Visit Henry County brought me to Georgia on a fully comped press trip to experience the area. From that, I have nine stops you have to make on your Atlanta road trip.
Growing up, I made the trek down I-75 through Atlanta countless times. We vacationed in Florida often, so my parents drove from Connecticut or Minnesota or Illinois to Florida just about every time.
On each Atlanta road trip, we may have stopped for a meal or for pecans, but we never took the time to explore the area. I really wish we had, as there’s so much to see!
A road trip is so much more enjoyable when you stop to enjoy the areas you pass through rather than just getting to your destination as fast as possible. After all, that’s why you drive instead of fly, right?
Find more great ideas for your next Atlanta road trip from Visit Henry County from restaurants to hotels and more.
Where is Henry County?
You can find Henry County just south of Atlanta. In fact, Henry County is less than 30 miles from the Atlanta airport, which makes this a great vacation option in itself if you want to hit all the places.
The county is right off many major highways, from I-75 to I-675 to US Route 41 and more. The Reeves Creek Trail also runs through it, perfect for bicycling and walking, as well.
In fact, if you’ve traveled through Atlanta, you’ve likely gone through Henry County. You did didn’t know what you were missing on your Atlanta road trip!
The county consists of four cities: Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove. All of them offer plenty to do and see, and definitely great places to eat.
9 Places to Stop on your Atlanta Road Trip
Take in races Atlanta Motor Speedway
If you follow racing at all, you probably know about the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. It’s the NASCAR race held at Atlanta Motor Speedway every March, an early season race.
But did you know about all the other events held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway? Whether you’re new to racing or you’ve been a fan forever, there’s plenty to enjoy.
On Thursday nights from the end of May through July, head over for the Thursday Thunder Legends Series where kids as young as 8 all the way through seniors race in Legends and Bandaleros on the quarter mile track.
Tickets cost just $5 for adults, with kids 5 and under free. And yes, parking is free, too. Don’t know much about racing? Find yourself a fan and sit nearby. You’ll quickly get up to speed on everything from how the race works to the latest gossip on the drivers.
On Friday nights, from early May to the end of August, head over for Friday Night Drags – drag racing up pit road. This also includes a car show, and anyone with a car and driver’s license can enter the car show or the drag races.
Tickets cost $10, with kids 5 and under free. To race or enter the car show, the entry fee is $20 (or $30 to do both). You’ve never had a Friday night like this on a road trip, have you?
Tour the Atlanta Motor Speedway
If you aren’t in town on a Thursday or Friday night, there’s still more fun at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The offer track tours Monday through Friday six times a day.
The tours last for an hour and take you behind the scenes where you don’t normally see. The majority of the tour takes place inside a van or in air conditioning, which makes this perfect for hot summer days.
The tour starts inside the concourse, where you learn about some of the history of racing and the heroes of the Atlanta Motor Speedway. From there, you go up to the suites and get to explore one of the massive suites where you can see the owner’s suite and hear about the setup.
The most exciting part, however, is the trip around the actual racetrack. You ride in the van (not a pace car or NASCAR vehicle) for three laps, going up in the turns where you can really feel the track’s pitch. Though you don’t approach the speed of the race cars, you still fly around the track.
Before the tour ends, you also get a drive by tour of the garage area and learn about what happens there all year long. End with a visit to Petty Garden, in honor of Richard Petty where you learn about his legacy, as well.
Make sure you call ahead to book your tour in advance to verify track availability. Book tours at (770) 707-7970. The tours cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and older, and $5 for children 6-12. Kids 5 and under are free.
Best of all for racing fans? You get 10% off in the gift shop with the tour.
U-Pick Fruits at Southern Belle Farm
Every time we drove through Georgia, we saw signs for U-pick fruits. I always begged to stop, and I regret that my family never made the detour to Southern Belle Farm in McDonough.
This farm has been open to the public since 2006. While it started with a corn maze in the fall, it now offers U-pick fruits ranging from strawberries to peaches to blackberries and more, depending on the season.
In addition, you can pay $10 for the Farm Admission that provides plenty of fun activities to get the road trip wiggles out in the spring. Kids are sure to love the jumping pillows, cow train, ball zone, and more.
There are chickens, donkeys, goats, horses, and more animals on site, as well, that you can explore. Come fall, there are even more activities, including pig races and hayrides. The cost in fall is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older and military (with ID), while kids 2 and under are free.
The farm includes a huge farm store, as well, with everything from ciders and jams in ever flavor you can imagine to fresh produce. The best part though? The fruit cobblers and ice cream. You can’t visit Southern Belle Farm and not order some of their made on the farm goodness!
Visit Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary
I have a love hate relationship with zoos. I’m fascinated by the animals I can’t see otherwise, but I hate seeing them in small cages or being taken advantage of.
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary is not a zoo. Instead, this 501(c)3 organization is a sanctuary for unwanted, abused, or neglected animals who need a home. Every animal in the sanctuary is sterilized so as to not breed more.
There is no fee to visit Noah’s Ark, but if you go, please donate. It costs $33,000 each month (that’s over $1,000 a day!) to feed and care for the 1,500+ animals in the sanctuary. Even if it’s just $5 or $10, that adds up fast.
The 250 acre compound is open from noon to 3 Tuesday through Saturday, to avoid overstimulating the animals housed there. You can come as early as 9am, however, and play on the playground or picnic on the benches.
If you can, visit on a Tuesday or Saturday. Those are feeding days, and the animals tend to be more active on those days!
When you first enter the sanctuary after you sign in at the reception building, head to the gazebo and keep walking. You’ll see the Motley Crew. This area is reserved for animals new to the sanctuary or those who don’t fit in with larger herds.
This is the only place where you can pet the animals that approach the fences. You can feed them grass or clover, but be sure to watch your fingers! The pig and goats were most hungry for attention during our visit.
If you want a more in depth tour that also gets you closer to the animals, book the WOW tour. For $75 per person, you receive a professionally guided tour that brings you inside the first set of fences and closer to the animals.
As the animals know many of the keepers who do the tours, they’re more likely to come to the fence and interact with chuffing from the tigers, and the like.
Because this is an entirely volunteer run organization (aside from four employees), you must book the tours at least 48 hours in advance to ensure availability. That means booking on a Thursday for the following Tuesday, since they’re not open Sunday or Monday.
Note: you must be 10 or older to do the WOW tour. The tours require a minimum of 2 people and maximum of 10 to run the 1 1/2 hour tour.
While we visited, we observed another amazing opportunity. A few of the animals love to paint with nontoxic paint, and the sanctuary does this as part of their enrichment. You can reserve Painting with Doc, one of the tigers at the sanctuary.
For $250, you get inside the fences to meet Doc, as well as his neighbors – a bear and a wolf. You choose the colors of the painting you wish, then the keeper slides the canvas into the habitat for Doc to play with and paint.
Up to three additional people can join to watch for $50 each, though they do not receive paintings. Everyone must be 12 or older (and an adult must be present) for this once in a lifetime experience. Want to book it? Email Tonya at Noah’s Ark to reserve your experience – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tour the Heritage Park Veteran’s Museum
Hands down the most moving part of our visit was the Heritage Park Veteran’s Museum. I have visited military museums in the past, but this is the first one that reduced me to tears.
Located in McDonough, Georgia, the museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. The museum is entirely volunteer run and charges no admission. Again, if you can donate to help the mission continue, please do!
The museum’s volunteers will give you a personalized tour throughout the rooms within the museum, telling you the history of each piece there. Their in depth knowledge, frankly, amazes me.
For example, this hat came from Vietnam where rice farmers would carve messages – indicating US troop locations and information – then walk past troops with no one the wiser. When they reached the Viet Cong, the hat went over a light or fire and the secret message appeared.
The tour lasts for approximately two hours. If, however, you prefer to explore on your own, you can absolutely do so with no hard feelings from the volunteers.
The stories are one thing that truly sets the Heritage Park Veteran’s Museum apart from other history and military museums. This focuses less on the conflict and more on the stories of the veterans, which is something that so often gets left out.
You can handle the items that are safe to do so. That means you can feel the texture of a parachute. Your guide will explain the different types of grenades, and you can hold them and examine them. It’s a great way to have history come to life.
The most moving room comes at the end. Soldiers in Georgia killed in active duty whose families approve have a photo on the wall. The volunteers know every story and every name. In that same room lies a POW/MIA table set with the traditional symbols. Included with this is a letter to be opened by the final soldier to return home.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most powerful experiences you can have. It is eye opening for kids and comforting to veterans. Don’t miss this.
Fly in a Restored Military Helicopter
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation may be a challenge to discover. Located just minutes from the Atlanta Motor Speedway, you follow a gravel road around the back of an industrial park until you reach the open hangar.
You will feel like you’ve gone the wrong way, but trust me. Keep going, and you’ll find it. It’s worth the hunt.
No surprise, there’s a lot of military history in Atlanta. Here you learn the history of army aviation. The foundation obtains, restores, and maintains historic aircraft from Vietnam to the present.
Again, there’s no cost to visit the heritage foundation and check out the aircraft they have in the hangar. If you call ahead, volunteers can provide a tour of the facility and the aircraft within. While you can come without any reservations, they prefer a heads up.
Many of the aircraft are in the process of being restored. The volunteers do all the work to bring them back to their original condition. You can see Hueys, Cobras, a Bird Dog, and more. Even better, you can climb in them in the hangar, if you choose.
In fact, you can actually take a ride in a Huey or a Cobra. While many of their rides take place at air shows across the country, they offer Ride Saturday one Saturday a month where you can fly in their helicopters.
In fact, if an Atlanta road trip isn’t on your immediate agenda, look up where they’ll appear at air shows near you for the same flying experience. It will be somewhat more expensive, as they have to cover the cost to get the helicopters to the air show, rentals, hotels for the volunteers, etc.
For the Huey, the cost is $85 per person, and up to ten people can ride at a time in the open air helicopter. Kids have to be 5, and under 16 cannot sit on the edge.
The Cobra rides cost more, as only one person can ride at a time. You must be 16 and ride in what was the gunner’s seat. For $350, you get an 8 minute tour, though there is an extended option with more maneuvers, as well.
You ride in a golf cart to the airfield where you get your safety briefing before boarding the helicopter. With the Huey, wear earplugs to minimize the noise.
Not many people have any motion sickness issues in the Huey, especially because it’s open air. Some people do with the Cobra, as it’s more maneuverable.
Both helicopters do flights that demonstrate how they would have flown in combat, less as a tour of the area like most helicopter rides. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and definitely something to try!
Explore The MLK Jr Trail
Much of Martin Luther King Jr’s history comes from Georgia, and the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail is a fantastic way to celebrate his legacy. You can find an important stop within Henry County, which makes it a fun way to break up your Atlanta road trip.
In Stockbridge, you find Floyd Chapel Baptist Church on a small country road. It’s been at this location since 1878, with the current church built in 1949.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. grew up in this church and preached his first sermon here, as well. You can worship at the church during Sunday services at 7:45 and 11am, in addition to exploring more of the trail.
Watch for Trains in Locust Grove
If you have a train lover in your family, you get how this is an occasion. When my kids were younger, they exclaimed over every train they saw.
Georgia has an extensive train network, and Henry County has trains rumbling through more than 40 times a day. Locust Grove capitalizes on the trains with a gorgeous platform where you can comfortably watch them roll past.
The platform has built in speakers, which allow you to listen to the train engineers as they communicate with each other. This is something I’ve never seen before.
Grab a bite to eat before or after you watch for the trains. Across the street, you find Lovin’ Oven Pizzeria where you can enjoy hand tossed pizza, amazing (huge) calzones, and more.
Indulge Your Love of The Walking Dead
I know I may be one of the few who has never seen The Walking Dead, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. Many movies and tv shows film in Georgia, and Henry County is no exception.
In downtown Hampton, you can see the stars in the sidewalk from various productions that filmed scenes there. Even better, you can take the Walkin’ DEAD Hampton tour that features 14 locations from scenes in Season 6.
The tours leaves from the Speakeasy Bookstore. They run each Saturday at 1pm and last for an hour for a cost of just $10. You hear behind the scenes information in addition to seeing the various locations with a knowledgeable tour guide.
Call 678-641-7794 to book your tour! If your Atlanta road trip doesn’t coincide with a Saturday, they offer private tours for groups of five or more, as well.