Georgia, commonly known as the Peach State, is best known for its state capital Atlanta. Atlanta is one of the major cities in the south. In fact, its Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the busiest cities in the world.
Atlanta is just one of the many reasons people come to visit Georgia. From the busy streets of the capital city to tranquil small towns and mountain trails, there are all kinds of places to visit in Georgia.
I make the trip from Tennesee to Georgia frequently to visit my in-laws, and I’ve had a chance to explore a few of state’s highlights. While there’s still a lot let for me to try out, I can help point you in the direction of some of the coolest things going on in Georgia.
If you’re planning a trip to the Peach State sometime soon, here are a few of the best things to do in Georgia!
See the Sharks at Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium, which is home to over 200 species of aquatic creatures, is one of the largest aquariums in the world. If you enjoy aquariums, don’t skip this one. The aquarium has 7 different exhibits each featuring a different kind of marine life from around the world.
The newest gallery is called Sharks! Predators of the Deep, and it brings a new framework to the image of sharks. You’ll get to come face-to-face with sharks while also learning about the role these misunderstood creatures play in their ecosystems and their challenges to survival.
While all of the galleries are interesting, my favorite is Cold Water Quest. This is where penguins, puffins, and sea otters are found, so it tends to be very popular. If you’re feeling adventurous and have your scuba certification, you can sign up for one of the aquarium’s dive programs to get an even closer experience with some of the aquatic animals.
The Georgia Aquarium is full of things to do and see. Most people take 3 hours at minimum to visit the aquarium, but don’t be surprised if you end up staying for 5-6 hours.
Tour the World of Coca Cola
Located just a short distance from where the original Coca Cola formula was created, the World of Coca Cola is a unique museum in Atlanta. The museum is dedicated to the history of the Coca Cola Company.
While it might seem strange to have an entire museum about a sugary beverage company, the museum is actually interesting. Even if you don’t drink Coca Cola, it’s cool to see the hundred of artifacts related to the famous product that was invented in 1892.
The museum has lots of interactive exhibits. One of the newest ones is a Scent Discovery exhibit where you try to guess what a variety of smells are and learn how smell affects your sense of taste. In another one of the exhibits, you’re able to taste different beverages sold by the Coca Cola company from around the world.
Make sure to stop by the Coca Cola theater to see the Moments of Happiness short film. Even though the film is an advertisement for Coca Cola, it’s sweet and made me tear up just a tiny bit when I saw it.
See the State’s Most Recognizable Film Locations
If you’re a movie buff, then you’ll love getting to visit the locations across the state where some of the biggest movies and tv shows have been filmed.
Scenes from today’s blockbusters and hit shows including the Hunger Games and The Walking Dead were filmed in Atlanta. Classic movies from across the years have also been filmed in the state as well. Parts of Driving Miss Daisy were filmed in the Druid Hills neighborhood. Forest Gump has filming locations in Savannah. You can even see the famous bench in the collection at the Savannah History Museum.
One of my favorite movie sites is Historic Oak Hill in Rome, Georgia. This landmark was used as the house Melanie (played by Reese Witherspoon) in Sweet Home Alabama pretends she grew up in. In real life, the house was owned by the founder of Berry College Martha Berry, and it’s possible to tour the house and the gardens. The tour isn’t related to the movie at all, but the Greek Revival home is beautiful to visit.
Spend a Weekend Exploring Savannah
Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The city was first settled in 1733, and its old homes and cobblestone streets give it a charming atmosphere today. It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of this coastal town with rich culture, delicious food, and welcoming inhabitants.
Take a stroll through Forsyth Park, a beautiful park covering over 30 acres right in the historic district. Make sure to get a photo in front of the Forsyth Park Fountain. This iconic landmark was constructed in 1858.
The city is very walkable, so its easy to wander around and explore the quaint old streets lined with beautiful homes. Stop by The Paris Market to shop for home decor and grab a bite to each at the French-inspired cafe.
If you are brave enough, take a ghost tour of the city. Savannah is supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the country. I cannot handle things that are creepy at all, so I always skip ghost tours, but I’ve been told that the ones here are some of the best. Ghost Hunters has even done an episode about the “hot spots” in the city.
Take a Ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
From March to December one of the best things to do in Georgia is take a train ride through the Appalachian foothills in North Georgia. The ride begins at the historic depot in Blue Ridge, a small mountain town. The 26-mile trip takes you through the foothills and farmlands of the mountains.
The ride takes about 1 hour each way, and you get a 2-hour layover in McCaysville where you can walk around and explore. The open car is the best for taking in the scenery. You can still see out in the closed car, but the windows are smaller. You can also choose premier class, but again the windows are smaller. You do get unlimited drinks and a few other perks in premier class.
While the scenery is the best during the fall when the leaves are changing, it’s worth going on the railway during the rest of the year as well. It’s the perfect way to spend an morning or afternoon.
Hike a Portion of the Appalachian Trail
In Fannin County, you find the southern start of the Appalachian Trail, a 2000-mile trek from Georgia to Maine (or Maine to Georgia depending on where you start). The hike typically takes about 6 months to complete, so you probably aren’t planning to hike all the way. But, around 80 miles of the trail run through Georgia.
Take a day hike to explore sections of the trail. Preachers Rock is an easy 1.9 portion of the trail that’s located in Cleveland. Another easy trail is the Long Creek Falls trail. You’ll pass by a waterfall on this 2-mile trail in Blue Ridge.
If you’d rather try a moderate hike, take the 3-mile trail from Woody Gap to Big Cedar Mountain. You’ll get to enjoy the views from the summit of the mountain. Or, you can try one of the strenuous hikes. The trail from Three Forks to Springer Mountain is 8.6 miles long with an elevation of 1,525 feet. The landscape is diverse and beautiful, but you’ll need to be in good shape for this one.
Stay at Julep Farms
If you’re in need of a relaxing retreat, book a cottage at Julep Farms. The property in Dillard is a unique combination of luxury resort and farm. The property sits on 22 acres of picturesque pastures with beautiful views of the mountains.
Staying at the farm gives you a chance to unplug and take in the natural beauty of the area while enjoying your luxurious stay. During the day, you can explore the farm and make friends with the animals. You can eat at Julep Kitchen, an upscale restaurant serving dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients, and enjoy signature cocktails as well as wine and champagne at the Julep Bar.
Before you leave, you can stop by the market to pick up flowers and herbs to take home with you. As a memento of your stay, you can also find unique home and garden items or handmade jewelry at the market, too.
Celebrate Oktoberfest in Helen
If you aren’t from Georgia, you might be surprised to find out about one of its cutest towns. The city of Helen has a Bavarian flair after being remodeled in the 1960s to combat the former logging town’s decline. The Appalachian town will make you think you’ve stumbled into the German Alps instead.
Every year the town puts on an Oktoberfest celebration complete with traditional dancing, food, and bear. The bars and restaurants offer specials throughout the month, and you’ll find festival goers dressed in lederhosen and dirndls. Be sure to check out the Troll Tavern, a restaurant underneath a bridge serving German-inspired cuisine.
Besides the celebration, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in this alpine town. You can spend time tubing down the river, visit Anna Ruby Falls, or go ziplining through the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Escape to Jekyll Island
With 10 miles of shoreline, Jekyll Island is the perfect place for a getaway. One of the Golden Isles of Georgia, Jekyll Island is a barrier island connected by bridge to Brunswick. Whether you want to relax on the beach, visit historical sites, or enjoy nature, Jekyll Island is the place to go.
The island was once the private retreat of some of the world’s richest families. Today, you can take a trolley through the historic homes of the Jekyll Island Club. The homes are called “cottages,” but they’re certainly not what most of us would consider to be a cottage.
You’ll want to visit the beach while on the island, and there are a lot to choose from. One of the most interesting beaches is Driftwood Beach where you can observe the giant driftwood trees along the shore.
You can also visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. This facility provides emergency care to sick and injured sea turtle. The center works to educate visitors about the lives of sea turtles and other animals that are native to the area.
Find Your New Favorite Wine in Dahlonega
If you are passionate about wine, then take a trip to Georgia’s wine country in the mountains. Dahlonega is known as the Wine Tasting Room Capital of Georgia because it’s home to 12 wine-tasting rooms and 8 wineries. The area’s elevation and weather create just the right conditions for the wine industry to flourish here.
Many of the tasting rooms have beautiful views of the surrounding area. You could easily fill your day visiting one or two wineries and trying out different offerings. Montaluce Winery & Restaurant in particular has an excellent guided tour and they also offer guided wine hikes.
Enjoy the Blooms at Callaway Gardens
Tucked in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Garden is a 2,500-acre garden and resort in Pine Mountain. There’s so much to discover when you visit the gardens.
Visit in the spring to see the 3000 azaleas in bloom in the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl. For even more azaleas, visit the Overlook Azalea Garden. During your visit, you can wander through the Meadowlark Garden which is home to Asian and American Holly. If you’re used to holly with pointy leaves and bright red berries, you’ll be amazed by all the different varieties.
Besides the gardens, you can explore the butterfly center which houses tropical plants and butterflies. Another beautiful building is the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel. This chapel was inspired by 16th-century Gothic chapels and features beautiful stained glass windows with scenes of the Georgia landscape in all four seasons.
In my opinion, the best time to visit is when the hydrangeas are in bloom. If you’re as obsessed with these enchanting flowers as I am, visit during the summer and make sure to visit the Thornhill Hydrangea Garden.
Visit the International Cherry Blossom Festival
The town of Macon is charming all the time, but it’s especially inviting during the International Cherry Blossom Festival which typically takes place in March. The town turns pink when over 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees are in bloom.
Macon takes the opportunity to put on an extravagant celebration. The festival includes all kinds of events. You’ll find everything from hot air balloons to parades to fireworks displays. There’s even a midway set up in town complete with carnival rides.
Obviously, you’ll want to drive around on the Cherry Blossom Trail to see all the trees in bloom, but you’ll also want to enjoy everything else. Macon usually has several concerts happening during the 10 days of the festival. There are also food trucks set up offering all kinds of cuisine. Many local businesses have specials going on during the event as well.
Catch a Baseball Game
The Atlanta Braves have one of the biggest fan bases of any MLB team. While I can’t tell you much about sports in general, I do know a little bit about the Atlanta Braves thanks to their 14-year winning streak in the 90s and early 2000s. The team has moved from their longtime stadium at Turner Field to a new one at Truist Park, but the experience of the game remains.
Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, it’s worth going to see the Atlanta Braves at least once. I’ve found that I don’t enjoy watching baseball on tv, but the atmosphere in person makes it more exciting.
The area around the park is called the Battery Atlanta, and it’s full of restaurants and shops you can enjoy before or after a game. If you want, you can stay at one of the hotels in the Battery. There’s even a nail bar in the area where you can get your nails done if you need a little pampering.
Explore the Okefenokee Swamp
If you thought Florida and Louisiana were the only places to see alligators, you’ll be interested to find out that thousands of them also live in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Eighty percent of Okefenokee Swamp is part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge which works to preserve the natural habitat.
The swamp is home to many threatened and endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker and indigo snakes. It’s also home to more than 600 plant species.
Okefenokee Adventures works with the National Wildlife Refuge to provide a safe way to access the wetlands while still protecting the animals and their habitat. You can either arrange for a guided tour or explore on your own in a canoe, kayak, or boat. If you’d rather stay off the water, you can drive, bike, or hike through different areas throughout the swamp.
Book a Room at the Partridge Inn Hotel
For a world-class stay, book a room at the Partridge Inn Hotel. This landmark hotel opened in Augusta in 1910 and has been housing visitors, including well-known guests from the entertainment, political, and sports worlds since then. The hotel gets particularly busy during part of the year because it’s the closest hotel to the Augusta National Golf Course, the home of The Masters tournament.
Every room is individually designed, and many of the rooms have private balconies or patios. You can enjoy the hotel’s historic features while also appreciating the luxurious modern updates that have taken place over the years. When it comes to dining, you can try the modern Southern cuisine at 8595, the hotel’s restaurant. You can also enjoy drinks on the rooftop bar, Six South, while looking out over Downtown Augusta.
The Patridge Inn Hotel is the perfect homebase for relaxing when you’re not out exploring Augusta. The city might be best known for golf, but there’s much more to do in this lively riverside city.
See a Performance at the Fox Theatre
The building that is now the Fox Theatre today was first constructed in 1928 as a headquarters for Atlanta’s Shriners organization. The ornate building was so costly that the Shriners leased the auditorium to William Fox for his “movie palace” empire.
The ornate theatre has changed hands over the years and fell into disrepair during the 1960s and 1970s, but today the stunning building is a not-for-profit threatre thanks to a local campaign to restore the theatre. You can head to the theatre where stars like Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin performed to see one of the more than 250 shows the theatre hosts each year.
You’ll find everything from Broadway shows to concerts to ballet on the calendar at the Fox Theatre. Getting to see a performance in the ornate Far East-inspired auditorium is an unforgettable experience.
Admire “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon”
Located in Providence Canyon State Park, Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon extends over 1,000 acres and reaches a depth of 150 feet. While Providence Canyon is significantly smaller than the actual Grand Canyon, it is a beautiful sight to see the pink, orange, red, and purple tints of the canyon’s walls.
Unfortunately, this beautiful canyon is a result of poor farming practices during the 1800s. The practices increased the rate of erosion causing the deep gullies to form. Despite the less than positive origin story, a visit to Providence Canyon State Park is an interesting way to spend your day.
The state park has 10 miles of trails you can hike along. Several of the hikes take you down to the canyon floor. If you plan to stay overnight, you can book one of the backcountry campsites located along several of the trails.
Pick Apples at Mercier Orchards
Mercier Orchids is the largest apple orchard in the southeast. While apples are the main draw in the fall with over 50 varieties, there’s more going on at this farm. When the season is right, it’s possible to pick strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
You can spend the entire day at Mercier Orchards. There’s a market where you can find seasonal produce along with butters, jams, jellies, and other local items. If you’re in the mood for something sweet like a pie or donuts, you can pick up baked goods to take home as well.
Mercier Orchards also has a winery where you can sit on the deck while sipping on wine or hard cider. During the fall and winter, be sure try out the mulled wine.
Eat Homestyle Southern Food
You can enjoy classic southern dishes in every city and town in Georgia. If you’re in Atlanta, one of the best places to go is Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Since 1945, Mary Mac’s has been serving delicious from-scratch dishes. The restaurant was originally called a tea room because when it opened in 1945, it wasn’t considered proper for women to open up a restaurant.
The recipes used today come from the original owner Mary MacKenzie and the second owner Margaret Lupo. You’ll find classic favorites including fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and Georgia peach cobbler. You’ll also be able to try the delicious sweet tea. Mary Mac’s is just one of the places in Georgia serving authentic southern food. No matter which restaurant you try if it’s southern cuisine, it’s probably going to be good.
Go Horseback Riding
With so much beautiful scenery to explore in Georgia, one fun way to see the landscape is on horseback. There are places where you can go horseback riding all across the state.
If you’re in North Georgia, you can ride in Blue Ridge with Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides. Or, you can take a ride through the Appalachian Mountains and have dinner around a campfire with S&T Stables in Mineral Bluff.
If you’re along the Georgia coastline, you have great options for horseback riding. At Sea Island Stables you can ride along the beach and in the marsh. On Jekyll Island, check out Three Oaks Farm for beach rides and night rides.
You can even go horseback riding in Georgia’s state parks. Roosevelt Stables in Pine Mountain does guided trail rides. At other state parks, you can ride if you have your own horse to take along the trails. A.H. Stephens State Park, General Coffee State Park, Hard Labor Creek State Park, and Watson Mill Bridge State Park all have equestrian areas.
Ride the Rides at Six Flags Over Georgia
Located in Atlanta, Six Flags Over Georgia is one of the state’s most well known theme parks for good reason. Six Flags does an excellent job of creating a manageable sized park with just enough ride options for everyone to enjoy.
Thrill seekers will enjoy rides like the Dare Devil Dive, the SkyScreamer, and Acrophobia. If you are feeling brave, try the Sky Coaster where you drop from a 180-foot steel arch on a cable. I got talked into going on this ride once, and despite my fear of heights, it was a great experience.
There are plenty of gentler rides as well. On a hot day, Thunder River is one of the best ways to cool off while riding over the white water waves. Of course, you can always enjoy the classic carnival ride–the Riverview Carousel.
Six Flags is a lot of fun, and it happens to be more reasonably priced than some of the amusement parks located in Georgia’s neighbor Florida.
Visit one of Georgia’s Unique Festivals
There’s always something to celebrate in Georgia. Besides the typical music and food festivals that you expect to find in most places, Georgia also has a few unique celebrations you won’t see replicated anywhere else.
In the spring, Georgia celebrates the harvest of its official state vegetable at the Vidalia Onion Festival. There’s a Vidalia onion recipe contest and tasting as well as an onion eating contest. You can also enjoy watching the Blue Angels airshow in the morning and see what’s on display at the arts and crafts show.
To celebrate another state product, go to the Georgia Peach Festival. The event is shared between two cities with activities happening in Byron during the first weekend of the festival and activities happening in Fort Valley during the second weekend of the festival.
Another unique festival in Georgia is the Thomasville Rose Show and Festival. The Rose Show has been held for over 100 years. One of the highlights of the two-day festival is the Civic Garden Club’s Flower Show. The festival has also expanded to include a Rose Fest Market where artists will offer handmade goods for sale.
Visit Radium Springs Garden
In Doughtery County, you’ll find Radium Springs Garden a beautiful park set around a natural spring. Every minute 70,000 gallons of 68-degree water comes out of an underground cave providing clear water.
As the name implies the spring does have small traces of radium in the water. After this fact was discovered in the early 20th century, a resort opened up for people wanting to bathe in the mineral water (because it was believed to help with different illnesses at the time). Bathhouses overlooking the spring, a golf course, and a casino were built on the site.
Today, all that remains is a peaceful garden and the ruins of the resort. Radium Springs Garden is a nice place to bring a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon.
Enjoy Your Visit to Georgia
No matter what kind of vacation you want to have, chances are you can find it in Georgia. You can enjoy a peaceful time in the mountains, explore historic towns, be part of the action in Atlanta, or even spend time relaxing at the beach. One thing is certain–there’s no way you’ll be bored here. You’ll quickly see why this state is special to so many people.