Have you bitten into a juicy summer peach at Pearson Farm? Camped among grunting gators at Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge? Cheered a touchdown between the hedges at University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium? In compiling this list (presented in no particular order), we set out to define the essential experiences that offer a survey of the state’s unique character, from the golden isles to the Appalachian foothills, from the kitschy to the jaw-dropping. Whether you’re a fourth-generation native or a brand-new transplant, it’s time to start traversing Georgia’s clay. Here’s your guide:
Every year from around mid-May to the end of July, loggerhead sea turtles amble up Georgia beaches in the middle of the night to lay their nests. Around two months later, the tiny hatchlings emerge, making their way to the ocean guided by the reflection of moonlight.
At the end of an unassuming palmetto-lined path on Jekyll Island, you’ll find Driftwood Beach, a surreal natural sculpture garden of fallen trees.
The water’s searing blue hue is a result of trace amounts of radium, which was once believed to have healing powers.
In the South, you’ll spot hand-scrawled signs for boiled peanuts across the state’s back roads, but our favorite is Fred’s Famous Peanuts, outside Helen.
An hour and a half south of Atlanta, you’ll find Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vacation cottage, the Little White House, and the warm springs where he swam for polio therapy.
Bring the kids, the grill, and a case of beer to get the full Saturday night tailgating experience at this authentic red clay racetrack in Woodstock.
Pay homage to the eccentric Southern writer at her circa-1860 Plantation-style home in Milledgeville.
In the 1930s the country’s then-largest archaeological dig ever revealed hundreds of burial sites and excavated 2.5 million artifacts from more than 10,000 years of Southeastern Indian culture.
Cool, contemporary artwork isn’t the only draw at SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah. The building that houses it is itself destination-worthy.
With its pristine white exterior, intricately carved pillars, and towering spires, the sprawling 27,000-square-foot BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir stands out like the Taj Mahal next door to a Lilburn Walgreens.
Hippies use front door! From 1969 to 1973, members of the Allman Brothers Band lived—and jammed—in a circa-1900 Tudor-style Macon home.
A simple stars-and-stripes headband works, but don’t be surprised if the runner next to you sports a flag cape or Uncle Sam top hat.
Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
In the dusty heart of South Georgia farmland, find Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign headquarters, a tiny wooden depot that now serves as a museum.
The conceit behind Cabbage Patch Kids is that they spring from cabbage plants in a “hospital” in Cleveland, the tiny northeast Georgia town where they were invented.
This paved former railway cuts a 61.5-mile path from Smyrna to Alabama, passing junk-filled backyards and bucolic pine groves.
If college football is a religion, then stadiums are its shrines, and one can argue that no spot deserves reverence more than UGA’s Sanford Stadium.
Down a dirt rut off Highway 82 near Brunswick, you can bunk up in a screened-in tree house (one of nine) among 133 acres of wetland woods with nothing but a simple bed, candles, and a tattered novel.
The “Little Grand Canyon” may look like a natural phenomenon, but it’s actually the result of human tampering.
Since its start as a rehearsal space for pioneering alt-rock band Pylon nearly 40 years ago, the 40 Watt Club in Athens has launched world-renowned local acts like R.E.M., the B-52s, Of Montreal, and Drive-by-Truckers, and hosted headliners from Snoop Dogg to Nirvana.
Short of an invitation, the only way to visit the private Sea Island is to book a room at its resort, the Cloister.
Jim Gibbs of Gibbs Landscape Company spent decades turning his 300 acres near Big Canoe into a public garden.
Even if—like most folks—you’re not inclined to hike the AT all the way to Maine, you can still get a taste of the glory at the trail’s southern terminus at the top of Georgia’s Springer Mountain.
Reservations at the 40-seat Staplehouse, a modern Southern restaurant in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, have been hard to come by since it was named America’s Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit last September.
Part natural treasure and part retro amusement park, Rock City offers breathtaking views, ancient rock formations, and bizarre exhibits of European folklore that glow in the caves under black lights.
Paddle South Georgia’s otherworldly Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, where lily pads dapple mirror-like water, alligators bask in the sun, and ancient, Spanish moss–draped cypress trees provide shade.
Duck into the world’s smallest liquor store—the closet-sized River Street Liquor—and emerge with a cup of beer, a cocktail, or even a shot, all totally legal in Savannah’s open container–friendly historic district.
Nearly 50 years ago, God inspired Howard Finster to build Paradise Garden, an enormous display of sculptures and paintings scattered among a mirror-covered tree house, a tornado of rusted bicycles, and a towering church. Now Airbnb makes it easy to spend the night there.
Originally part of a sprawling estate built by the Carnegie family at the turn of the 20th century, the colonial-style Greyfield mansion is the only hotel on Cumberland Island.
Reserve one of the 10 canvas-topped yurts and you can immerse yourself in nature while remaining cozy as a bug.
With the wait list closed years ago, organizers have made available a select number of tickets via online lottery.
The Georgia Guidestones, a mysterious 19-foot granite monument near Elberton, dictates 10 philosophical commandments (engraved in eight languages) for governing humanity in concurrence with nature. Show up at noon to see the sun illuminate an engraving of that day’s date.
The artscape is a study in vibrant color and geometry—plus it’s one masterpiece you’re encouraged not only to touch but to tackle.
Last year at the Serenbe Playhouse, a 6,000-pound helicopter landed on stage each night for Miss Saigon. This spring the playhouse’s founder built an entire drive-in theater.
On Hurricane Falls Trail, take the 600-plus stairs down into this spectacular 1,000-foot canyon, cross the suspension bridge, behold six waterfalls, then ascend hundreds of leg-torching stairs on the other side, and savor your pride.
The largest and most notorious of Civil War prisons, Camp Sumter had a short but deadly history: Nearly 13,000 of the 45,000 Union soldiers died, mostly of starvation and disease.
Completed in 1859 in Italian Renaissance Revival style, this elaborate residence was the “smart” house of its day.
At the annual showcase of the country’s best HBCU bands, high-stepping drum majors with plumed hats and drill canes perform spins and splits, sequined majorettes and dance squads execute fierce routines, and the crowd roars and dances in their seats.
This is the Peach State, after all, and you’ll experience it best by going straight to the source.
One of only four drive-ins still operating in Georgia, the Swan Drive-In Theatre opened in 1955 in tiny Blue Ridge.
Our fave spot to eyeball the Dragon Con crowd: Trader Vic’s, a festive tiki bar located on the lower level of the Hilton.
After some man-made channels and rapids were engineered, the 2.5-mile stretch became the world’s longest urban whitewater course, featuring a whooshing rapid called Cut Bait, the biggest wave east of the Colorado.
In the 1960s thousands of peaceful protesters risked violence and arrest to desegregate Atlanta’s lunch counters.
The best time to admire Madison’s pristine Greek Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Victorian architecture is during the annual Tour of Homes & Gardens in May.
On a backroad through the fertile farmland near Montezuma, find Yoder’s, a cafeteria and local gathering spot for a community of Mennonites.
Don’t let the drab strip malls fool you; Atlanta’s most soulful dining experiences can be found along this corridor.
Stone Mountain isn’t the only enormous granite monadnock around.
Will Harris’s family farm in southwest Georgia, White Oak Pastures, is the largest organic farm in the state and has gained nearly every accolade for sustainable farming techniques.
At the Sound Table, a hip restaurant and music venue on Edgewood Avenue near downtown, a local DJ spins almost every night of the week.
Winding through the mountains on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, State Route 52 drips with deciduous jewels in fall: golden-yellow oaks and ginkgoes, deep-purple sweetgums, blazing-red maples.
Article courtesy of AtlantaMagazine.com