Ultimate List of Things to Do in Atlanta for Nature Lovers
There is no denying that Georgia is a beautiful state. From the Chattahoochee River to Stone Mountain, Atlantans are privy to a variety of terrain including rivers and creeks, mountains and even the forest. Following are some of the most breathtaking and family-friendly locations to experience nature in and around Atlanta.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Botanical Garden is an urban oasis in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, with 30-acres of lush, colorful gardens. Kids will delight in visiting the award-winning Children’s Garden, while garden aficionados will enjoy the innovative edible garden complete with outdoor demonstration kitchen. The Fuqua Conservatory houses important collections of tropical palms, conifers and the foremost collection of species orchids in the United States. In addition, the Garden offers many events and educational opportunities, which are listed on the website.
Located about an hour and a half from Atlanta proper, Callaway Gardens is definitely worth the trip. There is so much to see and experience you might not be able to do it all in a single day. Fortunately Callaway is a resort with full accommodations, making it easy to make a long weekend or vacation of your getaway. Callaway Gardens is housed on 2,500 acres of spectacular landscape including extensive gardens, wooded areas and more. Each season offers a different display of foliage and color for you to explore via hike, bike, car or even boat. There are tons of activities, events and unique educational opportunities afforded here. Just check the website to see all that Callaway has to offer those who love getting outdoors.
Chattahoochee Nature Center
Chattahoochee Nature Center is a 127-acre center dedicated to environmental education. In addition to the Discovery Center Museum and Nature Exchange with “hands-on, minds-on” exhibits focused on telling the story of the Chattahoochee River, CNC also offers up woodland trails for hiking, butterfly and native plant gardens and a river boardwalk. The center is excited to offer up two new attractions as well, a canopy walk and zip lining. Be sure to visit Chattahoochee Nature Center’s website to check out the ongoing offerings of fun and educational events for all ages.
Dunwoody Nature Center
Nestled among thick, lush foliage and majestic trees, the Dunwoody Nature Center provides tons of opportunities for families to explore and play in the great outdoors hidden practically in our backyards. Dunwoody Nature Center features lots of natural areas with places to jump, swing, teetertotter, splash, hike, play and more. Little kids will love discovering play structures tucked among the trees, and everyone can enjoy resting in a hammock shaded by the canopy nearby. Dunwoody Nature Center offers lots of fun programs for the whole family from night hikes and yoga, to fancy parties and campouts. Visit the website for more information.
Twenty-two miles of multi-use trail make up this loop linking 1,300 acres of public parks and literally joining neighborhoods together. There is so much to see and explore along the Atlanta BeltLine that it would never grow tiresome. Check out the website to download maps, get tips for best photo spots, view tour ideas and so much more. It’s an Atlanta must.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
More than just dinosaurs. Fernbank offers amazing exhibits for those who love them including “Giants of the Mesozoic,” featuring the largest dinos of all time and an opportunity to walk on floors made of limestone tiles that showcase fossils dating back 40,000 years. In addition to dinosaurs, families will love visiting highlights including a 900-gallon saltwater aquarium, children’s discovery rooms, a rose garden and a dining room that offers a view of a 65-acre hardwood forest. Kids will especially love NatureQuest, an entire wing dedicated just to them. NatureQuest offers live animal habitats, interactive, hands-on activities and learning stations, exploration of ecosystems found in kids’ own yards and so much more.
Hiking in Atlanta
When most folks think of Atlanta, they visualize a metropolitan city, home to the busiest airport in the world, world-class dining, major shopping, and hustle and bustle, but there are hidden gems tucked around the city that offer a selection of great day hikes for outdoor lovers. Check out the 10 best easy hikes in the Atlanta metro area.
Lake Lanier is about 50 miles north of Atlanta, and with 38,000 acres there is no shortage of outdoor adventure. The large lake offers tons of water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing as well as wake boarding and water skiing. Prefer to stay on dry land? There are more than 90 parks to hike, bike and explore. There is so much to do and see at Lake Lanier, you could spend every weekend for a year there and never see it all.
Morningside Nature Preserve
Morningside Nature Preserve is a hidden gem in Atlanta, located just seven miles from downtown, making it a great spot to get in a daily walk or jog. Or take your best four-legged friend for an adventure and stop by the “dog beach” for a little bit of play.
Noah’s Ark Sanctuary
Animal lovers of all ages won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Noah’s Ark, a 250-acre nonprofit animal sanctuary located just 30 miles from Downtown Atlanta in Locust Grove. The sanctuary provides rehabilitation and home to more than 1,500 animals including ranch/farm animals as well as exotic wild animals including the most notable residents, “BLT” — a bear, lion, tiger trio. Free self guided tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, where visitors may walk a one-mile loop to visit animals. More in-depth tours and opportunities are also available with prior arrangements. Amenities include a picnic area, playground, portable restrooms, concession trailer, Welcome Center and Animal Habitat Area. It is wise to call ahead when weather is questionable as visits and amenities are weather permitting.
Outdoor Date Day and Night Ideas
If you and your honey are outdoorsy types, you’ll love our picks for outdoor date day and night ideas in and around Atlanta.
Phinizy Center for Water Sciences
A little bit of a jaunt east from the city, Phinzy Center is a free swamp and nature park featuring 14 miles of trails for exploring and sightseeing the myriad of wildlife in the area including frogs, alligators, hawks, otters and maybe the occasional bobcat. Want a great learning experience? Sign up for a guided tour to get the most out of this 1,100-acre park.
Located just north of Downtown is a 200-acre green space in the form of Piedmont Park. Originally founded as a country residence outside of the city, Piedmont Park was surrounded by urban development but left as a park that joins several neighborhoods and plays host to numerous events, festivals and activities. Piedmont Park offers something for the whole family, from biking and jogging to playing on one of its excellent playgrounds or frolicking with Fido in one of its two dog parks. During the summer, visitors can cool off at the splash pad or take a dip in the community pool.
Located just 40 minutes from Downtown Atlanta, Serenbe is a gem for nature lovers, “crunchy” parents and outdoor activity buffs. Serenbe is a sustainable community of houses and businesses nestled inside acres of preserved forests and meadows in rural Chattahoochee Hill Country. With a 25-acre organic farm, seasonal farmers market, farm-to-table restaurants, horseback riding, hiking, spa, outdoor theater, festivals, shops and more, Serenbe offers something for everyone looking to beat the hustle and bustle of city life. While Serenbe is certainly close enough for day trips, it also offers weekend getaways or extended stays at the inns, making for a magical retreat from a hectic life.
Water Tubing, Kayaking and More on the Chattahoochee
“Shoot the Hooch” by rafting, tubing or floating down the Chattahoochee River. It’s just one of a plethora of activities available along the 48 miles of river in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Canoeing, paddleboarding, tubing, kayaking and more are all easily available for water lovers. If you prefer to stay a little dryer, check out one of these 7 must-do Chattahoochee River adventures.
Stone Mountain Park
A popular outdoor destination for Atlanta locals and visitors of all ages, Stone Mountain Park features 3.200 acres of natural beauty as well as a wide variety of family-friendly activities and attractions all year around. Camping, hiking, treetop excursions, fishing, golf, bicycling, boating and so much more are available to help keep active or boost your adrenaline by hopping on the Summit Skyride Tram. Stone Mountain Park offers a wide variety of festivals, attractions, history and more. Visit the website for events, ticket pricing, and “Stay and Play” packages.
Take a Trip with the Georgia Conservatory
Created to preserve the natural areas of Georgia, Georgia Conservancy offers many fund-raising and stewardship events to further its efforts. In addition, the conservancy hosts amazing trips into unique, natural locations. Trips may be to provide support to areas by working on conservancy projects or to enjoy the vast natural offerings of Georgia.
Unique Camping Options
Whether you are an avid camper or have never pitched a tent, the Atlanta area offers some fun and unique camping options for everyone in the family. From “glamping” in fully decked out tents at Lake Lanier to tamer options like sleeping next to a wall of fish at the Georgia Aquarium, check out our favorite picks for fun Atlanta camping.
Discover more of Atlanta’s green side with these outdoor activities.
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