Best Things to Do Near Atlanta: Explore Atlanta's Metro Area

The full Atlanta experience doesn't stop at I-285. Here's an overview of the other parts of town you may find yourself visiting.
  • There's a lot more of ATL than you might think. (Photo: Paul Daniel)
    There's a lot more of ATL than you might think. (Photo: Paul Daniel)

Think outside the perimeter, y'all. Crucial parts of the Atlanta experience are situated just a few miles outside of town, in basically any direction. Here is a primer for visiting some of the nearby counties and districts of metro Atlanta.

Cobb County 

SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta are just a short drive from the city. (photo credit: @sdenisebelle)

SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta are just a short drive from the city. (photo credit: @sdenisebelle)

Just 10 minutes northwest of Atlanta, Cobb County is Atlanta’s sweet spot: culturally vibrant, refreshingly diverse, easily accessible and effortlessly hospitable. Connected to SunTrust Park, The Battery Atlanta is the ultimate entertainment experience. Bowl a turkey, go to a concert, eat like a champ and shop like a pro on Marietta Square, explore a multitude of museums, experience fantastic restaurants and nightlife, tour the local breweries, catch a show at a local theater and shop Marietta’s unique boutiques. Don’t forget to make a wish at the fountain in Glover Park and enjoy being at the center of it all. Beginning in Smyrna and stretching all the way to Alabama, the Silver Comet Trail, a 95-mile, non-motorized path, wends through the picturesque woods, meadows and streams.

Atlanta Airport District

Atlanta Porsche Experience Center Track

Porsche Experience Center is an absolute must-visit. (photo courtesy Porsche Experience Center) 

As up-and-coming as it is down-home, the ATL Airport District offers a chance to experience a unique blend of energy only found where forces of industry, technology, hospitality and history meet. With historic glamour and modern amenities, the Delta Flight Museum is a one-of-a-kind venue within a mile of the world’s busiest airport. At Porsche Experience Center, spend 90 minutes behind the wheel with a Porsche Drive Coach at your side. When not on the track, check out the simulator lab for the visual thrill of driving at some of the world’s greatest race tracks. Then, sit at a classic diner-style counter at Chick-fil-A Hapeville Dwarf House for a Chick-fil-A original chicken sandwich.

Sandy Springs

Minutes away from Atlanta, Sandy Springs is home to peaceful rivers, pristine parks and top dining establishments. The Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, located in the re-purposed Williams-Payne House, engages visitors with in-depth exhibits about historical, seasonal and current events with its anchor exhibit, "Sandy Springs: Land and People," along with changing galleries. Three of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area park sites are in Sandy Springs, giving residents and visitors countless opportunities to get outdoors. Fly fish, hike the trails or pack a picnic and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine in this natural oasis minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Dunwoody

Chef-driven, award-winning restaurants, premium shopping and modern hotels define Dunwoody. Perimeter Mall is not only a staple of shopping for the residents of Dunwoody and metro Atlanta but also a shopping destination for the entire region. Filled with department stores, specialty boutiques, designer-exclusive shops and more, Perimeter Mall's more than 200 retailers offer a vast variety of community favorites as well as world favorites. Dunwoody’s Spruill Center for the Arts, located in a historical farmhouse, is a pillar of Dunwody’s arts community and hosts creative workshops, as well as a gallery of rotating exhibits. See a real Native American teepee up close, take a stroll through the tree house then settle down for some rest and relaxation in the hammock garden at Dunwoody Nature Center.

Gwinnett County

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Gwinnett County

Doesn't look like Atlanta, does it? It's closer than you think.

You don’t need a time machine to go back to the Middle Ages. At Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Gwinnett County, visitors are catapulted front and center into the action of 10 centuries ago. As visitors savor their meals, knights courageously jostle, sword fight and demonstrate their equestrian skills. At Aurora Theatre, named "Best Theater in Metro Atlanta" by Creative Loafing, visitors can see everything from Broadway’s top plays and musicals to exciting new works of contemporary theater. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest Hindu temple in the United States, wows visitors with its walls of stone carved in India and is open to the public for tours.

DeKalb County

Stone Mountain Skyride

Walk or ride up Stone Mountain for the best views of Atlanta.

Neighboring Atlanta to the northeast, DeKalb County is home to Georgia’s No. 1 attraction, Stone Mountain Park, which sprawls throughout 3,200 acres. Visitors enjoy scenic train rides, camping, hiking, fireworks and the world’s largest laser light show. Take in the 60-mile view atop the 1,700-foot summit or get up-close to this granite giant on the Summit Skyride. Watch as history comes alive at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, one of the Southeast's best ancient art museums with collections of art objects from Egypt, Nubia, Greece and Rome to name a few. Go further in time at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Home to the largest dinosaur replicas, Atlanta's biggest movie screen and one of the largest assemblages of urban Piedmont forest in the United States, Fernbank engages guests through immersive programming and unmatched experiences that encourage a greater appreciation of our planet and its inhabitants.

Alpharetta

Alpharetta - PHOTO CREDIT Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce

Alpharetta is scenic and conveniently located. (photo courtesy Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce)

Alpharetta is perfectly positioned between the enchanting and adventurous North Georgia Mountains and the vibrant international city of Atlanta. Avalon is a luxury community infusing resort-level hospitality throughout a walkable community of shopping, dining, living and working. Catch a show at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre and let the musical waves overtake you in this beautiful park-like setting. One of Alpharetta’s most unique experiences can be found at the MiniMe Factory. Perfect for family outings, MiniMe’s revolutionary 3D printing technology gives visitors the chance to create mini figurines that are exact replicas of themselves.

Roswell

Roswell sits peacefully along the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Nature lovers, history buffs, art aficionados and foodies can follow their passion to Historic Roswell and indulge in all their favorite pastimes. Head down to Canton Street for a range of boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and sidewalk cafes all bustling with vitality along quaint historic store fronts. At Southern Trilogy – The South’s Only Trilogy of Historic House Museums -- learn the authentic story of the American South and explore Roswell’s role in the Civil War. Visit nearby Chattahoochee Nature Center, the oldest and largest nonprofit natural science center in the Southeast.

Douglasville

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Recognize Sweetwater Creek State Park? There's a reason for that.... (photo credit: James Duckworth)

Douglasville is a welcoming city with a friendly, small-town atmosphere and entertainment that emulates big-city fun. While the city continues to grow, Douglasville uniquely preserves its signature hometown feel. As much a mind-set as it is a resort, Foxhall Resort is a celebrated estate on 1,100 acres of sprawling Georgia countryside. A playground of luxe lodging, farm-to-table cuisine and year-round outdoor pursuits, Foxhall Resort is the destination of choice for family and friend getaways or quick day trips. Visit filming locations for your favorite TV shows or movies on the Douglas County Film Trail. Explore where Katniss and Gale walked in Sweetwater Creek State Park for the filming of “The Hunger Games” or where Jim Hopper investigated the paranormal of “Stranger Things” in downtown Douglasville.

Johns Creek

There is an undercurrent of electricity channeling through the streets of Johns Creek, a city that embodies a welcoming environment and celebrates achievement, cultural diversity, natural beauty, consummate artistry and the human spirit. Nicknamed “Foodie Paradise,” Johns Creek is a hub for the epicurean with an extraordinary variety of restaurants representing more than 25 countries within the city limits. After feasting on international cuisine, head over to Johns Creek Arts Center, the perfect small, intimate gallery for the casual art lover. Along the Johns Creek Veterans Memorial Walking trail, black granite monuments pay homage to veterans, beginning with World War I and including special monuments for Purple Heart Recipients, POW/MIAs and Women in Service.

Henry County

Located 30 minutes south of Downtown Atlanta, Henry County is home to unforgettable attractions and plenty of homegrown fun. Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit and steeped in history. Take a tour for a behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR Control, a suite, the garages and Victory Lane. For adrenaline junkies, Atlanta Motor Speedway offers the opportunity to get in the driver’s seat of one of the race cars. Get a new perspective of the city from an iconic aircraft of the Vietnam era flown by Vietnam War veterans at the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Museum. Visitors will be in good company at Noah’s Ark with more than 1,500 animals who call the animal sanctuary home. JailHouse Brewing Company was Georgia’s 4th microbrewery and gets its name from the building’s history. While the property hasn’t been an active jail in a long time, the brewery pays tribute to its history not only with its name but also in the décor and fun photo stations.

Peachtree City

In Peachtree City, located near the world’s busiest airport, no cars are required. Peachtree City is a community where Southern hospitality meets resort-style living, a town that invites visitors to learn how much better life can be at 15 mph on a golf cart. The Dixie Wing Museum is home to a complete collection of combat aircraft flown by all military services of the United States and selected aircraft of other nations. At Avenue Peachtree City, which features a unique outdoor shopping atmosphere, shoppers can enjoy beautiful artwork, a Central Park green space complete with a gazebo, patio dining and storefront parking.

Clayton County

Just 15 minutes south of Atlanta, Clayton County offers a wonderful respite with options ranging from outdoor activities to visual and performing arts venues. For history buffs, the National Archives at Atlanta is a research facility maintaining the historically significant records of federal agencies from the Southeast dating from 1716. Here, visitors can explore the documented narrative of the Southern experience. Continue to relive the historic South with a visit to the Road to Tara Museum to stroll among "Gone With the Wind" costume reproductions and original movie props.

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