17 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Georgia
Georgia is a state of many contrasts, which makes it an especially appealing place to visit. The attractions that bring tourists to Georgia range from the stunning mountain landscapes and attractive natural features of North Georgia, such as Lookout Mountain and the Okefenokee Swamp, to the romantic squares of historic Savannah and the dazzling modern architecture of Atlanta.
There are fun things to do in Georgia for the whole family, whatever your interest. You'll find everything from beautiful beaches to one of the world's largest aquariums, and gracious antebellum homes and historic sites that illuminate life and events from prehistory to the late 20th-century struggle for civil rights.
Plan your visit to the "Peach State" with this list of the top attractions in Georgia.
1. Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta
The world's fourth largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium houses more than 100,000 aquatic animals in more than 10 million gallons of fresh and saltwater. While its sheer size may seem overwhelming, the exhibits are divided into various themes to make visits more focused and educational.
And it really is a big facility. Plan for at least a few hours. Highlights include Cold Water Quest, a fascinating exhibit that explores cold water life across the world's oceans. Make a point of looking for some of the more unusual creatures that hang out here, including Australian sea dragons and Japanese spider crabs.
Traveling with young 'uns? Kids are particularly enthralled by the "Under the Boardwalk" experience. Included with your admission, this thrilling show sees the facility's trainers interact with sociable California sea lions.
The largest exhibit is the 6.3-million-gallon Ocean Voyager. It houses whale sharks and manta rays among its thousands of fish and features a 100-foot-long acrylic tunnel for visitors to walk through, surrounded by swimming fish, all of which you can see close up and in stunning detail.
You'll also want to make time for the River Scout exhibit. This cool display of creatures includes albino alligators, piranhas, and emerald tree boas.
Address: 225 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Atlanta
2. Savannah Historic District
Savannah is, without question, one of the most charming cities in the South. Its lovely shaded squares surrounded by elegant old mansions and its cobblestoned streets lined by trees draped in feathery Spanish moss create one of the most romantic urban scenes of any city in the world.
The greatest pleasure of Savannah is strolling through the Historic District. An area of over three square miles, this district preserves the old city much as it appeared at the time of the Civil War.
The north end is bounded by the spectacular Savannah riverfront, and at the southern end is Forsyth Park. Although the entire district is known for its many beautiful parks and squares, Forsyth Park is the largest and is a good example of a well-designed mid-1800s Southern park.
Its landmark feature is a graceful fountain. Much photographed, this stunning edifice looks great from any angle, so be patient, walk around it, and sooner or later you'll find a spot for a great photo that's devoid of tourists. The park's walking paths are shaded by lovely old trees that drape over them, making them pleasant to wander even in the hotter months.
More than just historic scenery, the Historic District is also alive with art, culture, museums, and mansions to tour. It's also a great place to stop and enjoy an overnight stay.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Savannah
3. Atlanta Botanical Garden
Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden next to Piedmont Park comes as a bit of a surprise. This four-season attraction always has something in bloom, from its spring bulb display through the colorful autumn foliage, and at any time of year, its several indoor gardens transport you to the tropics.
The Fuqua Orchid Center with its rich displays of orchids of all shapes and colors is a must-visit, as is the High Elevation House which shows the astonishing variety of plants native to the Cloud Forests of the Andes. Here, exotic bromeliads, mosses, ferns, trailing vines, and miniature orchids surround a massive indoor waterfall, and more exotics thrive in the Tropical Rotunda.
Outside are an Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen, where fruits and vegetables are grown as landscape plants. The Rose Garden is at its height in late spring and again in late summer, and the Hydrangea Collection is one of the finest in the Southeast, as is the collection of water plants.
The Japanese Garden features a teahouse, waterfall, pond, bamboo, dwarf Japanese maples, and a Moon Gate that provides a photo-worthy frame for the beds of bright annuals outside.
Address: 1345 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, Georgia
4. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Named after the attractive tourist town in which it's based, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is one of the most-visited attractions in North Georgia. Operating from spring through late fall, this popular heritage railway takes you on a 26-mile stretch from Blue Ridge along the Toccoa River into the surrounding Appalachian Mountains.
It's a fun four-hour excursion that includes a return trip, plus two hours to explore the towns of McCaysville and Copperhill. Special seasonal excursions are offered in the fall, during Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Be sure to allocate time to explore downtown Blue Ridge, too. Fun things to do here include shopping and dining, as well as visiting notable attractions such as the Blue Ridge Arts Center and Fannin County Heritage Foundation.
Even if you don't take a ride on the scenic railway (but you should!), it's still fun watching the train trundle up and down the line that separates East- and West Nain Streets. Better still, see it while dining on the patio at Black Sheep Restaurant. The town's most popular fine-dining establishment, you'll need to book ahead to guarantee a table.
Address: 241 Depot Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia
5. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is an inspirational destination that includes the birthplace and grave of the famous civil rights leader it's named after. On an easy-to-follow self-guided tour of this two-block area, you can see the house where Dr. King was born, part of a restored block of modest homes.
Here, too, is the Ebenezer Baptist Church where a friendly volunteer guide will give you a fascinating description of the role this church played in the neighborhood. The Freedom Hall Complex includes exhibits, and volunteers at Fire Station No. 6 discuss this station's place in community life.
A word about traffic: you're in the heart of Atlanta, so it can be heavy during peak times, so try to avoid rush hour if you can. While parking is available on-site, it can fill up, especially in the summer months. A good alternative is to use the plentiful downtown parking and make the 20-minute walk to the site. This also means you can visit a few other attractions near downtown Atalanta, including the Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola Museum.
Address: 400 & 500 blocks of Auburn Avenue, NE, Atlanta, Georgia
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Atlanta
6. Explore Rock City on Lookout Mountain
Lookout Mountain, situated at the border between Georgia and the state of Tennessee, was the scene of a Civil War battle but is best known today for the nature park along its rocky ridge. Begun in 1932 and made famous by more than 900 barn signs in 19 states, the park features trails through a series of rock formations and across a swinging bridge to Lookout Point.
On exceptionally clear days, points in seven states are visible from the top of the sheer cliff. Alongside the winding trail through the formations are gardens, stone bridges, narrow passages between massive rock faces, art installations, a mushroom-shaped balancing rock, and other features.
Seasonal festivals and events include Christmas lights and a Halloween festival with a corn maze.
Address: 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
7. Augusta Canal Discovery Center
Set in Enterprise Mill, a former textile mill close to the city center, the Augusta Canal Discovery Center paints a fascinating picture of the South's industrial revolution. The sprawling complex features well-preserved red brick warehouses and factory buildings that now house exhibits and scale models portraying Augusta's development as a major industrial center and port.
Start your visit with the orientation film that places the whole experience in perspective. A café and gift shop are also located on the premises.
A great boat tour on the adjacent waterways is included with your admission and includes commentary from a professional guide. In addition to other historic sites such as the old Confederate Powder Works, you may even spot some local wildlife along the route.
If you prefer to take a boat ride, or perhaps even a different on-water offering without visiting the discovery center, you can. Patriot River Boat Tours is another reputable tour provider which also offers a fun sunset tour.
While in Augusta, be sure to include the city's superb Riverwalk project on your itinerary. This paved, level path follows the Savannah River before looping back through the city's downtown area and makes for a very pleasant stroll. This three-mile trail offers great views across the Savannah River toward South Carolina, and town planners have provided plenty of park benches along the way.
Address: Blome Ln, Augusta, Georgia
8. Hike through Chattahoochee National Forest
The legendary Appalachian Trail, the lifetime goal of dedicated long-distance hikers, begins in this vast National Forest in the North Georgia Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge range. The forest takes its name from the Chattahoochee River, whose headwaters begin here, and has over 450 miles of hiking and recreation trails.
Trails are suitable for all skill and experience levels and lead to park highlights including Anna Ruby Falls and Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. You can also drive to within 0.6 miles of the summit and follow a walking path to the viewing platform.
The forest's more than 2,200 miles of rivers and streams include about 1,367 miles of trout streams, so, in addition to hiking, fishing is one of the most popular things to do here. This is also a popular area for camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and picnicking.
9. World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta
The world's most popular soft drink was invented here in Atlanta in 1886 when a syrup created by Dr. John Pemberton to treat headaches was mixed with carbonic acid and water and served in Pemberton's pharmacy.
Today, the World of Coca-Cola uses colorful and entertaining exhibits to illustrate the drink's history and its development into the iconic drink now recognized all over the world. You'll find vintage posters and displays along with an astonishing variety of advertising and Coke logo items.
A highlight is the newest exhibit, Scent Discovery. This fascinating interactive exhibit lets you test your own sense of smell and the origins of various fragrances as it explores how the nose senses different aromas.
Address: 121 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia
10. Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta
Dedicated to the civil rights movement in the United States and more broadly to the struggle for human rights across the world, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is a dynamic and powerful experience that brings visitors face-to-face with one of the greatest social initiatives of recent history.
Your journey begins in the Civil Rights Movement gallery which portrays the fight for equality in the 1950s and 1960s, immersing you in the sights and sounds through interactive displays that bring to life the individuals who worked to overcome the Jim Crow laws and secure equal rights for all.
The Freedom Riders exhibit recreates the 1950s bus, with oral histories and a film made inside the bus. The Lunch Counter exhibit is perhaps the most moving. You'll find yourself sitting at a replica counter encountering the angry faces and listening with earphones to the voices of tormentors who threatened those who tried to eat at public lunch counters.
Other thought-provoking aspects of the museum you'll want to experience are the multimedia displays that bring the March on Washington alive through songs and speeches. Martyrs who lost their lives in the struggle for equal rights are also honored with their photos and stories, while the Human Rights Movement gallery connects the struggles for human rights throughout the world through interactive technology exploring fundamental rights and encouraging visitors to engage in the discussion.
Address: 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta, Georgia
11. The National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center, Columbus
When America wants to celebrate its military, it certainly doesn't pull any punches. Located just a short drive from downtown Columbus on the edge of the massive Fort Benning military base, the huge National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center features 190,000 square feet of space crammed full of fascinating exhibits and artifacts related to the men and women of the United States Army.
Highlights include displays relating to the army's early years right up to the modern day, with stops in between focusing on WWII and the Vietnam War. The focus is very much on the experiences of the soldiers tasked with fighting, with plenty of uniforms and weapons on display, as well as the machinery of war.
Other highlights include a large-screen movie theater, combat simulators, a parade ground, and original WWII-era buildings from Fort Benning. If you've got time, check out the Heritage Trail that circles the 155-acre site. Guided tours are available, and a gift shop and restaurant are located on-site.
Author's Tip: While a 15-minute drive away from Columbus, you can in fact reach the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center by bike from the downtown area via the 22-mile-long Chattahoochee RiverWalk.
Address: 1775 Legacy Way, Columbus, Georgia
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Columbus, GA
12. Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain
North of Columbus, on Pine Mountain, is a popular leisure center established by the industrialist Cason Callaway. Known as Calloway Gardens, here you can enjoy artificial lakes, gardens of magnolias and azaleas, and a butterfly house. Spreading across the garden's 2,500 acres are hiking and cycling trails, and Robin Lake has the world's largest man-made white-sand beach.
The lake, which hosts the annual Masters' Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament, offers a great opportunity to participate in water sports. Also on the grounds are two excellent golf courses and in December, Christmas at Calloway is the south's most spectacular display of Christmas lights.
Address: 17617 US-27, Pine Mountain, Georgia
13. Stone Mountain Park
The 863-foot-high granite outcrop of Stone Mountain is almost completely bare of trees or plant life, its bald dome standing out prominently from the surrounding land. Into the sheer eastern side, a large relief of three Confederate leaders was carved between 1923 and 1970, a memorial that has caused considerable controversy in recent years.
A cable car ascends to the summit for sweeping views of the Atlanta skyline, only about 15 miles away. You can also climb to the top or follow one of the endurance courses through the treetops on suspended rope walks.
A 1940s locomotive carries passengers on a five-mile track around the park, and a land-and-water tour on a 1940s Army DUKW features local history. Other things to do include a restored antebellum plantation and a museum with Native American artifacts. Families like the petting zoo and the dinosaur park of 20 life-size prehistoric creatures that move and roar.
Address: 1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, Georgia
14. Chattahoochee RiverWalk, Columbus
Starting north of the city's downtown core and continuing for 22 miles as far south as Fort Benning, Chattahoochee RiverWalk is an excellent way to get in some sightseeing in Columbus. Along the way, you'll pass lovely green spaces, benches offering superb views over the Chattahoochee River, historic red-brick mills and warehouses, numerous dining options, and playgrounds for the kids.
It's also where you'll find some of the best places in Georgia for adventure sports like white water rafting. One of the most popular, RushSouth Whitewater Park, boasts one of the longest "in town" rapids in the US, all just steps away from River Walk.
As well as featuring adventures for beginners and seasoned rafters, the park also offers kayak excursions and tubing. There's also a thrilling zipline experience over the river and which ends in the neighboring state of Alabama. It's an experience that's almost as thrilling for onlookers as there are plenty of spots to observe these brave zipliners heading off on their cross-river adventure.
And when you're done with all that action, Uptown Columbus is just steps away and features plenty of great dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities. If you're a donut fan you'll want to make sure Veri Best Donuts is on your list of must-tries. They've been baking these tasty treats since 1954.
15. The University of Georgia, Athens
You don't have to try too hard to find the University of Georgia (UGA) when in Athens. Evidence of this huge, sprawling campus is everywhere, including the streams of youthful students walking to and from the university. You'll see evidence of the university in the downtown core, too, where the original campus started life back in 1785.
Today the sprawling campus covers 767 acres and is fun to explore on foot. Start your self-guided tour at the informative UGA Visitors Center. Pleasant paths and trails head off in many directions, so be prepared to get lost. But honestly, it's so nice a campus, getting lost is part of the fun.
Along the way, you'll encounter lush green spaces and nature preserves, elegant old red-brick homes and college buildings, and important modern attractions like the Georgia Museum of Art.
Address: 405 College Station Road, Athens, Georgia
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Athens, GA
16. Okefenokee Swamp
The Okefenokee Swamp, known to the Indians as the "Land of the Quaking Earth," is an area of swampland in southern Georgia covering more than 770 square miles.
It is a maze of watercourses, cypress swamps, and swamp grassland. Interesting features are the "floating islands," which quake underfoot but nevertheless support whole forests and in the past provided protection for Indian settlements.
The swamp is home to many endangered species, as well as an estimated 10,000 alligators. From the little town of Waycross there are boat trips into the swamp.
17. Swim and Play on Tybee Island
The small barrier Tybee Island near Savannah draws tourists to its more than three miles of wide, clean beaches backed by dunes and washed by gentle waves. Swimming and building sandcastles are only the beginning of the many fun things to do on Tybee Island.
You can take a boat excursion to see dolphins, learn to surf at North Beach, tour the wildlife-filled salt marsh estuaries of Little Tybee Island on a paddleboard, kayak around the tiny Cockspur Island Lighthouse, and climb to the top of historic Tybee Island Lighthouse for panoramic views of the island.
To add a bit of culture or history to your vacation, galley hop to find the work of local artists or visit Fort Screven's 19th-century gun batteries and the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum.
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Things to Do in Georgia: Besides romantic antebellum Savannah and the cultural attractions of Atlanta, the state offers plenty of places to visit for weekend getaways. And in the mountains and at its beaches, you'll find plenty of top-rated resorts in Georgia.
Where to Go Near Georgia: The state is also surrounded by other interesting places to explore: South of Georgia is Florida, with its glorious beaches. North of Georgia is South Carolina, with historic Charleston and the beautiful long sands of Myrtle Beach.