Things to Do When Georgia's on Your Mind

From Atlanta, the bustling cultural capital and sporting center, to the grunting alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp, there’s plenty of things to see and do in the peachy state of Georgia. The best times to visit are May, June, and September. The imposing Blue Ridge Mountains have scenic byways that wind through forests and over hills and dales. From mid-May to the end of July, hatchling turtles toddle down beaches to the ocean for the first time. The Peach State is delightful.


01Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta

manta ray South Pacific whales

This fantastic aquarium is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. Several thousand species and more than 100,000 marine animals populate the 10-million gallons of fresh and sea waters. A 13-foot wingspan manta ray seemingly glides effortlessly by the glass. Whale sharks, beluga whales, and playful bottlenose dolphins also vie for attention. Visit the Dolphin Stadium for an entertaining ‘look-at-me’ show. Walk beneath the North American fish tank for a unique view. Don’t miss the spirited display of South Pacific tropical fish.


02Consolidated Gold Mine – Dahlonega

gold mine panning

A rich vein of gold was discovered in 1828 quite by accident when a clumsy hunter tripped over a rock. By 1900, there was no more gold. Investors drilled deeper to find more, but a 1906 flood closed the area. Safely reopened for visitors, descend 200 feet underground to the inner workings of the upper mine. The 40-minute guided tour involves stairs. There is no accessibility for wheelchairs or strollers. Learn from an expert how to pan for gold, then try it for yourself. Visit the gift shop for everything from souvenirs to mining equipment.


03Mercier Orchards - Blue Ridge

fruit stories tractor ride

Family-run for 70 years; this northern Georgia farm is family-friendly and educational. Pick fresh fruit from a dazzling array of produce. Silky strawberries, juicy peaches, sweetly acid blueberries, plump blackberries and a variety of apples beckon from baskets. Take a tractor tour around the orchards. A guide narrates stories about the fruit and explains orchard management. In the fall, the orchards sponsor a tractor pull. It's also the starting point for a charity run event.


04Tybee Island Light Station and Museum

lighthouse barrier island Fort Screven

One of the last surviving Colonial-era lighthouses Rests on this barrier island. Situated at the Savannah River’s entrance, the original 1732 lighthouse was victim to a hurricane. Two others followed. One was destroyed by soil erosion. The other was burned during the Civil War by Confederate forces. Today, the 1871 lighthouse and outer buildings sit majestically on five-acres. Climb 178 stairs for panoramic area views. Explore the keeper’s house. Visit the Fort Screven museum, a military outpost from the Spanish American War.


05College Football Hall of Fame – Atlanta

The College Hall of Fame moved from South Bend, Indiana to Atlanta in 2014. Situated in the heart of Atlanta’s cultural and entertainment district, this attraction is a treasure trove for college football fans. The entrance features a quad displaying over 700 college team helmets. Run through Touchstone Tunnel to see some of the superstitious icons that teams tapped before games. Try your own football moves on the 45-yard replica field. Immerse yourself in an interactive game on high-tech screens. The Hall of Fame has a wonderful gift shop and children’s play area.


06Fort Pulaski National Monument – Savannah

Fort Pulaski is the site of a Union Army Civil War victory. This victory marks the first time that rifled cannons were used in combat. Rifling increased speed, stability and accuracy, and effectively ended the usefulness of stone and brick fortifications. The fort is well-preserved with beautiful grounds ideal for a stroll. Walk the ramparts and parapets for a dramatic exposure to military life and the surrounding land. Hike the nature trails, stop in the museum and pick up some memorabilia at the gift shop. A word to the wise traveler: bring insect repellent.


07Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area – Lumpkin

plumleaf azalea cars canyons manmade SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

What started out as a manmade debacle ended up as a stunning natural wonder. The area is also known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.” In the 1800s, soil management had a steep learning curve for farmers and experts alike. Unmanaged furrows deepened and widened as wind and rain flowed through the path of least resistance. Furrows graduated to ravines and ravines morphed into canyons. Don’t be surprised if you are sharing the nature trails with flora groupies. This is the only place that the rare and vividly hued red-and-orange plumleaf azalea grows in its natural habitat. An unexpected sight in this gorgeous landscape are the 1950s-era cars that litter the canyons. At some point, it was determined to be environmentally unsafe to remove the automobiles.


08Lunch Box Museum – Columbus

lunchbox collectibles metal

A sense of nostalgia smites those of a certain age when entering this amazing collection of over 3,500 metal lunchboxes with matching thermoses. In 1920, plain metal lunchboxes were appealing the youth of America, but they were plain and uninspired. Disney was the first to offer manufacturers iconic characters by way of applied decals. Between 1951 and 1985 only 450 metal lunchboxes had decals. These are collectibles and rare pails can go for over $2,500. In the 1970s, angry moms lobbied that metal lunchboxes were being used as weapons and were too dangerous. The last metal box was produced in 1985.


09Stone Mountain

This carved granite mountain is a distinct natural attraction. In the 1830s, this hulking monument was a granite quarry. Much of the granite went to build blocks at the Panama Canal. Vaults at the United States Treasury and the East Wing steps at the Washington Capitol building are also from Stone Mountain granite. The Yellow Daisy Festival takes place in September. The Highland Games and Scottish Festival occurs in October, a beautiful time to visit this area. There are hiking trails, lush picnic spots, a scenic railroad, and an aerial tramway.


10Booth Western Art Museum – Cartersville

cowboys ranch stagecoach

This museum is a Georgia treasure. The Expansion of the American West is the largest permanent exhibit in the United States. There’s a hands-on working ranch gallery for kids. A period stagecoach conveys transportation on the early frontier. Murals depict the cowboy way of life. There’s also an impressive display of presidential portraits and personal correspondence.


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