When you visit the Peach State, make sure to add a national park to your itinerary. Whether it’s a trip to the beach or a local historic site, there’s so much to discover in and around Georgia’s capital city.Less
Known simply as “M.L.” by his family, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s early years in Atlanta are preserved and honored at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Stop by the visitor center to pick up a map of the park, which includes the home in which he was born and lived until he was 12, Ebenezer Baptist Church where he worshipped and preached, and the King Center, where Dr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King are laid to rest.
This park, 90 miles west of Atlanta in Anniston, Alabama, tells the story of a small group of individuals who inspired a nation to fight against racial segregation. “Freedom Riders” set out in 1961 to challenge discriminatory state laws and local customs on buses and in bus stations. Throughout their journey, the Freedom Riders and their supporters were attacked. This park preserves sites associated with the Freedom Riders, including the site of a violent bus burning in the summer of 1961.
A couple hours north of Atlanta, near the Georgia-Tennessee border, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park preserves and commemorates the battlefields which in 1863, saw the “death knell of the Confederacy.” Hike or bike the park’s many trails, paddle through creeks within and along the park boundaries, or even go rock climbing at Sunset Rock or Eagles Nest. Make sure to catch a ranger-led tour of the site to learn more about the area’s history.
A few hours southwest of Atlanta, in Tuskegee, Alabama, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is the training site of the first-ever African American military pilots, known as the “Red Tails.” Nearly 1,000 African American pilots were trained here, and over 10,000 African American men and women worked at the site to support them. Visit the park’s two hangar museums to learn more about the daily life of the men and women who served here.
Just over two hours south of Atlanta, Andersonville National Historic Site serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout our nation’s history. The park’s 515 acres consists of a historic prison site, Camp Sumter as it was officially known, and the National Cemetery. Explore the National Prisoner of War Museum, then tour the historic site, one of the largest Confederate military prisons established during the Civil War, before reflecting at the Andersonville National Cemetery.
A couple hours south of Atlanta, Jimmy Carter National Historical Park preserves the places, landscapes, and rural southern culture – revolving around farming, church, and school – that influenced and shaped President Jimmy Carter. Visit the boyhood farm where Carter was raised, the high school from which he and Rosalynn Carter graduated, and the Plains Train Depot which served as the headquarters of his 1976 presidential campaign.
Half an hour north of Atlanta, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign. Opposing forces fought here in the summer of 1864, and over 67,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured during the Atlanta campaign. Take a drive to the top of Kennesaw Mountains to look over the battlefield, picnic or hike along 22 interpretive trails throughout the park, or join a weekend ranger talk to learn more about the battle itself.
A bit more of a drive from Atlanta, at least 5 hours to the coast, lies Cumberland Island National Seashore. Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, the park is full of pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes with a rich history. Take a hike, go for a bike ride, plan a long weekend of camping, go fishing, gaze at the stars, or just enjoy a day out at the beach. Make sure to allow time to get to the island via the passenger ferry!
About 90 miles southeast of Atlanta, Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is a prehistoric American Indian site. Various American Indian cultures occupied this land for thousands of years, and around 900 CE, during the Mississippian Period, people constructed burial and platform mounds for their elite. Explore the park’s seven mounds, including Earth Lodge, carbon dated to 1050, and enjoy eight miles of hiking available throughout the park.