Situated smack-dab in the middle of the South, Georgia offers plenty in the way of Southern charm. But beyond its mouthwatering comfort food and warm hospitality, the Peach State offers travelers tons of attractions to explore. Spend a trip to this Southern gem visiting a replica Bavarian village, traversing historic battlefields and sampling some of the tastiest hot dogs you can imagine. Read on to discover the top things to do in Georgia. (Note: Some tours and excursions may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions and parking reservation requirements. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)
Perhaps best known as the island where John F. Kennedy Jr. wed Carolyn Bessette in a secret ceremony, Cumberland Island boasts more than 17 miles of white sand beaches off the southeastern coast of mainland Georgia. Accessible only by ferry (reservations are recommended), the island offers a range of things to do, from tours of the former Carnegie family home and other deserted mansions to outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, swimming and fishing. Visitors also suggest biking as a good way to see the island. You can rent fat bikes, which are ideal for exploring the island’s sandy paths, from the Cumberland Island Ferry after arriving at the island’s Sea Camp Dock. If you’d like to stay overnight on the island, you can choose between a campsite and a room at the historic Greyfield Inn.
[See: Top Beach Camping Spots in the U.S.]
Callaway Resort & Gardens
No matter the time of year, there’s something to see at Callaway Gardens. Located about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta in Pine Mountain, this roughly 2,500-acre destination features gardens, hiking and bike trails, a large lake, a butterfly center (a visitor favorite) and more. During winter, locals and travelers alike visit to view the annual Fantasy in Lights display, explore a Christmas village, decorate cookies at Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and enjoy photo-ops with Santa, among other Christmas activities. Spring brings vibrant azalea blooms, while summer offers days at Robin Lake Beach, fireworks displays and fragrant magnolias. With fall comes colorful foliage, blooming chrysanthemums and the Hot Air Balloon Glow festival. Travelers can stay right on the property in the main lodge, a cottage or an upscale villa in the woods, though some past visitors cautioned that the lodge and cottages need an update.
Andersonville National Historic Site
History buffs won’t want to miss the Andersonville National Historic Site. Situated about 125 miles south of Atlanta in Andersonville, the site is home to the most well-known Civil War prison camp. Travelers can listen to an hourlong self-guided audio tour while driving through the property or explore parts of the nearly 27-acre site on foot. While there, take a walk through Andersonville National Cemetery, a final resting place for U.S. soldiers who died in combat dating back to 1864. Reviewers also recommend the National Prisoner of War Museum and say hiring a guide can be helpful if you want to learn more. Nearby lodging options include Best Western and Hampton Inn outposts in the small town of Americus; a wider variety of accommodations can be found about 60 miles northwest in Columbus.
Stone Mountain Park
The most-visited attraction in Georgia, Stone Mountain Park features a literal mountain made of stone engraved with Civil War figures. This 3,200-acre park also offers fun for visitors of all ages, including adventure courses, a laser show, a railroad, two golf courses and a Swiss cable car that takes travelers to the top of the mountain. Recent visitors said they loved the park’s views and history but warned that there are separate fees for entering the park and enjoying its various attractions. There are multiple choices for lodging within the park, including Stone Mountain Inn, the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort and a campground, but since Stone Mountain Park is only about 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, you can also opt to stay in the city and drive to the attraction.
[Read: The Best Camping Gear to Buy for Your Next Adventure.]
Centennial Olympic Park
Host of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Centennial Olympic Park is an iconic destination in downtown Atlanta. Travelers will find playgrounds, tons of green space, Fountain of Rings Plaza and numerous statues and commemorative markers across the park’s 22 acres. Recent visitors said the area is clean and safe, adding that there are plenty of places to sit down and even have a picnic. When you’ve finished exploring the grounds, head to the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Game-X (an entertainment and dining venue) or the SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel, all of which are within a half-mile of the park.
[See more of Atlanta: Things to Do | Tours | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos.]
The Georgia Aquarium sits across from Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. Visit to marvel at penguins, whale sharks, manta rays and other aquatic animals. Travelers can even get up close and personal with beluga whales for a unique photo-op. The aquarium has seven permanent galleries and a 4D theater that plays films about the ocean’s magnificent creatures. Previous visitors raved about this attraction and advised buying your tickets online in advance, reserving your place at its various shows when you arrive and allowing plenty of time for parking. To save some coin on this attraction, purchase an Atlanta CityPASS, which grants admission to five area attractions for one set price. Additionally, several hotels offer packages that include tickets to the aquarium, including Embassy Suites by Hilton Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park, Hilton Atlanta, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
Savannah is guaranteed to charm visitors with its quaint historic district (where you’ll find 30-acre Forsyth Park), mouthwatering restaurants, open-air City Market, 19th-century homes on cobblestone streets and Victorian-era Bonaventure Cemetery. Consider staying at Andaz Savannah in bustling Ellis Square or The Cotton Sail Hotel Savannah, Tapestry Collection by Hilton (a former cotton warehouse from the 1800s). Or, for a spookier experience, book a room at The Marshall House, a reportedly haunted Civil War hospital turned historic inn. Past visitors liked the property’s haunted atmosphere, adding that it’s not uncommon to see the lights turn on and off on their own.
[See more of Savannah: Things to Do | Tours | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos.]
World of Coca-Cola
Learn the history behind one of the world’s most beloved drinks at World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta. Inside, you’ll see the Coca-Cola bottling process and the vault where the secret drink recipe is stored. You can also taste Coca-Cola beverages from around the world – a perpetual visitor favorite – and buy soda-themed souvenirs in the gift shop. The attraction is located right next to the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park, and visitors are required to purchase tickets in advance. A couple of noteworthy hotels located within walking distance of the attraction include the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown and the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown.
Explore the village of Helen
If you’re seeking a Georgia getaway that features lots of charm, look no further than the replica Bavarian village of Helen. In addition to its cobblestone streets and quaint shops, Helen offers plenty of spots to explore. Sip wine at Habersham Vineyards & Winery (one of the oldest and largest wineries in the state), hike through Unicoi State Park & Lodge, swim in the Chattahoochee River and savor German food at local restaurants. The town also hosts Oktoberfest every year in September and October; weekdays tend to be more family-friendly, while weekends play host to college students and tour groups. Sundays during Oktoberfest offer free admission for everyone. Be sure to book your accommodations, which range from cozy cabins to quaint inns to chain hotels, early, as they do fill up. The Valhalla Resort Hotel and the pet-friendly Biscuit Inn are two traveler favorites.
[Read: The Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA.]
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
Gallery: 27 Top Lake Vacations in the U.S. (US News & World Report – Travel)
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Lake Tahoe, California
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
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Traverse City, Michigan
Caddo Lake State Park, Texas
Lake Chelan, Washington
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Lake George, New York
Cooper Landing, Alaska
Finger Lakes, New York
Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina
Moosehead Lake, Maine
Flathead Lake, Montana
Oconee County, South Carolina
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Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Lake Kissimmee State Park, Florida
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Oconee, Georgia
The Top Lake Vacations in the U.S.
- Lake Tahoe, California
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- Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah
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- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
- Lake George, New York
- Finger Lakes, New York
- Caddo Lake State Park, Texas
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Visit MLK’s birthplace and childhood home at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in downtown Atlanta. During your visit to the park, which does not charge an entrance fee, you can see the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church – the location of King’s baptism, ordainment and funeral – as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden. What’s more, the park includes Fire Station No. 6, built in 1894, where you can learn about the desegregation of the Atlanta Fire Department and see a 1927 fire engine. According to previous visitors, the park offers a “tranquil” and “thought-inspiring” atmosphere, especially in its rose garden and by its reflecting pool, where the crypts of King and his wife, Coretta, are located. The best options for accommodations close to this historical park are in central Atlanta; consider bedding down at Sugar Magnolia Bed & Breakfast or the Home2 Suites by Hilton Atlanta Downtown.
Margaret Mitchell House
Take a look inside the life of Margaret Mitchell, author of the classic novel “Gone With the Wind,” at the Margaret Mitchell House. Located in midtown Atlanta, this Tudor Revival mansion – which is one of several Atlanta History Center attractions – is home to the small apartment where Mitchell wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book. The building is now a museum where you can see various exhibits about the author and her famous novel. The property is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors praise the Margaret Mitchell House’s tour guides, saying they’re both well informed and entertaining. Nearby hotels include the Hyatt Centric Midtown Atlanta and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Midtown, GA.
Eat hot dogs at The Varsity
While vacationing in Atlanta, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a delicious hot dog and an order of onion rings at The Varsity. This local institution opened in 1928 and is considered the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. Be sure to come prepared: You’ll need to know the right lingo – like “heavy weight” (a hot dog with extra chili), “walk a dog” (a hot dog to go) and “naked dog” (a plain hot dog) – before you order. Throw in a signature Varsity Orange drink, and you’re all set. While there are now five Varsity locations, including one at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, head to the original restaurant at 61 North Avenue for the authentic experience. Past visitors said this is an absolute must when in Atlanta and rave about the onion rings and the Varsity Orange drink.
[Read: What to Eat in Atlanta.]
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Get out and discover Georgia’s great outdoors at one of its many state parks. Scenic Cloudland Canyon, which sits on the western side of Lookout Mountain in the northwest part of the state, is a prime spot to hike through gorges and take in magnificent waterfall and canyon views. Plus, it offers cottages, campsites and even yurts for overnight stays. Recent visitors recommend arriving early or coming on a weekday, as parking can fill up quickly. You’ll find the park about 25 miles southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and approximately 120 miles northwest of Atlanta.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Georgia has its share of amusement parks, but Six Flags Over Georgia may top the list. Situated about 10 miles northwest of Atlanta, this Six Flags location features a variety of rides with themes based on DC Comics superheroes like Batman and Catwoman. Patrons who want to get their blood pumping should hop on the Great American Scream Machine, a classic wooden roller coaster built in 1973, or The Riddler Mindbender, a steel roller coaster with three exhilarating loops. Six Flags Over Georgia also has a water park with a wave pool and waterslides, plus attractions that are suitable for young kids. While you can buy tickets at the gate, you’ll save money and time by buying them online ahead of time. Reviewers say the park is clean and the rides are great but warn that lines for food can be long. Hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta West/Lithia Springs, the Hampton Inn & Suites ATL-Six Flags and the Comfort Inn Douglasville may offer packages with discounted park tickets.
[Read: The Best Family Vacations in the USA.]
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Journey about 20 miles northwest of Atlanta to visit Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where Gen. William T. Sherman, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and more than 160,000 soldiers battled during the Civil War. The park has 17-plus miles of trails with war paraphernalia and a fantastic view of the Atlanta skyline. Visitors say it’s a great place to hike. For an easier trek, take the shuttle bus to the top of the mountain and then hike back down. Hotel options in the nearby city of Marietta include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta – Marietta, the Hampton Inn and Suites Atlanta/Marietta and the Hilton Atlanta/Marietta Hotel & Conference Center.
Get artsy at Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden
For an off-the-beaten-path adventure, visit Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden in Summerville, a town in northwest Georgia that sits less than 20 miles east of the Alabama-Georgia border. This quirky attraction – which features a kitschy display of sculptures, paintings and objects developed by its namesake, folk artist Howard Finster – is considered one of the state’s top art attractions. Travelers describe it as “fascinating,” “inspiring” and “a must-do” and recommend wearing comfortable shoes when you visit. If you’d like to take the experience to the next level, book a stay at the on-site Airbnb cottage.
[Read: Vacation Rentals: The Best Vacation Rental Sites for Every Type of Traveler]
Historic Oakland Cemetery
Atlanta’s oldest public park, Historic Oakland Cemetery is where many of the city’s most well-known residents – including author Margaret Mitchell, golfer Bobby Jones and Bishop Wesley John Gaines, who founded Morris Brown College – are laid to rest. You’ll also find a Confederate cemetery where roughly 7,000 Confederate soldiers are buried, plus historic African American burial grounds. Close to downtown, this cemetery spans 48 acres and also houses gardens with sculptures and majestic oak trees and magnolias. Past visitors highly recommend a visit, noting the interesting tombstones and vast history.
Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Site
Located in Warm Springs, the Little White House was built by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, as he sought a cure for his polio in the town’s spring waters. Today, the house serves as a museum filled with the late president’s memorabilia, including his 1938 Ford convertible, his stagecoach and an unfinished portrait that he was posing for when he suffered a deadly stroke. Visitors say the guides and museum curators are exceptionally knowledgeable. After exploring the historic property, check out the shops and eateries lining Warm Springs’ Main Street before bedding down at The Aiden by Best Western Warm Springs Hotel and Event Center.
Sip vino in North Georgia’s wine country
Did you know that Georgia has its own wine region? The northern part of the Peach State is home to acclaimed wineries like Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery and Tiger Mountain Vineyards, which are known for their varietals like malbec, chardonnay and merlot. After a day of sipping and savoring, settle into your cozy abode at Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant, located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, which features golf and tennis clubs, a spa and other top-notch amenities. Visitors describe the latter as a “hidden treasure” with top-notch food and lodging.
View the highly regarded Cyclorama
Cycloramas are large paintings popular in the 1800s that visually tell the story of an event and served as a form of entertainment in their time. Atlanta’s Cyclorama displays a more than 130-year-old painting of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta that is longer than a football field and stands almost 50 feet tall. Created in 1886, it is one of only two cycloramas in the U.S. – the other can be found in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – and has been on display in Atlanta for more than 120 years. Past visitors loved seeing the massive painting, using adjectives like “astounding” and “amazing” to describe it. You can now view the Cyclorama at the Atlanta History Center.
Providence Canyon State Park
Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Providence Canyon is filled with colorful pink, orange and red cliffs caused by soil farming practices in the 1800s. Popular for both hiking and camping, the park has nine campsites and more than 10 miles of trails, including the 2.5-mile Canyon Loop Trail. The most popular of the nine canyons are Nos. 4 and 5. Providence Canyon comes alive in July and August when its plumleaf azaleas (a species that only grows in this region) are in full bloom. Keep in mind, though, that the park’s daytime temperatures often climb into the mid-90s in the summer months. Providence Canyon State Park is located about 40 miles south of Columbus on the western side of the state.
[See: The Best Places for National Park Camping.]
St. Simons Island
Part of the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island is the largest of several barrier islands that sit off of Georgia’s east coast. A classic Southern landscape with moss-draped live oak trees, this island boasts charming shops, untouched beaches, top-notch fishing and multiple golf courses. Visitors also recommend wandering the grounds and cemetery at Christ Church, Frederica (one of the oldest churches in Georgia), which is even more beautiful in spring when the azaleas bloom. Choose The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort for a luxurious stay, or save some coin with a more affordable option, such as the Hampton Inn St. Simons Island, the Holiday Inn Express Saint Simons Island or the Home2 Suites by Hilton St. Simons Island.
[Read: The Best Beaches in the U.S.]
One of Georgia’s most popular lakes – and the largest one available in the state – Lake Lanier has more than 70 recreational areas and spans almost 700 miles of shoreline. Located about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, the lake boasts shores that are home to Don Carter State Park, a 1,316-acre state park with beautiful hiking trails and well-maintained campsites, according to previous visitors. Plus, the lake is where you’ll find Lanier Islands, a lakefront resort complex that features a water park, a spa and even snow tubing during the winter months. When it comes to lodging, stay at one of the area’s abundant campsites or Margaritaville RV Resort, which offers both cabins and sites for recreational vehicles. If you’re looking for a traditional hotel room, consider reserving one of Legacy Lodge’s 214 accommodations.
[See: Top Lake Vacations in the U.S.]
Strike it rich at Dahlonega
The town of Dahlonega sits on one of the largest gold deposits east of the Mississippi River. In fact, the site was once so rich in the valuable metal that it caused a gold rush in the early 1800s. In present-day Dahlonega, you can tour a gold mine, pan for gold in the area’s creeks and rivers, and visit the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site. While the latter is a small museum, most previous visitors appreciated the informative displays and suggest watching the short film. For accommodations, consider the Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard, a relaxation-focused property with a wine garden and a spa, or the Hall House Hotel, which dates back to 1881.
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