These destinations in Georgia show different sides of the South. From cosmopolitan thrills to coastal getaways, the following spots promise sweet travels. Take a carriage ride in Savannah or hit the trail in the mountains.
It’s hard to get bored in Atlanta. The capital of Georgia is home to historic attractions, incredible art museums, and myriad kid-friendly attractions. It’s also a great place for lovers of the great outdoors, with beautiful gardens right in the city center and more outdoor adventure close to town.
The largest aquarium in the U.S., this huge complex in downtown Atlanta is home to thousands of sea creatures from around the world representing hundreds of species. Residents include every-thing from bottlenose dolphins to beluga whales—visitors can even sign up to swim with manta rays inside the Ocean Voyager exhibit. Other highlights include a dolphin presentation, a 4D theater with moving seats, and even a virtual reality simulator that recreates the experience of being up close and personal with sharks and turtles.
A gorgeous green space in the heart of sprawling Atlanta, Piedmont Park is an excellent spot to get a taste of the great outdoors without having to leave town. Along with running/walking paths and expansive green areas, the park features picnic areas, barbecue grills, softball fields, volleyball courts, and a playground. In the southeastern part of the park sits a large lake that’s stocked with fish and features three fishing piers. Expect to see concerts and plays held right in the park if you come during the summer months.
Atlanta History Center
Spread across 33 acres, this large center features a variety of educational exhibits, gardens, and special programs. The focus here is on local history, with exhibits spanning subjects such as the Civil War, Southern folk art, Native History, and the Jim Crow era. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the surrounding gardens, which include an Asian garden, a rhododendron garden, and a wooded trail system.
World of Coca-Cola
Dedicated to Atlanta’s most recognizable export, the World of Coca-Cola gives visitors the chance to learn about the iconic bever-age and its myriad offshoots through a mix of exhibits and entertaining activities–you can get a character photo with the famous Coca-Cola polar bear (don’t worry, it’s a costume). Highlights include The Loft, which focuses on the drink’s history, the Vault of the Secret Formula where the legendary recipe is stored, and a bottling exhibit, with plenty of chances to sample Coke products as you go.
Sugar Coated Nuts
Enjoy a Southern snack that can be enjoyed any time of the day. Adapted from Woodall’s Campsite Cookbook.
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp water
- 1½ qts pecan halves
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
Mix sugar, cinnamon and salt together. Beat egg white and water until soft peak forms. Add nuts to egg white mixture and mix well. Add sugar mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
In the Heart of the Peach
At the southern fringes of the Appalachian Mountains at 1,050 feet, Atlanta straddles the Eastern Continental Divide, some five hours west of the Carolina-Georgia coastline. Long, hot, languid summers are the norm, with average temperatures in July of 80 degrees but frequently rising to 100 and over. Interstate 285 (also known as the Perimeter) encircles Atlanta for 60 miles and connects with three major interstate highways to Atlanta: Interstate 75, Interstate 20 and Interstate 85.
Some 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is Georgia’s most-visited attraction. A theme park and myriad outdoor pursuits complement the park’s centerpiece 1,686-foot granite-dome peak. Agile hikers can take the 1-mile trail to the top, but most visitors opt for the Summit Skyride cable car with breathtaking panoramas of the Appalachian Mountains. The Confederate Memorial Carving, at the base of the mountain, is the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture, standing 90 feet high and 190 feet wide.
Cut Loose in Hotlanta
While Atlanta has deep historical roots, it’s also a thoroughly modern town. The vibrant streets and gardens of “Hotlanta” — a nickname reflecting the city’s trendiness — are home to a dynamic array of cultural and recreational activities. In the downtown area, the famous Peachtree Street is home to the Peachtree Center, a bustling hive of restaurants, bars and attractions. Just 2 miles to the north, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta’s preeminent art museum, showcases American decorative arts, 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, Italian Renaissance paintings and sculpture, as well as world-class traveling exhibitions.
Columbus may be Georgia’s second-largest city, but this Southern belle happily flies under the radar, keeping its charms and historic sites proudly to itself. For travelers in the know, this town in western Georgia hosts world-class museums, gorgeous antebellum homes and a flourishing arts and culinary scene. Excellent walking, hiking and biking trails allow for close encounters with Georgia’s majestic landscapes. The Chattahoochee River forms the boundary between Georgia and Alabama and delivers prime on-the-water opportunities for residents of both states.
In Columbus’ entertainment district, Old Southern rituals of mint juleps and sultry jazz coexist nicely with the craft beer culture and a buzzing live music scene. The Loft is a perennial local favorite with fine food and an upstairs bar/lounge that hosts top regional musicians on Wednesday, Friday (jazz night) and Saturday nights. Columbus’ authentic culinary scene trades the hype and hip factor for down-home classics with deep flavors, served in a welcoming, soulful ambiance.
Columbus hosts the world’s longest urban whitewater rafting experience. The Chattahoochee Whitewater Park is a rafting course that has been rated as one of the top 12 human-made adventures in the world by USA Today. A dam-controlled release system allows local tour operators to operate tame, family-oriented floats as well as Class IV and V trips on the same 2.5-mile sections of the river. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are also popular on the more placid stretches.
Civil War history is a prominent feature of Columbus. Check out the salvaged wrecks of the ironclad CSS Jackson and the gunboat CSS Chattahoochee in the National Civil War Naval Museum, which recreates the days when steam-powered vessels fired cannon balls in hotly contested rivers, lakes and coastal areas. Or head to the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center to immerse yourself in over 240 years of US military history.
Named one of Southern Living magazine’s “Prettiest Small Towns” in 2017, Milledgeville served as capital of the antebellum South until 1868. Hop on a trolley to the downtown Museum District and take a guided tour of the Old Capitol Building, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Lockerly Arboretum and the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House. Lockerly Arboretum offers acres of amazing flowers and shrubs, while Lake Sinclair, with more than 500 miles of shoreline, is perfect for fishing or water sports.
The Heart of Camellia Country
Lockerly Arboretum features 50 acres with walking trails winding through gardens featuring flowers and plants from around the world. Savor flowering shrubs and various trees, including a section of a bald cypress that’s over 300 years old. This public garden is known for its extensive selection of camellias, as well as hardwood trees and ferns that grow throughout. A pond provides a place for quiet contemplation. The heart of the arboretum is Rose Hill, a 19th-century Greek Revival home that’s an outstanding example of Old Southern plantation architecture. Named after the abundance of Cherokee roses growing there, Rose Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dive-in for Aqueous Adventures
Whether you’re looking to navigate the Oconee River by kayak or simply enjoy the sounds of rushing water during a boardwalk stroll, the Oconee River Greenway provides a chance to relax, bird-watch and spend time with your favorite four-footed friend. Lake Sinclair is the ideal spot to enjoy a day on the water fishing for striped bass, crappie and largemouth bass. Rent a pontoon boat, grab some personal watercrafts or hop on a paddleboard for fun in the sun. Known as one of the cleanest lakes in the state, Lake Sinclair hosts a number of fishing tourneys annually.
North Georgia Mountains
Packed with tumbling waterfalls, romantic wineries and alluring mountain towns, the North Georgia Mountains prove that Georgia is so much more than sweet peaches and antebellum homes. Spend your days getting lost in the Southern Appalachians, reeling in trophy trout and panning for gold. Try to extend your trip into autumn if you can – the fall foliage here is something you have to see to believe.
Grape (and Apple) Escapes
Wine lovers, you’re in luck because this part of the Peach State has more than 30 wineries. Locals recommend starting your vino adventures at Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega. The award-winning producer specializes in European-style wines and operates the Vineyard Café, which serves gourmet meals alongside sweeping mountain views. Guided tours and tastings also give you the chance to witness the entire winemaking process from grape to glass. Other wineries you should add to your must-visit list include Tiger Mountain Vineyards, Frogtown Cellars and the Three Sisters Vineyard and Winery.
Gushing rivers and mountain lakes set the stage for epic angling, tubing and rafting. Go fly-fishing for big trout on the Soque or Chattahoochee rivers. You can nab trophy striped bass in Lake Nottely and various species of bream in Lake Rabun as well. On hot days, there’s no better way to cool off than with a refreshing float along the Chestatee River or a relaxing kayaking trip down the Tugaloo and Broad rivers. If you’re feeling daring, go ahead and battle wild rapids in Tallulah Gorge State Park and on the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River from April to November.
Head to Amicalola Falls State Park to see the tallest waterfall in the southern United States. The Amicalola Falls stands at a staggering 729 feet and are best viewed from the walkways and platforms near the base. The water bounces of rugged stone as it tumbles into the Etowah River Valley. The park contains ten trails with the most popular being the 8.5-mile Approach Trail. Follow this path to reach Springer Mountain, the southern end of the iconic Appalachian Trail.
Continue your outdoor pursuits in Tallulah Gorge State Park. If heights don’t scare you, walk along the Tallulah Gorge Suspension Bridge, which sways 80 feet over the canyon floor. Rim trails bring you to a handful of overlooks and there’s also a ten-mile-long mountain biking trail if you’re looking for a challenge.
Georgia’s former state capital is a charming Atlantic Coast city known for its gorgeous architecture, lush parks and excellent museums. Founded in 1733 by British colonists, this port city was an important center for cotton distribution until the Civil War, and many of its houses and municipal buildings date back to the 18th century. Some of the city’s popularity is due to the success of the book-turned-film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which was set in picturesque Savannah.
History on Display
The city’s star attraction is the Savannah Historic District, celebrated for its collection of 18th- and 19th-century architectural marvels in the Georgian and Greek revival, Gothic and Beaux Arts style. The city’s core was laid out in 22 squares, many of which harbor lush gardens open to the public. Some of the most popular spots include the Marshall House, which was built in 1851, making it one of the city’s oldest hotels. According to local lore, the structure just may be haunted. Other noteworthy sites include Johnson Square, the city’s oldest quadrangle, plus the 1873 Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which overlooks Lafayette Square.
Gump Sat Here
Spend time strolling through Chippewa Square, which dates to 1815 and centers on an equestrian statue of General James Oglethorpe, the British colonist who designed Savannah’s lauded city plan in the 1700s. If it looks familiar, it’s because the opening “park bench” scene of Forrest Gump (1994) was shot on the north side of the square. Here, the title character delivered his famous “box of chocolates” line.
On Columbia Square, Davenport House Museum (built in 1820) is a stunning Federal-style house. Less than a mile south, the resplendent 30-acre Forsyth Park, at the center of Savannah’s Historic District, features the much-photographed Forsyth Fountain and the 300-year-old Candler Oak Tree.
Garden of Good and Evil
One of Savannah’s biggest draws for many visitors is its association with “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” both the book and the movie. There’s no shortage of tours available to the most important sites mentioned in the true-crime story, which recounts a murder that occurred in the city in the 1980s. The Mercer Williams House is another hot spot; here visitors will find a gorgeous collection of centuries-old furniture, artwork and Chinese porcelain.
Savannah is famed for its superb seafood and soulful Southern restaurants. Every day is punctuated with easily adopted antebellum rituals: a civilized afternoon tea, a pre-dinner cocktail and an outrageous dessert platter. Without a doubt, in Savannah’s Historic District or along River Street, you’ll experience some of Georgia’s top eateries, ranging from super-fancy haute cuisine to cozy bistros, speakeasies and even gastro pubs.
Fort McAllister State Park
South of Downtown Savannah, historic Fort McAllister State Park sits on the banks of the Ogeechee River. Flanked by colossal live oaks and a marsh, the park’s namesake fortification was completed in 1862 and features imposing earthworks. The fort withstood seven attacks by naval bombardments before it was finally taken in 1864 in a bayonet charge that concluded General Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”
Isle of Hope
Within easy reach of Savannah, the Isle of Hope is a charming foray into rural antebellum life. A “living museum,” immaculately restored cottages and homes laced with Spanish moss date back to the town’s founding in 1840 as a summer retreat for Savannah’s elite. With its dazzling light, quaint streetscapes, scenic beauty and sweeping views of the Wilmington River, Bluff Drive has long been the inspiration of artists, filmmakers and writers.
The ruins of Wormsloe Plantation House can be accessed via the stunning Avenue of the Oaks, a 1.5-mile passageway of majestic live oaks (worth the trip in itself). Savannah’s oldest structure, the Wormsloe estate belonged to Noble Jones, one of Georgia’s preeminent colonial denizens and a representative to the Continental Congress. Visitors can stroll among the ruins and visit a small museum featuring artifacts unearthed at Wormsloe. An insightful audiovisual presentation sheds light on the founding of Georgia in 1733.
Take a deep breath. Do you smell the salt water? Can you feel the sun on your face? If you’re dreaming of the beach, it’s time to dust off those flip-flops, dig out the sunscreen and plan for some island time. The kids, grandkids and even your dogs are welcome in this beautiful beach town. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tybee Island.
Located 18 miles east of Savannah, Georgia, on U.S. Route 80, Tybee Island is known as Savannah’s Beach. It usually takes about a half-hour to drive there from Savannah’s historic district. As the name implies, Tybee Island is cut off from the mainland by the Savannah River to the north and the Bull River to the west. It is on the northern tip of Georgia’s barrier islands and once served as a strategic position for U.S. military forces guarding the entrance to the Port of Savannah. The beautiful beach town offers visitors 3 miles of warm beaches, year-round beach weather and sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean that will take your breath away.
Outdoors and Recreation
Tybee Island boasts a scenic trail that circles the island that you can walk or bike. If you brought your kayak, or need to rent one, you can paddle on some of Georgia’s most unspoiled waterways. Stand-up paddleboarding is another popular pastime. You can take your personal watercraft out on the Savannah River or just go for a swim. Maybe you want to do some deep-sea fishing or dolphin watching as well.
Tybee Island, which once served as a hunting ground for Native Americans, has been occupied by the Spanish, French, English, Confederate and Union troops. Even pirates have called Tybee Island home for a time. The area’s military past is preserved at Fort Pulaski National Monument, a coastal fortification overlooking the Savannah River that saw action during the Civil War. Today, visitors can explore the still-formidable brick walls of the well-preserved cannon positions.
Tybee Island serves up the entertainment. Every April, wine connoisseurs can sample some of the region’s finest wine and food pairings at the Tybee Wine Festival. Independence Day always brings the area’s best fireworks, and you won’t want to miss the annual Labor Day Beach Bash. In October, you can practice your best “arrrgh” to get ready for the annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest.
Tybee’s Guiding Lights
Tybee Island has two lighthouses that are sure to please lovers of nautical beacons. The Tybee Island Light Station and Museum is a stoic black-and-white tower that has guided mariners into the Savannah River for well over a century and still functions as a navigational aid.
Tybee Island Marine Science Center
At Tybee’s small but well-conceived science center, a series of exhibits present the flora and fauna indigenous to southern Georgia and reveals the fascinating dynamics between barrier islands. In addition to a tidal pool “Touch Tank” of marine invertebrates, and a small aquarium that provides sanctuary to injured fish and turtles, the star of the show is Ike, a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling.
For More Information
Georgia Department of Economic Development
Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau
Milledgeville-Baldwin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Explore Towns County
Visit Tybee Island