From the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains to many historic memorials and forts, Georgia offers something for everyone. What is Georgia best known for? Stone Mountain is the most visited attraction in Georgia. Georgia’s capital city Atlanta is a cultural and sporting center supporting three major league sports as well as art museums, a symphony orchestra, an opera company, and several theaters. There are opportunities for outdoor fun at Georgia's water parks, and adventure for families, couples, and all who love nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains and on the islands. Here are the best things to do in Georgia.
1. Savannah Historic District, Georgia
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The Savannah Historic District corresponds with the city limits at the time just prior to the American Civil War. Laid out in 1733 by General James E. Oglethorpe, the founder of the British Colony of Georgia, the original town was divided into wards, which were sections of land that each contained a central square, four civic buildings, and ten residences.
Millions of visitors come to admire the architecture, tour the homes, and walk the broad, live oak-lined streets with their curtains of Spanish moss. Visitors can view historic homes, churches, synagogues, cemeteries, and a railroad roundhouse, all of which have been lovingly preserved. A trolley tour is a great way to orient yourself to the historic district’s layout; walking the cobblestone streets, dining in fine restaurants, and relaxing in the shade of the central squares is a wonderful way to spend a day, a week, or an entire vacation.
2. Booth Western Art Museum, Georgia
© Booth Western Art Museum
The Booth Western Art Museum is located in Cartersville, Georgia and is one of the state’s hidden gems. This excellent museum opened in 2003, and it contains the largest permanent exhibit of Western art in the United States.
The museum’s pieces explore the history of expansion in the American West, life on the early frontier, and the cowboy way of life. Enormous murals, bronze statuary, photographs, and paintings from some of the country’s most significant artists make this a museum not to be missed. There is also a display of Presidential portraits and letters, a period stagecoach, and a hands-on children’s gallery based on a working ranch.
501 Museum Drive, Cartersville, GA 30120, Phone: 770-387-1300
3. Georgia Aquarium
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Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world. In ten million gallons of water, you will see unique displays of whale sharks, beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, and manta rays, which have a thirteen-foot wingspan. Opened in 2005, the aquarium is a newcomer on the Atlanta tourist scene, but millions visit it annually.
The dolphin stadium holds 20-30 minute dolphin shows that are unrivaled anywhere, and its collection of mostly mammalian animals such as sea otters, beluga whales, and African penguins is the centerpiece of the fabulous aquarium. There are also dynamic displays of tropical fish from the South Pacific Ocean, and a North American fish tank that visitors can walk under and get a unique view of familiar fish from below.
225 Baker Street, Atlanta, GA 30313, Phone: 404-581-4000
4. Fort Pulaski National Monument, Georgia
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Fort Pulaski National Monument in Savannah was the site of a Union victory during the American Civil War, and it marks the first time that rifled cannons were used in combat, which effectively ended the era of impregnable stone and brick fortifications. Rifling puts helical grooves inside the weapon’s barrel, far increasing its speed, stability, and accuracy.
From Tybee Island, two and a half miles distant, Union forces were able to bring down the walls of Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island. The rifled cannon soon graduated from being an experimental prototype to being the most accurate gun in the world. The fort is well-preserved, and visitors may walk its ramparts and parapets, stroll its grounds, and explore its nature trails. The fort has a museum and a gift shop, and visitors are strongly recommended to bring insect repellent.
U.S. Hwy 80, Savannah, GA 31416, Phone: 912-786-5787
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5. Pin Point Heritage Museum, Georgia
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The Pin Point Heritage Museum is located in the old building of A.S. Varn & Sons Oyster Canning Factory. It operated from 1926-1985, and most of the workforce was made up of the descendants of freed African-American slaves who settled this tidewater region of swamps and scenic marshes directly after the American Civil War.
The people here lived in isolation, out of which grew the Gullah culture: a creole community and language with both African and European influences. Today, Pin Point is one of the few surviving Gullah communities. Their survival was strongly linked to the sea and the role they played in fishing and in the seafood canning industry. Visitors to the museum can see how oysters were canned and how fishing nets are made, listen to oral history, and watch a half hour historical film.
9924 Pin Point Avenue, Savannah, GA 31406, Phone: 912-355-0064
6. National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center, Georgia
© National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center
Located just outside of the infantry training center of Fort Benning, Georgia, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center tells the story of the American infantryman from the time of the American Revolution to today’s involvement in the Middle East. Visitors can see interactive multi-media displays and artifacts from all periods of American history, and there is also a Holocaust exhibit.
The emphasis throughout the museum is on the values that define the American infantry: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Visitors can get hands-on with the combat simulator, watch military-themed movies in the 3D Theater, and kick back in the restaurant and bar. The museum has a gift shop and plenty of benches.
1775 Legacy Way, Columbus, GA 31903, Phone: 705- 685-5800
7. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Georgia
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The Atlanta Botanical Gardens is a thirty-acre delight in the heart of the city, adjacent to Piedmont Park. The gardens opened in 1976 and provide a popular and peaceful way to spend time. The first part of the gardens was the Japanese Garden, which uses traditional architecture, evergreens, ponds, and Japanese maples.
Other gardens include the Rose Garden, a Children’s Garden with carnivorous plants and places to run, climb, and play, and a Southern Seasons Garden that consists of woodlands and southern blossoms such as camellias, hydrangeas, and trilliums. In the Fuqua Conservatory is an indoor exhibition of plants from tropical rainforests and deserts from around the world, as well as animals and birds of the tropics such as turtles, macaws, and poison dart frogs. The Fuqua Orchid Center houses rare orchids from around the world.
1345 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30309, Phone: 404-876-5859
8. Center for Civil and Human Rights, Georgia
© Center for Civil and Human Rights
The Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in 2014 and is dedicated to presenting the history of the American Civil Rights Movement and the work of human rights activists worldwide, especially as they pertain to the rights of women and LGBT persons. The “Voice to the Voiceless” exhibit contains Martin Luther King, Jr.’s papers, writings, and personal items; visitors can listen to a recording of the sermon he gave which predicted his assassination.
The “Rolls Down Like Water” exhibit is an interactive history of the American Civil Rights movement that includes a reproduction of a Woolworth’s lunch counter where visitors can listen through headphones to the taunts and threats leveled at activists of the time. The “Spark of Conviction” exhibit has a gallery of repressive dictators countered by examples of the work going on worldwide to fight for basic human rights.
100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30313, Phone: 678-999-8990
9. National Museum of the Mighty Eight Air Force, Georgia
© National Museum of the Mighty Eight Air Force
The Eighth Air Force Division is the heart of the American Armed Force’s heavy bomber squads; it originated in World War II and is still active today from its base in Louisiana. The museum preserves the stories of patriotism and courage displayed by the personnel of the Eighth Air Force in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm.
Especially in World War II, the Eighth played a vital role, as it performed strategic bombings in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The museum contains personal stories, old uniforms, weapons, and a Cold War exhibit, as well as many video presentations; outside is a garden with remembrance plaques for fallen aircraft and flight crews. Visitors may admire the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the B-47 Stratojet, the F-4 Phantom II, and a MiG-17. The museum has guided tours, a pub, and a gift shop.
175 Bourne Avenue, Pooler, GA 31322, Phone: 912-748-8888
10. Andersonville National Historic Site, Georgia
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Andersonville National Historic Site and its associated Prisoner-of-War Museum is the site of what was, during the Civil War era, a large military prison. Used during the final fourteen months of the American Civil War, the prison held 45,000 prisoners, of whom nearly a third died from starvation, scurvy, dysentery, hookworm, and exposure.
It is not a place for the faint of heart; the images and videos are haunting, but a visit there is necessary to anyone wishing a full picture of the horrors of the Civil War. A cemetery has been erected over what were mass graves; 13,714 bodies are buried there, of which 921 are unknown Union soldiers. The museum is dedicated to all prisoners of war around the world and their strength, endurance, and suffering.
496 Cemetery Road, Andersonville, GA 31711, Phone: 229-924-0343
11. Consolidated Gold Mine, Georgia
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In 1828, a deer hunter named Benjamin Parks tripped over a large boulder and discovered a rich vein of gold running through it, and so the gold rush came to Georgia and to the town of Dahlonega. By 1800, all the rocks, streams, and lakes in the area had been emptied of gold, and a group of investors bought 7,000 acres and drilled down to find more.
The mine closed in 1906 when the underground tunnels began to flood, but today safety measures have been taken, and tourists can go 200 feet underground to the inner workings of the upper mine. The trip down involves stairs and is not accessible by wheelchairs. A guided tour lasts forty minutes and includes the opportunity to learn how to pan for gold from experts and to try your own hand at gold panning. The mine has a gift shop selling everything from mining equipment to souvenirs.
185 Consolidated Gold Mine Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533, Phone: 706-364-8473
12. Museum of Aviation, Georgia
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The Museum of Aviation sits on Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Lovers of history and of planes and aviation will love this museum, with four hangars full of historic aircraft and more sitting outside. The planes on display include a B-52 bomber, a SR-71, a B-29 built in Marietta, Georgia, and the C-130 that was used for the failed Iran hostage rescue operation.
Exhibits inside include a Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, D-Day, the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II, and the Flying Tigers, American airmen who volunteered in the Chinese Air Force in 1941-1942 to help protect China from Japanese invasion. Another exhibit is on Hump Pilots, the airmen who flew over the Himalayas to bring supplies to the Chinese Army under Chiang Kai-Shek. The museum has a café, a gift shop, and a picnic area. Next read: Romantic Weekend Getaways from Atlanta
1942 Heritage Road, Robins Airforce Base, Warner Robins, GPA 31098, Phone: 478-926-6870
13. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Georgia
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Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist pastor, an activist, and the leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in April of 1968. The historic site, spread over thirty-five acres, contains the home where King was born, Ebenezer Baptist Church where both King and his father were pastors, a visitor center with museum exhibits relating to the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and the tombs of King and his wife.
It is Atlanta’s top tourist destination, a memorial to a great man who brought about great change. On the grounds is a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader whose insistence on non-violent protest directly affected King’s philosophies, and a rose garden dedicated to world peace. The historic site is in central Atlanta, and it has a gift shop as well as events to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day each January and Black History Month each February.
450 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30331, Phone: 404-331-5190 x5046
14. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia
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Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was the first national military park to be established in the United States. Its existence owes itself to the persistence of two Union generals who wished these significant battlefields to be preserved. Chickamauga in northern Georgia was the site of a Confederate victory that took place September 18-20, 1863, while Chattanooga in Tennessee was the site of a decisive Union Victory in November of 1863, which one contemporary called “the death knell of the Confederacy.”
That victory gave the Union forces control of the city of Chattanooga. The battlegrounds were used again during the Spanish-American War as training grounds for troops in southern states. Today, visitors can take guided tours in car caravans, which last approximately two hours and are led by rangers.
LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742, Phone: 423-821-7786
15. Roosevelt’s Little White House, Georgia
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When Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, one of the few things that eased his pain was hot water. In October of 1924 he made his first trip to the 88 degree natural hot spring in Warm Springs, Georgia. He loved it there, so much so that he bought the ramshackle old rehabilitation center and its grounds. In 1932, as Governor of New York, he would retreat to the six-room white Georgia Pine house he had built in Warm Springs, swim in its pool, and take the spring waters.
Roosevelt used the house in Georgia as a Presidential retreat, visiting it sixteen times over the years. In 1945 he died there of a stroke while having his portrait painted. The painting is one of the original furnishings that can be seen by visitors to the Little White House. The house has been open to the public since 1948.
401 Little White House Road, Warm Springs, GA 31830, Phone: 705-855-5870
16. Things to Do in Georgia: The Savannah Theatre
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Historic Savannah Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in the United States; it first opened its doors on December 4, 1818 with a production of the comedy “The Soldier’s Daughter.” Over the years, renowned players have performed with the theatre, including Sarah Bernhardt, W.C. Fields, Oscar Wilde, Tyrone Power, and Ellen Terry. Possibly the most unusual actor to grace the theatre’s stage was baseball legend Ty Cobb, who acted in a production of “The College Widow” in November 1911.
A hurricane in 1898 and two fires in the 20th century resulted in the Savannah theatre being rebuilt three times. After the 1948 fire, the theatre was remodelled in its current art deco design, and patrons of the theatre find it lush and comfortable. Musicals are the mainstay of the present-day Savannah theatre, and visitors may look at photographs, newspaper articles, and artifacts in the theatre’s lobby.
222 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31401, Phone: 912-233-7764
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17. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Georgia
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The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was part of the American Civil War’s Atlanta Campaign. With 100,000 Union soldiers under General William T. Sherman and 65,000 Confederate soldiers under General Joseph E. Johnston, June 27, 1864 was a bloody day during which nearly 6,000 men were killed. The battle was a tactical victory for the Confederacy, but it did not halt the Union soldiers from marching on Atlanta as the Confederate army had hoped.
Today, earthworks from both armies can still be viewed, and visitors to the top of Kennesaw Mountain have a remarkably clear view of Atlanta in the distance. The museum and the interpretative center are interesting and educational, and there are several self-guided tour trails in the park. Bird lovers come to the park to see and hear the bounty of migrating songbirds that winter there.
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw, GA 30152, Phone: 770-427-4686 x0
18. GA Things to Do: Neptune Park
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Neptune Park is a centerpiece of St. Simons Island, a spot for family gatherings and fun. A popular place for after dinner strolls, lighted pathways meander through the park alongside the ocean. There’s also the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum and picnic areas. The main draw of the park, however, is the Neptune Park Fun Zone, which features something for everyone. There’s an eighteen-hole miniature golf course, a zero-entry pool, lap lanes, a children's water gym, poolside umbrellas, and a wading pool. Refreshments are available at the concession stand. Neptune Park also has a modern playground with slides, swings, and more.
550 Beachview Dr, St Simons Island, GA 31522, 912-279-3720
19. Things to Do in Georgia: Rolling Thunder River Company
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The Rolling Thunder River Company has since 1977 taken thousands of visitors on white-water rafting excursions on the Ocoee River in northern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee; the river crosses state lines and descends through the Appalachian Mountains. The Ocoee River came into world renown during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when it was used for white-water events.
It has the longest class III and class IV rapids in the United States, and on it, the Rolling Thunder River Company guarantees both safety and an exciting adventure. Half-day and full-day rafting excursions are available; the full-day excursions include a bus ride into Cherokee National Forest, a safety demonstration, and a riverside lunch. Rafting the full river takes six hours. Rafting excursions are offered from early April until the end of September annually.
20 Hughes Street, McCaysville, GA 30555, Phone: 706-492-5720
20. Things to Do in Georgia: Mercier Orchards
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Mercier Orchards has been a family-run business for over seventy years; Bill and Adele Mercier first planted it in 1943. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, it offers family-oriented and educational fun as well as a dazzling variety of pick-your-own fruits. The orchards today have a bakery, a deli, a market store, and a farm winery that produces hard-pressed cider and wines.
Throughout the year, people come from near and far to pick strawberries, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, and many varieties of apples. Families with children always enjoy tractor tours of the orchards, which are narrated with stories about fruit, orchard management, and the history of this orchard. In the fall, the orchard hosts a tractor show, and in the spring it serves as the starting point for a charitable run.
8660 Blue Ridge Drive, Blue Ridge, GA 30513, Phone: 706-632-3411
21. Tybee Island Light Station and Museum
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On Tybee Island, a barrier island off the Georgia coast, is one of the seven surviving Colonial era lighthouses. It sits on the entrance to the Savannah River in the northeast of the island. In 1732 the first lighthouse was erected here under the orders of General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th Colony. It was destroyed by a hurricane.
Over the years, two additional lighthouses were built, but one was seriously damaged due to soil erosion, and Confederate forces burned another during the American Civil War. The tower as it stands today dates from 1871, and it and its support buildings stand on the five-acre site. Visitors may climb the 178 stairs to the top of the lighthouse, see the keepers cottage, and visit the lighthouse museum that is housed in the former Fort Screven, a military outpost of the Spanish Civil War.
30 Meddin Drive, Tybee Island, GA 31328, Phone: 912-786-5801
22. High Museum of Art, Georgia
© High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art is one of the most significant museums in the southeastern United States. It holds more than 15,000 works in a collection with seven different foci: American art, decorative art and design, modern and contemporary art, folk and self-taught art, African art, European art, and photography. The High Museum has works by luminaries such as Monet, Bellini, Pissarro, and John Singer Sargent, and supports and collects artwork by self-taught Southern artists.
Outside the building is a large bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, a gift from the French government after 102 Atlanta art patrons on a museum-run trip died in a plane crash in Orly airport in 1962. The museum has a gift shop and many educational opportunities, including toddler art programs, art talks, and Friday jazz concerts.
1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309, Phone: 404-733-4400
23. GA Things to Do: Taste of Thomasville
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Taste of Thomasville has been named as one of Georgia's top food tours by Southern Living, taking participants through the city's charming downtown as part of three-hour culinary walking tours. The company, which was founded by Debra Smith, combines architectural and historical tour information with culinary exploration, allowing participants to sample delicacies from a variety of local food vendors and artisans. All tours are led by experienced tour guides, stopping at several restaurants and food vendors throughout the city's downtown region. Tour options include a standard food tour, an after-hours wine and beer tour, a children's tour, and a holiday Victorian sweets tour. Though participants are encouraged to tip tour guides for their service, tour fee includes gratuity at restaurants. Phone: 229-227-7585
24. Things to Do: Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls, located in the middle of the Chattahoochee National Forest, is a place of quiet that’s broken by the sound of rushing water cascading over a rugged cliff. Marking the junction of York Creek and Curtis Creek, Anna Ruby Falls is made up of twin waterfalls created by York Creek dropping 50 feet and Curtis Creek dropping 153 feet. A paved path around half a mile long leads visitors from the parking area to the base of the waterfalls. The walk is an easy to moderate hike, with benches along the way, and takes around thirty minutes on average.
3455 Anna Ruby Falls Rd, Helen, GA 30545, 706-878-1448
25. Things to Do Near Me: College Football Hall of Fame
© College Football Hall of Fame
The College Football Hall of Fame is a recent addition to the Atlanta tourist scene, having moved from South Bend, Indiana in 2014. In the heart of Atlanta’s entertainment and sporting district, the museum is a goldmine for college football fans. The Quad at the museum’s entrance has helmets of over seven hundred college teams. Visitors can run through the Touchstone Tunnel, which is adorned with some of the iconic touchstones that teams touch superstitiously on game day.
A 45-yard replica football field is available where fans can try their own football skills. The museum has exhibits on traditionally black colleges and universities and on service academies such as the U.S. Naval Academy, a display of trophies, and interactive, high tech screens in which fans can immerse themselves. The Hall of Fame has a gift shop and a children’s play zone.
250 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30313, Phone: 404-880-4800