11 Family-Friendly Summer Day Trips from Atlanta

Visit Cartersville, Georgia and head to Tellus Science Museum for awesome STEM activities. Photo by Melanie Preis
Visit Cartersville, Georgia and head to Tellus Science Museum for awesome STEM activities. Photo by Melanie Preis
6/24/22 - By Elsa Simcik

When Atlanta parents need a solution for summertime boredom but aren't quite ready for a Disney-level extravaganza, why not plan a summer day trip? Yes, just one full day that is sure to entertain and wear out the kids. Luckily, Atlanta is centrally located between lots of fun, easy-to-visit destinations. Our criteria for this summer day trip list? They are located about two hours by car from Atlanta; the destinations include summertime activities (preferably water-based ones); and they don't require overnight stays. All distances and times are from downtown Atlanta. 


Should your family want to make any of these summer day trips into overnight trips, these destinations also work great as weekend getaways. For more inspiration, check out our Atlanta Weekend Getaway Guide

Great Summer Day Trips from Atlanta for Kids 

1. Greenville, South Carolina

Distance from Atlanta: 2 hours 17 minutes
Greenville is worth the two hours and change it takes to get there. Pack a picnic and head straight to Falls Park on the Reedy —this park has waterfalls, bridges, and sculptures; plus hills for rolling, trails for biking or walking, and water for wading. Best photo-op? Liberty Bridge. Roper Mountain Science Center offers its Summer Adventure program. Kids can pet stingrays, see the dinosaur exhibit, and check out the living history farm. Wrap things up at Gather GVL an open-air food court concept on the west end of downtown.

2. Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: 2 hours 8 minutes
After a two-hour road trip, families will have time for several Chattanooga attractions. To help with the decision-making, let's focus on the downtown area. Since everything is super walkable, your family can hit the Creative Discovery Museum in the morning, grab lunch at Big River Grille then explore at the Tennessee Aquarium, and finish the day by taking a riverboat sunset cruise across the Tennessee River.

RELATED: Swimming Lakes and Beaches for Atlanta Kids 

You can access a day pass to Great Wolf Lodge.

3. Great Wolf Lodge — LaGrange, Georgia 

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour
You probably knew you could stay overnight at Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy the indoor waterpark and other amenities. But did you do know Great Wolf also offers day passes? Since it only takes about an hour to get to this kid paradise, a summer day trip from Atlanta is doable and affordable. Hit the indoor waterpark first, then visit the outdoor pool, and enjoy scheduled events like dance parties and crafts (included with day passes). Still have energy for more? Brave the ropes course, go bowling, pan for "gems," all at additional costs. The resort has various dining options. 

Step into a Bavarian village without ever having to leave the state when you visit Helen, Georgia. Photo by Bill Leffler

4. Helen, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour 30 minutes
Drive 90 minutes north of Atlanta to the Blue Ridge Mountains and you will feel like you magically arrived in Bavaria, Germany. Helen offers the charms of a quaint downtown, with shopping, restaurants, outdoor activities, and a distinct village feel, right down to the cobblestone streets. Families can cool off by tubing down the Chattahoochee River and riding on the first Georgia mountain coaster. End your day at Hofbrauhaus, a German-style, family-friendly restaurant with amazing river views. 

RELATED: Petting Zoos and Animal Farms for Kids Near Atlanta  

Explore Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain.

5. Callaway Gardens — Pine Mountain, Georgia 

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour 20 minutes
Once you have paid admission, you are free to explore the gardens as well as the walking and biking trails. Cool off at Robins Lake Beach, where you can rent beach umbrellas, kayaks, and paddleboats. For an additional cost, guests can enjoy the TreeTop Adventure and ziplining course. Check out the gardens' events calendar to see what is happening the day you visit for your summer day trip! 

6. Margaritaville Lake Lanier Islands — Buford, Georgia 

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour
Your family will feel like you have escaped to a tropical island at Margaritaville. Enjoy water slides, beaches, restaurants, boat rentals, and cruises as a family. Eat and relax at LandShark Bar and Grill, which includes menu items for "little sharks." 

7. Vogel State Park — Blairsville, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour 45 minutes
Head north to Blairsville (and possibly cooler weather) to experience one of Georgia's oldest state parks. Parents will love gazing at the waterfalls and kids will enjoy swimming in the lake. Bring a picnic, hike the trails, and spend time enjoying a nature-filled, summer day. 

RELATED: Amazing Playgrounds in the Atlanta Area for Kids

 Acworth Beach at Cauble Park is less than an hour from Atlanta.  

8. Acworth Beach at Cauble Park — Acworth, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 45 minutes
In a quick car ride, an Atlanta family can get to Cauble Park and hang out at Acworth Beach. The roped-off area for swimming on Lake Acworth is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, so families should soak it up while they can during this summer day trip. Add picnicking and climbing the playground to your agenda as well as eating in Acworth's quaint Main Street district.

9. Athens, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour 20 minutes
Many parents here have strong ties to Athens, remembering their University of Georgia (UGA) days before they settled down in Atlanta and had families. UGA alumni and non-alumni alike will have a ball taking a summer day trip to Athens, a city that's far beyond a college town. Take kiddos to the Alice H. Richards Children's Garden, hike along the many wooded trails, enjoy skate parks, trampoline parks, and bowling alleys, then cool off with a treat from Ben and Jerry's. And....it's never too early to take a college tour. Go dawgs! 

There are lots of adventures to be had at Stone Mountain Park. 

10. Stone Mountain Park - Stone Mountain, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 30 minutes
Stone Mountain Park packs a punch—it's only about 30 minutes away from downtown Atlanta but will entertain kids for an entire day of fun! Families can start their summer day trip by either hiking Stone Mountain (perhaps too advanced for young children) or take the Summit SkyRide to the peak. After, visit one of the many attractions, including Geyer Towers (a wet-and-wild playground perfect to cool off), train ride, mini golf, 4D movie, and more. Besides everyday attractions, Stone Mountain Park has awesome summer events, so check the calendar.

Kids love exploring and learning at Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville. Photo by Melanie Preis

11. Cartersville, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour
Located about one hour northwest of Atlanta, Cartersville is a small town with big city energy. Kids will love this summer day trip —not too far in the car and a ton of things to do upon arrival. Cartersville hosts Tellus Science Museum—120,000 square feet of all things science (including a planetarium, fossil dig/gem panning, and more). Ask about the Tellus Summer Passport Program that runs in June and July. Rootin', tootin' cowboys should visit the Booth Western Art Museum and mini motorheads will love the all-new Savoy Automobile Museum.

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the parks/venues.

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