File photo of The Holly Theatre in Dahlonega.
For those who want to expand their exploration of Atlanta to the perimeter and beyond, 10Best has compiled a list of can't miss things to do and places to see. Heading that list are Stone Mountain Park and Six Flags Over Georgia which are both among our favorites.
10 Callaway Gardens
Located a little more than an hour's drive southwest of Atlanta, Callaway Gardens is a stunning resort. It features a handful of high-end lodging choices, highly regarded Mountain and Lake View golf courses, a world-class tennis facility, a wide array of outdoor activities and plenty of dining possibilities. Of course, many visitors would argue that the resort's lovely gardens are its true attraction. Admission to the gardens allows access to a plethora of options, including Day Butterfly Center, Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, Sibley Horticultural Center, and numerous nature trails. (706-663-2281, 800-225-5292)
9 Roswell Ghost Tours
Be on the lookout for things spooky and scary on this easy walking tour. See some historical spots along the way. (770-649-9922)
8 Stone Mountain Park
This 3200-acre park surrounds the world's largest granite monolith — you can walk to the top or take a chairlift both ways. A park highlight (and its telltale feature) is a carving on the sheer rock mountainside that honors Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Impressive laser shows are presented during summer months along with special weekend events such as chili cook-offs and ribs festivals. Entry fee is cash only. (770-498-5690, 800-317-2006)
7 Six Flags Over Georgia
This great amusement park offers fun for the entire family. With more than 100 rides and shows, it provides enough distractions for a day or even a whole weekend. The Mind Bender, the world's first triple-loop roller coaster, is a main attraction. Visitors can also test their endurance on the Georgia Cyclone, one of the planet's most popular and top-rated wooden roller coasters. Family-oriented Looney Tunes USA offers rides and activities customized especially to the needs of little ones. Just west of Atlanta. (770-948-9290, 770-739-3400)
6 Lake Lanier Islands
This marvelous cluster of islands in the middle of Lake Lanier is home to Emerald Pointe Resort and Renaissance Pine Isle. Although Atlanta holds a wealth of opportunities, you may want to make the islands your headquarters for fun! Camping, hiking, boating and fishing are all available, along with golf and horseback riding. Lake Lanier Islands also features a busy waterpark, complete with Georgia's largest wave pool, waterslides galore and a mile-long, white-sand beach. (770-932-7233, 800-840-5253)
5 Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield
This site near Marietta is where the historic Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought. Over the course of two weeks in the summer of 1864, more than 67,000 men died, were wounded, or were captured during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. Ultimately, the victory went to the Confederates. Additionally, the site once belonged to the Cherokee Nation, which was forced into exile after making the "Trail of Tears." Today, hikers and bikers enjoy 17-plus miles of wooded trails and observe a variety of historical markers and monuments. Picnicking, horseback riding and bird-watching are also popular. (770-427-4686)
4 Chattahoochee Nature Center
This 127-acre reserve — a natural oasis amid Atlanta's ever-expanding urban landscape — features forest trails for hiking, a river boardwalk that traverses wetland areas, live animal exhibits, a wildlife rehabilitation clinic and educational programs for families, children and groups. Spend an entire afternoon exploring and enjoying all that the center offers. Be sure to allot time for must-dos like the Raptor Aviaries and a stroll around Beaver Pond. (770-992-2055)
Southern Appalachia's charm and culture are just an hour's drive from the heart of Atlanta. Quaint Dahlonega, located just off Highway 409, offers beautiful scenery, fresh air and good hikes. The town itself seems untouched by time thanks to brick walkways, lovely flower beds and friendly people. Locally-owned restaurants and shops offer a good feel for the North Georgia Mountains. In addition, the Crisson and Consolidated Gold Mines, 20 waterfalls, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and three wineries (Frogtown, Three Sisters and Wolf Mountain) give the town extra year-round appeal. For more information, contact the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center at 800-231-5543.
2 Château Élan Winery and Resort
Look just north of Atlanta for this little gem. A top choice for meetings or getaways that require the utmost in sophistication and elegance, Château Élan Winery and Resort has been entertaining visitors for almost 20 years. The winery offers tastings and tours while the resort delights guests with four golf courses, a tennis center, equestrian facilities, and seven excellent dining options. If you're staying overnight, the hotel has wonderful service, scenic beauty, creature comforts, and access to a full-service health spa. Themed guest rooms include the Gatsby and the Hi-Tech. (678-425-0900, 800-233-9463)
Home of the UGA "Dawgs," launch-pad for bands REM and Widespread Panic, college town par excellence — Athens certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of versatility. Platted around the venerable University of Georgia — whose alumni include former US Senator Phil Gramm and journalist Deborah Norville — the city is as much a draw as the campus is. Shop at its many eclectic boutiques, enjoy the rich array of nightclubs and live music hangouts on Broad Street and beyond, or just explore the surprisingly global (and compact) restaurant scene. You won't go away unhappy. Indeed, Athens is always in season. It's only an hour's drive northeast of Atlanta. For more information, contact the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-653-0603.