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No one can argue that Atlanta isn’t a central location for travel. Beyond having the busiest airport in the United States, we also happen to have some of the busiest thoroughfares. While these interstates are often a part of our daily struggles to get to and from work and soccer practice, it’s these same roads that take us on relaxing journeys away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With Memorial Day just around the corner and summer riding its coattails, we thought we’d bring you three quick and easy day trips from Atlanta, all less than two hours from the city. You can escape to these cities’ streets without having to stay the night in a hotel … unless, of course, you need a longer getaway, which we definitely won’t discourage!

3 Fun Day Trips From Atlanta

Athens, GA

Athens is a charming, funky town and an easy escape, even if you’re not part of Dawg Nation. Made up of several small neighborhoods, like Boulevard, Normaltown and Prince Avenue, Athens maintains a small-town vibe despite its population of 120,000. Maybe it’s from those crazy college kids or the electric music scene, but there’s no denying that energy abounds in Athens. From its historical architecture and The Tree that Owns Itself to its breweries and beyond, this day trip easily earns an A on our report card.

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The Tree that Owns Itself is famous Athens folklore. You’ll have to take a tour to get the scoop for yourself. Image: Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau

What to Do

University of Georgia: Don’t underestimate a tour of the university’s campus. Even if you feel like you’ve seen it all, you’re sure to learn something new. Tons of architectural features are pointed out along the way, including the landmark Arch (don’t walk under it unless you’re a graduate) and the North Campus Chapel, one of the university’s first Greek Revival buildings. Once you’re done, head over to the Environmental Health Science building for ice cream at The Creamery. This historic location once provided dairy products to the entire Athens area!

Georgia Theatre: The iconic Georgia Theatre has been home to a music store, a movie house, a YMCA, a hotel, a Masonic Temple and even a Sears Roebuck furniture store. However, beginning in 1935, the Georgia Theatre became a performing venue for emerging and established artists. Today, the theater is a popular music venue, as well as a great place to catch an Athens sunset at their rooftop bar. (SB TIP: If you’re looking for a smaller place for live local music, consider The Foundry.)

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The Georgia Theatre is the epicenter of Athens’ fantastic music scene. While you’re there, don’t forget to grab a drink at their rooftop bar. Image: Elliott Anderson/Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau

Where to Eat

From several restaurants owned by renowned Chef Hugh Acheson to home-grown meals, Athens has a vibrant food scene. Go off the beaten path and head to Pulaski Heights BBQ for finger-licking fun on an entirely new level. Enjoy late lunch or early dinner here before hitting the road back to ATL. Other tasty options include Vietnamese fare at Just Pho…and More and modern Southern cuisine at Home.made.

Cartersville, GA

Established in 1850, Cartersville is full of history and wonder. Site of the Etowah Indian Mounds, Lake Allatoona and the Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville offers a fantastic summer escape for the whole family. Since Cartersville is just over an hour from Atlanta, plan to visit for the day (but we know the kids wouldn’t mind if you made this an overnight stay).

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A visit to the Etowah Indian Mounds provides a rich cultural experience. Image: Georgia State Parks

What to Do

Tellus Museum: Kids of all ages (including their parents) will delight in a visit to the Tellus Science Museum. Occupying more than 125,000 square feet, the museum’s galleries include exhibits featuring fossils, minerals, transportation technology and hands-on experiments. Don’t miss the planetarium for star-gazing events and other shows throughout the day.

Etowah Indian Mounds: One of Cartersville’s most popular attractions, the Etowah Indian Mounds were once home to several thousand Native Americans. Visitors can embark on guided tours or follow a nature trail along the Etowah River that highlights interesting Native American historical tidbits.

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Littles will be mesmerized by the towering T-Rex at the Tellus Science Museum. Image: Tellus Science Museum

Where to Eat

Moore’s Gourmet Market is just the right amount of Southern for this trip. Find delicacies like pimento cheese and saltines next to gourmet specialties like smoked turkey, basil aioli and provolone sandwiches. Moore’s has a quaint patio for outdoor dining, too. Other yummy options include Primo’s Cocina Mexicana, Swheat Market and The City Cellar Restaurant.

Helen, GA

Did you know you can escape to Germany without ever leaving the United States? In fact, you don’t even have to leave Georgia! Dubbed Georgia’s Alpine Village, this tiny Bavarian-inspired community rests in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, making it an ideal spot for a cool summer escape. Beyond quaint Bavarian buildings, you’ll find ample shopping and outdoor activities. Wunderbar!

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Pull out the lederhosen, it’s time to make a trip to Helen! Image: Alpine Helen White County Convention & Visitors Bureau

What to Do

Unicoi State Park: With Unicoi State Park immediately northeast of Helen, you can enjoy ample outdoor activities with your family. Hike 12 miles of trails or head to Anna Ruby Falls to see water cascading over drop-offs where two creeks merge. After your hike, dip your toes in Smith Lake, the perfect way to cool off.

Tubing: All summer long, and well into Georgia’s warm fall days, you’ll find kids and adults alike tubing. The Chattahoochee River flows through Helen and gets its start just a few miles north, making it an ideal size (and temperature) for fun water play. Tube rentals can be found just about anywhere within the city, but we especially love Cool River Tubing.

Wine tastings: This isn’t an activity for the under-21 crowd, but if you’re looking for a fun adult weekend trip, take a wine tour of the area. The Unicoi Wine Trail is a great place to get started (and there’s a festival in early June).

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There’s nothing better than tubing down the Chattahoochee on a hot summer’s day in Helen! Image: Cool River Tubing

Where to Eat

Take a break from the German theme and indulge in some Italian at Nacoochee Village Tavern and Pizzeria. Check out their daily specials, like $5 for a slice and soda on Wednesdays. Or satisfy those casual fine dining urges at Mully’s Nacoochee Grill or Paul’s Steakhouse, both great options.

We are lucky to have the opportunity to take such wonderful, varied, day trips from Atlanta to cool places throughout Georgia. Whenever and wherever you go, make sure to snap some great photos and share them with us on Instagram — @StyleBlueprint. Happy travels!

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