The 7 Top Day Trips From Atlanta

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Looking for the top day trips from Atlanta and planning a visit? Read on for all of the information you need!

Atlanta is by far one of my favorite cities in the United States! I lived there for several years as a student at Georgia State University. Atlanta has a fantastic food and drink scene. It’s a perfect solo destination or a great place to visit with friends. 

Since Atlanta is so centrally located to the north Georgia mountains and other towns throughout the state, it’s easy to take a few day trips while in the area. 

These day trips are all hours or less from Atlanta. It’s a good idea to head out early in the morning so you can be back in Atlanta by evening. This way, you can still take advantage of Atlanta’s endless dining options and nightlife scene. 

Here are the five best day trips from Atlanta and what you can expect from each.

atlanta at sunset, atlanta roads, atlanta skyline

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Looking for the Best Day Trip from Atlanta?

As the capital and largest city in Georgia, Atlanta is one of the most visited places in the state. Traveling to Atlanta for the first time is overwhelming since the city is so large. This Atlanta guide will help you find the best things to do around the city. 

With dozens of day trips two hours or less from Atlanta, this guide will also help you pick the best ones! I recommend spending a few days in Atlanta and then tacking on a few extra days to complete two or three-day trips. 

Looking for quick day trip options? Here are the most popular ones not to be missed:

1. Blue Ridge

I grew up in a small town near Blue Ridge. My dad still lives in the area, so I often visit in spring or early summer. Blue Ridge is a small town surrounded by the North Georgia Mountains. 

Depending on the traffic, it’s about an hour and 45 minutes from Atlanta. One of my favorite things in Blue Ridge is exploring the local wineries. There are also a few brewing companies if you’re more interested in beer rather than wine. 

Where to Go in Blue Ridge

  • Mercier Orchards is the most visited place in Blue Ridge, specializing in hard cider. You can sample their cider, take a tractor tour of the grounds, get snacks at the cafe, and pick blueberries and strawberries when in season. They also have a sweet wine collection, including peach and apple. 
  • Bearclaw Vineyards and Winery is my favorite winery. They specialize in sweet white wine and rosé. You can sit outside and enjoy the mountain views or sit inside if you’re visiting in the colder months. 
  • Serenberry Vineyards is the place to go if you like dry wine. It’s just a short drive from the downtown area. Once you’ve done your tasting, you can walk through the vineyards with your glass or sit on the patio and enjoy the scenery. 
  • Fannin Brewing Company makes beers with local ingredients and is worth a visit if you enjoy beer flights and seasonal brews. All the beers are named after local towns in Fannin County, including the Hiawassee Golden Ale and the Toccoa Brown. 

If you want to feel like a real local, head to the Swan’s Drive-In movie theatre once you have had your fill of beer and wine. It’s been open since 1955. They show classic older movies and new releases depending on the day you go. 

I used to go there as a kid on the weekends when they often show double or triple movie features. They also have a traditional concession stand where you can buy popcorn and your favorite movie theatre snacks. 

blue ridge mountains in the fall, leaves changing color

Getting to Blue Ridge

If you want to get to Blue Ridge from Atlanta, you’ll need to rent a car. You’ll drive along I-75 N before getting onto Highway 575.

2. Athens 

You’re probably already familiar with Athens if you’re a Georgia Bulldogs fan. Athens is home to the University of Georgia (UGA), but it’s more than just a college town. I actually attended UGA for a year before transferring to Georgia State and moving to Atlanta. 

I definitely missed the small town of Athens when I first got to Atlanta. Athens has a small-town, homey feel. You’re also greeted by the famous southern hospitality wherever you go. 

Athens has much more to do than watching football. Of course, if you love the Bulldogs, catch a game while in the area. Since the town is catered toward college students and young adults, there are also many free things to do! 

Top Recommendations for a Day Trip From Atlanta to Athens

  • Explore the breweries and coffee shops downtown. Most college kids love beer and coffee, so you’ll be able to find plenty of options downtown. I recommend Creature Comforts for beer and 1000 Faces for coffee. If you can’t decide which one you want, try Walker’s Coffee and Pub, where you can get a local beer or craft coffee. 
  • Stroll around the UGA campus. Directly across from the main street downtown, you’ll find the UGA arch. As a student, you’re not supposed to walk under it until graduation. As a visitor though, you can take pictures under it as the flowers and green space near it make for an awesome photo-op. 
  • Visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. There are over 313 acres of beautiful flowers and plants. UGA owns it, and horticulture students use it as a lab. It’s open to the public every day, and you can even talk to the students working to find more information about their projects. 
  • See a show at the Georgia Theatre. The theatre is located downtown next to many bars and restaurants so you can go out for nightlife after the show. Check the theatre’s website for current shows. Sometimes, they host famous musicians, and on other nights, UGA students put on the shows.

Athens is about 45 minutes to an hour and a half drive to Atlanta. The time may vary depending on traffic and where you’re staying in Atlanta. 

athens ga aerial view, capital building, day trip from atlanta

Getting to Athens

The best way to get to Athens is to rent a car. The only other way to get there that I know of is to take a shuttle from the Atlanta Airport to downtown Athens. The shuttle only leaves a few times a day though so you’ll need to time it exactly right.

Once you’re in downtown Athens, you can pretty much walk everywhere as the area is pretty compact. To get to places like the Botanical Garden though, you’ll need to take an Uber.

3. Brasstown Bald 

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia. It offers spectacular views of the North Georgia mountains. While at the observation deck, you will also see the Southern Appalachian mountains, the Chattahoochee National Forest, and the Oconee National Forest

Once you’re in the parking lot, the trail leading to the summit is only half a mile. There are also shuttles from the parking lot to the summit if you don’t feel like hiking. 

Once at the top, you’ll see the observation deck and a large circular building. Make sure to go inside to watch a short film about the history of Brasstown Bald. You can also visit the gift shop and grab some souvenirs to take home. 

Brasstown Bald is in the North Georgia city of Hiawassee, about an hour and 45 minutes from Atlanta. After visiting the observation deck, I recommend visiting Hiawassee to do a few things:

  • Visit Hamilton Gardens. This huge botanical garden has over 3,000 plants and wildflowers. There is also a gorgeous waterfall on the property. 
  • Go to a fair at the Georgia Mountain Fair Grounds. If you are in the area during a fair or festival, make sure to visit the fairgrounds. They have great concerts and special events during Christmastime and other holidays. 
  • Get some souvenirs at ArtWorks Gallery and Gifts. All the artwork and crafts are locally made. There are usually about 45 vendors in total.

Visiting Brasstown Bald usually doesn’t take more than an hour. Consider seeing a few of these places in the Hiawassee area.  

sign leading to building entrance of brasstown bald, day trips in georgia

Getting to Brasstown Bald

There are no public transportation options to Brasstown Bald from Atlanta so you have to rent a car.

The drive takes about two hours along US 19 N.

4. Lake Lanier 

If you’re a big Ozark TV show fan, you might recognize Lake Lanier. The show was filmed around Lake Lanier and many parts of Atlanta. The cast of the show actually used to come into the restaurant I worked at in Atlanta for dinner after filming at Lake Lanier all day. 

Lake Lanier should be your top day trip if you’re in Atlanta during the warmer months. Most activities revolve around being in or near the water, so it’s definitely a summer destination. 

Best things to do in Lake Lanier

  • Rent a boat and explore the Lanier Islands. Going out on a boat is my favorite thing to do on Lake Lanier. There are many options for boat rentals, including pontoons and houseboats if you are traveling with large groups. 
  • Relax on the beach. Many of the islands have man-made beaches where you can sit back and relax in the sand. There are also beach chair rentals and toy rentals if you are bringing the kids along. 
  • Take a brunch cruise. In the summer and early fall months, Margaritaville at Lake Lanier offers margarita and brunch cruises. Or you can take the evening sunset cruise featuring a full nacho and taco bar. 
  • Visit the water park. This is a great option if you’re visiting on a hot day and have kids. The splash zone is perfect for younger kids. There are also intense water slides for adults or older children. 

The drive from Atlanta to Lake Lanier is about 45 minutes, so you can easily make this a half-day trip if you don’t feel like leaving the city for too long. Given the proximity, this is a top-day trip from Atlanta.

lake lanier in the summer, fun day trips from atlanta, day trip from atlanta, best day trips from atlanta

Getting to Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier is another day trip that you’ll need to rent a car for. The drive is easy and just under an hour when you use I-85 N.

5. Toccoa Falls 

Toccoa Falls is one of the tallest freestanding waterfalls in the country. It’s actually taller than Niagra Falls! Given this, it’s a top day trip from Atlanta.

It’s located on a small college campus of Toccoa Falls College. Anyone can visit, and you can park in the lot and take a short walk along the creek to get to the falls. 

Once you see the falls, here are a few other things you can do in the Toccoa area:

  • Tour the Currahee Military Museum. Most of the artifacts are from World War II. Over 18,000 soldiers trained at Camp Toccoa to be paratroopers. The museum is dedicated to these soldiers. 
  • Try blueberry wine at Currahee Vineyard and Winery. They have daily tastings and live music every weekend evening. 

Toccoa Falls is about an hour and a half away from Atlanta, making it a perfect half-day trip. 

Getting to Toccoa Falls

There is an Amtrak train from Atlanta to Toccoa Falls but it has a few connections and only leaves a few times a day so you’ll need to time your journey correctly.

Renting a car is much easier. The driver is an hour and a half and you’ll use a couple of different interstates including I-85 N, I-985 N, and US-23 N.

6. Helen

Helen is a small Georgia town in the mountains. It’s known as a German town because all the architecture is traditional Bavarian design.

I recommend coming here during the summer when you can get a traditional German beer and then go tubing in the large river that runs throughout the town.

The holidays are also a nice time to visit because the town is decorated with Christmas lights and trees everywhere.

downtown area of helen, traditional bavarian architecture

Getting to Helen

You’ll need to rent a car to get to Helen. Once you’re in the town, though, you can leave your car in one of the public parking lots and walk everywhere. The drive only takes about an hour and a half.

7. Dahlonega

If you enjoyed the wine and vineyards in Blue Ridge, you’d also love visiting Dahlonega. The little town has five vineyards and many different kinds of wine tastings at each.

Frogtown Cellars is by far the best winery, so make sure you head there first.

Getting to Dahlonega

Renting a car from Atlanta is the best way to get to Dahlonega. The drive is just over an hour.

Once you’re in the town, you can take the local shuttle bus around to different places, including the wineries.

When to Visit Atlanta 

I would generally stay away from Atlanta in the summer as it’s very hot and humid. Some of the most visited places also get too crowded in the summertime. The music festivals are often during the summer, so if you’re planning that, you may have to make do with the weather.

For the best weather, visit in late September to November or March to May. It’s comfortable enough to be outside to visit the many green spaces within the city. 

For the most part, Atlanta has pretty mild winters. If you’re coming from a northern state, you might even find the winter in Atlanta refreshing since it hardly snows. 

My absolute favorite time to be in Atlanta is autumn. The weather is crisp and the trees are changing colors. Autumn is also the best time for most of these day trips because you can enjoy the beautiful trees changing colors from green to red to orange. 

atlanta skyline, atlanta roads with signs

How to Get to Atlanta 

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL) is massive and is the busiest airport in the United States. You can easily catch daily flights from domestic and international destinations. 

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Once you’re at the airport, you can follow the signs for ground transportation, where you’ll find options for rental cars, Uber, and Lyft. You can also take the metro, called MARTA, into the city or the suburbs around Atlanta. 

If you’re driving, almost every major interstate in the south connects to Atlanta. You can reach the city on I-85, I-75, and I-20. 

Which Day Trip From Atlanta Will You Choose?

Planning your Atlanta itinerary? Definitely make time to add some of these top day trips from Atlanta to your schedule. You’ll be able to see more of the beautiful state of Georgia and get out of the busy city for a few days. 

When I lived in Atlanta, I loved leaving the city for a few days to get some fresh air and see the mountains. Seeing other parts of Georgia also lets you experience more of what the state offers, including small southern towns and vineyards nestled up in the mountains. 

Are you planning a trip to Atlanta and want to take some day trips? Which ones are you adding to your itinerary? 

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