We are in a really great location here in Atlanta. There are so many fabulous destinations all around us that are within driving distance that we can easily take great vacations on the cheap!
I was talking with a buyer today who is moving here from Ohio and we had this exact conversation so I thought I’d document some of those places for all y’all as well. (For those of you who don’t speak Southern, here’s the cheat sheet: you = just you, y’all = you and one or two others, and all y’all = lots of you!)
One thing to note: when I estimate the driving time, keep in mind that I have two kids. Therefore, we stop every couple of hours. If you don’t drink coffee or a Big Gulp while driving and get gas before you hit the freeway you could probably do these drives quicker than we do. So without further ado, here are my top 6 vacation destinations you can drive to from Atlanta.
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN – 3-4 hour drive north
This one breaks my heart because of the recent fires that destroyed so much of the area. I was there a few months ago and haven’t been since the fires so I hope they won’t lose too much tourist revenue. Goodness knows they really need it right now!
Pigeon Forge is like a G rated Las Vegas. It has a main strip loaded with places to play, only it’s all kid friendly! There are rides, go karts, games, zip lining, horseback riding, dinner shows that are all geared toward families, roller coasters, and tons of restaurants and shopping. Gatlinburg is right up the road, maybe a 10-20 minute drive. This reminds me of Park City, UT. Kind of has the feel of an old west mining town. More shopping and dining, not as many amusement park attractions, a little more sophisticated whereas Pigeon Forge is silly and fun.
And moonshine tasting! Oh my gosh, if you have never had moonshine it’s something you MUST do there. You belly up to the bar and they pour tons of free samples. Some of the flavors are peach, cherry, margarita, butterscotch, or mocha java. My personal favorite place is Ole Smokey. The people that pour in the tasting room are hilarious and keep the patrons laughing the whole time they’re educating us on what exactly moonshine is and why you won’t go blind drinking it. Be prepared to bring a few mason jars home with you though!
Savannah, GA – 4-5 hour drive southeast
Savannah is just stunning. It’s got Spanish moss dripping from the trees (which isn’t moss and it isn’t Spanish, but I digress) which is very ethereal looking, it has tons of artsy charm thanks to the Savannah College of Art and Design (aka SCAD) and over 20 different squares in the city itself. It’s right on the Savannah River with huge ships sailing through, and if you continue another half hour from downtown you’re at the beach on Tybee Island.
The Tybee Beach Bum Parade is one of the most fun things I’ve ever attended. It’s a parade where everyone on the floats has water guns and they squirt the spectators. The spectators all fight back! It’s so much fun and I’ve gone the last three years in a row. Soon to be four!
Savannah has a reputation for being somewhat haunted. There are lots of ghost tours you can take, cemetery tours, and restaurants that capitalize on their ghosts in residence. The buildings are very old and River Street is paved with cobblestones. You feel a bit like you’ve stepped back in time when you visit. The temperature is usually a good 15-20 degrees warmer than Atlanta too so even though it’s only 4-5 hours away it feels much more tropical.
You can spend the day at the beach, then enjoy a killer dinner at one of the millions of restaurants in the city, and party all night at one of the local hot spots. And you must try she-crab stew while you’re there! This is not negotiable. I’m telling you, just do it.
Chattanooga, TN – 1.5 hours north
Chattanooga is a cool little town that’s straight up I-75. It’s only 90 minutes from Canton. You can easily make it a day trip.
You can visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and have lunch, then ride on the train. I dare you NOT to have, “Pardon me, boy…” running through your head the entire time!
Orlando, FL – 7 hours south
This is a bit of a drive, but if you’re planning a Disney vacation it’s going to get real expensive real quick without adding plane tickets and a rental car to the mix. If you can handle the road trip you will save a bundle! Check out my post, The Newbie’s Guide to Disneyworld, if you’ve never been before. We are a military family and if you are fortunate enough to have a military ID you will get a KILLER deal on a hotel using the Armed Forces Vacation Club. There’s no cost to join but you have to show your military ID when you check in to the hotel.
Orlando has four Disney theme parks, Universal Studios, Sea World, and several other parks. The ocean is about an hour away if you go to Cocoa Beach for the day, and Cape Canaveral is about the same.
Nashville, TN – 4 hours northwest
Ok, I haven’t been to Nashville yet. But I’m dying to go! Since I haven’t been there I feel awkward telling you how great it is, so I’ll let this site do it instead: Things to do in Nashville.
Memphis, TN – 6 hours northwest
If you love Elvis like my husband loves Elvis, then you have to go if for no other reason than to go to Graceland. He loved it so much that after we went all the way through, he made us go through it a second time! And have a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Memphis has a zoo and plenty of BBQ joints. The trolley and horse drawn carriages are charming and make getting around the city lots of fun.
Beale St. is probably the most famous street in the city and that’s where a ton of blues clubs and restaurants are. We went to BB King’s one night and listened to great music while we had dinner. It’s now a national chain but this was the one that started it all.
If you have small kids, you should visit the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks. It’s a crack up! Each day at certain times a group of ducks is led down into the lobby so they can splash around in the fountain. My daughter was just enthralled when we saw them and I’m sure your kids will love it too.
So there you have it, folks! My top 6 vacation destinations you can drive to from Atlanta. I know there are many more, like Asheville, Raleigh, Charleston, and even New Orleans! But that’s another blog post. I feel a road trip in my future!