)
Just 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is one of the easiest day trips from the city. In fact, this 3200-acre park is the most visited attraction in the state, best known for hosting The Lasershow Spectacular during the warmer months. Stone Mountain is also home to the famous Yellow Daisy Festival every September.
Nonetheless, thanks to attractions like Summit Skyride, the Scenic Railroad, and the Great Locomotive Chase Adventure Golf, you can find something exciting to do here any time of year! If it’s your first time visiting, we recommend hiking the one-mile trail to the summit, where you’ll find a view of downtown Atlanta and the Appalachian Mountains.
Lake Lanier, Georgia
Distance from Atlanta: 49 miles (1 hour)
Lake Lanier is one of the best quick road trips from Atlanta, especially during the summertime. Check out Lanier Islands, a popular resort complex that offers activities like golf, hiking, boating, water sports, beach volleyball, and even a spa! If you’re visiting with kids, you won’t want to miss Margaritaville at Lanier Islands Water Park–it has water slides, a wave pool, and a section of sandy beach.
Around Christmastime, Lake Lanier becomes a popular destination for Atlantans once again due to Margaritaville’s Lakeside Lights Spectacular. This interactive walk-through light display is a fun way to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones!
Distance from Atlanta: 66 miles (1 hour, 15 minutes)
One of the best Georgia road trip destinations in the fall is Dahlonega. In fact, this charming small town in Lumpkin County is where the first major American gold rush took place. For this reason, the most popular local activity is to visit the Consolidated Gold Mine. Here, you’ll learn about the miners who worked to uncover gold and even learn to pan for your own treasure! Especially if you’re visiting with kids, you don’t want to miss the mine.
Although Dahlonega is historically associated with gold, it’s recently gained attention as “the heart of the North Georgia Wine Country.” For a more “adult” vacation, spend the day at some of Georgia’s best vineyards. I recommend checking out Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery, Cavender Creek Vineyards, Kaya Vineyard & Winery, Three Sisters Vineyards, and Frogtown Winery. You can also find tons of great hiking trails at the nearby Amicalola Falls State Park.
Distance from Atlanta: 70 miles (1 hour, 20 minutes)
Athens, also called the “Classic City,” is best known as the University of Georgia’s college town. With this in mind, the city is at its busiest in the fall during football season. Even if you’re not usually a sports fan, traveling to Athens to tailgate and see a game at Sanford Stadium should be on the bucket list for any Georgia resident!
Downtown Athens is a great place to grab a bite to eat or spend some time shopping at local boutiques. It’s also world-renowned for its live music scene! After exploring downtown, head to UGA’s historic North Campus. Other popular activities include visiting the 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia or grabbing a local beer at Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Lake Oconee (Greene County, GA)
Distance from Atlanta: 84 miles (1 hour, 25 minutes)
For an exciting Atlanta road trip in the summer, look no further than Lake Oconee! Georgia Power created this reservoir during the construction of the Wallace Dam in 1979. Since then, it’s become a popular vacation spot for boating, jet skiing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, fishing, and other water activities.
For outdoor lovers, you can find exciting hiking and camping opportunities throughout the Oconee National Forest. Lake Oconee also has several golf communities with lakefront homes, including Reynolds Lake Oconee, Cuscowilla, and Harbor Club. Additionally, it’s home to The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds luxury resort, perfect for a romantic getaway.
Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA)
Distance from Atlanta: 80 miles (1 hour, 30 minutes)
Callaway Gardens was originally founded in 1952 with a mission to promote and protect a rare azalea species. At present, it has expanded to cover 6,500 acres of land, drawing 750,000 visitors each year. One of the main highlights at Callaway Gardens is the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl. This 40-acre garden houses over 3,000 types of azaleas and is the perfect place to take a stroll on a spring day. Furthermore, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is home to over 2000 butterflies of 50 different species! When the warm weather hits in the summertime, Robin Lake Beach is open daily to visitors and offers all sorts of family activities.
During the autumn, plan a visit to see the stunning fall foliage in the gardens or experience Pumpkins at Callaway. This family-friendly festival features an illuminated Enchanted Forest, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, and a Pumpkin Art Garden. In the winter, you won’t want to miss Christmas at Callaway, including Fantasy In Lights, which National Geographic ranks as one of the Top 10 Light Displays in the world.
Distance from Atlanta: 87 miles (1 hour, 40 minutes)
Helen is a mountain town in Northeast Georgia, built in the style of a Bavarian alpine village. During the warmer months (May to September), tourists flock to Helen to go tubing down the Chattahoochee River. Even if you’re visiting outside of the summer, there are still plenty of exciting outdoor activities to do! For example, Helen has many picturesque hiking trails, like Raven Cliff Falls Trail, Anna Ruby Falls (easy, short trail), Dukes Creek Falls Trail, and the nearby Yonah Mountain Hiking Trail.
Additionally, this town is home to two state parks: Unicoi State Park & Lodge and Smithgall Woods State Park. On top of hiking, Helen is also an ideal location for other outdoor activities, including camping, zip-lining, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Furthermore, one of the best fall activities in Georgia is to attend the town’s Oktoberfest celebration! With all of this to offer, we think Helen ranks as one of the top driving vacations from Atlanta.
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Distance from Atlanta: 93 miles (1 hour, 40 minutes)
Blue Ridge is another great option to escape the city and relax while surrounded by the North Georgia mountains. While in town, one of the best things to do is to visit Mercier Orchards. Here, you can take a walk through this family-owned orchard, have a picnic, stop by the market, go fishing, visit the winery, and even try freshly baked apple bakery treats! Another can’t-miss experience is taking a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. This 4-hour journey through the North Georgia countryside offers stunning views and is a great activity for the whole family.
Of course, a visit to Blue Ridge isn’t complete without checking out its awesome hiking trails. For example, Flat Creek Loop (Aska Trails), Long Branch Loop (Aska Trails), and Lake Blue Ridge Loop are among the most popular. After a long day of hiking, don’t forget to drop by Grumpy Old Men Brewery to sample craft beer!
Toccoa Falls, Georgia
Distance from Atlanta: 93 miles (1 hour, 40 minutes)
Toccoa Falls is a stunning waterfall located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in northeastern Georgia. Thanks to its 186-foot height, Toccoa Falls is the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River–higher than even certain areas of Niagara Falls! The walk from campus to the falls is only 100 yards, making it a perfect option for those who can’t hike longer trails in this region. Note that there is no swimming, wading, fishing, climbing, or hiking at the falls. As far as admission, you can pay the nominal admission fee in the gift shop.
Since Toccoa Falls won’t take up much of your time, we recommend spending more time exploring the area after your visit. For instance, check out Henderson Falls Park, Currahee Mountain, and Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site. You can also drop by Currahee Vineyard & Winery for a wine tasting! Moreover, for outdoor enthusiasts, Tallulah Gorge State Park is less than 30 minutes from Toccoa.
Brasstown Bald, Georgia
Distance from Atlanta: 102 miles (2 hours, 15 minutes)
Brasstown Bald, known as the highest point in Georgia, sits at 4,784 feet above sea level. This destination is popular on Georgia road trips because the summit offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the Chattahoochee National Forest. You can even see four different states on a clear day! The trek to the summit is steep, so make sure to wear hiking shoes or boots with good traction. Although the hike to the top can be strenuous for some, the views make it 100% worth the effort. If you can, plan to go on a sunny, clear day when you can avoid fog that will obstruct your view!
Cloudland Canyon State Park (Rising Fawn, GA)
Distance from Atlanta: 120 miles (2 hours, 20 minutes)
Cloudland Canyon State Park is located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA. With its stunning canyon walls, waterfalls, and creeks, this park is undoubtedly a top hiking and camping destination in the state. Some of the most popular hiking trails at this Georgia State Park include Overlook Trail, the West Rim Loop Trail, the Waterfalls Trail, and Sitton’s Gulch Trail. Remember that Cloudland Canyon is one of the most scenic parks in Georgia, so you’ll want to snap some photos at the Main Overlook!
Providence Canyon State Park (Lumpkin, GA)
Distance from Atlanta: 150 miles (2 hours, 20 minutes)
Did you know that Georgia has its own Little Grand Canyon? Located in Lumpkin, Providence Canyon State Park is a must-see destination in the state. Plus, admission to the park is only $5, making it a budget-friendly day trip from Atlanta. Depending on how much time you have, you can hike the 2.5-mile Canyon Loop Trail, veering off to see the individual Canyons 1-9, or even take on the 7-mile Backcountry Trail.
As you’ll learn on your visit, this breathtaking canyon is actually the result of erosion from poor farming practices in the 1800s! Regardless of how it came to be, Providence Canyon is now one of the most remarkable and unique places to visit in the state of Georgia.
Weekend trips from Atlanta
Distance from Atlanta: 118 miles (2 hours)
Chattanooga, located in East Tennessee, sits just across the border from Georgia, making it approximately a two-hour drive from Atlanta. Some of the main attractions in this riverside city are the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, and the Tennessee Riverwalk (also called Riverpark). Additionally, there are tons of options nearby for the outdoor enthusiast!
If you’re traveling with kids, Rock City and Lookout Mountain are not to be missed. Rock City’s Lover’s Leap boasts an incredible view across multiple states that’s a perfect photo op. Additionally, Ruby Falls, a series of underground waterfalls, is another beautiful place to see while in the area.
Greenville, South Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 145 miles (2 hours, 15 minutes)
Greenville is a great option for a quick weekend trip from Atlanta or even a stop on your road trip itinerary to farther destinations, like Asheville or Charlotte, NC. If you stay in downtown Greenville, you can easily explore Falls Park on the Reedy, a popular 32-acre park that runs through the city. Recognized as one of the South’s best foodie cities, you’ll find plenty of restaurants in town offering delicious comfort food and other cuisines. For example, we recommend Sidewall Pizza Company, The Anchorage, and Soby’s.
Paris Mountain is just a short drive away if you’re looking for other things to do near Greenville. This park offers just about every outdoor activity you can think of–hiking, biking, swimming, picnicking, and fishing!
Distance from Atlanta: 147 miles (2 hours, 15 minutes)
Birmingham is Alabama’s most populous city and was an important center for the civil rights movement. “The Magic City” has something for everyone between the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Vulcan Park and Museum, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and the Birmingham Museum of Art. If you’re traveling with young kids, you’ll want to add the McWayne Science Center and the Birmingham Zoo to your itinerary! Additionally, everyone who visits Birmingham should take the time to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and pay homage at 16th Street Baptist Church.
Asheville, North Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 200 miles (3 hours, 25 minutes)
Asheville, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is probably best known as home to the Biltmore Estate. Built in the style of a French chateau, this mansion draws thousands of visitors each year. In fact, the Biltmore Estate is the largest privately-owned house in the United States.
Moreover, Asheville is a great spot to explore nature by visiting the Pisgah National Forest or driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. After spending the day outdoors, don’t forget to check out some local breweries, like Catawba Brewing Co., Twin Leaf Brewery, and Burial Brewing Co. Asheville is thought to have more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.!
Distance from Atlanta: 250 miles (3 hours, 40 minutes)
For one of the most romantic weekend getaways from Atlanta, head to Savannah, Georgia. As the oldest city in the state, Savannah is packed with history, beautiful architecture, and Southern charm. The best–and the most entertaining–way to explore the historic district is on a ghost tour! You’ll definitely want to see all the noteworthy spots in town, like Forsyth Park, Bonaventure Cemetery, and River Street. You can also visit historic 19th-century house museums in Savannah, such as the Owens-Thomas House, located at 124 Abercorn Street.
Our favorite suggestion is to take a guided food tour with Savannah Taste Experience. Their tours are one of the best ways to come across up-and-coming restaurants in town! Furthermore, if you’d like to take photos during your stay in Savannah, we recommend stopping by Wormsloe Historic Site. This colonial estate is surrounded by live oaks and Spanish moss, making it one of the most beautiful places in Savannah.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 245 miles (3 hours, 50 minutes)
Nicknamed “The Queen City,” Charlotte is the second-largest city in the Southeast and is an important business and financial hub. Its most notable attractions include the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Discovery Place Science Museum, the Billy Graham Library, and Carowinds amusement park. For a unique outdoor experience, you’ll want to visit the U.S. National Whitewater Center! This facility is the ultimate spot for water sports, where you can partake in whitewater rafting, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Distance from Atlanta: 200 miles (4 hours)
Gatlinburg is a mountain resort city that makes a great base for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plan to spend at least one day hiking in the park–there are trails for all levels of hikers! Other must-see places in town are Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, SkyLift Park, and the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. If you’re traveling with a group of adults, go on a moonshine crawl through Gatlinburg! You can visit three major distilleries here: Sugarlands, Ole Smoky, and Tennessee Shine Co.
Longer trips from Atlanta
Distance from Atlanta: 250 miles (4 hours)
Nashville is a top-rated destination for road trips due to its brunch scene, vibrant street art, and live music on Broadway. Since you’re in Music City, you can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Grand Ole Opry or the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville is full of all sorts of quirks; for example, you can find a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park!
Another of this city’s gems is the daily Farmers’ Market, where you can purchase local food, produce, and crafts. As far as other places to eat in Nashville, we suggest Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Biscuit Love, Liberty Common, and Café Roze.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 280 miles (4 hours, 30 minutes)
One of the best options for a vacation from Atlanta is Hilton Head Island. Spend your days lounging on the island’s world-class beaches, such as Coligny Beach or Folly Field Beach, or maybe even rent a bike! After spending time in the sand, climb to the top of Harbour Town Lighthouse and grab some local seafood for dinner at one of Hilton Head’s 250 restaurants. Families will also enjoy Island Explorer Dolphin & Nature Tours, which offer guided boat tours around Hilton Head in small groups. For outdoor lovers, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge offers over 14 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Charleston, South Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 305 miles (4 hours, 50 minutes)
Charleston, the largest city in South Carolina, was founded in 1670. This adorable Southern town is known for its quaint and historic architecture and its yummy signature cuisines, such as shrimp and grits. Walking the streets of Charleston, it’s easy to see why this destination is consistently ranked as one of the top cities in the U.S. for tourism. Historical sites include Middleton Place, Fort Sumter, McLeod Plantation, the Nathaniel Russel House, and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, among countless others.
Golden Isles of Georgia
Distance from Atlanta: 310 miles (4 hours, 50 minutes)
The Golden Isles are made up of four barrier islands (St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island) and the port city of Brunswick. Spend your vacation lounging in the sand at East Beach, popular with families, or the picturesque Driftwood Beach. Although these beaches are undoubtedly the main attractions in the Golden Isles, there are tons of other activities to do here too. For example, you can also find horseback riding, watersports, camping, boating, fishing, and golf! If you’re looking for a place to stay, we suggest Jekyll Island Club Resort, a castle-like historic hotel that’s centrally located.
Distance from Atlanta: 335 miles (5 hours, 15 minutes)
Destin, located on the Florida Panhandle, is one of the most popular summer vacation spots for Atlantans. In fact, Destin’s beaches are considered some of the whitest in the world, drawing millions of visitors each year. Henderson Beach features pristine emerald waters and soft, clean sand. Furthermore, visitors can check out the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, the Village of Baytowne Wharf, and HarborWalk Village. Destin is also an ideal spot for shopping between the Grand Boulevard at Sandestin and Silver Sands Premium Outlets.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Distance from Atlanta: 360 miles (5 hours, 40 minutes)
Myrtle Beach is another great option for a summer getaway from Atlanta. Located on the east coast of South Carolina, this city hosts over 20 million visitors along the Grand Strand each year. Besides lounging on its 60-mile stretch of beach, you can also head to Broadway at the Beach, the SkyWheel, Ripley’s Aquarium, or the Hollywood Wax Museum. Myrtle Beach’s 1.2-mile boardwalk is another popular attraction, considered one of the top boardwalks in the nation.
Distance from Atlanta: 440 miles (6 hours, 15 minutes)
Orlando, in Central Florida, is mainly known as the home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. However, you can actually find more than a dozen theme parks here, with Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Universal’s Islands of Adventure among the most popular. Other parks include Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Discovery Cove. Although you probably won’t make it to all destinations in one trip, you can definitely see 4-5 parks in a week.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Distance from Atlanta: 460 miles (6 hours, 40 minutes)
New Orleans, the largest city in Louisiana, is undoubtedly one of the most special cities in the U.S. NOLA is best known for jazz music, Creole cuisine, its annual Mardi Gras celebration, and the beautiful French Quarter. While much of the history in New Orleans focuses on the colonial era, you can also find the Smithsonian-affiliated National WWII Museum here. If you’d like to see a live performance, don’t miss Preservation Hall. Given everything there is to do here, you’ll want to spend at least a long weekend in New Orleans!
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This article was first published in August 2020 and has since been updated.