The drive from Atlanta to Orlando is only a little over six hours—but, if you’re willing to tack on some time with a few detours, you can see a lot more than just two cities on your trip! This road trip will take you through eastern Georgia and down into northeastern Florida, hitting cities like Augusta, Savannah, Jacksonville, and Daytona Beach on the way. And with museums, landmarks, and other attractions to choose from, you won’t be short on things to do and see as you head south to Orlando.
The northernmost city on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail (a 100-mile string of historic Civil War towns), Athens is a place where history runs rampant but modernity is as lively as ever. Some of Athens’ biggest attractions include the Georgia Museum of Art, the Georgia Museum of Natural History, Morton Theatre, and the Church-Waddel-Brumby House Museum. The city is also home to the University of Georgia’s main campus, where you’ll find the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.
With education, diversity, and stewardship among its core values, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is more than just a pretty place to take a walk—it’s a respected institution that’s striving toward a brighter, environmentally-focused future. The garden has a number of collections and themed displays, including the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, the Heritage Garden, the International Garden, and the Hummingbird Trail. Parking and admission are both free, but the university asks that visitors who enjoy the garden make a small donation so that it can continue its work. (If you’re interested, you can also schedule a guided tour for a $5 per person.)
A little over two hours east of Atlanta, Augusta lies just west of the Georgia-South Carolina state border and is a fun place to stop as you drive through Georgia to Orlando. Among Augusta’s most notable attractions are the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, the Augusta Museum of History, the Imagination Station Children’s Museum, and Meadow Garden. As you can see, opportunities for cultural enrichment are abundant in Augusta, and if you’re an art enthusiast, then you don’t want to miss the Morris Museum of Art while you’re in town.
Founded in 1985, the Morris Museum was the first museum in the country to be dedicated to preserving showcasing art from the American South. From 19th-century portraits and Southern Impressionism to abstract and contemporary work from Southern artists, the Morris houses over 5,000 pieces in its permanent collection, and in addition to traditional paintings, it also includes photographs, folk art, and studio art glass. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that range in theme, and you can check its website to see what kinds of exhibitions it will have going on during your visit.
Savannah is about three-and-a-half hours southeast of Atlanta, and with breathtakingly beautiful parks, fascinating historic sites, and plenty of museums, it’s definitely a detour worth taking as you continue southbound toward Orlando. A few of the most popular places to go in Savannah are Forsyth Park, the Telfair Museum (the South’s first public art museum!), the Mercer-Williams House Museum, and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. One museum that you don’t want to pass up on, however, is the American Prohibition Museum in Downtown Savannah.
Savannah’s American Prohibition Museum is the country’s only museum that’s dedicated entirely to the passage, implementation, and effects of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, and after touring the exhibits, visitors that are 21 and over can even stop by an authentically styled speakeasy that serves up Prohibition Era cocktails.* (The speakeasy is open Wednesday through Saturday, and hours vary depending on the day.)
Brunswick, Georgia, is around four-and-a-half hours southeast of Atlanta and a little over three hours north of Orlando—which means that it’s the perfect halfway stopping point! A city where history can be found around every corner, Brunswick boasts a number of 19th-century buildings, many of which can be found in the city’s historic downtown (also known as Old Town Brunswick). Some of the most-visited spots in Brunswick include Mary Ross Waterfront Park, the Pinball Palace, and the Historic Ritz Theatre. Perhaps one of the most remarkable—and unusual—of the attractions that you’ll find in Brunswick, though, is Lover’s Oak, a sprawling oak tree that’s thought to date all the way back to the 12th century.
While the tree itself is undeniably stunning, the backstory surrounding definitely adds to the draw of visiting Lover’s Oak: Local lore insists that the tree once served a meeting place for Native American couples, hence the name “Lover’s Oak.” You can see the famed tree for yourself when you visit Historic Downtown Brunswick and go to the intersection at Albany Street and Prince Street.
Two-to-three hours north of Orlando, Jacksonville is one of Florida’s largest cities, making it a must-see when driving from Atlanta to Orlando. A few of Jacksonville’s top sights are the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Cummer Museum of Art, the Riverside Arts Market, and the Riverwalks (Jacksonville has two riverwalks! One of the north bank of the St. Johns River and one on the south bank). And speaking of the riverwalks, while you’re in Jacksonville, don’t forget to stop by the Museum of History & Science (MOSH), which is right on the Southbank Riverwalk.
MOSH isn’t your typical museum—many of its exhibits not only allow touching but they encourage it! And from health, nutrition, and energy sources to animals, local history, and native plants, the contents at MOSH are as versatile as they are engaging. In addition to its core exhibits, the museum also hosts traveling exhibits from different sponsors. MOSH also holds events quite frequently, so make sure you check the online calendar to see if anything is going on while you’re in town! (Admission to MOSH is $15 for adults and $12 for children ages 3 through 12, students, seniors, and military personnel.)
St. Augustine is about two hours north of Orlando, and it’s widely considered to be the oldest city in the country. And with beaches, coastal scenery, and an array of historical sites, St. Augustine is an ideal destination for just about any type of traveler. Some of the city’s best-known attractions include Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, and Potter’s Wax Museum. But, one thing you don’t want to miss when you’re in St. Augustine is the city’s Pirate & Treasure Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts.
Embark on an exploration through the Golden Age of Piracy when you visit St. Augustine’s National Historic Landmark District and head to the Pirate & Treasure Museum. Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum includes a 5,000-square-foot indoor facility, a 1,300-square-foot courtyard, and a 500-square-foot upper deck. Admission to the museum is $14.99 for adults, $12.99 for seniors, and $7.99 for children 5 to 12 years old, and you can purchase tickets online ahead of time. (Residents of St. Johns County can get tickets at a discounted price!)
Daytona Beach is about an hour north of Orlando, and though the city might have initially achieved widespread fame for high-speed automobile racing, Daytona Beach has much more to offer visitors than the Daytona International Speedway. A Florida beach town through and through, Daytona Beach is the perfect place to throw down a towel and soak up some of those legendary Sunshine State rays. But, don’t let the name fool you—there’s plenty else to do in Daytona besides hitting the “World’s Most Famous Beach”! Some other cool spots to check out are the Museum of Arts & Sciences, the Lilian Place Heritage Center, and the Southeast Museum of Photography. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, one place that you don’t want to miss in Daytona is the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, right on the edge of the Halifax River.
From boxed chocolates and malt balls to chocolate-covered pretzels and saltwater taffy, Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory has been whipping up gourmet chocolates and candies since 1925. And not only can you treat yourself to its goodies when you stop by the store, but you can also take a tour of the factory and see how the chocolate is made—for free! Each tour is about 20 minutes long, and you’ll get free samples at the end. If you have a group that’s more than 15 people, call ahead to let the store know that your coming. Otherwise, no reservations are needed! Tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.
With nearly 70 million people making their way to the City Beautiful every year, Orlando is one of Florida’s crown jewels when it comes to travel destinations. From theme parks and rides to outdoor recreation and museums, Orlando has just about every kind of attraction that you could ask for. And whether you target city hotspots or prefer more low-key hangouts, Orlando has something for everyone to enjoy. But why rush? Rather than driving straight through from Atlanta, turn your car ride to Orlando into a full-fledged road trip. The Peach State and the Sunshine State both have so much to offer that you won’t even mind taking the long way to Orlando!