[Updated May 14, 2023]
Drawing more than 50 million visitors each year and listed fourth on Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2022,” Atlanta GA is one of the most visited cities in the USA.
But in our experience, many of the people who visit Atlanta are unaware of the remarkable array of fun things to do in North Georgia and coastal Georgia.
As someone who grew up in North Georgia (and has never lived more than 30 miles from the Atlanta hospital in which I was born), I’ve explored virtually every corner of my native state.
Many of the best attractions in Georgia are located less than two hours by car from Downtown Atlanta. But there are also some cool places to go in Georgia that are a bit further afield.
From the Blue Ridge Mountains in the north and natural wonders like the Okefenokee Swamp in the south to the coastal marshlands of the Golden Isles, the state of Georgia offers an endless array of outdoor activities.
There are hundreds of small towns in Georgia, and most of them have interesting histories, rich local cultures, and lots of natural beauty to share.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the 25 best places to visit in Georgia, including all our favorite mountain towns, historic sites, natural attractions, state parks, museums, and more.
Best Places to Visit In Georgia Guide
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Oakland Cemetery
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
- Atlanta Botanical Garden
- Stone Mountain Park
- Athens GA
- Blue Ridge GA
- Dahlonega GA
- Helen GA
- Tallulah Gorge
- Amicalola Falls
- Brasstown Bald
- Lookout Mountain
- Cloudland Canyon
- Etowah Indian Mounds
- Lake Lanier
- Cumberland Island
- Golden Isles of Georgia
- Macon GA
- Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
- Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area
- Savannah GA
- Warm Springs GA
Best Places to Visit in Atlanta
1. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
1978 Island Ford Pkwy, Sandy Springs GA • 678-538-1273
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is one of the most picturesque places to go in Georgia.
This national park somehow seems even more beautiful given its location in north metro Atlanta.
City-dwellers and Atlanta visitors alike can grab a fishing pole and head down to the river, where catching species like trout, bass, and catfish is fairly easy if you know the local hotspots.
With 48 miles of river to explore, the possibilities for outdoor recreation are endless here. The river is open to kayaking, canoeing, and rafting, but nothing beats a lazy afternoon river tubing down the Chattahoochee!
2. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park
450 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta GA • 404-331-5190
Visitors can immerse themselves in history by exploring the birth home of MLK Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church (where Reverend King served as co-pastor), and other historical monuments that honor the efforts that were made for equality.
One of the more popular Atlanta tourist attractions, the King Center is home to the Civil Rights leader’s final resting place.
It also showcases the considerable efforts made by Mrs. Coretta Scott King to preserve his legacy and continue his mission after her husband’s death.
The National Park also features tours of Dr. King’s birth home, as well as a chance to see the D.R.E.A.M Gallery.
3. National Center for Civil and Human Rights
100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta GA • 678-999-8990
Opened in 2014, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is one of the newer tourist attractions in Georgia.
The state of Georgia has been home to important Civil Rights leaders such as MLK, John Lewis, Joseph E. Lowery, Maynard Jackson, and Andrew Young.
The museum‘s focus is on connecting the Civil Rights progress that was made in the past to challenges that are still being faced today. The goal is to continue the change that was started generations ago.
There are a multitude of informative and educational exhibits to explore, including “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement.”
If you plan to visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, they strongly recommend purchasing tickets in advance. You can also experience an immersive virtual tour via their website.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Day Trips From Atlanta GA
4. Oakland Cemetery
248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta GA • 404-688-2107
With its excellent array of tours and seasonal events, historic Oakland Cemetery (which dates back to 1850) is regarded as one of the most unique Atlanta attractions.
One of the area’s oldest parks, and the final resting place for many of the city’s esteemed citizens, the cemetery features 48 acres of well-maintained gardens and architecture.
On September 25, 2022, they’ll be hosting “Tunes From The Tombs,” a music festival to raise funds for the preservation of the cemetery.
There will also be a Pumpkin Patch and “Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours” in October.
Entry and self-guided tours are free, but guided tours usually cost $12 for Adults, and $6 for Seniors and Children ages 6 to 17. Tours for Historic Oakland Foundation members and kids ages 5 and under are free.
5. Atlanta Botanical Garden
1345 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta GA • 404-876-5859
Located next to Piedmont Park, one of the most popular Georgia attractions, the Atlanta Botanical Garden was created in 1976 to “develop plant collections for the purposes of display, education, conservation, research and enjoyment.”
The 30-acre garden has grown considerably over the 45 years since I first visited, adding the Fuqua Conservatory in 1989, the Children’s Garden in 1999, and the Fuqua Orchid Center in 2002.
But their biggest project was the Green Expansion Plan of 2010, which doubled the size of the Garden and added new facilities, including a 2-level visitor center and the 600-foot-long Kendeda Canopy Walk through the urban forest.
Every summer they unveil blockbuster exhibitions such as “TREEmendous TREEhouses,” “Chihuly in the Garden,” etc. The 2023 summer exhibit is “Trolls: Save the Humans,” featuring massive sculptures by Thomas Dambo
READ MORE: 25 Beautiful Birds of Georgia
6. Stone Mountain Park
1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain GA • 770-498-5690
The 3,200+ acre Stone Mountain Park (not to be confused with Stone Mountain State Park in NC) is the #1 most visited tourist attraction in Georgia, drawing around 4 million visitors a year.
It’s the largest granite dome east of the Mississippi River, rising around 750 feet above the surrounding landscape. And the park offers loads of fun activities that have drawn local families ever since I was a boy back in the 1970s!
Old school Stone Mountain attractions include Memorial Hall, the Historic Square, Summit Skyride, the Farmyard, the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, and the ever-popular Lasershow Spectacular (which is getting an overhaul in 2023).
Newer park features include Sky Hike (the nation’s largest treetop adventure course), Dinosaur Explore, Dinotorium, the Camp Highland Outpost, Geyser Towers, and a mini-golf course.
The mountain’s hand-chiseled figures of Confederate leaders from the Civil War are more controversial than ever. But the annual Stone Mountain Christmas is a more inclusive celebration that everyone can enjoy.
Best Places to Visit in North Georgia
7. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
900 Kennesaw Mountain Dr, Kennesaw GA • 770-427-4686
One of the best places to visit in GA for hikers and history buffs alike, the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park encompasses more than 3,000 acres in the Appalachian foothills.
The Visitor Resource Center offers many options of Kennesaw Mountain activities, most of which are free of charge.
There are museum tours, ranger presentations, living history events (cooking demonstrations, artillery fire, infantry volleys, etc), and picnicking on the battlegrounds. There are also horseback riding tours available (for a fee).
Kids who visit the park can become a Kennesaw Mountain Junior Ranger by completing activities outlined in the Junior Ranger booklet, making this one of our favorite fun places to go in Georgia with kids.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Scary Escape Rooms in Georgia
8. Athens GA
300 N. Thomas St., Athens GA • 706-357-4430
As the birthplace of bands ranging from The B-52s and R.E.M. to Widespread Panic and the Elephant 6 Collective, Athens is one of the best places to visit in North Georgia.
Home to the University of Georgia Bulldogs (currently ranked #2 in the nation), Athens is dominated by football games and tailgating during the season.
There are countless restaurants and bars in the college town where you can grab a bite to eat, drink local craft brews, and watch the big game. You can also visit the Georgia Museum of Art or one of Downtown Athens’ art galleries.
Located just over an hour east of Atlanta, Athens has also outdoor recreation options to explore, such as walking the Oconee River Greenway or biking the famous Firefly Trail.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Breweries in Georgia
9. Blue Ridge GA
152 Orvin Lance Dr, Suite A, Blue Ridge GA • 706-632-5680
Once best known as a sleepy railroad town, Blue Ridge has evolved over the last 10-15 years into one of the most charming small towns we’ve ever visited.
Ranked as one of the “South’s Best Mountain Towns” by Southern Living in 2021, Blue Ridge also makes our list of one of the must see places in Georgia.
The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers visitors wonderful tours into the heart of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Downtown Blue Ridge features lots of excellent restaurants, boutiques, and cultural attractions.
You can also cast a line in the many creeks and rivers of the “Trout Fishing Capital of Georgia,” or simply enjoy a relaxing afternoon in your Blue Ridge Cabin Rental.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge, GA
10. Dahlonega GA
13 South Park Street, Dahlonega GA • 706-864-3711
Located in the Heart of Georgia’s wine country, Dahlonega was the site of the first U.S. Gold Rush. But its endless array of modern attractions and activities are what make this one of our favorite places to visit in GA.
This romantic North Georgia town is arguably among the most beautiful places in Georgia to visit, with its extensive list of wineries and vineyards offering award-winning Georgia wines and picture-worthy views.
There are also some great historical sites to visit, such as the Dahlonega Gold Museum, the Consolidated and Crisson Gold Mines (which also offer gem mining for kids), and the 1884 Lumpkin County Jail & Museum.
This is also one of our favorites places to celebrate Christmas in GA. The Old Fashioned Christmas in Dahlonega includes a parade, Festival of Trees, lighting of the Historic Square, and free photos with Santa.
11. Helen GA
726 Bruckenstrasse, Helen GA • 800-858-8027
Helen GA is easily one of the most fun places to visit in Georgia with kids, offering a taste of the Bavarian Alps in a town surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
The small town is best known as the home of Oktoberfest, one of the most popular fall festivals in Georgia and the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany. The town is also packed with German restaurants.
Arts and culture also rank high in Helen, with places like the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia and the Helen Arts & Heritage Center for visitors to tour. The town is also packed with German restaurants.
Kids will enjoy ziplining in North Georgia over the Chattahoochee River or Lake Unicoi, riding the Georgia Mountain Coaster, or visiting the delightful Lavender Lamb Farm.
In December, check out Christmas in Helen GA, which was rated the “Top Christmas Town in America” by MSN.com and one of Southern Living‘s Best Christmas Towns in Georgia and the USA.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Helen GA
12. Tallulah Gorge
338 Jane Hurt Yarn Road, Tallulah Falls GA • 706-754-7981
The park offers lodging at the Pioneer Campgrounds for tents, trailers, and RVs, as well as shelters for rent.
Mountain bikers and cyclists can join the Muddy Spokes Club and test their limits on the designated bike trails, while climbers can challenge themselves as part of the Canyon Climbers Club.
Note that if you want to hike to the waterfalls in the gorge, the park does require a permit. Visitors can also enjoy activities like fishing, geocaching, swimming, picnicking, and rock climbing at Tallulah Gorge.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Campgrounds in North Georgia
13. Amicalola Falls
418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville GA • 706-265-8888
One of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern US, the 729-foot-tall Amicalola Falls is the highlight of Amicalola Falls State Park, with breathtaking views all around.
This North Georgia state park is one of the best places to go in Georgia for nature lovers, with activities like archery, hiking, ziplining, GPS scavenger hunts, and more.
14. Brasstown Bald
2941 Hwy. 180 Spur, Hiawassee GA • 706-896-2556
The tallest mountain in the state at 4,784 feet, Brasstown Bald is arguably the best place to visit in Georgia for views of the Blue Ridge Mountains range.
The Brasstown Bald Visitors Center is located at the top, with a cloud observation deck for visitors to take in jaw-dropping views from one of the most must-see places in Georgia.
To get there, visitors have two options: You can take a shuttle to the top for a small fee, or follow the paved hiking trail trail that starts from the parking lot and heads 0.55 miles up a steep to the summit.
The Visitor Center is also home to an excellent museum featuring interactive nature exhibits. But the excellent view is the star of the show, especially when the colors of Fall in Georgia begin to peak.
15. Lookout Mountain
1214 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain GA • 706-820-1586
Located in northwest GA on the border with Tennessee, Lookout Mountain is home to some of Georgia’s most extraordinary rock formations and breathtaking mountain scenery.
The most popular Lookout Mountain attractions include Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Ruby Falls, Lulu Lake Land Trust, and the famous Rock City, with its enchanted fairy/gnome gardens.
This is one of the most fun places in Georgia to visit with kids, who can cross the swinging bridge and pass through the gigantic rocks to take in the stunning scenic views.
During the holiday season, this area is one of the best North Georgia Christmas Events, Rock City’s “Enchanted Garden of Lights.”
16. Cloudland Canyon
122 Cloudland Canyon Park Rd, Rising Fawn GA • 706-657-4050
Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of the largest in Georgia, with 3,538 acres of lush forest, 1,000-foot-deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, and dynamic scenic views that will take your breath away.
I’ve been there with my family many times over the last 35 years, hiking many of the park’s 64 miles of hiking trails. The 1-mile Overlook trail, the 2-mile Waterfalls Trail, and the 4.8-mile West Rim Loop Trail are my personal favorites.
Other fun activities at Cloudland Canyon include 30 miles of biking trails (bike rentals are available), 16 miles of horseback riding trails, a fishing pond, and an 18-hole disc golf course.
If you want to make a weekend of it, the park offers 16 rental cabins, 10 yurts, 72 tent & RV campsites, 30 walk-In campsites, 13 backcountry campsites, and 4 pioneer campsites.
For private events with larger numbers of people, there’s also a group shelter that seats 175 and a group lodge that sleeps up to 40 people.
17. Etowah Indian Mounds
813 Indian Mound Rd SE, Cartersville GA • 770-387-3747
Indigenous tribes such as the Muscogee Creek and Cherokee people once thrived in Georgia. There are a half-dozen intact Indian mounds in Georgia that help visitors learn more about this aspect of our state history.
One of the best preserved sites is the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site in Cartersville GA, which is one of the largest of its kind in North America.
The 54-acre site includes six earthen mounds, the plaza, borrow pits, reconstructed buildings, and a lovely nature trail along the Etowah River (which is lined with wildflowers in spring and summer).
There’s also an onsite museum with a scale model of the original village and hundreds of artifacts that were found during 20th century archaeological excavations of the mounds.
Many of these ancient artifacts are being repatriated to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, to be replaced by artifacts that were excavated from non-burial contexts and modern art pieces created by tribal members.
18. Lake Lanier
1050 Buford Dam Rd, Buford GA • 770-945-9531
Officially known as Lake Syndey Lanier (though locals never call it that), this 38,000-acre reservoir ranks among the largest and most popular lakes in Georgia.
Nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, Lake Lanier’s 690 miles of shoreline are home to 76 recreational areas, including 40 Corps of Engineers-operated parks and campgrounds, 10 marinas, and myriad picnic shelters.
It’s also home to Lake Lanier Islands (which rebranded as the Lanier Islands Resort after being taken over by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Development in 2018), one of the most popular resorts in Georgia.
Recreation opportunities on Lake Lanier are endless, but include camping, boating, fishing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking, swimming, skiing, and more.
The lake is considered one of the most haunted places in Georgia, perhaps due to the fact that the largely African-American town of Oscarville (the site of a horrific 1912 lynching) is buried beneath it.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Lake Houses in Georgia to Rent
Best Places to Visit in South Georgia
19. Cumberland Island
113 St. Marys St W, St. Marys GA • 912-882-4452
Located off the coast of St. Marys GA, Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest island. Its 9,800 acres of designated wilderness is full of marshes, maritime forest, beaches, and (most famously) wild horses.
2022 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Cumberland Island National Seashore, with commemorative events taking place on October 1st.
Cumberland Island visitors can explore the area’s various hiking trails, take guided tours, relax on the beach, go kayaking, or go fishing on- or offshore.
You can also spend the night stargazing by reserving your very own camping spot right on Cumberland Island. Just remember the protected area’s strict Leave No Trace policy!
READ MORE: The 10 Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia
20. Golden Isles of Georgia
529 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island GA • 912-638-9014
Located right off the coast, the Golden Isles of Georgia are comprised of 4 islands— St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island— which connect to the mainland city of Brunswick.
These unspoiled, historic beaches stretch on for miles, and are surrounded by marshlands filled with an impressive array of Georgia birds.
Visitors to the islands’ small towns can stroll through museums and art galleries, tee off on one of the golf courses, enjoy a relaxing day at the spa, or explore the islands’ hiking trails.
Each island offers a multitude of accommodation options, with everything from charming historic inns and B&Bs to beachfront rental cabins.
READ MORE: The 15 Coolest Covered Bridges in Georgia
21. Macon GA
450 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Macon GA • 478-743-1074
Nicknamed the place “Where Soul Lives,” Macon GA is a place full of history, celebrating both African-American and Native American culture and their impact on the town.
Nature lovers can find their bliss outdoors at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park, hiking in Amerson River Park, on the water at Lake Tobesofkee, or by pitching a tent at one of their many campsites.
Downtown Macon has lots of shops and restaurants to stop by, as well as a plethora of local art galleries and museums to peruse.
There’s also a great music scene, which brought us artists such as Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers.
Macon’s bustling nightlife scene includes live music at the Macon City Auditorium and the Hargray Capitol Theatre, and grabbing a drink at the Hummingbird Stage & Taproom.
22. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
4155 Suwannee Canal Road, Folkston GA • 912-496-7836
One of the most mysterious places to visit in Georgia, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a world-renowned conservation site that’s popular for canoe and kayaking trips, birdwatching, and wildlife watching.
The Okefenokee Swamp is home to many endangered species, as well as a dense concentration of alligators.
So this refuge is protected by the RAMSAR Convention as a Wetland of International Importance, and is well on its way to being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit this unique place in Georgia for fishing, canoeing, boat tours, and the family-friendly Swamp Movie Days. The refuge’s hiking trails are conveniently marked, with difficulty levels ranging from kid-friendly to strenuous.
You can also reserve a in an overnight shelter or for canoe camping right in the swamp’s dense interior.
23. Providence Canyon State Park
8930 Canyon Rd., Lumpkin GA • 229-838-6202
Known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon,” Providence Canyon was formed due to erosion caused by local farming practices in the 1800s.
The breathtaking canyon can be viewed from the rim at the top or via hiking trails that lead deep in the canyon.
Visitors can also stop by the parl museum to learn more about its history, or bring a picnic to be enjoy at one of the picnic tables or shelters (which are available for rent).
Backpackers are invited to camp overnight along the backcountry trails, but guests can also reserve a camping spot in the park.
The views of the canyon are best in early summer, when local wildflowers such as the rare Plumleaf Azalea are in bloom.
READ MORE: 10 Best Apps for Hikers and Backpackers
24. Savannah GA
101 E. Bay Street, Savannah GA • 912-644-6400
Savannah is world-renowned as one of the most beautiful places in Georgia to visit. With Spanish moss cascading off the trees, a long line of sandy beaches, and historical architecture, it’s like no other town in the state.
The beaches of Tybee Island are just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, making for an easy day trip. Visitors can also explore the island’s museum, dine at the Crab Shack, or take a sunset cruise.
Downtown Savannah attractions include the Savannah City Market, River Street, the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, local art galleries, and historic graveyards.
For dinner, chow down on some Southern fried chicken at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room before heading in for the night. If you’re feeling brave, try staying the night in one of Savannah’s haunted hotels.
25. Warm Springs GA
1 Broad Street, Warm Springs GA • 706-655-3322
Made famous by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-20th century, Warm Springs GA is a tranquil place of Southern hospitality and comfort.
The town is best-known for its naturally heated, healing waters, but there’s much more to the area.
On Main Street, visitors can check out local shops and restaurants: We recommend grabbing dinner at the world-famous Bulloch House.
For history buffs, there are museums focused on FDR’s life in Georgia, including the Little White House, one of the less crowded Historic Sites in Georgia.
Want to test the warm waters? Make a trip to the famous Warm Springs to see for yourself why FDR loved them (and the town) so much! –by Molly Frazier and Bret Love; lead image via Canva