Whether you’re short on vacation time or you just need a quick getaway for a bit of relaxation, there are plenty of exciting destinations close to home. Pack up the car, buckle up the kids, and head out on any one of these five day trips from Duluth, Georgia.

State Botanical Gardens of Georgia

Find inspiration in nature’s many wonders at the botanical gardens. Located about an hour east of Duluth in Athens, this lush, 313-acre park has something to offer everyone in the family. Meandering through the antique roses in the heritage garden is a terrific way to unwind. Put the little ones in a stroller and explore five miles of clearly marked nature trails, watch pollinators like butterflies and bees flit from bloom to bloom, and get to know native plants like dogwoods, magnolias, and azaleas.

Discover the children’s garden. This 2.5-acre wonderland encourages families to explore its hands-on plots, edible gardens, and investigate the worm habitat. There’s a canopy walk, observation decks, and an underground adventure area. Budding herbalists will love the medicinal plants growing in the living history exhibit. Benches are scattered around, plus there’s ample shade when you need a rest. 

The University of Georgia’s State Botanical Garden provides a family-friendly environment where children and parents can learn from nature. It’s a great place for a day of fun, especially during a seasonal family festival. Learn about exotic birds and reptiles in the spring or all about insects in the fall. The Heritage Days Fall Festival celebrates all things autumn with apple cider, leaf piles, and fort building. There are even summer camp programs for children ages 6 to 10.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Get off the beaten path with a train ride. An excursion on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a wonderful way to try something new. Just shy of two hours north in Blue Ridge, climb aboard a bright blue historic train from the 1905 depot. The engine pulls a line of open-air and climate-controlled rail cars on a 26-mile round trip through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Catch a glimpse of the scenic Toccoa River and enjoy breathtaking views along the way.

Once you arrive in Copperhill, Tennessee, you’ll have a chance to disembark and stretch your legs. Explore the town during this two-hour layover. Grab some lunch or go antiquing. The entire trip takes four hours and is an ideal way to sit back and reconnect with the family. Consider celebrating the next holiday aboard with a nostalgic journey. Purchase advanced tickets for a themed ride, such as Santa Express or the Easter Eggspress. 

Mercier Orchards

A mother and her toddler out picking apples in an orchard.

Image via Flickr by Tim & Selena Middleton

Leave the city in the rearview mirror for a day and pick your own apples. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge has been a popular destination for families since 1943. This 300-acre farm is nestled in North Georgia’s mountains and touts close to 50 types of apples. Wander the rolling hills and harvest Crimson Crisp, Ginger Gold, and Arkansas Black varieties.

Don’t forget to explore the giant country store. Housed in the green barn, this attraction sells gourmet baked goods like apple donuts and fresh, seasonal produce, including vegetables, peaches, and berries. Everyone in the family will want to sample its famous, scratch-made fried apple pies. Mercier Orchards also boasts an on-site winery and tasting room. Parents can sample up to eight hard ciders for a small fee, from sweet to dry to fruit-forward. 

Discovery Place Science

Make a new family tradition with a visit to Discovery Place Science in Charlotte, North Carolina. This museum is an exciting spot for everyone, from toddlers to grandparents. Located about 3 1/2 hours north of Duluth, kid-friendly attractions run the gamut here. Explore science and the natural world through extraordinary exhibits designed to engage all ages, such as the area’s only indoor rainforest.

Get to know frogs, build elaborate castles, and explore cool stuff like the world of physical phenomena. Investigate what it means to be human in the Explore More Me lab or delve into KidScience, where kids 0 to 7 can test, tinker, and play. Experience a larger-than-life IMAX film or catch a live performance with Science at the Stage. Take a guided tour of the aquarium or sign up for an event. Advanced reservations are required, and the cost of an annual family membership is $150.

The Nashville Zoo

Build lifelong memories with a family road trip to the Nashville Zoo. This Music City attraction is about four hours from Duluth and offers loads of kid-friendly activities. Meet 3,000 animal residents from all over the world, representing more than 350 different species. Go behind the scenes with a backstage tour. Your personal guide will teach you all about animal care, behavior, and conservation. These passes start at just $70 for members.

Check your watch, and don’t miss out on the flamingo walk. Every morning around 9:15 a.m., the zoo’s Chilean flamingo flock takes a stroll from the amphitheater to the gift shop. Take a spin on the carousel, enjoy a guided tour of the Grassmere Historic Home, then soar down the zipline. Climb, swing, and jump on the 66,000 square-foot jungle gym playground. It’s an ideal way for kids of all abilities to go wild at the zoo, including those kiddos in wheelchairs. 

Take a class while you’re visiting, like photography. This two-hour private lesson helps you capture amazing pictures of the animals, then grab a bite to eat at the Zoofari Cafe. It serves burgers, chicken tender baskets, and personal pizzas. General admission is $17 for parents and $13 for kids ages 2 to 12. Plan to pay $7 for parking too.

What are you waiting for? Use this list of day trips from Creme de la Creme of Duluth and discover the unexpected because sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. What’s your family’s favorite day trip? Drop us a note so we can add it to our list.