Experience the Culture
Georgia’s Antebellum Trail is steeped in tradition. The hundred-mile (161-kilometer) route meanders through the state’s heartland, connecting seven culturally rich communities from Athens south to Macon. Visit the Old Clinton Historic District (“The Town Time Forgot”); Watkinsville’s Eagle Tavern Museum (a former stagecoach stop); and other pre-Civil War sites. In Athens, tour the Georgia Museum of Art and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. In rural southwest Georgia, ride the vintage SAM Shortline excursion train into small towns like Cordele, “Watermelon Capital of the World” and host of June’s Watermelon Days Festival. Stop in Plains to visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.
Best Bets: Sample locally grown peanuts and watch the Peter Pan Peanut Butter Parade at October’s annual Georgia Peanut Festival in Sylvester. In coastalSavannah, see how many of the city’s 22 historic squares you can find on a walking or trolley tour. Visit in mid-March to watch the legendary Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a Southern institution since 1813.
Insider Tip: Dozens of historic homes in Macon’s InTown neighborhood are illuminated nightly for the Lights on Macon architectural tour.
Don’t Miss: Visit the Springer Opera House, a restored, 1871 Edwardian theater in downtown Columbus.
See the Cities
Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods are where you’ll find some of Georgia’s hippest retail and entertainment hot spots. The Eastside Trail, the first completed section of the pedestrian Atlanta BeltLine rail-to-trail project, connects five of these buzzing neighborhoods: Virginia-Highland, Midtown, Poncey-Highland, Old Fourth Ward, and Inman Park. Step off the trail to meander around Ponce City Market, opened in 2014 in a restored 1926 Sears department store and distribution center. The 2.1-million-square-foot area (billed as the largest brick structure in the South) houses a bustling Central Food Hall and a growing list of artisanal shops, such as Citizen Supply and Elk Head Clothing.
Best Bets: Browse the vinyl collection at Criminal Records and see some of the city’s wildest street art, including the ginormous skull outside the Vortex bar in Little Five Points, Atlanta’s original bohemian-hip neighborhood. West Midtown is a former industrial area reborn as an upscale retail and dining hub. Visit the neighborhood’s Westside Provisions District, home to luxury retailers, including American designer Billy Reid and foodie-favorite eateries like Yeah! Burger.
Insider Tip: Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Candler Park is as Mad Hatter-fanciful as its name implies. Paper umbrellas hang from the ceiling, pastries and teas are served on mismatched vintage china, and floor-to-ceiling shelves are stuffed with books. To guarantee a space at one of the shared tables, make reservations for High Tea.
Explore the Parks
Georgia’s 11 national parks offer outdoor adventure, seaside fun, and a healthy dose of history. Near metro Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area features fishing for trout, bass, catfish, and other species; cycling; and river rafting, kayaking, tubing, and motor boating. Book rental watercraft or guided trips through the Nantahala Outdoor Center. To the southeast on the Georgia coast is Cumberland Island National Seashore, accessible only by boat. Ride the ferry (reservations recommended) from St. Marys to explore Cumberland Island’s 18 miles (29 kilometers) of undeveloped beaches and 50 miles (80 kilometers) of hiking trails.
Best Bet: Book seats in advance for Cumberland Island’s Lands and Legacies Tour, about a 30-mile (48-kilometer) driving and walking tour featuring stops at historic sites such as the Georgian Revival Plum Orchard Mansion.
Insider Tip: The Andersonville National Historic Site pays homage to all American prisoners of war at the location of a Civil War POW camp. Time your visit to coincide with the Living History Weekend in March, when re-enactors portray Union prisoners, Confederate guards, and civilians. More than 45,000 soldiers were held here and about 13,000 died.
Don’t Miss: The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site pays tribute to America’s 39th president and his relationship to his hometown of Plains, Georgia.
Hear the Music
The roots of hip-hop, rock, gospel, country, and soul run deep in Georgia. Use the July-to-December ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series as a launching pad for your personal Peach State music tour. In Atlanta, check the Atlanta Music Guide to see who’s performing at popular venues such as the Music Room at Smith’s Olde Bar, Center Stage, and the historic Buckhead and Fox theaters. During the warmer months, attend an outdoor concert at Lakewood Amphitheater and Chastain Park. In Macon, visit The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House or “rock, roll, and stroll” through Macon music history on a guided walk with Rock Candy Tours.
Best Bet: Include a stop in Athens, home of the Morton Theatre, one of the oldest surviving African-American built, owned, and operated vaudeville theaters.
Insider Tip: Head to the Augusta Museum of History where “The Godfather of Soul” exhibit celebrates the life of Augusta native James Brown. At night, groove on at legendary locations such as The Soul Bar and Sky City.
Don’t Miss: The free Appalachian Jam sessions on Dahlonega’s Public Square happen on Saturdays from late April to early October.
It’s nicknamed the Peach State, but Georgia produces bounties of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In the North Georgia mountains, acres upon acres of vineyards grow grapes for visitor-friendly Georgia wineries such as Tiger Mountain Vineyards and Crane Creek Vineyards, which offers beautiful scenery, a tapas menu, and acoustic music on the tasting decks Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m. (reservations advised). Georgia is also the leading producer of pecans in the United States. Look for roadside stands from October to December, or visit a permanent produce market such as Mark’s Melon Patch in Dawson. Travel to Vidalia in Toombs County—one of 20 counties that grow sweet Vidalia onions—for the annual Vidalia Onion Festival in April. For peaches, go to Dickey Farms in Musella during the summer harvest season.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Insider Tip: Arguably the most famous homegrown Georgia product is Coca-Cola, invented by an Atlanta pharmacist in 1886. Learn about all things Coke at theWorld of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta. Visit the second-floor “Taste It!” exhibit area for free and unlimited samples of Coke products from around the world.
Georgia is a natural playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Head north to hike spectacular cascades like Panther Creek Falls. Similarly scenic is Amicalola Falls, which features seven cascades covering 729 feet (222 meters), making it the tallest waterfall in the state. Go south to get out on the water on a paddling trip at places like the Altamaha River, designated one of the 75 Last Great Places on Earth by the Nature Conservancy; the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, where you can get advice on exploring the area or a guided tour from Okefenokee Adventures; and Tybee Island, the place to try stand-up paddleboarding or sea kayaking with Sea Kayak Georgia.
Best Bet: Pedal the Silver Comet Trail, a paved cycling path on an old railroad bed, just 16 miles (26 kilometers) from Atlanta, covering 61.5 miles (99 kilometers) from Smyrna to the Alabama border. Bike rentals are available from Silver Comet Cycles in Mableton.
Insider Tip: At Tallulah Falls, a group of six waterfalls dives through the spectacular thousand-foot-deep (304-meter-deep) Tallulah Gorge. To get on the gorge floor, hikers need a permit; only a hundred permits a day are issued from the park’s Interpretative Center, so get there early.
Don’t Miss: Historic Banning Mills is an adventure sports hub where you can tackle the world’s longest (about 51,000 lineal feet, or 15,000 meters) zip line canopy tour and the world’s tallest (14-story) freestanding climbing wall.