Downtown Gems of Georgia
Georgia has one thing we just love: beautiful, welcoming and oh-so-charming downtowns—and lots of them. Have a free weekend? Head south to any corner of Georgia and you are bound to come across any number of
old-fashioned, perfectly Southern, small-town downtowns.
Downtowns are the heartbeat of all small towns. Seasonal events will close off downtown to allow residents and visitors to freely enjoy the streets and festivities. It is where you can find local artisans and producers proudly displaying their wares. Locally owned cafes will most likely welcome you with terms like “sweetheart” and “y’all come on in.” And it’s not uncommon to have the local high school marching band lead a parade through downtown; this is Americana at its finest. Skip the big city agenda this weekend and discover a new gem in Georgia’s downtowns.
In the southwest corner of the state, city officials say the historic district in Bainbridge is one of their biggest draws. Incorporated in 1829, a large number of homes and buildings from the late 1800s and 1900s are still intact for visitors to enjoy. Take a self-guided tour through one of the 41 historic homes on the Heritage Tour. The Callahan-Penhallegon Home, built in 1907, is known as the “steamboat house” because of its look, reminiscent of a boat. The homeowner owned a fleet of steamboats, and built his home to follow suit. The Caldwell-Perry home was built in 1900 and it was known at the time as the “modernistic house” because it had low ceilings - ten feet high instead of the customary twelve. It also had an elevator and in-house battery-operated telephones.
Brunswick’s streets and squares were laid out on Oglethorpe’s Savannah Plan in 1771. George Washington proclaimed Brunswick as one of the five original ports of entry for the Colonies in 1789. Visit the bustling waterfront, home to The Liberty Ship Memorial Plaza, shrimp boats, and cruise ships. Enjoy the charms of Old Town Brunswick, with its Victorian commercial buildings, grand residential homes, and delightful bed & breakfast inns. Explore streets of quaint shops, restaurants, art galleries and antique dealers. Brunswick is the second largest concentration of documented historic structures in Georgia and the nearby islands of St. Simons and Jekyll lure visitors with the promise of beaches, resorts, and historic sites.
Columbus blends vibrant artsy energy with unique local history and a killer food scene. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors, listen to local bands and taste finely brewed beer. It is the premier weekend getaway for outdoor adventure combined with urban amenities in the Deep South. Where else can you plan a rafting trip, mountain biking, kayaking, zip lining, paintball, a visit to a world class museum, and then an amazing dinner followed by a Broadway caliber play and topped off with late night live music? Kick back and enjoy lunch or dinner along the tree lined Broadway as you relax and take in an old, historic Southern city experiencing a 21st century renaissance.
Site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush and the Heart of Georgia Wine Country, Dahlonega offers an authentic, mountain getaway only an hour north of Atlanta. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Dahlonega offers expansive mountain vistas, roaring waterfalls and bubbling streams, postcard-worthy wineries and an abundance of entertainment. Whether your perfect day involves wading knee-deep in the river panning for gold, strolling through art galleries, shopping in one-of-a-kind boutiques, or sipping perfection expressed in Georgia wine, Dahlonega guarantees to please.Stroll the delightful downtown that is listed on the Historic Register and very reminiscent of a wine country in Sonoma or Napa.
Historic Downtown Greensboro is located between Augusta and Atlanta, and is only minutes from the shores of beautiful Lake Oconee. Founded in 1786, today the historic shopping district features restaurants, antiques, art galleries and gift shops. Shoppers search for the perfect antique or find handcrafted art created by Georgia artisans, all in a beautifully restored downtown where old-fashioned service isn’t so old-fashioned. The downtown Courthouse is an imposing red brick structure with four massive Doric columns and it is the focal point of Downtown Greensboro. Built in 1849, it is one of the oldest operational courthouses in Georgia. In the summer, check out Pickin’ on the Greene, the town’s summer event. It is a great time for family, hayrides and picnics on the Courthouse lawn.
Once described in the 1845 Guide to Georgia as the “most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans,” Madison remains a genteel reminder of the city’s Southern beauty and grace that was spared General Sherman’s torch in his infamous march to the Sea. Some 50 antebellum houses remain intact and restored in the historic city, including the Joshua Hill Home. Madison’s National Register Historic District is one of the state’s largest collections of 19th century architecture, earning it a reputation as one of the top most picturesque villages. Today it keeps its cultural edge by hosting art, food, music and agricultural festivals throughout the year. Cozy and elegant bed & breakfasts and inns, shady streets lined with boutiques, full service spas, and a variety of dining choices make the perfect backdrop for a weekend getaway.
Find an adventure in Milledgeville with locally sourced restaurants, original live music and organic coffee shops, steps away from fascinating museums, impressive art galleries, trendy fashion boutiques and funky antique stores. Hop aboard Milly the trolley and tour historic mansions and museums without a map. Then, relive your glory days with a trip down memory lane through the Georgia College campus, in the heart of downtown. Kayak or canoe on the meandering Oconee River and practice yoga in a pristine park. After dark, order a round of craft beers and wood-fired pizza at The Brick and try signature margaritas at Gringo’s local taqueria.
Sitting in the south of Georgia, Moultrie is home to about 14,000 lucky Southerners. Historic Downtown is where you can stroll, shop, and dine in over 30 specialty shops and restaurants. Take a stroll down the tree-lined streets that surround the award winning Courthouse and join the special events throughout the year on the Square, including the Spring Fling Festival, the Calico Arts and Crafts Show, the Scottish Festival Weekend and award-winning lighted, nighttime Christmas parade. Designated on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can research at the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library, visit galleries and theaters, and see some of the town’s memorials. For a great lunch or dinner, try The Hen House for their specialty chicken and waffles.
Statesboro is just as much about its legacy to music as the historic downtown; anytime of the week one can find live music. Check out the “Eagle Nation on Parade,” a public art project by Georgia Southern University; it leads visitors on a tour of Statesboro. For some more refreshing fun, take the family for an afternoon to Splash in the Boro Family Waterpark. A lazy river, slides and spray features bring visitors from all over. Get comfortable with an overnight stay at the Historic Statesboro Inn. This turn-of-the-century bed & breakfast combines modern convenience with Victorian charm, and gets you out of bed with a chef prepared breakfast.
Thomasville is unique in that it has not only preserved many of its original downtown buildings, but many of its original downtown businesses, as well. The restored Victorian storefronts put a lovely face on a fun variety of stores offering everything from proper hunting attire to the perfect little black dress and great shoes to go with both. The city’s brick-paved streets lend an old world feel. For well over a century now, quail hunting plantations of the area have continued a tradition of hunting quail, drawing sportsmen from across the country. To celebrate the importance of the quail, locals and visitors can now hunt quail right in Downtown Thomasville! (Not with guns - of course!) Twelve bronze quail statues are hidden in different locations around downtown. To begin your hunt for the lost quail in downtown Thomasville, stop by the Visitors Center.
This “Friendly City” is located in South Georgia and truly exemplifies Southern hospitality. Named for the second time as one of “The 100 Best Small Towns in America,” there are countless activities and attractions. Visit the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village. Discover the 19th century living history museum with its two working farmsteads, cotton gin, sawmill, gristmill, print shop, drug store, Masonic lodge, Victorian home, steam train, and country store. Costumed interpreters share Georgia’s rural heritage with visitors. Built in 1892, The Lankford Manor in downtown has stood as a landmark hotel and restaurant for over 100 years. Today, refurbished and still charming, Three Graces at The Lankford Manor serves as a notable locally owned restaurant and bed & breakfast.
The Eastern Line of Amtrak runs stops twice daily in the City of Toccoa, so it’s a convenient visit. On Main Street explore specialty shops, wander through the art galleries and tour the beautifully-renovated Stephens County Courthouse. The Cornerstone Antique Market with fine furniture, porcelain, jewelry and more is adjacent to the historic courthouse square. The Stephens County Historical Museum offers a glimpse into the area’s past, which is full of interesting and colorful hometown folks including Olympian Paul Anderson, world record holder for the “Strongest Man.”
Fitzgerald is a quaint Southern town is an ideal location for a quick respite from the city. Enjoy a themed self-guided bike tour, like the City Chicken Route or Jefferson Davis Bicycle Route. Stay in a historic B&B to experience the Southern Hospitality at its finest. Check out the local historic sites, walk around downtown, spend some time playing chess on the oversize board in Grand Plaza Park, and eat well at the many local restaurants.
Vidalia is Georgia’s sweetest city, and their downtown is even sweeter and should not be missed. Shopping is a pleasure in downtown Vidalia along shaded sidewalks that will take you thru the Historic District and to unique shopping. Stop in for a sweet treat and coffee at the corner coffee chop. Browse the ladies boutiques and gift shops, jewelry stores, interior design studios and more. Stay for lunch or dinner at one of the delicious downtown restaurants and perhaps get a taste of that world famous specialty—Vidalia onion.
•Waycross + The Okefenokee Swamp•
Visitors can experience the traditional down-home cooking at local restaurants and comfortable accommodations. Attractions such as the Okefenokee Swamp Park and Obediah’s Okefenokee, give an in-depth look at a one-of-a-kind ecosystem, including the wildlife, plant life, and pioneer life in the area. Train enthusiasts can catch a glimpse of the train traffic coming in and out of the second largest computerized yard in the U.S. For history lovers, there is the Okefenokee Heritage Center, Southern Forest World, and a Historic Walking Tour guide book available for the Downtown Area.
•Northeast Georgia Mountains•
Where Mother Nature Comes to Play. A New Adventure Every day.
Head to North Georgia’s White County, which includes Alpine Helen and the villages of Sautee-Nacoochee and Cleveland –which is home to the Cabbage patch Kids and Babyland General Hospital. Conveniently located just 90 minutes north of Atlanta you will enjoy Georgia’s official Outdoor Adventure Destination. Enjoy shopping, dining, history museums, performances, handcrafted arts, eight vineyards, and wonderful events throughout the year.
726 Bruckenstrasse, Helen, GA 30545
Plan your visit:
Plan your getaway to a charming downtown in Georgia soon. Slow down and peruse the main squares filled with locals and get to know Georgia through its small-time towns offering big time experiences.