14 Fabulous Fall Day Trips from Atlanta

The Japanese Garden at Gibbs Garden explodes with color during the fall. Photo by Bill Leffler
The Japanese Garden at Gibbs Garden explodes with color during the fall. Photo by Bill Leffler
8/26/22 - By Rebecca Ruffin Leffler

Fall day trips from Atlanta are perfect opportunities to regroup and spend time together since school is back in swing. While the routine is nice, you might find family members going in different directions with clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities. 

Fall means cooler temperatures and autumn leaves —fortunately, Mother Nature puts on a great show all over the Atlanta region. We’ve got great fall day trips from Atlanta covering everything from the North Georgia mountains to several neighboring states. We've even thrown in a couple of college towns so you can get your SEC football fix! To help usher you into the fall season, check out our Fall Fun Guide.


Also, you'll want to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the know about upcoming events in Atlanta.

Fall Day Trips from Atlanta – Northwest

Make sure to ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway during your fall day trip to Blue Ridge.

Blue Ridge, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1.5 hours

Outdoor enthusiasts love Blue Ridge for the waterfalls and hiking trails. Kids will delight in the one-mile hike to the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge. Stop at Mercier Orchards for apple picking and tractor tours —adults can sample hard cider, while the kids fill up on apple treats! Afterward, head to downtown Blue Ridge to meander through art galleries, shops, and restaurants, making sure to try a cupcake at The Sweet Shoppe of the South, winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

Without a doubt, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is the major draw! From September 22 through November 7, reserve a spot for the Fall Foliage trip along the Toccoa River up to Copperhill, Tennessee.

Calhoun, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Visit Calhoun Rock Garden to see famous landmarks built out of small rocks, glass, and seashells. For lunch, feast on tender, tasty barbeque items at Dubb’s High on the Hog. Next, tour New Echota State Historical Site, which served as the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 through 1838. Be sure to watch the short film at the visitor center and walk through the reconstructed Printer’s Shop, Council House, and other buildings.

Ellijay, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1.25 hours

Go apple picking in Ellijay, the "Apple Capital of Georgia" for a wonderful fall day trip. Favorite spots include Hillcrest Orchards and Farms and B.J. Reece Apple House and Orchards, which offer wagon rides, petting farms, pig races, cow milking activities, and other activities.

If you can’t get enough of apple season, attend the annual Georgia Apple Festival on the weekends of October 8-9 and October 14 – 15 at the Ellijay Lions Club Fairgrounds. In addition to over 200 vendors selling crafts, you’ll get your fill of apple treats. Check the schedule for the 5K race, car show, and parade, and don’t miss Apple Arts on the Square held downtown during the same time.

Gibbs Gardens - Ball Ground, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Gibbs Gardens boasts beautiful autumn colors amidst 24 ponds, 16 waterfalls, and 16 gardens. Don't miss the Japanese Maples Colorfest from October through mid-November where you'll see over 300 varieties of Japanese maples. Since weekends can be crowded, it's best to purchase tickets online. For lunch or snacks, stop by Arbor Cafe near the gift shop.  

Fall Day Trips from Atlanta – Northeast

Dahlonega, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Dahlonega offers some of the best autumn leaf-peeping due to its location at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Walk around the historic square with restaurants, shops, and the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Pan for gold at Consolidated Gold Mine, which includes a 40-minute tour. After all these activities, relax at Cavender Creek Vineyards and Winery. A winery with kids? Yes! While parents enjoy live entertainment and sample local wines, kiddos can visit farm animals and play on the pirate ship playground.

Visit the weekend of October 15 and 16 for the 68th annual Gold Rush Days. The festival features a parade, local food, live music, and over 200 vendors selling jewelry, art, and seasonal items.

Nothing says "fall" like pumpkin picking at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville. Photo by Bill Leffler

Amicalola Falls - Dawsonville, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Enjoy the 730-foot waterfall at Amicalola Falls State Park, the third tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Younger kids attend the animal meet-and-greet activities while kids ages 8 and older can take a 3D archery class or sign up for a zipline tour. Just a half-mile south of the park gates, make a stop at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm. While your kids may have trouble picking a pumpkin from over 20 varieties, you’ll have a hard time choosing between pumpkin pie, bread, rolls, and other goodies. Finish your visit with the hayride.

Helen, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1.5 hours

Helen will transport your family to the Bavarian Alps without a hefty travel expense. While parents enjoy German restaurants, bakeries, and shops, kids can ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster and explore the zipline tours at nearby Unicoi State Park. Practice the chicken dance before attending the annual Helen Oktoberfest with German music and bratwurst. The event kicks off with a parade on Sunday, September 10 and runs through October 30.

Hiawassee, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 2 hours

For starters, visit Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point, with views of four states and the Appalachian Mountains on clear days. While not peak season, Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens is still worth a visit with short walking trails among native plants and the shoreline of Lake Chatuge. Families with older kids might enjoy hiking the moderate-strenuous 2.4-mile loop to High Shoal Falls and Blue Hole Falls. (Just note the return trail is uphill!). Finish your day by driving to the summit of Bell Mountain Park and Historical Site to watch the sunset overlooking Lake Chatuge.

If you’re traveling in October, catch Georgia Mountain Fall Festival October 7-15, complete with carnival rides, food, and music entertainment. Interactive shows for kids and parents alike include the Cowboy Circus and Tiger Show.

Goats on the Roof? The name says it all! 

Tallulah Falls, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1.5 hours

Head to Tallulah Gorge State Park, one of the seven wonders of Georgia for jaw-dropping views into the 900-foot canyon. Families will find both rim trails easy to manage with views of five waterfalls. For an up-close perspective, those with older kids should try Hurricane Falls Loop, which descends into the canyon and crosses over a suspension bridge just 80 feet from the bottom.

Since the $5 per vehicle Georgia State Park admission is good for all parks on the same day, head 20 miles north to Black Rock Mountain State Park, the highest state park in Georgia. To see the fall foliage on the mountains, drive to the visitor center at the summit. On the way home, be sure to stop at Goats on the Roof in Tiger, where you can feed the goats, mine for gems, and treat the kids to nitrogen ice cream.

Fall Day Trips from Atlanta – Southeast of Atlanta

Callaway Gardens - Pine Mountain, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Explore 2,500 acres of family-friendly activities on the 10-mile bike trail (rentals available) at Callaway Gardens. Kids will especially enjoy the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the Birds of Prey show at the Discovery Center. For an extra fee, challenge yourself on the TreeTop Adventures and Ziplines. If mom and dad want to play golf and relax at the spa, overnight accommodations are available.

For the second year in a row, Pumpkins at Callaway will run every weekend from September 15 through October 30. When the sun sets, the new corn maze, pumpkin patch, and Enchanted Pumpkin Forest light up for a “non-spooky” experience guaranteed to be a hit with your kids.

Fall Day Trips from Atlanta – North Carolina and Tennessee

Take the kids on Sunset Rock to watch an epic sunset. Photo by Bill Leffler

Highlands, North Carolina

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 2.25 hours

If you’re looking for cooler fall day trips from Atlanta, head to Highlands nestled in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Stand on a ledge under the waterfall at Dry Falls; bike the 2-mile Whiteside Mountain Loop where you’ll see South Carolina and Georgia on a clear day; and walk along Main Street. Just south of downtown, head a half-mile to the top of aptly named Sunset Rock to watch the sun disappear into the horizon. You may find yourself falling in love with the town. Consider coming back for a romantic weekend at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa or attend the Highlands Food & Wine Festival on November 10 through 13.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 2 hours

While it may be hard to pull your kids away from Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum, try to squeeze in time for a fall foliage cruise with Southern Belle Riverboat. Kids will love riding on the open-air deck and purchasing concessions while parents enjoy listening to the narrated tour to the Tennessee River Gorge.

At nearby Lookout Mountain, celebrate all things German at Rock City’s Rocktoberfest. The family-friendly rock garden, fun any time of the year, hosts live German music, German food, Birds of Prey shows, and other performances during the weekends in October.

Fall Day Trips from Atlanta – College Towns

Athens, Georgia

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1 hour

Visit the University of Georgia (UGA), Georgia's oldest university and home of the Georgia Bulldogs. On game days, you’ll find yourself immersed in a sea of red and black as the 2022 National Football Champions play “between the hedges” at Sanford Stadium.

Football aside, you’ll find plenty to do in Athens. Take a self-guided walking tour of the hilly 700-acre UGA campus for a great cardio workout. While strolling through the vibrant downtown area filled with art galleries and eateries, make a game of having your children spot the dozens of bulldog statues situated throughout the area. Before heading home, visit State Botanical Garden of Georgia. With over 300 acres, this facility boasts five miles of trails, a conservatory, and several themed gardens including the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. And with FREE admission, it’s a win-win for the entire family.

Auburn, Alabama

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 1.5 hours

For another classic SEC football experience, head to Auburn University for a football game. Kids will love the Eagle Flight where the mascot bald eagle "Aurea" soars around the stadium before landing in the center of Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to kickoff. After the game, fans roll the trees at Toomer’s Corner with toilet paper to celebrate a victory.

If you’re not coming for a game, visit Donald E. Davis Arboretum and Jule Collins Smith Art Museum, both FREE of charge on Auburn’s campus. When you walk over to the downtown area, quench your thirst with fresh-squeezed lemonade at Toomer’s Drugstore, an institution since 1896. Take the kiddos to Kreher Preserve and Nature Center just a few miles north of campus.

Photos by author unless otherwise noted.

Places featured in this article:

B. J. Reece Apple House and Orchards

Bell Mountain Park & Historical Site

Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

Auburn University

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

Donald E. Davis Arboretum