It’s not that long of a drive from Atlanta, GA to Birmingham, AL but there are plenty of fun sights to see along this stretch of I-20! During the 2-2.5 hour drive, there are many places to take a little detour and see what fantastic sites there are to see in this beautiful part of the country. You can spend some time in an interesting museum, or explore the natural beauty of a state park, or even get your fill of excitement at a world famous race track! We’ve put together a list of some of the must-see places along your southern road trip, so let’s get started.
121 Baker St. NW | Downtown Atlanta, GA | worldofcoca-cola.com/
Everyone loves the cool, refreshing taste of a Coke, but did you know there’s any entire museum dedicated to it? If you ever wondered how your favorite soda was made, the history behind its invention, or how they come up with those amazing ads, then this is your place! Conveniently located in Atlanta, this is one place you need to see before starting out on your road trip.
Tour through their museum and see how the advertising of Coca-Cola has changed throughout the decades. You might even find your favorite mascot among the many popular ads! Then you can move on to the Vault of the Secret Formula, which contains the actual recipe for this beloved beverage. Needless to say, it’s secured under lock and key! Moving on, you can observe the intricate process of actually bottling a Coke, which is quite interesting! Of course you’ll need to visit the gift shop as well, and pick up one of those lovable polar bears to take home as a momento.
275 Riverside Parkway | Austell, GA | sixflags.com/overgeorgia
If you just can’t seem to get enough of the thrill of amusement park rides, it’s definitely worth your while to stop off at Six Flags Over Georgia. Everyone knows that Six Flags is famous for their coasters and their water parks, and Six Flags Over Georgia does not disappoint! If you’re brave enough, you can ride the popular Batman ride, which flies so high into the air you’d think you were the Caped Crusader! Or try the Acrophobia, which as the name implies, means you’re going to be taken up 200 feet into the air and then, dropped! Not for the faint of heart. Another popular thrill ride is the Georgia Scorcher, where you’ll be whisked through 11 stories of steel loops and hills at incredible speeds.
Six Flags Over Georgia also has a fun water park, complete with a wave pool and twisting and turning pipe slides to ride until your heart’s content. Don’t forget about the top notch entertainment shows located throughout the park that include all your favorite Looney Tunes characters as well!
1750 Mt. Vernon Rd. | Lithia Springs, GA | gastateparks.org
This is a beautiful state park not far from bustling hub of Atlanta, and a welcomed respite from the commotion of the city. Sweetwater Creek State Park is full of bluffs offering amazing vistas of the natural beauty of Georgia, so make sure to take some pictures! One of the most interesting aspects of this park is that it houses the remains of a former textile mill, the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, that was burned down during the American Civil War. You can take guided tours to this ruin and learn all about its interesting history.
The park is full of native Georgia plants, including magnolias and azaleas, and the nearby creek that the mill once used is available for fishing. Paddle boards and boats are available for rental and you can take them out onto the 215 acre adjacent lake as well to get an even more spectacular view.
1818 Stockmar Rd. | Villa Rica, GA | pinemountaingoldmuseum.com
Pine Mountain is Georgia’s only gold museum and is dedicated to the area that once saw its own gold rush and operated one of the first gold stamp mills. You might not associate the gold rush with Georgia, but at one time there were over 500 working mines throughout Georgia from the 1830s-1840s, and many of the techniques used for mining and panning gold in the south were later used out west. You can learn all about the history of this once operational gold stamping mill by visiting their 4,800 ft. museum, complete with authentic artifacts!
While you’re here, you can even try your hand at panning for gold! There is also a fun train ride that goes around the property, and is definitely suitable for both kids and adults. When you’re through, take a walk through the beautiful woods and view the preserved gold stamp mill from 1858 as well as the grist and water wheel. Make sure to say hi to the farm animals as well!
800 Museum Dr. | Anniston, AL | exploreamag.org
As you make your way across the border into Alabama, it might be about time to get out and stretch your legs. When you do, stop off in the town of Anniston and take a couple of hours to explore their natural history museum. Here you can tour exhibits and learn all about how the state of Alabama looked millions of years ago. You can see fossils, rocks, and minerals that tell the story of why the land looks like it does today.
Then venture outside and take a walk on the nature trail that offers a gentle ¾ of a mile loop around the property where you can see oak, hickory, tulip, and sweetgum trees in abundance. Or head over to the wildlife garden and see if you can spot any of Alabama’s native wildlife! Another great thing about the Anniston Museum of Natural History is that it also offers visitors the chance to get a first hand look at birds of prey that have become injured and can no longer return to the wild. It’s a great way to learn something new about owls, hawks, and falcons!
3366 Speedway Blvd. | Lincoln, AL | talladegasuperspeedway.com
One of the most exciting speedways in NASCAR, Talladega Speedway is known for its huge tri-oval track, which is actually the longest NASCAR track, at 2.66 miles. This amazingly fast track plays host to some of the biggest NASCAR races including the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoor Truck Series. Tickets to these events are some of the most popular in the country, but luckily this racetrack can hold up to anywhere from 80,000-175,000 NASCAR fans.
If you happen to miss out on a race day, no worries, you can still visit the speedway and get your fill of speed! Sign up to take part in a NASCAR Racing Experience, where you’ll get to actually get behind the wheel of a race car and drive the speedway for yourself! There’s no guide to follow, so the track is all yours. If you’d rather just ride along, you can arrange for that too! One of the expert drivers will take you for some laps around the famous Talladega Speedway-- you can’t get much closer to the real thing than that!
520 16th St. N | Birmingham, AL | bcri.org
Once you arrive in Birmingham, you realize there is so much more to see than you may have first thought! One of the first places you should check out when you arrive in your destination is the Civil Rights Institute, which seeks to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement as a whole, as well as how Birmingham in particular played an important role. There are many exhibitions that thoughtfully put together the struggle for civil rights in the American south. Some of the highlights of this museum include a freedom rider bus and the door from the cell where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” You can guide yourself through the museum, which in addition to artifacts, has videos and footage of the actual events that took place in the city of Birmingham.
The institute is also across the the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church, which served as one of the headquarters of the movement, and the Kelly Ingram Park, where you can continue to learn about the civil rights struggle and how it at times turned violent. This is a great way to learn about a part of American history and see first hand how one city had an enormous impact on the rest of the country.
2150 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N | Uptown, Birmingham, AL | ashof.org
Another great way to get the full experience of Birmingham, AL is stop off at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The museum was created in order to honor all the athletes that have come out of the state of Alabama. The 33,000 square foot museum first opened in 1992, although the state had been inducting members to its hall of fame since 1969. The museum is home to over 6,000 pieces of sports memorabilia, from some of the best players in all kinds of sports. In order to be considered for induction, an athlete “must have been born in, or have a significant sports association, with the State of Alabama…[and they] should have brought fame and glory to the State by their sports exploits.”
Although that is a pretty high bar to cross, there are many athletes who are included such as Hank Aaron, Mia Hamm, Evander Holyfield, and Bear Bryant. The museum is set up by induction year, instead of by sport which makes it a little easier to see just how diverse Alabama athletes are. The section on Alabama University and Auburn football history is a must-see for anyone interested in this classic college football rivalry!
1701 Valley View Dr. | Birmingham, AL | visitvulcan.com
Perhaps the best way to fully see the beauty of Birmingham is to visit Vulcan Park. Here you can climb atop the observatory and see the panoramic views of this bustling city. The observatory and park sit atop Red Mountain, which is also home to the city’s beloved statue of Vulcan. This is the world’s largest cast iron statue, and was created by artist Guiseppe Moretti from local iron ore and cast in 1904. Since the 1930s, this statue has kept watch on the city of Birmingham, and is considered a symbol of its pride in its past. Vulcan was the Roman god of the forge, and Birmingham wanted something that would reflect its growing industrialization, which is why this particular statue was chosen.
The statue underwent significant repairs in the 1990s, which saw the statue’s restoration as well as the creation of the educational exhibits and surrounding park. You can walk around the park and take in the wonderful views as well as take a peek at the exhibits in the museum. It’s a fascinating way to see the Magic City from another perspective!
A road trip from Atlanta to Birmingham may be short on miles, but it is big on attractions! There are a lot of places to explore in this part of the southeast, so let us know if we missed some of yours. Where are your favorite places to visit between Atlanta and Birmingham? Let us know in the comments!