3 day trips from Atlanta to take right now

There’s plenty of fun in our own backyard

Dig your gemstones in LaGrange

If you’re yearning for a little time away from it all, you might want to consider getting upclose and personal with Mother Nature.

These short trips from Atlanta will not only give you a break from work and the ever-growing crowds intown, but also will cost you little — or nothing — to enjoy.

Rock City

If you’ve ever driven north on Interstate 75, you’ve seen those “See Rock City” billboards. Well, it’s time you actually did. Rock City is just a couple of hours north of Atlanta and only 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga.

Rock City is more than just rocks. In addition to geological splendor, you'll find botanical beauties. Rock City Gardens features more than 400 native species of plants and trees, with something blooming all year.

Entry is timed, and tickets cost $26.95 for adults and $16.95 for kids ages 3-12. Rock City is close enough that you might want to consider a season pass. The “Gem Membership” is $99 for adults and $79 for children, and includes unlimited visits without reservations, the ability to skip lines, as well as other discounts and perks. Four-legged family members are welcome too.

Diamond Hill Mine

There is a real hidden gem in Abbeville, South Carolina. Actually, there are lots of hidden gems — and you can dig them up.

Erosion has exposed a 3-acre spot full of a wide variety of quartz crystals. Diamond Hill says diggers have found amethyst, aura, beryl, garnet and epidote, among other minerals.

For just $20 for adults ($10 for teens 13-17 and for seniors over 65; $5 for children 6-12; free for children 5 and younger), you can dig for hours and take home all your treasures. You will have to bring your own tools, however.

Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve

This day trip is for the more adventurous and experienced among us, considering you’ll need to descend and ascend using rappelling rope if you want to truly experience the cave.

Don’t fret if you don’t know how to rappel, there is also a walk-in entrance that intersects the pit about 50 feet above the cave floor. But you will need to bring your own helmet, headlamps, and sturdy shoes or boots.

There is no charge for exploring, but you will need to get a permit at least 48 hours in advance. Learn more here.