Georgia’s biggest cities all offer something for everyone throughout the seasons. History, nature, and culture combine seamlessly with bustling city centers full of restaurants, shops, offices, and homes.
Also known as “The Peach State” for those delicious fruits, Georgia had just over 10.7 million residents in 2020, making it the eighth most-populated U.S. state. Atlanta gets most of the attention as the state’s largest city, but there are plenty of other bustling destionations for your trip the Southeast.
Here are the ten biggest cities in Georgia, in order of the highest to lowest populations:
With over double the population of any other Georgian city, Atlanta is by far the most populated and most famous city in the state. According to the 2020 census, Georgia’s capital city had 498,722 residents, however there estimated to be 5 to 6 million living in the metropolitan area (including some of the following spots).
The history of Atlanta truly makes it the city it is today, and visitors can check out historic sights galore. Perhaps the most popular Atlanta historic site is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was an Atlanta native, and this unique museum/park includes the home where he was born.
Other notable historic sites in Atlanta include Centennial Olympic Park, Fox Theatre, and Oakland Cemetery. History buffs can learn more about the city’s past at the Atlanta History Center.
Atlanta also has many other museums and attractions that are not related to history. The World of Coca-Cola has interactive exhibits related to the founding and production of Coca-Cola, one of Atlanta’s most prominent products. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world, complete with frequent educational events and new exhibits.
After a long day spent enjoying Atlanta’s top attractions, be sure to take advantage of the city’s impressive food and drink scene. Georgia is famous for Southern foods like fried chicken and biscuits and gravy, but as a large and diverse metropolitan city, there is something to satisfy every taste in Atlanta.
This is another well known city in Georgia, with a population of 206,922 (2020 census). Located in the western part of the state, Columbus attracts visitors from all over to benefit from its top-notch outdoor and educational opportunities.
This city is rich in museums, one of which is sure to pique your interest. The Columbus Museum is the second-largest art museum in the state and features a mix of American art and regional history. The National Civil War Naval Museum showcases uniforms, equipment, and even ship remnants from naval forces during the U.S. Civil War. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is an entertaining space museum with NASA artifacts, interactive piloting exhibits, a theater, and more.
Outside of the city’s art museums, visitors can experience Columbus’s art scene through various performances. The Columbus Ballet, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and Columbus State University’s College of the Arts all put on frequent shows and events.
Ready to get outside after a day exploring museums? One of the best outdoor spaces in Columbus is the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. This 15-mile paved path on the banks of the Chattahoochee River is perfect for walking or biking. Other local favorites are the Columbus Botanical Garden, Flat-Rock Park, and Weracoba Park.
Next up is Augusta, a city on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. According to the 2020 census, 202,081 people lived in Augusta, making it a thriving community that also has access to the resources and attractions of two major southeastern states.
One of Augusta’s most prominent attractions is the Augusta National Golf Club. During the first full week of April each year, it hosts the Masters Golf Tournament. This sporting event is one of the four major competitions in men’s professional golf, and it typically draws in tens of thousands of attendees.
Visitors also enjoy checking out the Augusta Museum of History. This history center provides a window into the stories and culture of Augusta, from when the settlement was originally established by British General James Oglethorpe in the early 1700s, through being a notable site during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, to today.
Looking for a place to get outside and explore the outdoors? The Augusta Riverwalk is one of the city’s most popular public parks, located in downtown Augusta next to the Savannah River. Additionally, the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a complex that includes many wetland cells, trails, and ponds, as well as a visitor center and event space.
Best known for its southern charm and hospitality, seaside Savannah is another Georgian city located near the South Carolina border. The 2020 census recorded it as having a population of 147,780.
With antebellum architecture, horse-drawn carriages, and cobblestoned streets, Savannah is a popular vacation destination for families and friends looking for a vibrant coastal destination. It was founded in 1733 and was Georgia’s first colonial and state capital city. Want to explore the historic district and learn more? Hop on a trolley tour, one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Notable landmarks in Savannah include Forsyth Park, a lovely, 30-acre park in Savannah’s historic district, and Bonaventure Cemetery, a historic cemetery that offers tours and hosts weddings and other events. Additionally, The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, a Roman Catholic Cathedral located in Lafayette Square, is one of the city’s most prominent religious and historic sites.
Outside of these sites, many visitors also come to Savannah for the shops and restaurants. Broughton Street and Bull Street are two of the most popular areas to go shopping, and the many Southern comfort food restaurants and rooftop bars in the area are sure to keep you well-fed.
SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, also attracts many visitors and temporary residents. This well-respected arts university provides many performances, exhibitions, and other creative events for the Savannah community.
Athens is a big college town with about 127,315 residents (2020 census, home to the University of Georgia, as well as several notable historic sites. The town is beloved for lots of beautiful Antebellum architecture.
The University of Georgia (UGA) is a public research university based in Athens. It was the country’s first land-grant academic institution. This resulted in the city being named “Athens” after Athens, Greece, the center of classical learning. UGA’s annual undergraduate enrollment is approximately 30,000, and its athletic and artistic events, in particular, are widely felt throughout the Athens community.
The music, visual arts, and performing arts scenes in Athens are thriving, both within and outside of the university areas. Browse through the Georgia Museum of Art, watch local theater and symphony orchestra performances, and find the dozens of bulldog statues located around the city.
Athens is a part of Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, which guides visitors through some of the state’s historic Civil War cities and towns. Specific historic sites in Athens include the Tree That Owns Itself, Historic Downtown Athens, and the Louis H. Persley Historical Marker. The Athens Historic House Museum Association includes four historic homes built in the 1800s.
Sandy Springs, GA
Atlanta’s largest suburb by population is Sandy Springs. This city of 108,080 people, according to the 2020 census, is full of parks and other family-fun attractions just a 22-minute drive away from the state’s capital.
Despite being so close to such a busy hub of business and politics, Sandy Springs has many outdoor spaces perfect for getting active or relaxing. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Abernathy Greenway Park, and Morgan Falls Overlook Park offer a variety of hiking trails, playgrounds, and opportunities for water sports.
Sandy Springs also has a thriving arts community. Public art collections are spread throughout the city, and there are also many opportunities to enjoy performing arts shows. Act 3 Productions puts on black box theater musicals and dramas, and the City Springs Theatre Company primarily does musical theater performances.
Aside from all the parks and performances, Sandy Springs still has more attractions that the whole family will love. Test your teamwork with Mastermind Escape Games, turn and twirl at the Center Ice Arena, and get creative while painting pottery at Art and Soul Studio.
From holiday events to food festivals, the Sandy Springs community loves events and celebrations. Be sure to check out a list of happenings during your visit.
Another popular Atlanta suburb is Roswell, with 92,833 residents, as of the 2020 census. Enjoy the city’s strong community feel and countless things to do, as well as its close proximity to the state’s capital city.
Historic Downtown Roswell is packed with attractions. Browse the many shops and local boutiques, grab a coffee or a full meal, and attend a gallery opening all in the same area. Canton Street is known as a Georgia “Great Street” with several local bars, breweries, and restaurants that are popular among tourists and locals alike.
Another notable historic site and symbol of Roswell is the Roswell Mill. Located in Old Mill Park by Vickery Creek are ruins of the Roswell Manufacturing Company Mills, which were originally built in the mid-1800s and then burned by Union forces during the Civil War. Visitors can now see the mill’s ruins, as well as the waterfall that once powered it.
Outdoor lovers can also enjoy many other opportunities for recreation near the Chattahoochee River. Canoeing, ziplining, and hiking are just a few of the possible activities here. The Chattahoochee Nature Center provides exhibits and educational materials to help you make the most out of your visit.
Johns Creek, GA
Johns Creek is a northern suburb of Atlanta, located near Roswell and Alpharetta. Its 82,453 residents (2020 census) have made this a thriving area full of nature, arts and culture, and history.
The land that makes up Johns Creek was originally Cherokee territory. There were many trading posts along the Chattahoochee River, which attracted more and more people to the area, and Johns Creek became an official settlement in 1981. Today, Johns Creek frequently ranks as one of the country’s best cities to live in due to its educational institutions and other amenities.
One such resource is Johns Creek’s many outdoor spaces. Newtown Park and Ocee Park are two of the most popular parks in the city, which offer playgrounds, athletic fields, walking trails, and even outdoor event and performance spaces. The Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center is fun outdoor space. This 46-acre preserve has many nature trails, animal exhibits, and educational resources to learn more about the area’s rural heritage.
Arts and culture are also abundant in Johns Creek. For those interested in visual arts, Johns Creek Arts Center is the main art gallery in the city. Performance enthusiasts will enjoy a show from the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, the only fully-professional orchestra in the Atlanta area.
Warner Robins, GA
Warner Robins is Georgia’s official “International City”, known as a center for culture, history, and diversity. It’s located in Central Georgia, a bit under two hours East of Columbus, and had a population of 80,308 as of the 2020 census.
One of the best representations of Warner Robins’s internationality is its culinary scene. You can find Greek, Cuban, Korean, and, of course, classic Southern food, among other cuisines. Warner Robins also hosts a weekly farmers’ market, which has fresh produce and dishes from some of the local restaurants.
In 2019, Warner Robins was named the “Official Best Family Fun Destination in Georgia”, and for good reason. One major highlight is Rigby’s Water World and Entertainment Complex. It has over 20 slides and many other water activities, making it one of the largest water parks in Georgia, as well as an indoor section with an arcade, roller skating, and laser tag.
Alternatively, you and your family can swim at the Fountain Park public pool, attend a community theater show at Warner Robins Little Theater, or explore the Museum of Aviation.
Finally, just a quick 40-minute drive away north of Atlanta, Alpharetta is the state’s tenth-largest city. Its 65,818 residents (2020 census) benefit from both this historic city and the many opportunities and attractions within the rest of the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Whether you’re a shop-til-you-drop kind of person or just need to pick up a few things, head to Avalon for any of your shopping needs. This outdoor mall includes many popular national brands, as several restaurants, offices, and green spaces meant for community events.
Downtown Alpharetta District is the place to go for more local options. It’s home to many unique, locally-run boutiques, specialty shops, and restaurants. Downtown Alpharetta also hosts all sorts of events, including farmers’ markets, gallery openings, and holiday celebrations.
Alpharetta is full of charm and a great place to raise a family. Its schools are known for being some of the best in the state, and its many parks and trails provide the perfect backdrop for enjoying the outdoors.
Most notable of these outdoor spaces is Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway, a 9-mile paved path used for walking, jogging, biking, and roller skating. It connects seven different parks in the city and is a great place to get active or just enjoy nature.
Small, rural towns only represent a fraction of the “Empire State of the South“. Georgia’s several large cities are packed with museums and other attractions, as well as opportunities for shopping, dining, and recreation. Be sure to check out a variety of destinations during your next trip to the South!