Atlanta is a bustling metropolis with a variety of fun and educational attractions.
Atlanta is a bustling metropolis with a variety of fun and educational attractions. Diane Macdonald/Getty Images

There is no shortage of fun things to do in Atlanta. Explore Atlanta’s History Center and historic landmarks, or take a short drive out of the city limits to experience Stone Mountain Park, the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the Chattahoochee National Forest for excellent hiking. Here are 5 off-the-beaten-path adventures to put on your list while visiting in and around Atlanta.

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Connect with the Civil War

Atlanta History Center

You can hardly avoid the Civil War during a visit to Atlanta, which was the scene of much bloodshed as Union Gen. William Sherman pushed south in the summer of 1864 — and you won't want to when you see the Atlanta History Center's exhibit. The curators stress that the story is told from both sides of the conflict, and artifacts include a diary from a little girl who recounts her experience during Sherman's raid on the city, as well as compelling letters from war-weary Confederate and Union soldiers to their families.

But there's more to see in this beautiful setting: The center encompasses 33 acres in the Buckhead neighborhood of the city (known for its great shopping and restaurants) and offers an Olympic Games exhibit, historic gardens and the Smith Family Farm — an authentic plantation house with a dairy, blacksmith and garden staffed by costumed interpreters. The campus also includes one of the most-photographed landmarks in the city, the elegant Swan House mansion, which has daily tours and, sometimes, actors playing the part of the family chauffeur or maid.

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Margaret Mitchell House and Museum

Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind in this midtown apartment — part of a three-story building with wide porches that she called "the dump" (it couldn't quite compare with the grander homes of her wealthy upbringing). The best part of a visit here is the anecdotes offered by the tour guides about Mitchell's life and how the novel came to be (including how her husband suggested she sit down at the typewriter after she'd read nearly all the novels in the local library). You'll also see artifacts from the movie set, such as the massive portrait of Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) that hung above the fireplace and was the target of an angry Rhett Butler's brandy snifter. The house is part of the Atlanta History Center, whose main campus is a few miles away, so you can buy a ticket to cover both locations.