Look to the open road for some of Atlanta’s most enjoyable experiences. Put the top down, open the sun roof or just roll down the windows, but bring a camera to capture the most charming sites near the city.
Appalachian Foothills Parkway
Ellijay Visitor Center
368 Craig St.
Ellijay, GA 30540
Distance: 60 miles
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat and Sun – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Appalachian Foothills Parkway begins where Interstate 575 ends in Canton. It winds through the North Georgia mountains on GA 515 and GA 52. The drive through the mountains touches on sights such as Brasstown Bald, Amicalola Falls, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest. Pass thriving vineyards, rolling farms and, at times, festivals throughout the north Georgia region. Turn your drive into an overnight stay at lodges and cabins along the way.
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Piedmont Scenic Byway (Monticello – Deepstep/Sandersville)
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests
Distance: 21 miles
Hours: sunrise to dusk
This 21-mile route begins east of Atlanta and runs through the Ocmulgee forest along GA 11. During the drive, see old Creek and Cherokee encampments. Part of the trail was originally an Indian trail and now runs through the pine forests of the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jones County. Further along, pass old Civil War battlefields and historic sites used during the famed March to the Sea. Today, the drive features historic plantations in addition to the Piedmont refuge and water activities along the Ocmulgee River. Finish at a small historic mill off the Juliette River.
Lullwater Road/Clifton/Fernbank/Inman Park
Druid Hills Home & Garden Tour
Druid Hills Civic Association
Distance: 8-10 miles
Hours: home tours by appointment only
This urban drive can be quite fun and educational, despite not venturing far from downtown. These neighborhoods host some of the oldest homes in Atlanta, dating back to the 1870s and Atlanta’s recovery after the Civil War. These homes are located in the Emory University and Fernbank Museum areas. Traditional houses and old churches fill the streets for an old-American feel. The area worth exploring is punctuated by Ponce De Leon Avenue, Lullwater Road, North Decatur Road and Clifton Road, but there are many little fun nooks worth driving through as well. Top the tour off with a tour of Fernbank Museum, the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, or by going a little bit south to see more classic architecture around Grant Park.
GA 17/75 – Helen/Brasstown Bald Loop
Helen, GA 30545
Distance: 50 miles
This 50-mile drive also encompasses Brasstown Bald, but from the eastern side. The loop begins and ends in Helen, allowing drivers to get a great view of the alpine villages in the area. Helen is a popular mountain attraction for locals, and the Russell Scenic Loop — the technical name for the byway — provide views of rolling hills, mountains and rivers. It is a great drive to see spring bloms, enjoy summer activities and view the beautiful fall foliage.
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Gone with the Wind and Road to Tara Tour to Macon – Highway 41
Clayton County Convention & Visitors Bureau
104 N. Main St.
Jonesboro, GA 30236
Distance: 50 miles
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sat – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun – closed
Price: $24.95 adults/$21.95 seniors/$13.95 children 12 and younger
This attraction, located outside of Jonesboro, is a popular one for locals and tourists alike. The Tara Museum, based on the famed house from “Gone with the Wind,” was inspired by homes in the surrounding area. The area serves as a good starting point for driving south on Highway 41 toward Macon. While you could just take the interstate, US-41 takes you through older town squares and rolling hills, leading eventually through cherry blossom trees as you head south toward Forsyth and Macon.
Michael Francis is a freelance writer studying at Georgia State University. His work can be found at Examiner.com.