There are a seemingly endless amount of activities right here in Atlanta, but sometimes you just want to get out of town for the day to really relax and have a new adventure. We’ve selected a few of our favorite single-day road trips, offering a variety of different experiences for families or adults on their own. Whether you want to float down the Chattahoochee in an inner tube or have a romantic walk through a sculpture garden, we’ve got you covered. Best of all, you can be back the same night and sleep in your own bed!
Helen, Georgia
Convention and Visitors Bureau
726 Bruckenstrasse
Helen, GA 30545
(800) 858-8027
www.helenga.org

If you’re craving a little bit of Bavaria in Georgia, head up to Helen for the day. It’s a very kitschy, family-friendly spot that hosts an annual Octoberfest party unrivaled in the South. For families, there are activities like tubing, zip-lining, and hiking through the gorgeous local forests. Of course, there are also plenty of shops in town, like the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen. The entire town is only 2.1 square miles, so you can easily see it on a day trip, and it is less than 2 hours from Atlanta.

Gibbs Gardens
1987 Gibbs Drive
Ball Ground, GA 30107
(770) 893-1881
www.gibbsgardens.com

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens are great, don’t get us wrong, but if you really want to get out of town for a day and immerse yourself in a beautiful floral wonderland, Gibbs Gardens is the place to go. About an hour north of Atlanta, the gardens are open from Tuesday- Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and occasionally later for special events. There is a cafe on site and a picnic table, so you can make a full day of it. There are several lectures and musical events throughout the season, but the gardens are beautiful to visit at any time. The gardens include 200 acres, so there is plenty of space to explore, and you can often find the founder, Jim Gibbs on site, happy to chat about his creation. It’s a fun place for families and also a great romantic day escape from the city.

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau
736 Market St.
Chattanooga, TN 37402
(800) 322-3344
www.chattanoogafun.com

Just about two hours from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Tennessee makes for another great day trip option. The Tennessee Aquarium makes for an interesting contrast to Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium; while there are no whale sharks, it is a very visitor-friendly spot with a relaxing layout. The Hunter Museum of Art provides a great cultural addition to your itinerary, and you can stroll through the nearby River Gallery Sculpture Garden afterwards to complete a more romantic day. On Sundays from April through December, there is an outdoor market with live music that has been named one of the top 10 public markets in the U.S.

Related: Best Places To Get Outdoors With The Family In Atlanta

Birmingham, Alabama
Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau
2200 Ninth Ave. North
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205) 458-8000
www.birminghamal.gov

While you might be tempted to think that the capital, Montgomery, would be the better road trip, trust us, there’s more to see and do in Birmingham. Start with a trip to the top of the statue of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan, for great views of the city. Then you can head out to one of the local attractions, like the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, Splash Adventure, or the Birmingham Zoo. There are also several parks, including Kelly Ingram Park, known as the location of several significant moments in the civil rights movement, and Railroad Park. There are plenty of museum options, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The city also plays host to several festivals throughout the year, so check out the schedule first when planning your trip in order to either attend a fest or avoid a crowd.

Athens, Georgia
Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau
300 N. Thomas St.
Athens, GA 30601
(706) 357-4430
www.visitathensga.com

Located just an hour and a half outside of Atlanta, Athens is more than simply a college town, although it is that. This is the birthplace of bands like REM and the B-52s, so it is known for its lively music scene, and Atlanta residents regularly trek out there to catch smaller bands performing live. The welcome center offers a wide range of maps and information that will be helpful to the day tripper, and even provides a daily guided tour at 2 p.m. There are four different historic house museums you can check out to get a feel for the old South. Given that it is the home of UGA, there are plenty of coffee shops, bars, and inexpensive restaurants catering to the traveler on a budget.

Related: Best Spring Festivals Near Atlanta

Keely Herrick is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com. “