Atlanta families looking to trade the oppressive heat of the city for family friendly adventures in cooler terrain need only look within a one hour’s drive or less from their homes. There are numerous nearby cities that offer a plethora of outdoor activities, historical sites, day spas, water parks, free events, live entertainment venues, museums, art galleries and shopping to choose from. Since choosing from so many options can be difficult, I am offering up my top five picks for the best family day trips within a one hour’s drive of Atlanta.
A mere half hour away from Atlanta, Conyers features Black Shoals Park, Randy Poynter Lake, Big Hayes Creek Nature Center, Haralson Mill Covered Bridge, Lewis Vaughn Botanical Gardens, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the Georgia International Horse Park and the Dinky steam locomotive. The botanical gardens, monastery, Horse Park, nature center, covered bridge and steam locomotive are open year round and admission is free. Black Shoals Park and Randy Poynter Lake are also open year round but there is a $5 per person admission fee as well as a $5 boat launch fee involved.
It is just a short 45 minute drive from Atlanta to Buford, an artist’s colony and resort city along Lake Sidney Lanier. Once there families will find arts and antiques, boutique shopping, the Mall of Georgia, live entertainment, the Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and Water Park, Tranquility Spa, an equestrian center, beach, water sports, boat rentals and two 18 hole golf courses. The Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and Water Park opens daily at 10:00 am, May through Labor Day, and features the state’s largest wave pool. Though seasonal passes start at $60 per person, the expenditure is well worth it.
Located 55 minutes away from Atlanta, Griffin is the birthplace of legendary gunslinger, Doc Holiday and the resident’s celebrate that fact with a beer festival and two museums worth of exhibits in his honor. There is the Doc Holiday Museum on Lucky Street and the Griffin Museum on South Hill Street. The Griffin Museum is open weekdays, year round, from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm and admission is free. The Doc Holiday Museum also opens year round, Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 10:00 am. In addition, there are several free, year round, Civil War sites to visit including Camp Stephens, Camp Milner and the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery.
Home to the world’s largest continuous, zip line canopy tour and more, Whitesburg’s visitors will find exhilaration and entertainment for all ages. Horseback riding, tandem sky diving, sandy beaches, panning for gold, kayaking, Falcon hunts, a day spa, water park, history museum, skeet shooting, Birds of Prey shows, fishing, golf, swimming, hiking and a variety of outdoor sports are all just 45 minutes away from Atlanta. Many of those activities may be enjoyed at Banning Mills, a former ghost town located on Snake Creek. Banning Mills is open year round and prices vary by the activity selected.
A comfortable, one hour’s drive from Atlanta, Gainesville offers visitors miles of mountain biking trails, a lake with pristine beaches, a nature center, boating, fishing, the Francis Meadows Aquatic Center, a golf course, several sports complexes, live theater, unique solar system walking tour, an interactive children’s museum, a history museum and numerous historical sites including the alleged birthplace of that southern cuisine staple; batter fried chicken.
The Francis Meadows Aquatic Center is one of the best bets for families looking to escape the summer heat. It is open year round and offers fitness classes, indoor and outdoor pools. Highlights of the aquatic center include three story water slides, drop buckets and a swirl pool. Admission is $7 per person between the ages of 3 through 54. Children less than 2 years of age are gratis.
Historic Banning Mills, “Media Kit” Historic Banning Mills
Carroll County Georgia, “Tourism” Carroll County Georgia
City of Gainesville Georgia, “Celebrating Heritage” City of Gainesville Georgia
City of Griffin, “Places of Interest” City of Griffin
City of Conyers, “Tourism Links” City of Conyers