“We love weekend getaways for the family, but don’t want to travel too far from home; any quick vacation ideas?” I hear that all the time, so I have compiled a list of places we love (and places we can’t wait to visit.) All are less than five hours from Atlanta’s Centennial Park. Did your favorite place make our list of family weekend getaways from Atlanta?
Weekend vacation ideas under 2 hours from Atlanta
Cartersville – Spend the day at Tellus Science Museum and IMAX, or hike the Etowah Indian Mounds. Visit Booth Western Art Museum, the Bartow History Museum, Red Top Mountain State Park, or the gorgeous gardens of Barnsley Resort.
Rome – Visit the Rome Area History Museum, and the Clock Tower Museum. Explore Little River Canyon National Preserve and Glovers Lake. Wander the Chieftains Museum, Oak Hill, and Martha Berry Museum. Pack the suit and head to Cave Spring for a dip in the Georgia-shaped pool.
Pine Mountain – Visit Callaway Gardens-tour the gardens, the butterfly house, and more. Fridays offer music on the beach, a farmers market, a high-flying circus, and nighttime movies. Swim in the liberty pool at FDR State Park, or talk to the animals on the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari.
Dahlonega – Mine for gold at Consolidated or Crisson, and stop at the Dahlonega Gold Museum for more info. Ride horses at Gold City Corral, or see the animals at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve.
Athens – See the animals at Bear Hollow Zoo. At Sandy Creek Nature Center kids can walk over 4 miles of trails, see various wildlife, and even check out a 19th century log cabin. Try night paddles around Lake Chapman, or skateboarding/BMX riding at The Skate Park of Athens. Next door is the World of Wonder playground, or you can enjoy a visit to the State Botanical Gardens.
Stone Mountain – Play in the Park; ride the railroad, climb in the geyser tower, or watch the laser show. Camp in the park or stay at the Evergreen Resort. Just down the road is Yellow River Game Ranch where you can get close to the animals.
Anniston – Take in the Anniston Museum of Natural History and Berman Museum of World History. Walk the Chief Ladiga Trail (which joins the Silver Comet Trail) or take on the Pinhoti Trail within Alabama.
Lake Oconee – Stay in the resort community boasting outdoor adventures such as golfing, boating, hiking and more…with Georgia’s beautiful Lake Oconee as the idyllic backdrop, or head to Reynolds Plantation for the ultimate luxury family escape.
Summerville – Visit Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens, and Historic Summerville Depot. Hike the trails at “Sloppy Joe” State Park to the old mine and waterfall, or visit the lake to fish or enjoy from one of the swings.
Blue Ridge – Ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway to the border town of McCaysville. Pick fruit at Mercier Orchards, or go gem-mining or fishing at Lilly Pad Village. Hike Fall Branch Falls or the Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa, and roast marshmallows over a fire at your cabin.
Helen – There are two wonderful State Parks in Helen – Unicoi and Smithgall Woods – each with hiking, fishing, and plenty of fun. In Helen there is tubing on the Chattahoochee, playing Alpine Mini Golf or grabbing ice cream while you watch others play. Hike Anna Ruby Falls, then grab peanuts at Fred’s Famous Peanuts. Adjacent to Helen, visit Sautee Nacoochee’s General Store and Market (awesome lunch!) or visit the art scene at Sautee Nacoochee Center. You’ll want to get a cabin, too!
Auburn – Visit Chewacla State Park, with a swimming area, playgrounds, and scenic trails. Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve is a completely natural preserve, with trails, gardens, playgrounds for children, fountains and fire pits. And don’t forget a stop in Toomer’s Corner for lemonade or a treat at the old-fashioned soda shop.
Columbus – Explore the Columbus Riverwalk, and possibly ride the rapids here as well. Visit the Infantry Museum, the Columbus Museum (the second largest art museum in Georgia,) or Heritage Corner. See the Coca-Cola Science Center, the quirky Lunch Box Museum, or drive by Kadie, the cow of Columbus.
Chattanooga – Visit the Chattanooga Aquarium, the Children’s Discovery Museum, or the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. Visit the animals at the Zoo, or step back in time at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Don’t skip the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, or cool off at Coolridge Park.
Talladega – Race fans can take in an event at the Superspeedway, meander the Walk of Fame, or see the history-making vehicles at the Motor Sports Hall of Fame. Rather be outdoors? Try DeSoto Caverns park or Cheaha State Park.
Bryson City – The lakes, the rivers, the forest…grab a cabin, hike the trails, visit the Great Smoky Mountain Park and ride the Smoky Mountain Railroad.
Dillard – Visit Andy’s Trout Farm, or take out the horses at Dillard House Stables. Hike Dick’s Creek Falls or Becky Branch Falls. Don’t miss a stop at the Dillard House for lunch.
Blairsville – Brasstown Bald and Vogel State Park are great adventurous escapes. Visit Misty Mountain Railroad, Desoto Falls, or Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm. See the whimsical fairy garden at Sleepy Hollow, go gem mining at WagonMaster, or visit the Trackrock Archeological Area. Ride horses, see the multitude of waterfalls in the area, or hike a strip of the Appalachian Trail.
Walhalla – Known for its rich German heritage, this city is delightful to explore. Call it home base as you explore 10 waterfalls in the tri-state region. Also nearby, Stump House Tunnel, Chau Ram County Park, multiple beaches on Lake Keowee, kayak opportunities on the Chattanooga River, and three state parks: Oconee, Keoweek Toxaway, and Devils Fork.
Weekend vacation ideas 2-3 hours from Atlanta
Murphy – Go white water rafting, zip lining, or driving through the countryside. Ride the scenic railway, visit the Cherokee County Historical Museum, or take a horseback riding walk. There is gem mining, wineries, festivals, and more.
Greenville – Visit Falls Park to see the waterfall and walk the suspension bridge. If you are looking for a better view of the city, try Reedy Rides for a bike tour. Visit the Greenville Zoo, Linky Stone Park, the Children’s Museum, and seriously delicious eats.
Cashiers – Waterfalls, hiking, pristine vista views – and a family resort that makes the vacation one you’ll never forget.
Birmingham – The McWane Center consists of an aquarium, IMAX theater, and ScienceQuest hands-on science exhibits. Try the Birmingham Zoo or VisionLand Theme Park. Make history at the Civil Rights Institute. There are zip lines at Red Mountain Park, and 11 miles of hiking at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. Transportation junkie? Try Railroad Park or the Southern Museum of Flight.
Augusta – More than the Masters. Walk the Riverwalk, the Augusta Canal, Savannah Rapids, and the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. History buffs will enjoy Woodrow Wilson’s home, the Augusta Museum of History, and Meadow Garden.
Highlands – A waterfall and hiking Mecca, try Dry Falls, Glen Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Explore Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center, and Botanical Gardens.
Montgomery – This city is a great pair with Atlanta if you are celebrating Dr. King’s accomplishments. Visit his home, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, and the Civil Rights Memorial. Try the Mooseum about the cattle industry, the Montgomery Zoo, the Mann Wildlife Learning Center, and Old Alabama Town.
Eufaula – Spend a weekend escaping at Lakepoint Resort State Park. It’s the Big Bass Capital of the world, so bring your fishing rod.
Sewanee – Most people know about Sewanee because of the local university, but it is a haven for nature lovers. Fiery Gizzard features an incredible waterfall and swimming holes. Foster Falls, Buggytop Trail, and Sewanee Natural Bridge are also local favorites. A tip from a fellow hiking friend? Finish your hike with lunch at Shenanigans or ice cream at Blue Chair, both at the university.
Vidalia – View the Vidalia Onion Museum, for sure. At Buckhorn Creek Ranch you can see and feed over 100 exotic animals. Visit the Historic Village at Brewton-Parker College, or the one room jail in Ailey. Partin Park has walking trails, putt-putt, skateboarding, and more. Enjoy river excursions, tons of fun festivals, and Santa Claus, GA only 15 minutes away.
Cherokee – Visit the Cherokee Bear Zoo, and grub for gems at the Smoky Mountain Gold and Ruby Mine. Embrace the Native American culture with a tour of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Village. Mountainside Theatre and Mountain Farm Museum also take you back in time. Don’t skip the Cherokee Indian Reservation.
Albany – The Parks at Chehaw includes camping opportunity and a zoo of native and exotic animals. Frolic with the underwater animals at Flint Riverquarium, and walk back in time at Radium Springs Gardens.
Weekend vacation ideas 3-4 hours from Atlanta
Maggie Valley – Best known for its ski resort, Cataloochee Ski (and Tube World,) but there is plenty to do throughout the year. Hike Socco Falls or Waterrock Knob, visit the Transportation Museum, or take the kids gem mining.
Tuscaloosa – Visit the Children’s Museum, play disc golf at Bower’s Park, or see the ruins at Capitol Park. Lake Lureen State Park has a beach and fishing docks, with bike trail and boat launches.
Knoxville – Ijams Nature Center offers a trails over 80 acres. Take the kids to East Tennessee Discovery Center, or talk to the animals at the Knoxville Zoo. Visit the Botanical Gardens, or take a walk through Krutch Park. Huntsville – Visit the Botanical Garden, with plenty of things for kids. Sci-Quest and Early Works are great kiddo museums. Monte Sano Nature Preserve and Hays Nature Preserve are among our favorites. Don’t forget the US Space and Rocket Center.
Columbia – Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden is rated number one in Columbia. Visit the historical walking path at Riverfront Park, or EdVenture, the children’s museum. Harbison State Forest has plenty of hiking and biking trails, as well. Asheville – Get active at Asheville TreeTop Adventure Park, DuPont State Park or Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest. Visit Biltmore Estate or Chimney Rock State Park.
Valdosta – This place is known for Wild Adventures Theme Park. Also visit Grand Bay Wildlife Management for outdoor fun. If you’re up for a little driving, Okefenokee is about an hour from here, or visit another blackwater ecosystem within 30 minutes at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Savannah – Savannah is an old town, so don’t skip walking the Historic District. See Juliette Gordon Lowe’s Birthplace, and visit Skidaway Island State Park. Visit Oatland Island Wildlife Center, the Railroad Museum, and the Children’s Museum.
Sevierville – Stop by the Adventure Park at Five Oaks, the Deer Farm Petting Zoo, Ripley’s Mini Golf, the Forbidden Caverns, or The Aviation Museum. Walk the Swinging Bridge, or get wet at Wilderness in the Smokies.
Double Springs – Looney Tunes Amusement Park is here, but the best part is William Bankhead National Forest with beautiful trails and inexpensive camping.
Concord – Great Wolf Lodge, Charlotte Motor Speedway, a Gold Mine and family-friendly vineyard…there is more than a weekend worth of exploring here.
Gatlinburg – Visit the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Roaring Fork, Ripley’s Aquarium, Take the Trolley or the Sky Lift. Kids love the Tramway and the Space Needle. There is a car museum, indoor water park, tons of arcades, and unique museums (like the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.)
Weekend vacation ideas under 5 hours from Atlanta
Gainesville – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park offers trails, biking, canoeing, and more. Visit Devil’s Millhopper and walk the 236 steps to the bottom of the sinkhole and see wildlife galore. Visit the UF Bat House to see bat’s in flight, or splash in Ginnie Springs.
Pensacola – Visit the Gulfarium, go sailing, or go old-school at Historic Pensacola Village. See Gulf Breeze Zoo or the National Naval Aviation Museum. Climb the lighthouse or take a dolphin cruise. Visit Arcadia Mills Archaeological Site and Museum.
Mobile – Take on the Gulf Coast Exploreum Museum, then check out Fort Conde’s cannons. Tour the USS Alabama, and splash in the fountains of the Eastern Shore Center. See the koi at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, or hang with the locals at Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium. Feed the ducks at Mobile Memorial Gardens or catch an event at the famous Bienville Square.
Okefonokee National Wildlife Refuge – This park protects the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the seven-wonders of Georgia, spanning the FL-GA border. Families can see the sites along Swamp Island Drive, including The Pond, Discovery Trail, Chesser Island, and others. The adventure of a lifetime awaits daring families with older kids: a paddle trip through the swamp. Make it an overnight experience, roughing it at one of nine designated shelters in the swamps interior. St Simon’s Island – Climb the lighthouse, frolic the beaches, and take a trolley tour. Head to Jekyll for a history tour aboard the Tram, or see the turtles at the Sea Turtle Center. Don’t skip Driftwood Beach. Go shrimpin’ on the Lady Jane or see the dolphins with Cap Fendig. There are bikes, geocaches, mini golf, tree spirits, and seriously yummy eats.
Charleston – Visit the South Carolina Aquarium, take the Charleston Water Taxi to see the city and the dolphins, or tour the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point on the Charleston Harbor. Catch views from the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, or visit the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. There are plantations galore, and great beaches at Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, Edisto Beach, and incredible county parks at Kiawah and the Isle of Palms.
Hilton Head – Most people go to Hilton Head for the beach. The waters are calm, and starfish, sand dollars, and sea turtles are abundant. Ride bikes, take out a kayak, or go on a Blue Crab Discovery Tour. Take the trails at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge or head indoors to the Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum. Play mini golf, see fireworks in summer, pick up seashells at nearby Hunting Island State Park, or take a turtle tour.
Bowling Green – Meander the cars at the National Corvette Museum, or get crazy at beech Bend Amusement Park. See Diamond Caverns or the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. See the Historic Railpark and Museum or float through Lost River Cave and Valley, also with trails and a butterfly house.
Tallahassee – Have a picnic at Alfred B Maclay Gardens, or learn something new at the Mary Brogen Museum. Walk the trails and see the animals at the Tallahassee Museum, or take a glass bottom boat ride for a manatee expedition at Wakulla Springs State Park. Kids can get hands-on at the Gulf Specimen Aquarium Marine Lab.
Little St Simon’s Island – Pristine beaches…undeveloped wilderness…privately-owned island…accessible only by boat…For this nature-loving family, it sounds like heaven on earth. The island opened to the public as a guest lodge in 1979, with the intention of preserving the natural state of the island. Today, only 32 guests at a time may stay at Georgia’s only all-inclusive.