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?Day trip' options are hours away

By Ed Brock

From roller coasters to motorcycle tours, Clayton County is surrounded by adventures.

Some people know exactly where they want to go.

"I like Six Flags (Over Georgia amusement park), the library and Six Flags Whitewater," said Darrius Shannon of Riverdale.

For others, like Charlene Wilkerson of Stockbridge, trips to places like the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga aren't always easy to accomplish.

"We've had intentions of going but we've never gotten around to it," Wilkerson said.

At the AAA Auto Club South office on Mt. Zion Road in Morrow, Six Flags and the Tennessee Aquarium are two of the more popular destinations recommended to members, said Joyce Thompson, assistant division manager. Other locations in AAA's "Trips on a Tankful" list are Stone Mountain, the town of Helen in north Georgia and Wild Adventures in Valdosta.

"It's a water park and a theme park rolled into one," Thompson said of the last location.

For members AAA arranges discount tickets, maps and driving directions, Thompson said. Memberships start at $60 a person for the first year and $46 annually to renew the membership in subsequent years. The Morrow office can be reached at (770) 961-8085.

Sitting off Exit 13 on I-75, Wild Adventures includes over 100 rides, a "safari train" tour of more than 500 wild animals in natural environments and shows and events. For ticket information on the park call (229) 219-7080.

Located an hour away off Exit 39B on I-285, Stone Mountain Park features the Crossroads replica of an 1870 Western town, a fireworks and laser show at the gigantic bas relief of Confederate leaders carved into the side of the world's largest exposed piece of granite and more. A new attraction at the park this year is "The Ducks" tour of the park and Stone Mountain Lake on vintage amphibious vehicles. Call 1-800-317-2006 for more information.

The town of Helen is a recreation of a Bavarian village in the north Georgia mountains. For directions and lodging information call 1-800-858-8027.

Along with the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, roughly three hours away from Atlanta by car, is also home to attractions like Rock City, Ruby Falls and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

A little further afield, just south of Ashville, N.C., off I-26 is Chimney Rock Park. Unlike the parts of the Appalachian Mountain range in the rest of the state where the landscape is generally well vegetated, Chimney Rock is more rugged, with Chimney Rock itself looming over the rocky paths, narrow passes and waterfalls of Hickory Nut Gorge.

"What's so great about this park is that it's 1,000 acres and it's been owned by the same family for 100 years and they've done a lot to make it accessible while still protecting it," said park spokeswoman Melinda Massey.

Call 1-800-277-9611 or go to www.chimneyrockpark.com for directions, ticket prices and more information.

The fun of some day trips can be in the getting there rather than just the scenery. Adventurers who are 25 years old and up with a valid motorcycle license and a year of experience riding heavy motorcycles might want to "Rent the Ride" from Harley Davidson of Atlanta.

A major credit card and a $2,000 security deposit is also required. Renting a Harley Davidson Dyna Glide or Softail Deuce appeals to people who simple prefer to rent rather than own or out-of-towners who fly in and rent the bikes to tour the area, said Brent Eberhardt, rental manager for Harley Davidson of Atlanta.

"A few people rent to decide what kind of Harley Davidson they want to buy," Eberhardt said.

Each rental motorcycle also comes with detachable windshields and back rests. And Eberhardt said none of the bikes have stock exhausts.

The following are some more day trip locations within a few hours drive of the Atlanta area.

Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain is 60 minutes south of Atlanta on I-85. It features lakes, woodlands, gardens and trails along with resort accommodations. Call 1-800-463-6990 or go to www.callawayonline.com for more information.

The "Ghost Talk, Ghost Walk" walking tour of Roswell includes stories of exorcisms and voodoo dolls along with tours of Founder's Cemetery and Roswell's Historic District for $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. For information call (770) 753-0037.

Tours of the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta are available daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tours include the exhibit area, the control room and newsroom and the Turner Store. Call (404) 827-2300 or go to www.cnn.com/studiotour to make reservations.

The "Genomic Revolution" special exhibition at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta explores the future of genetic research and presents a world in which parents choose their children's characteristics and where people can clone their favorite pets. The exhibit runs from June 12 to Jan. 2. For ticket prices and information on other exhibits at the museum call(404) 929-6300 or go to www.fernbank.edu/museum.