The beach is a beacon that’s hard to resist come spring, but if you find yourself landlocked, don’t despair. Between easy day trips, amusement parks, historical sights, and outdoor adventures in our own back yard, Atlanta and its neighboring towns are an awesome destination for spring travel, especially if you don’t have to pack a bag to make the magic happen! Read on to find out our favorite home town hot spots.

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Photo: S. Massey

Kennesaw Mountain

Distance from Atlanta: about 30 minutes

Head to Atlanta’s other mountain – Kennesaw Mountain – for a look at a real live Civil War battlefield. There’s an onsite interpretive center that sheds light on the infamous “Atlanta Campaign.” On weekends, you can take a shuttle to the top of Kennesaw Mountain for some fabulous views of the National Park. There are also nature trails and plenty of greenspace to explore so be sure to bring your comfy shoes. On April 5 and 13, 2016 the park will be offering free spring wildflower walks (call for more info). Have a train lover in tow? If so, head to the nearby Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw. There you’ll find the General locomotive, stolen during the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase.

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Photo: S. Massey

Chattahoochee River

Distance from Atlanta: 0-10 minutes from ITP to East Palisades, 45 minutes from Atlanta to Buford Dam

Spend a day on the ‘Hooch and you’ll be wondering why you haven’t made it a weekend destination already. With playgrounds, sandy beaches, easy hikes, and even guided programming on the banks at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, you’ll be amazed at all of the ways to play in our city’s favorite river. Check out our guide to the ‘Hooch here. And if you’re feeling up for a little eco-excitement, be sure to visit the Buford Trout Hatchery, which manages all fish releases into the river and offers tours geared towards the kiddos every weekend for free.

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Photo: S. Massey

Cartersville, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: about 45 minutes

Just under an hour north of Atlanta lies Cartersville, the day trip destination you never dreamed of. But with Old Car City USA—miles and miles of vintage junkyard cars that have rusted out, rotted through, and have trees growing through the empty engine blocks—the Tellus Science Museum, and the Booth Western Art Museum, you’ll head home wishing you’d had another day to spend there.

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Photo: Brent Moore via flickr

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: about 1 hour and 50 minutes

Turn this easy trip into an overnighter or plan on doing it in a day, but Chattanooga has way more than just the Choo-Choo to offer visitors (though we all know where we’ll end up). Check out our complete guide to fun in Chattanooga here, and be sure to check out the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum while you’re there.
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Photo: SAM Shortline via facebook

SAM Shortline in Macon

Distance from Atlanta: about 2 hours

Calling everyone with trains on the brains! The SAM Shortline, with access in Macon, offers amply opportunities to ride in air-conditioned, 1949 vintage cars. And while the 2 hour trip may seem a little long for a day trip, you’ll change your mind the minute you watch the kiddos minds be blown when the wheels start turning. Trip times vary, so be sure to check the calendar here, but rest assured that you’ll make several stops along the way in quaint towns filled with fun attractions, restaurants and shopping.

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Photo: James Emery via flickr 

Stone Mountain Park

Distance from Atlanta: about 30 minutes

Perhaps it’s time for another visit to Atlanta’s own little mountain. The park has way more to offer than the nightly laser show (which is still cool). The kids can cool off at the Geyser Towers attraction, or satisfy their urge to climb all over everything at the SkyHike, a unique family adventure course. Take in some nature on a hike, or sit back and enjoy the view from the Scenic Railroad. Plus, enjoy special “Spring FUN Break” entertainment including the all-new JUMP! The Ultimate Dog Show showcasing rescue dogs performing in an exciting head-to-head competition. There’s also a wacky dance party at The April Fool’s Wacky Wonderland and some one-on-one time with the Easter Bunny at the Hop, Skip, & Splash Meet and Greet.

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Photo: John Trainor via flickr

Day Trip to Dahlonega

Distance from Atlanta: about an hour

 

A little over an hour north of Atlanta, Dahlonega is a quaint mountain town offering outdoor adventures, arts, culture, food and wine. What’s not to love about this gold rush town? Check out the Dahlonega Gold Museum housed in the old courthouse right in the middle of the quaint town square. Kiddos will be thrilled with the underground adventures at Consolidated Gold Mines, where they can pan for gold and mine gemstones, too.  Head a little further north to Helen for some Bavarian fun or head south for a stop at beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park.

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Photo: utahwildflowers via flickr

Callaway Gardens

Distance from Atlanta: about 1 hour 30 minutes

Celebrate spring at beautiful Callaway Gardens—just a little over an hour south of Atlanta. The azaleas, daffodils, dogwoods and tulips will be on vibrant display. The Garden is offering special spring themed family activities each weekend in April. There’s also a daily Bird of Prey show and other interactive offerings throughout the park. For your little daredevils, check out the Tree Top Adventure and Zip Lines. End the day communing with butterflies at the Day Butterfly Center, one of the nation’s largest enclosed butterfly conservatories.

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Photo: James via flickr

Warm Springs and the Little White House

Distance from Atlanta: about 1 hour 15 minutes

Located nearby Callaway Gardens is also the quaint town of Warm Springs, home to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House. Young history buffs will love visiting FDR’s beloved home which is preserved very much as he left it upon his death in 1945. It just so happens that on Saturday, April 12 (which is spring break for many), there will be a special ceremony there to mark the 69th anniversary of his death. An onsite museum sheds light on the life and accomplishments of the beloved president. You can also visit (a short drive away) the therapeutic hot springs where FDR helped to advance the treatment of polio.

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Photo: Curtis Abert via flickr 

Etowah Indian Mounds

Distance from Atlanta: about 45 minutes

Learn more about Georgia’s Native American history at this fascinating historic site that’s less than an hour’s drive from Atlanta. Not only can you view significant Native American arrowheads, weapons, and pottery in a museum, but you can also climb to the top of a massive 63-foot earthen mound where tribal leaders lived over 400 years ago. On Saturday April 12, the park staff will offer special programs and a unique nighttime guided tour (by torchlight) of the six mounds.

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Where will you spend Spring Break? Share with us below!

—Shelley Massey & Rachel Quartarone