A Beginner’s Guide to Georgia
Energetic and lively cities, a relaxing coastline and breathtaking mountain scenery offer rich and unique experiences that can only be found in Georgia. Within the beautiful skyline of Atlanta, you’ll have access to the world’s largest aquarium, the chance to follow in the footsteps of one of the country’s most notable civil rights leaders and even see the world’s largest collection of Coke memorabilia at the World of Coca-Cola.
Walk down the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s first city in Savannah, a place filled with Southern charm and one of the largest historic districts in the country. Disconnect from the world at Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore, which remains preserved in natural beauty with wild horses roaming its beaches. Georgia’s 47 state parks offer opportunities for outdoor adventure. Go rafting or kayaking on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus - the world’s longest urban whitewater course. Hike the Appalachian Trail that starts at Springer Mountain in the North Georgia Mountains. Visit the filming locations that are now part of Georgia’s television and movie making history. Experience one of Georgia’s most recognizable icons: “Gone With the Wind,” along the Gone With the Wind Trail from Jonesboro to Marietta. With all there is to see and do, you’ll want to make sure you explore Georgia.
The capital of Georgia, Atlanta is vibrant, buzzing, modern, and very Southern at the same time. Both cosmopolitan and elegant, it has played a major role in the history of the country and is great fun to visit. History is a big part of what makes Atlanta what it is, so start your exploration at the Atlanta History Center. The number one most visited historical site in Georgia is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site. The site includes the boyhood home of Reverend King and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was a pastor, as well as a number of additional historic buildings. The visitor center at the National Historic Site contains a museum chronicling the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King's leadership. It also contains a gift shop and an exhibit on desegregation in the Atlanta Fire Department. The Visitor Center, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Freedom Hall are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Visit the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park and the adjoining Georgia Aquarium. You can also take the kids to the Six Flags White Water waterpark and LEGOLAND Discovery Center, visit the High Museum of Art, and explore the Margaret Mitchell house to see a beautiful example of Southern architecture and lifestyle. Take a stroll through the Atlanta Botanic Gardens on a hot day to cool off and enjoy the lush, verdant world of plants.
From its quaint cobblestone streets shaded by old oaks covered in Spanish Moss and surrounded by magnificent antebellum Southern mansions, to the white sand beaches on Tybee Island, to art galleries and Civil War re-enactments, Savannah is thrilling for all ages and a treat for all the senses. Take an old trolley to explore the beautiful old city in style, check out City Market for fun during the day as well as night, and explore Savannah River Street to see galleries, cafes and restaurants, and breathtaking views of the river. And whatever time of the year you visit, there will be some kind of festival to get everyone out on the streets, locals and visitors alike.
Called the "Switzerland of the South," Blue Ridge is a charming small town with a distinct artsy vibe. The area boasts galleries complete with craft breweries that serve excellent brews and feature live music. A tourist destination in earlier days, Blue Ridge had five hotels soon after it was founded in 1886 thanks to the easy access afforded by the arrival of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad. Taking the historic Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a great way to see the surrounding nature. Check out what is happening at the popular downtown Blue Ridge City Park, visit the historic 1937 Fannin County Courthouse that now houses art studios and galleries, let the Ocoee Whitewater Center take you down Ocoee river in one of their kayaks or canoes for an adrenaline rush, and take the kids hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains or picking fruits at Mercier Orchards.
Tallulah Gorge State Park is a scenic 2,689-acre state park near Tallulah Falls, Georgia. The park spreads around a Tallulah Gorge, which is 1,000 feet deep and two miles long and was created by thousands of years of relentless work on behalf of the Tallulah River, which can be seen flowing at the bottom of the gorge. Six Tallulah Falls that drop the river level by 500 feet over a mile are the main attraction of the area. You can get another great view from the suspension bridge, which swings 80 feet above the bottom of the gorge.
The Toccoa Falls Waterfall is situated on the campus of Toccoa Falls College, not far from Toccoa in the magnificent North Georgia Mountains. The college campus and the famous waterfall comprise Toccoa Falls. To get to the waterfall, visitors have to pass through the campus and enter through Gate Cottage, which hosts Toccoa Falls Books & Gifts. From the cottage, a scenic path leads to the natural gorge where the falls can be observed. The falls are 186 feet high - about nineteen feet higher than Niagara Falls, and the Toccoa Falls waterfall is one of the highest single-drop waterfalls in this part of the country.
Providence Canyon State Park is located on 1,003 acres near Lumpkin in southwest Georgia. At the core of this fascinating park is Providence Canyon, which is known as Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon" and is considered one of the Natural Wonders of Georgia. Nevertheless, Providence Canyon's fantastic orange, pink, red, and purple colors make for fantastic photos and paintings. The canyon is especially beautiful in July and August when the rare plumleaf azalea is in full bloom. Hiking along the canyon's rim offers magnificent views, and some of the gullies are popular among rock climbers.
Arabia Mountain is an ancient granite monadnock - an isolated, bare, exposed rock 954 feet above sea level. Spectacular landscapes are the core of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. What looks like a dead, barren landscape is home to specially adapted plants that thrive in the harsh environment of the mountain. Hiking on the Arabia Mountain Top Trail is spectacular, and you will go through enormous exposed granite boulders and fields interspersed with shallow basins filled with rare plants before finally climbing to the crater-spotted summit for stunning views. People have been living in this heritage area, which has a rich history, for thousands of years. Another must-see is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, which was built by a group of Trappist monks who came to Georgia during a war. Architecture, a fantastic bonsai exhibit, and tasty treats prepared by the monks make the visit worthwhile.
From 1000 to 1550 A.D., about one thousand Native Americans lived in the area along the Etowah River in Bartow County, Georgia and left plenty of artifacts as reminders of their lives. Etowah Indian Mounds is a 54-acre archeological site that protects a village site where they once lived, six earthen mounds, a plaza, a defensive ditch, and borrow pits. The mounds were created and occupied by prehistoric people of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture, the ancestors of the Muskogee or Creek people.
Visitors can stroll along a nature trail on the banks of the Etowah River to see fish traps the natives used for fishing. In the museum located on the site, visitors can learn about the natives' way of body decorating with paint, shell beads, intricate hairdos, copper, and feathers earrings. There are also stone effigies weighing 125 pounds and artifacts made of wood, seashells, and stone.
Pick any corner of Georgia and explore everything it can offer, from ancient sites and natural wonders to fascinating cities to charming small towns. Georgia offers the beginner a chance to experience it all in just a few days. For those who are returning visitors it offers an unending list of memorable destinations.