If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway or a delightful day trip within just a few hours’ drive of Atlanta this summer, you have excellent choices for individual and family attractions that are educational, fascinating and just plain fun. Georgia offers everything from a small “Grand Canyon” to the remarkably tiny hometown of the 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Most destinations offer an event calendar and nearby lodging, with 19th and 20th century history setting the scenes. Explore, swim, hike and take your cameras.
This historic Roswell attraction offers one of the best free family getaways in metro Atlanta, a designated Chattahoochee National Recreation Area park, on a tributary of the Chattahoochee River. In a small canyon, the creek creates a waterfall over the historic dam of a 19th century cotton mill that played a key role in the Civil War. Enter the park through a trellis at the Old Mill and you’ll descend onto a path that ushers you to stunning lookouts, a picnic area, relics of the mill’s hydropower equipment and a short trail along the rocks of the lush creek bank that takes you to the dam. Your family will enjoy the sounds of the waterfall, the warm sun, the shallow millpond for cooling off and large flat rocks for sunbathing. In addition to the stunning visuals of the dam and the swimming hole below, miles of hiking trails shoot up into the lush forest covering the creek’s canyon walls. Trails are easily accessed next to the dam and from a covered bridge that traverses the creek.
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
300 N. Bond St.
Plains, GA 31780
Explore Plains, Georgia and its surroundings to see the birthplace and family home of 39th President Jimmy Carter. A quaint country town of nearly 700 people, it celebrates its history with a yearly calendar of pageants, festivals, baseball tournaments and charity races, including its high-profile Annual Plains Peanut Festival, which this year falls on September 28. Begin your tour with the Plains High School, attended by both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, currently the visitor center for the National Historic Site. See the train depot where Jimmy Carter created his presidential campaign information center in 1976 and visit the original gas station owned by Carter’s infamous brother Billy Carter, which has become a museum located at 216 West Church Street.
Highway 247 & Russell Parkway
Warner Robins, GA 31099
If your idea of a getaway is a chance to see historic aircraft up close and personal, this museum, its year-round events and its kids camps will not disappoint you. Exhibits include planes, artifacts and films from World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War. You’ll find the F-16A “Fighting Falcon,” a Thunderbird plane, an SR-71 Blackbird and a Tuskegee Airmen display featuring a BT-13 Valiant trainer aircraft alongside a typical barracks. The “Hump Pilot” exhibit displays films, artifacts and the experiences of the men who flew aircraft over the treacherous Himalayas in the WWII China/Burma/India Theater. Mark your calendars for a September 24th U.S. Air Force birthday event, and the Georgia Invitational Golf Tournament will be held September 19th and 20th at Robins Air Force Base to support the museum. The 21st Annual Wings and Wheels Car Show will be held October 12th at the museum itself; as well as the Planes and Trains exhibit, a holiday family event from November 23rd to December 1st.
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083
The rise of this 825-foot-high granite rock from the surrounding plains in the Atlanta metropolitan area can only bring about images of Ayres Rock in Australia. Once an active quarry for granite that was shipped worldwide, its mined stone was featured in Fort Knox, the Lincoln Memorial and the Panama Canal. It became a Georgia State Park in 1958 and now features attractions including a campground, picnic ground, railroad, Antique Car and Treasure Museum, a riverboat, golf course and laser light show. The Summit Skyride carries you to the top of the mountain via Swiss cable car, with stunning views of Atlanta and the Appalachians 60 miles away. It also traverses the three-acre Confederate Memorial Carving in the side of the mountain of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson 400 feet above the ground.
Related: Best Flying Adventures Near Atlanta
8930 Canyon Road
Lumpkin, GA 31815
Called “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon” with its pink, orange, red and purple strata, Providence Canyon was actually manmade over time throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, after settlers of Georgia utilized poor farming practices that washed away the land. Incredibly, the modern-day result is a 1,003-acre park featuring camera-ready vistas of huge 150-feet-deep gullies and spires. It’s a must-see for the geology-phile, with an upper soil known as the Providence Formation and an ancient sea floor bottom known as the Ripley Formation. Hikers and backpackers can enjoy three- to seven-mile trails. The canyon is still being carved out from weather, and the rim trail follows its fenced fragile edge. Campers can sleep among the stars in two pioneer campsites and six backcountry sites.
Di Chapman has been writing professionally for trade journals, audiobooks and a global business clientele since her early 20s. A coauthor of four books and a regular contributor to numerous blogs, she currently lives in the historic district of Roswell, Georgia, in the greater Atlanta area. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.