Georgia — Attractions
With lovely beaches along the Atlantic coast, endless rolling hills the northern corner of state, and plenty of charming towns in between, Georgia’s attractions are the full package. Visitors with a car can really discover the nooks and crannies, from historic towns to isolated beaches or hiking trails. Visit Savannah or Madison to step back into pre-Civil War times or hit the amusement park rides at Summer Waves on Jekyll Island.
A string of beautiful barrier islands along the coast of Georgia, the Golden Isles have been a popular beach trip for generations located just south of Savannah. The natural sanctuaries on Cumberland Island National Seashore, just down the road from tourist-happy Jekyll Island and its attractions like Summer Waves Water Park, have been charming visitors since the 1880’s. Four golf courses, 20 miles of paved bike paths, and a cool dolphin tour make this island the best of the bunch for families, as well as couples. St Simons is another popular getaway, while historic Brunswick is where much of the area’s heritage is on display.
Address: Golden Isles, eastern coast
Georgia’s urban metropolis, Atlanta, is many things to many people. The hometown of Gone with the Wind has grown up and modernized, with three professional sports teams, cultural attractions like the High Museum of Art, and the bohemian Little Five Points neighborhood. Downtown has a cluster of attractions within walking distance like the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Studios, the World of Coca Cola, and Centennial Olympic Park. Two enormous farmers’ markets, the trendy neighborhood of Virginia-Highland, and Piedmont Public Park are other highlights in this vibrant southern city. Fun nightlife, awesome dining, and plenty of cool shopping round out the experience of ATL.
Address: central Georgia
You won’t want to leave Georgia without spending a day or two in Savannah. It’s like stepping back into the Antebellum South of the 1800’s. The historic district is the largest in America, with period mansions lining the streets where massive oaks drip with Spanish moss. Downtown’s Johnson Square is a good place to enjoy an evening concert, while River Street is where to shop ‘til you drop. Stroll along the River Walk which outlines the Savannah River for a nice perspective on this important historic city or better yet, see it on the water from the Savannah River Queen. Bonaventura Cemetery is simply magical, and plenty of organized walking tours will show you the underside of this southern gem.
Address: eastern Georgia
An undeniable allure to Georgia is its incredible amount of pre-Civil War towns and their architecture. The state has created the Antebellum Trail to help you save time and hit all the historic settlements in one shot. Just 100 miles east of Atlanta by car takes you back through time to enjoy the few remaining neoclassic plantations General Sherman didn’t burn down during his infamous march of the South. Milledgeville, Madison, and Athens are just some of the stars on this cool driving route. Plan a day in each town to really soak in the unique ambiance found nowhere else in America.
Address: Southcentral Georgia
Chattahoochee National Forest
Both an incredibly scenic driving loop and one of Georgia’s top natural attractions, this national forest is best enjoyed by renting a car and planning a day (or two) leisurely cruising US Route 76. Running from Ellijay through Blairsville and onward to Clayton, the drive is pure scenery all the way, with an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1920’s when the federal government bought this region and the Blue Ridge Mountains to protect it. Though primarily a forest, there are a few traditional towns near the Chattahoochee that retain the nearly extinct Appalachian mountain culture. Few other locations in Georgia offer this mix of culture, small town ambiance, and outdoor recreation in one spot.
Address: North Georgia
The anchor of the southwest is the historic town of Macon, a real gem that comes alive every spring when the March Cherry Blossom Festival lures thousands of people to this corner of the state. Cotton made this region rich, and many antebellum homes avoided Sherman’s torch. Warm Springs and Callaway Gardens are also in the area, with more history and some lovely inns to spend a night or two. But Macon is the star, with 170,000 cherry trees, wide boulevards, and stately mansions, rivaled only by Savannah for its pre-war architecture. The Grand Opera House, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame are other must-see Macon destinations.
Address: Southwestern Georgia
Only an hour or two north of Atlanta by car, North Georgia is a marvelous area of underappreciated nature and historic sites. The state’s highest peak is here, acres of national forest are open for hiking, and many mountain lakes are ideal for canoeing and fishing. Limestone caverns, sheer granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and mesa-topped mountains are common fodder in this corner of the state. It’s an outdoor adventurer’s playground with plenty of history mixed in. Remnants of the Civil War and preserved traditions of Appalachian heritage add to the magic of the region. Dahlonega is the main hub, offering easy access to highlights like Unicoi, Vogel, and Amicalola Falls.
Address: North Georgia