Memorial Day commemorates those who fought for the nation’s freedom. It also marks the unofficial start of summer. Celebrate the holiday by taking a weekend getaway in Georgia. From the Helen Bavarianfest in North Georgia to the Atlanta Jazz Festival and Caribbean Carnival, the Peach State provides something satisfying for everyone. Additionally, look forward to the Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament in Pine Mountain. As for accommodations, there are an abundance of Georgia vacation rentals to choose from. Take a look at the top Memorial Day weekend destinations in Georgia, and get ready to kick off your best summer yet.

1. Atlanta

atlanta aquarium

Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta, offers a full slate of activities throughout Memorial Day weekend, making it a top vacation destination. Music lovers flock to the Atlanta Jazz Festival in famed Piedmont Park. A tradition for more than 35 years, this free event features live performances by famous acts over the entire three-day period, and lots of food and art vendors. On Saturday, get a taste of the islands at the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival, with a colorful parade and downtown Festival Village for food and fun. There’s more excitement just east of downtown at the Old Fourth Ward Park Arts Festival, including a kids’ play area, a street market, live music, and food offerings. Don’t leave town without viewing the amazing underwater sights at the Georgia Aquarium, and treating everyone to dessert at Jakes Ice Cream or Queen of Cream.

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2. Stone Mountain

mountain bas-relief

East of Atlanta, the historic village of Stone Mountain celebrates Memorial Day the entire weekend. Visit Stone Mountain Park, and walk up the mountain trail to the summit, or ride the Summit Skyride, for a panoramic view of the Atlanta skyline west to Kennesaw Mountain. Plan a lakeside picnic lunch of cheesesteaks from Weeyums Philly Style, and “byte” sized cheesecakes from Pi-bytes, in flavors like Toasted Almond Joy, Cookies and Cream, and Turtle. In the evening, bring your lawn chairs or blankets and pick a spot on the park’s Great Lawn for the amazing laser show projected on the carved side of the mountain. Each night ends with a huge fireworks finale and a special salute to the military.

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3. Dacula

freemans mill park
Source: Flickr/Hans J E

Head to Dacula for the largest Memorial Day parade in Georgia, a rain-or-shine annual event since 1994. A few hours before the parade, run, walk, or watch the Dacula Memorial Day 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run. Everyone enjoys Freeman’s Mill Park nearby, with its original grist mill, waterfalls, and huge playground. Have classic fried green tomatoes, a Churro waffle, and fried chicken at The Brunch Apothecary, formerly a house, now a restaurant. For a buffet full of Mexican and non-Mexican dishes, try Fernando’s Mexican Restaurant.

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4. Marietta

marietta square park
Source: mariettasquare.com

Georgians know when you see the Big Chicken, you’re in Marietta, which hosts the Yaarab Shrine Circus in J. R. Miller Park throughout Memorial Day weekend. Don’t miss the hilarious Shrine clowns, daring trapeze artists, circus animals, and motorcycle riders, all under the Big Top. Your Midway Carnival ticket gives all-day access to the shows, dozens of attractions, rides, food, and beverages. On Monday, watch or run the Memorial Day 5k or 10k. Afterwards, have French toast and waffles at The Marietta Local, or a Kitchen Sink burger and sweet potato tots at Stockyard Burgers and Bones.

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5. Helen

alpine village in helen georgia

Nestled in the mountains of North Georgia, Helen looks like the Bavarian Alps, so celebrate Bavarianfest with locals and visitors. This annual family-oriented festival on Saturday evening of Memorial Day weekend features traditional dancing to a live oomph band, and German foods and beers. Start your day with corned beef hash, eggs, and fluffy made-from-scratch biscuits or pecan pancakes at The Meeting Place. Walk it off with a stroll through Alpine Village, see a demonstration at the Glassblowing Shop, and let the kids have an interactive shopping experience at Jolly’s Toys. Want more vigorous activity? Hike the trails and relish the area’s scenic waterfalls.

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6. Pine Mountain

callaway gardens pine mountain
Source: Flickr/Tony Crescibene

Spend Memorial Day weekend at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Family-friendly Callaway Gardens offers hiking trails, gorgeous displays of spring flowers, a beautiful beach, and water sports on Robin Lake. Let the children play in the kids’ zone, and take them to see more than 1,000 colorful butterflies in the Butterfly Center. Play 9 or 18 holes of golf on Callaway’s Lake View or Mountain View courses, and discuss that elusive hole-in-one over a meal and drinks at Champions Grille. Get a good seat for the thrilling annual Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament, and watch spectacular fireworks before returning to your Pine Mountain vacation rental. For excellent shrimp and grits, or burgers and onion rings, go to EatZ on The Corner.

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7. Valdosta

wild adventures park valdosta
Source: Flickr/My Photo Journeys

Valdosta, in South Georgia, commemorates the holiday with the yearly Memorial Day 5k on Monday, including runners, walkers, baby joggers, and dogs. Play 18-hole disc golf at Freedom Park, or take the family to Wild Adventures Theme Park, featuring rides, amusements, a zoo, and Splash Island Waterpark. Eat at the park’s Surfside Cafe or stop at Bubba Jax Crab Shack on the way home for Low Country Boil and fried gator tails while the kids eat chicken tenders.

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8. Austell

flying roller coaster at six flags over georgia
Source: Flickr/IIP Photo Archive

Spend Memorial Day weekend in Austell, at Six Flags Over Georgia, a popular theme park, and ride roller coasters like the Dahlonega Mine Train, and Batman: The Ride. Hurricane Harbor, the theme park’s waterpark, opens in May, with rides for kids and adults. Afterwards, dine in a family-friendly atmosphere at Giovanni’s Restaurant, serving authentic Italian pizza or lasagna. Dolly’s Farmhouse serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Southern-style.

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9. Decatur

historic decatur cemetery
Source: visitdecaturgeorgia.com

Art lovers visit the city of Decatur for its Annual Decatur Arts Festival during Memorial Day weekend. Stroll the downtown streets and see jugglers, musical performances, dancers, and shop at the artists’ market. Children’s activities keep your younger crowd happy at this free event. Have a fresh-ground burger and beer at Brick Store Pub, or enjoy an all-beef hot dog topped with pimento cheese and pork belly bits, and chug-a-lug a root beer at Doggy Dogg, before retiring to your Decatur vacation rental.

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