Explore the outdoors at these 10 Georgia towns near Atlanta

The dog days of summer are waning and crisp, fall weather is coming. It’s a perfect time to plan a weekend or day trip to one of Georgia’s beautiful small towns. We compiled a list of places we have visited over the past few years and reached out to some others we will be visiting soon These 10 escapes are perfect if you want to get away from the city or if you just want to explore a new place. We have not listed everything you can do in these wonderful Georgia towns but we have included links where you can find out more. They are listed in alphabetical order. 

Calhoun

Head north on I-75 for about an hour and you will find the latest Buc-ee’s, a massive convenince store with everything! Grab a picnic lunch (we reccomend the brisket sandwich) and take the bypass to Ga. 53 and hang a right. Behind the Calhoun Seventh-day Adventist Church, you will find the Rock Garden. These miniature rock structures include a replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral and some other amazing designs along with a beautiful garden. A lighting ceremony is held each fall. Admission is free. 

This is just one of the many beautiful structures at the Rock Garden

Once you leave the Rock Garden, head north on Ga. 53 and stroll through the beautiful downtown area. A red caboose is adjacent to the 1854 train depot and is the perfect spot for a selfie. Gordon County has a plethora of activities for all ages. Learn more about them and the county’s lodging options here

Cartersville

Cartersville is known for its many museums but you will find plenty to do outdoors. The southeastern portion of Allatoona Lake is located in Bartow County and offers plenty of opportunities for water activities. Red Top Mountain State Park is adjacent to the lake and has plenty of hiking trails. Make a weekend out of it and stay in one of the park’s cabins or pitch a tent at the campsite. 

Allatoona Lake is a perfect place for fun on the water or to just unwind.

Cartersville is just a short drive north on I-75 from Atlanta. Just outside of Cartersville is the Euharlee Covered Bridge. It’s a great place for photos and a picnic. 

Conyers

Conyers is just a short drive from Atlanta but is one of those towns that has retained its small-town feel. Olde Town Conyers, the city’s beautiful downtown area includes the beautiful Lewis Vaughn Botanical Gardens. After your garden stroll, visit “Dinky.” The steam locomotive is one of three left in the world. And–did you know Conyers has been the filming location for several television series and movies? 

The Lewis Vaughn Botantical Gardens is part of Olde Town Conyers. (photo courtesy of the Conyers Convention and Visitors Bureau)

You will find lots of free activities to do in Conyers as well. Conyers has about 150 restaurants for every taste from Nana’s Chicken and Waffles to Baan Thai. And if you want to make a weekend out of it, you will have plenty of options for lodging. 

Douglasville 

Just 30 minutes west of Atlanta and the historic ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Parks near Douglasville. While the interior is currently not open to the public, there is plenty to see from the outside. If you want to have an adventurous weekend, stay in one of the yurts on the site. 

The historic ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park. (photo courtesy of the Douglasville Convention and Visitors Bureau

Don’t forget to stroll through the beautiful downtown area and check out some of the shops and restaurants. Some areas of the city may look familiar as portions of “The Hunger Games” and “Stranger Things” were filmed there. Get a full list of activities here. 

Gainesville 

Gainesville is located northeast of Atlanta, about an hour away. Its most well-known outdoor attraction is Lake Lanier, which has a long list of activities on and off the water. We discovered the Atlanta Botanical Gardens’ Gainesville location while passing through there a few years ago. The exhibits have changed since then but if you follow us on social media, you know this cute panda is a favorite. 

This cute panda is one of my favorite pictures ever! We loved our visit to the Atlanta Botantical Gardens in Gainesville.

You can also learn more about Northeast Georgia by touring some of the many historical sites. The area also has several places to stay for a weekend getaway. 

Jasper 

There are plenty of outdoor festivals in the fall in Jasper and Pickens County beginning with JeepFest in September and the subsequent  Heritage Days, Tate Day and the Georgia Marble Festival. Located just an hour north of Atlanta, the area is also known for its wineries and mountain views. But make sure to set aside some time to stroll through Jasper’s beautiful downtown. There you will find the Old Pickens Couty Jail and Kirby-Quinton Cabin. The tour schedule varies but they are a great place for selfies. 

We took a stroll through downtown Jasper in the fall of 2019. The Kirby-Quinton Cabin looked beautiful surrounded by the fall foliage.

You find plenty of places to stay for a North Georgia mountain getaway including resorts, hotels and a bed and breakfast. Amnicola Falls State Park is just a short drive away and has a lodge, cottages and campsites. It’s worth the drive to see the breathtaking waterfall there. 

Macon

Macon may not be a small town but it has a small-town appeal. Located just an hour south of Atlanta, the city host the annual Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. One of our favorite outdoor adventures is the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Not only does the site have mounds, but it also has an earth lodge, which you can go inside (if you are not claustrophobic). The site also has several events throughout the year. 

The earth lodge at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park

While visiting Macon, visit downtown and look for all of the markers documenting the city’s rich music history. There’s a lot to do in Macon but you will find plenty of places to stay for a getaway. 

Madison

Madison is less than an hour southeast of Atlanta and is known for its beautiful historic buildings and small-town charm. If you want to see more of Morgan County, download a map for the Madison-Morgan Meander. You can grab your bicycle or travel by car. The route takes you past farms and other historic sites you may miss otherwise. Stop by the Welcome Center for more information. 

Mountain biking at Hard Labor Creek State Park. (photo courtesy of the Madison-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Morgan County is also home to the state’s second-largest park–Hard Labor Creek State Park. Make it a weekend and pitch a tent at one of the park’s campsites or rent a cabin. If outdoor living is not your thing, Madison has plenty of lodging opportunities. 

Marietta

I used to love visiting Marietta when I was a child and it still has that small-town feel even though it is less than 30 minutes north of Atlanta. The Marietta Square is a perfect place for a stroll. In the center is Glover Park, a great place to rest after a long day of walking and exploring the square’s interesting shops and restaurants. 

The fountain at Glover Park on the Marietta Square

If you want a challenging hike, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield and Park is just three miles away. I visited on a day when they offered a bus ride to the top so I wimped out and took it. The views from the top are beautiful. Marietta has everything from RV parks to large conference hotels for the perfect weekend stay

Summerville 

I lived just 30 miles south of Summerville for years but never visited James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park. I have become a regular visitor. You can take paddle boats out on the lake, hike to the old marble mine or just fish off the pier. The park also has cabins and campgrounds. 

James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park has a beautiful lake where you can rent paddle boats

Summerville has an adorable downtown area. You can see a restored turntable at J. R. “Dick” Dowdy Park. Be sure to add Paradise Gardens to your itinerary. You won’t regret it. 

Georgia has beautiful small towns throughout the state and we have been privileged to visit many of them What are some of your favorites? 

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