Hit The Road: Exploring Georgia
Adventure is just around the bend. Whether you want to explore the state’s American Indian culture in northwest Georgia, visit sea turtles on the coast, or daydream at the homes of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, hit the road on one of these themed trips.
American Indians called the rolling hills, valleys, and mountains of northwest Georgia home for 80 centuries. That is more than 8,000 years of history to explore along the 200-mile Chieftains Trail. Begin in Chatsworth, where an 885-foot-long wall, believed to have been built by Woodlands era Indians between 500 BC and 500 AD, still stands at Fort Mountain State Park. Nearby is the Chief Vann House Historic Site, Georgia’s grandest and best-preserved Cherokee Mansion, completed in 1804.
The tribe’s first national capital is just a short drive south in Calhoun. The New Echota Historic Site includes original buildings and the reconstructed headquarters of the first American Indian newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, as well as a memorial to those forced west on the Trail of Tears. The exiling treaty was negotiated, in part, by Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader whose grandiose home is preserved as the Chieftains Museum, about 30-minute drive southwest in Rome.
Cartersville, half an hour east, is home to the Etowah Indian Mounds, a sprawling 540-acre historic community considered the most intact Mississippian village in the southeastern United State. It consists of six earthen mounds, which have proved a bonanza for some of the world’s most celebrated archaeologists. Also in Cartersville is the Booth Western Art Museum. Although not an official stop on the Chieftains Trail, its exhibits of American Indian art are well worth the visit. Finally, head northeast to Waleska to explore Reinhardt University’s Fun Heritage Center. The museum’s paintings, sculptures, dioramas, and interactive exhibits chronicle all facets of American Indian life.
Walk on the Wild Side
Get in touch with your wild side on a safari across southeast Georgia and the coast. Start with a close encounter at Georgia Southern University’s Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball, Jr. Raptor Center in Statesboro. The center took flight after a supporter decided the school needed a real bald eagle mascot. Hawks, falcons, and screech owls soon followed.
Next, scoot southeast to Savannah to explore the Oatland Island Wildlife Center, a conservation-focused preserve that’s home to dozens of species, including bobcats, gray wolves, and cougars. About an hour south, in Townsend, birders flock to the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, a saltwater marsh that is the only place in the country where wood storks nest and a great spot to spy the vivid painted bunting. Townsend is also the stomping ground of the Georgia Buffalo Ranch & Trading Post, where you an hand-feed barrel-neck bison.
Aspiring mariners find their calling father south still, in Brunswick, aboard the Lady Jane shrimping boat. Help the crew sort the catch, which could include anything from shrimp and horseshoe crabs to puffer fish and various types of sharks. Less than a 30-minute drive away, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island rehabilitates injured animals and welcomes visitors to view the patients and learn more about turtles in the interactive exhibition gallery.
Finally, follow the Spanish moss west to Waycross to see alligators, ospreys, and other animals at the Okefenokee Swamp Park. Also in Waycross is Southern Forest World, a quirky museum dedicated to the history of trees. While there, pay your respects to “Stuckie,” a hapless house forever lodged inside an oak log.
The Write Stuff
Tired of texting? Visit the Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown Atlanta to try your hand at a manual typewriter like the one Mitchell used to write the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gone With the Wind. Learn about her girlhood writings, flapper lifestyle, career as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine, and work as a philanthropist.
Next, head to the Wren’s Nest, the downtown Atlanta home of “Uncle Remus” author Joel Chandler Harris. Delve into Harris’s life, as well as African folklore traditions, during a tour of the stately 1870 Queen Anne Victorian home. From there, it is a little more than an hour’s drive southeast to Harris’s birthplace in Eatonton, where two former slave cabins make up the Uncle Remus Museum. Inside, you will find dioramas featuring Harris’s critters and international editions of his books.
While in Eatonton, be sure to explore the life and work of another Pulitzer Prize-winning Georgia author, Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple. The Alice Walker Driving Tour takes you by her modest childhood home, the church where she was baptized, and the cemetery where her family is buried.
Both Harris and Walker are honored at Eatonton’s Georgia Writers Museum, along with Flannery O’Connor, one of the greatest short-story authors of the 20th century. She wrote at Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, a short skip south of Eatonton. The atmospheric farmhouse and surrounding property inspired her work, which focused on the South and combined the everyday with the wild and grotesque. Be sure to stop by the peacock enclosure behind the house. O’Connor once kept up to 50 peafowl on the property; today, two call the farm home.
More Georgia Hits
Holiday Inn & Suites Alpharetta
The Holiday Inn & Suites Alpharetta offers satisfaction for every guest, from the ever-evolving needs of the business person to the desired amenities of the leisure traveler. Each room is spacious, contemporary, and comfortable, and guests can enjoy a full breakfast every morning with a whole buffet of offerings kickstart your day. Take advantage of amenities like the outdoor pool or the 24-hour fitness center, and enjoy being close to nearby attractions and entertainment.
The Grey Owl Inn
Poised amidst ancient oaks and a magnificent water garden, charming The Grey Owl Inn offers a sublime setting from which to enjoy the best of historic St. Simons Island, GA, and all that it has to offer. The Inn is an easy walk to the beach and the island’s Pier Village and lighthouse. Five distinctive suites, each with a private bath, offer many in-room amenities. Gourmet breakfast and wine and cheese hour served daily.
Head to The City of Decatur For The Best Atlanta
Recently voted best neighborhood by Creative Loafing readers, the city of Decatur invites you here for more “Best of Atlanta” experiences. Shop at “indie” boutiques, galleries, and salons, or nibble and sip at buzz-worthy restaurants and pubs. Make the after-hours scene here for live music, comedy, hand-crafted cocktails and small plates. Stroll outdoor sculptures, and enjoy music everywhere. Warm welcomes and good times – that’s a day in Decatur. Visitors Center: 113 Clairemont Ave., Decatur 30030.
Fitzgerald, Georgia offers small-town charm at its best! This unique town is known for its impressive array of activities and its roaming Burmese chickens - in fact, the town hosts Fitzgerald’s Wild Chicken Festival in March and is also building the world’s largest chicken topiary. They also offer a historic district with Architectural Tours, the Blue and Gray Museum which tells the heartwarming story of community, and performances at the Art Deco-style Grand Theatre.