15 Wonderful Winter Day Trips from Atlanta

Take a winter day trip from Atlanta on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Photo courtesy of the railway
Take a winter day trip from Atlanta on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Photo courtesy of the railway

As the weather turns colder and the sun sets earlier, outdoor activities seem to dwindle. Kids stop riding bikes in the evenings, playing on playgrounds, or shooting hoops in the driveway. Soon, youngsters may complain of boredom. It's the perfect time to plan winter day trips from Atlanta!

To combat the winter blahs, get your family out of the usual routine. Look at our list and plan one (or two or three!) of these spectacular winter day trips from Atlanta and take advantage of the winter break, MLK Day, and President’s Day. Everyone will discover there’s so much more to do and see in our great state of Georgia!

If you’d rather stay closer to Atlanta, check out our Fun Things to Do Over the Winter Break with Kids in Atlanta. For more boredom-busting ideas, visit our Winter Activities Guide.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Athens, GA

70 miles from Atlanta

Visit Sanford Stadium and stock up on Georgia Bulldogs fan gear at the 762-acre University of Georgia campus. Also check out the Georgia Museum of Art, the state’s official art museum on the eastern side of campus. With timed free admission tickets, it’s a great way to expose youngsters to art without a hefty fee. Leave campus for historic downtown Athens full of shops and restaurants. And don't forget to visit the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia on the outskirts of town. With woodland hiking trails, a greenhouse, a playground, and multiple gardens, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Blue Ridge, GA

90 miles from Atlanta

What kid doesn’t like train rides? Take the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway along the Toccoa River on a closed or open-air coach. Departing the depot in downtown Blue Ridge, the trip begins with a one-hour, narrated trip to the Tennessee state line. Enjoy a couple of hours for lunch and shopping in the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill before boarding the train for the return ride.

If traveling around President’s Day weekend, don’t miss the Fire & Ice Chili Cook-Off on February 19, 2022. Marvel at the ice sculptures throughout the charming downtown area, listen to live music, and of course, taste chili!

It's the Coliseum, only in rock form, located at Calhoun Rock Garden.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Calhoun, GA

70 miles from Atlanta

Enjoy the Roman Coliseum, Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, and Japan’s Himeji Castle — all in miniature rock form at the Calhoun Rock Garden. Begun in 2007 by DeWitt “Old Dog” Boyd, the rock garden features over 50 intricate structures made from small pebbles, bits of glass, and shells located behind the Calhoun Seventh Day Adventist Church. Relax in the gazebo, sit on a bench swing, or cross over the creek for several hiking trails. While free, donations are appreciated.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Andersonville, GA

130 miles from Atlanta

At Andersonville National Historic Site, explore the former Camp Sumter Civil War prison that housed 45,000 Union prisoners. Take a ranger-led tour or walk the grounds on your own. Also, download the FREE audio driving tour that guides you around Andersonville National Cemetery. Families with older kids shouldn’t miss the National Prisoner of War Museum, located inside the visitor center. 

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Chattanooga, TN

120 miles from Atlanta

Just two hours from Atlanta, Chattanooga offers multiple family-friendly tourist attractions. The massive Tennessee Aquarium allows in/out privileges so families can take a break for lunch at one of the nearby downtown restaurants. Another popular spot is the award-winning Creative Discovery Museum just a few blocks away. This children’s museum provides a fun and playful learning experience with interactive exhibits including simple machines, bees, and a rooftop garden.

Sweet-smelling Cabbage Patch Kids are born here, at BabyLand General Hospital.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Cleveland, GA

70 miles from Atlanta

Remember Cabbage Patch Kids? They're still around in Cleveland, GA at BabyLand General Hospital. After signing in as a visitor to the "hospital," families can peruse various nurseries featuring dolls and watch the "birth" of a new Cabbage Patch Kid at the Magic Crystal Tree. Admission is free but there is a cost if you adopt a doll, which comes with a birth certificate, and lots of cute accessories and clothes.

Impress kids with your colorful childhood at the Lunchbox Museum in Columbus, GA.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Columbus, GA

110 miles from Atlanta

Visit the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center, filled with military history, interactive exhibits, and a giant screen theater. Families will leave with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices soldiers have made throughout our country’s history. Although free, there is a fee to try the combat simulators.

Be sure to bring a heavy jacket and ride bikes or walk along the Chattahoochee RiverWalk —stretching 15 miles on the banks of the river, it's a good place to explore the revitalized downtown with multiple access points and tasty restaurants. And stop by the Lunchbox Museum located in the back of an antique store; it's a small gallery displaying over 3,000 metal lunchboxes featuring pop culture and TV shows from decades past.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Helen, GA

90 miles from Atlanta

Fun any time of the year, a winter day trip to Helen will transport your family to an Alpine village with German influences everywhere. Kids love riding the Georgia Mountain Coaster, which lets them control their own speed down the slope of a mountain. Also, check out Anna Ruby Falls with its stroller-friendly paved trail that leads to the stunning twin falls (closed Tuesdays and Wednesday and after 4pm during winter).

Experience the gold rush at Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site. Photo by Bill Leffler

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Dahlonega, GA

65 miles from Atlanta

Did you know the first gold rush in the U.S. occurred in Georgia in the 1830s? Discover this piece of our state’s history at the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site in the historic former courthouse. For more adventures, head to the Consolidated Gold Mine where you can pan for gold after taking a 40-minute underground tour. Don’t leave Dahlonega without checking out the cute shops and restaurants in the town square, including the filling, family-style Smith House Restaurant. (And parents, there are some great wineries if you get some adult time.)

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Macon, GA

85 miles from Atlanta

Macon is a sports mecca for avid fans with its 45,000-square-foot Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Dedicated to all amateur and professional sports, families can see Bill Elliott’s NASCAR sports car, shoot hoops, kick a field goal, and more —all in a building designed to resemble a 1900s ballpark.

If you have middle-school kids taking Georgia history, Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park is a must-see stop. See artifacts and and a film about the Native Americans who inhabited the area since the Ice Age; and walk inside the Earth Lodge (used as the council chamber). Although the walls have been reconstructed, the floor is over 1,000 years old! With over six miles of walking trails, families can walk or drive around the eight Indian mounds, including the Great Temple Mound.

Discover Georgia's Old Governor's Mansion in Milledgeville. Photo by Bill Leffler

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Milledgeville, GA

100 miles from Atlanta

Atlanta wasn’t always the capital of Georgia; that honor belonged to Milledgeville from 1839-1868. At Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion, tour guides discuss this period of history and take visitors through the Greek Revival mansion that General Tecumseh Sherman took over during the Civil War. Drive around the Georgia Old Capital and campus of Georgia College & State University to see more classic antebellum architecture.

Callaway Gardens puts on its magical Fantasy in Lights during the winter. Photo courtesy Callaway Gardens

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Pine Mountain, GA

80 miles from Atlanta

Enjoy over 10 miles of bike trails at Callaway Gardens, featuring 2,500 acres of multiple lakes and native flora. Though the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center is a must-visit in the springtime, for the winter, it's all about the holiday Fantasy in Lights extravaganza! The grounds become a winter wonderland of holiday magic and beauty. 

Go on a safari adventure without traveling to Africa —Wild Animal Safari has bison, elk, zebras, and other animals that come right up to your vehicle on the 3.5-mile drive through the park. Take the guided tour bus or rent a safari van. Purchase special food at the ticket booth so your kids can feed the animals and don’t miss walking around the zoo.

Paradise Garden is a whole lot of coolness, in Summerville.

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Summerville, GA

90 miles from Atlanta

If you want to expose your kids to out-of-the-box creativity, then Paradise Garden fits the bill. This quirky home/studio/outdoor museum of renowned folk artist Howard Finster (1916-2001) features repurposed materials to create sculptures, mosaics, and small buildings. Kids love seeing their multiple reflections in the Mirror House. While walking around the Bike Tower and Bottle House, parents may remember the site from the REM video, “Radio Free Europe.”

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Toccoa, GA

90 miles from Atlanta

Higher than Niagara Falls, Toccoa Falls is the tallest, free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Dress accordingly and pay $2 per person entrance fee at the Toccoa Falls College Gate Cottage (also houses restrooms and a gift shop). The 186-foot waterfall is located on a short, gravel path behind the building, perfect for little ones who don’t want to hike.

Release your inner Top Gun at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins. Photo by Bill Leffler

Winter Day Trips From Atlanta: Warner Robins, GA

100 miles from Atlanta

Warner Robins is home to the Museum of Aviation, with over 80 aircraft at the second largest museum in the U.S. Air Force. And it’s FREE! Be sure to visit the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. On your way home, stop at the newly opened Buc-ee’s also in Warner Robins. Unlike an ordinary travel center, this 53,000-square-foot pit stop is famous for brisket sandwiches, glazed nuts, and clean restrooms.

Unless noted, photos by the author.

Places featured in this article:

Andersonville National Historic Site

National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
Lunar New Year at Atlantic Station
Atlantic Station - 5:00 PM Pick
Waking Wonderland at Illuminarium
Illuminarium - various times Pick
All Smiles at Alliance Theatre
Alliance Theatre - various times Pick
Junior Astronomy Workshop
Tellus Science Museum - 6:30 PM
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides