The State of Georgia made the National Geographic Traveler’s Best Destinations for 2017 list, but most people know so little about this big and diverse state. The Atlantic Ocean hugs the Georgia coast while mountains rise in the north and a polar opposite, one of the largest gator-filled swamps sits low in the south. Georgia. Not just the home of many a civil war battle, but also rich with pirate lore and legends, ghosts and gold, waterfalls and southern charm, and the background to Margaret Mitchell’s famous Gone with the Wind saga.
So if you are starting to plan your next vacay- consider this land of peaches and pecans and check out this list of the Top Ten Things You Should Do When You Visit Georgia to help you on your way. You won’t be disappointed.
Top 10 Things You Should Do When You Visit Georgia
1. Start hiking the Appalachian Trail
The 2,190-mile Appalachian hiking trail stretches from Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia and winds through 14 states until it reaches its end (or Northern Terminus) at Mount Katahdin in Maine. You can take a day hike, take the weekend or go the whole hog and shoot for a Thru-Hike- though that may require six months or more of your time. Be sure to dress for the weather and bring water and all of your other necessities for your hike. Also, check the AT website for trail closures and fire warnings. You can reach the Southern Terminus through Amicalola State Park.
Check out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website to start planning your hike today!
2. Hunt for gold in Dahlonega
Dahlonega was home to the Georgia gold rush of 1828. Though the gold has mostly been mined out- there is talk of a new sonogram type gold vein finder that will spot gold in the earth without having to dig! That would have saved a lot of digging and back pain in the 1800’s! You can visit Dahlonega Gold Mine, home of the biggest vein of gold ever discovered and take a tour of their mine. You can also strike out on your own and pan for gold in the Chattahoochee, Dicks Creek, or even the lower Amicalola if you are looking for some flakes of your own.
3. Camp on an island with wild horses
They say on a clear day you can see the wild horses of Cumberland Island all the way from Florida. But if you are already in Georgia, you don’t have to wait for that clear weather. Pack up your camping gear and hop on the ferry to Cumberland Island. With two main campgrounds and three wilderness ones, you have plenty of choices to pick from (reservations ARE required!). Set up the tents and hoof it to the 18 miles of beach- a listed National Seashore and perhaps you catch a better glimpse of those famous horses. You can also explore the ruins of Dungenees Manor and the more modern Georgian revival Plum Orchard House. Park fees are $7 per person and good for a week (under 15 years old free) and $28 round trip on the ferry, $18 for kids 15 and younger. You must through their website to make your camping reservations.
4. Catch one of the biggest laser shows in the world at Stone Mountain
Though you have to wait until April 1st for this spectacular laser show extravaganza, you can still visit Stone Mountain Park any time. Ride the vintage train around the mountain, take the sky tram to the top, explore an old plantation house, and test your skills on the SkyHike- the world’s largest aerial obstacle course (it’s amazing!). During the winter months you can go snow tubing down the mountain with your friends and family.
We managed to see the 4th of July laser show and fireworks at Stone Mountain and it was incredible! Bring a blanket and snacks and get there early. It packs out, but the beauty of it is because it is so high up, everywhere (except maybe under a tree) is a good view! Great music too!
Stone Mountain Park is only minutes away from Atlanta, but there is a campground and also a mountain resort if you’d rather just stay and play.
5. Shoot the Hooch- go tubing down rapids in Helen.
Yes, if it is winter you tube down the mountains, but come June it’s time to grab those pink and green tubes and shoot the Hooch- in Helen. It’s a lazy river ride on the Chattahoochee River that winds through the Bavarian styled village of Helen. Rapids and more than one small waterfall make this a tubing adventure to remember. This town is one of our family favorites, from the apple pancakes at Hofer’s Bakery to the German dinners at the Bodensee. If plan on staying, get a room by the river to hang out after the tubers have vacated! Check out our YouTube video about Helen!
6. Hike to the Edge of the World
The state of Georgia is full of hiking trails, from the Appalachian Trail to trails to waterfalls like Raven Cliff Falls Trail, trails to canyons with waterfalls like Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail and trails to the tops of mountains with views as far as the eye can see, like Yonah Mountain Trail, but none of them has quite the epic-sounding ring to it as taking a trail to the Edge of the World. Located near Dawsonville, hiking to the Edge of the World is actually easier than you think! Read about our epic adventure to the Edge of the World.
7. Get Peachy in Atlanta
Atlanta is the hotspot of the south, and all of that urban hipness has not detracted from its southern charm. Streets have peach names like Peachtree Avenue, diners are peach- themed, and they even drop a giant peach in the historic Atlanta Underground, to mark the beginning of the New Year, an unusual tradition that has been ongoing since 1989! Though I heard that the last peach drop may have been their final one. (The Atlanta Underground is an entertainment and shopping district built under the modern city of Atlanta in the former civil war ruins.)
It won’t be too difficult to find a peach iced tea, peach schnapps or some flowery peach wine in Atlanta, but that’s not all this city has to offer, Atlanta is also home to one of the largest aquatic wildlife collections at the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca Cola, home base of CNN news at the CNN Center, Atlanta Zoo, Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
8. Hunt for Haunts in Savannah
There is no Georgia city more celebrated for its haunts than the sultry southern city of Savannah. One of Blackbeard’s favorite ports, you can walk among spirits in Savannah, like at the Pirate House. Dating back 250 years, the Pirate House restaurant has a secret passage from the tavern to the sea, where many a sailor was dragged into servitude; the Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the book and subsequent movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is haunted by a child-ghost. There are the spirits of Calhoun Square and much more. Picking your ghost tour may prove your most difficult choice in this city of spirits!
9. Explore a Civil War Fort on Tybee Island
Civil War buffs and explorers alike will enjoy climbing through the tunnels, investigating the barracks poking into the prisons at Fort Pulaski National Monument Fees are $7 per person. 15 years and under are free. Check out the battle damaged walls from the Fort Perimeter Trail, get a glimpse of the lighthouse on Cockspur Island from the Lighthouse Trail or take a fishing pole (and Georgia Fishing License) and hit the Fishing Pier Trail to try your luck from McQueen’s Island.
10. Take an alligator stomp in a swamp in the Okefenokee
Take a swamp stomp in the more than 401,000 acres that make up the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Indian for ‘land that trembles when you walk on it,’ the swamp is home to diverse wildlife and habitats. There are 4 entrances to the refuge, each offering different opportunities, from motorized boat rides through the swamp, boardwalk trails and kayak and canoe rental opportunities. There are 120 miles of paddle trails within the park. At the Folkstone entrance, you can check out the Chesser Island Boardwalk and Homestead, take a boat ride (extra fee) or DIY it on the Swamp Island Drive through the park. Park entrance (except Waycross) is $5 per person and good for up to 7 days. Explore a large slice of Wild Georgia and watch out for the gators!
From haunted cities to hunting for gold. Georgia is ready for adventure. Are you?