Best Road Trips From Atlanta: Scenic Weekend & Day Trips

Nashville, Tennessee

Even though the winter holidays have officially come to a close, Georgia natives know that this is when winter really gets started. Seriously cold temperatures and the occasional chance of snow are what make this time of the year special, so take advantage of the weather this season by going on a scenic road trip and visiting a nearby town. With so many big things slated to happen in 2022, an early change in scenery may be exactly what you need, so here are 18 perfect road trips for you to embark on this winter.

Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 45 minutes
Although it’s known for being one of the best nearby places to go white water rafting, Columbus has much more to offer than its aquatic attractions and activities, making it a great trip destination even during the winter. For those who love visiting museums and historical sites, Columbus boasts attractions like Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Historic Westville, The Ma Rainey House & Blues Museum, and more. Plus, outdoor areas like the Columbus Dragonfly Trail and Heritage Park offer beautiful open-air experiences while also serving as nods to the city’s industrial heritage. In fact, a visit to West Georgia may be exactly what you need right now.
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Blue Ridge Scenic Railway | Sally Masters/Shutterstock

Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 30 minutes
Mountain towns make the best winter getaways, and if you’re looking for one that’s not too far from the city, you can’t go wrong with Blue Ridge. The cozy little town started off as a railroad stop in the 1800s, and now, Blue Ridge has a modest amount of vineyards and breweries, astounding hiking trails, and fun outdoor activities like horseback riding, trout fishing, and ziplining. During the winter, Blue Ridge hosts its annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off Festival, and visitors can also climb aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, an antique train that takes riders on a four-hour trip along the Georgia-Tennessee border.
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Distance from Atlanta: Four hours, 15 minutes
One of the longer drives featured in this guide, a road trip to the coast of South Carolina will set you back four hours or so, but once you arrive at Hilton Head Island, you’ll be happy you made that trek. In addition to the gorgeous beach scenery, there will be several exciting arts and food experiences taking place on the island, including the Gullah Celebration or the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival this February. Since the trip to Hilton Head takes a bit longer, it makes for a great weekend trip, meaning even more time to explore its beaches and delicious Lowcountry cuisine.
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callaway gardens
Callaway Gardens | Ancha Chiangmai/Shutterstock

Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 15 minutes
This resort property near Columbus, Georgia offers lots of activities that all age ranges and group sizes can safely experience as the pandemic continues and the weather changes. We’re talking socially distanced hiking, golfing, tree-top zip lining, wildlife areas, and other exhilarating outdoor activities. Coupled with its reopened spa and beautiful garden areas, Callaway Gardens is the perfect weekend trip for families of all ages and sizes.
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Dahlonega Resort
Cane Creek Falls in Dahlonega, Georgia | Discover Dahlonega, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 30 minutes
One of the best ways to stay warm in these chilly evenings is to have a drink, and Dahlonega is the place to go to grab an extravagant one. Even in light of COVID-19, Dahlonega’s fantastic wineries have mostly remained open, meaning that winery hopping, phenomenal mountain views, and cozy cottages await you in northern Georgia. Tastings are pretty affordable, and you can (responsibly) buy additional glasses—or bottles—of wine afterwards. Just be sure to bring a DD or opt for proper transportation when visiting any of Dahlonega’s wineries.
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Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 45 minutes
Helen is an adorable Germantown nestled in the mountains of North Georgia. With plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy throughout your whole trip—from burning some firewood in the cabins and exploring Anna Ruby Falls to checking out the 2022 Winterfest Art Tour and visiting Helen’s kitschy souvenir shops—Helen is ideal for an unforgettable winter getaway.
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Howard Finster's Paradise Garden
Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden | Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden

Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 30 minutes
You’ll undoubtedly feel like you stepped back in time when you visit this tiny, sleepy mountain town. Surrounded by scenic trees and hills, Summerville is jam-packed with friendly locals, park attractions like Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, and a myriad of activities for the nature lover—as well as the very creepy Corpsewood Manor, plagued with a gruesome history. And don’t let the name fool you—Summerville’s historic sites make for great winter adventures.
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Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 34 minutes
Just as its name—which borrows from the Cherokee word for beautiful—implies, Toccoa Falls is a magnificent sight and the South’s answer to Niagara Falls. A semi-hidden gem, it’s the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Mississippi, with 186 feet of swirling water that swiftly plunges into an equally gorgeous canyon and is actually 26 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Bring along your hiking shoes and a picnic lunch. There are lots of wooded spots to relax and eat while taking in the majestic falls.
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The Birmingham Zoo
The Birmingham Zoo

Distance from Atlanta: Two hours, 15 minutes
Alabama’s second-largest city has a rich civil rights history, and it has also undergone an impressive cultural revival in recent years. Over the next few months, there will be plenty of intriguing events, such as the Birmingham Zoo’s Glow Wild animal lantern celebration, the Birmingham Boat Show, the free Voices So True exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and much more. Also, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has officially reopened as well, so in addition to enjoying all the brews and late-night moves that Birmingham has to offer, you can also sneak in a history lesson as well.
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Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 45 minutes
With museums, river cruises, and a plethora of city tours available, Chattanooga has tons to do, but if you’ve never been, focus on the city’s Riverwalk. Chock-full of shops, parks, restaurants, bars, and more, the 13 paved miles will keep you busy all weekend. Throw that all in with an old railway-turned hotel, and you’ve got a very fun trip on your hands.
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Providence Canyon
Providence Canyon | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Distance from Atlanta: Two hours, 15 minutes
Ever heard of Lumpkin, Georgia? If so, thank Providence Canyon State Park, aka “The Little Grand Canyon,” for putting it on the map. With more than 1,000 acres of deep, rocky canyons caused by poor farming practices in the 1800s, plus native wildflowers and vegetation, it looks tremendously cool and totally out of place in Georgia. A surefire way to both social distance and experience one of the state’s most amazing natural wonders, the park should be on your summer bucket list. In light of the recent surge in the Omicron COVID-19 variant, access to Providence Canyon State Park is being monitored and limited, so be prepared to wait for admission.
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Asheville, North Carolina
New Belgium Brewing

Distance from Atlanta: Three hours, 30 minutes
Nestled in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a beautiful town that’s also home to some of the country’s best craft breweries (Wicked Weed, New Belgium, Green Man, Wedge) and restaurants. If that all sounds good, but you’d rather work up an appetite, you’ll find no shortage of outdoor activities in this mountain enclave, from ziplining and salt caves to biking trails and birdwatching tours.
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Distance from Atlanta: Four hours
Be sure to check out Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump was filmed— because why would you even dare pass up the opportunity? And, in addition to having some of the Lowcountry’s best golf, Savannah has gorgeous beaches— chilly night time beach stroll, anyone?—and endless opportunities for fun by the water, like exploring River Street and visiting the Tybee Island Lighthouse. Plus, all that water also means a lot of crazy fresh seafood that needs to be eaten.
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The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
Lower Broadway Area in Nashville, Tennessee | The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

Distance from Atlanta: Four hours
As if honky-tonks, Hattie B’s hot chicken, the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, and GooGoo Clusters weren’t enough to merit a spot on this list, pretty much every mile of Music City, USA is part of music history. Seeing a live show is a must when visiting Nashville, and for a deeper dive into the city’s rich musical heritage, you can check out some of its musical attractions, like The Musicians Hall of Fame or the National Museum of African American Music. Nashville also offers up smooth, legit Tennessee whiskey that’s not going to drink itself, and visiting the original Slim & Husky’s and Biscuit Love locations are two of the tastiest moves you can make throughout your weekend getaway.
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Charleston, South Carolina
Historical downtown area of Charleston, South Carolina | f11photo/Shutterstock

Distance from Atlanta: Four hours, 30 minutes
With dive bars and five-star restaurants aplenty, Charleston is well-known for being a food lover’s paradise. The diverse culinary scene is undoubtedly a big part of why it’s been named the “No. 1 city in the U.S.” by a plethora of publications year after year. Thankfully, most of the city’s best restaurants are still open for business, so go enjoy some of the best food in the country.
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Distance from Atlanta: Two hours, 15 minutes
Heading east on I-20 towards South Carolina, you’ll find Augusta, a charming city with a welcoming blend of outdoor activities, rich cultural experiences, shopping spots, and nightlife. With a vast array of incredible events happening nearly every weekend, anytime is the perfect time to get a taste of Georgia city life outside of Metro Atlanta.
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Hiawassee, Georgia
The Top Of Bell Mountain In Hiawassee Georgia | Jim Vallee/Shutterstock

Distance from Atlanta: Two hours, 15 minutes
Right on the border of Georgia and North Carolina, Hiawassee is the quiet respite from city life that any nature lover can appreciate. Visitors have spectacular outdoor spaces to explore, from High Shoals Falls—a 170-acre scenic area that boasts five gorgeous waterfalls—to Bell Mountain Park, a park and historical site with a breathtaking observation deck that gives visitors a 360-degree overlook of the surrounding lake and mountains from nearly 3500 feet up. Add in the beloved local Hiawassee Antique Mall (a must for collectors and souvenir lovers) and the Hightower Creek Vineyards, and you’ve got a packed, yet low-key, weekend ahead of you.
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Distance from Atlanta: One hour, 30 minutes
Another must-visit cabin getaway that should be on your radar is Ellijay. Without having to brave a lengthy drive, you can visit one of the area’s many orchards, go boating on a gorgeous lake, or explore the mountains. There are also plenty of wineries and tasting rooms worth giving a shot, so you’ll definitely be able to find some great bottles to bring back to your cabin and (hopefully) back to Atlanta.
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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor to Thrillist who can’t wait to hit the road this winter.

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