Live Oaks on W. Society Ave. in Albany, Georgia
Philip Wages

Live Oaks on W. Society Ave. in Albany, Georgia

Guide to Albany

The home of music icon Ray Charles, Albany is filled with things to see and do that are sure to keep Georgia on your mind. Follow these tips when planning your trip.

Originally inhabited by Native American tribes and later an important location for both riverboat and railroad trading, Albany is located in southwest Georgia. It has ties to music, as the home of music icon Ray Charles, and has a number of colleges and universities. It’s also a short drive to two places with ties to American presidents: Plains and Warm Springs. And, of course, Albany continues to have a center of agriculture with you-pick farms open seasonally.

Things to Do

A cheetah at Chehaw Park in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook
A cheetah at Chehaw Park in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

There’s no shortage of attractions to enjoy in Albany. The 700-acre Chehaw Park is South Georgia’s best wildlife attraction, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In addition to the many animal habitats - including camels, meerkats and screech owls - Chehaw has BMX bike trails, frisbee golf and campsites.

Named one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, Radium Springs Gardens has more than 70,000 gallons of natural 68-degree water from an underground spring. A casino once stood on this site, where visitors could play games in between dips in the springs. Today, the site has gardens and gazebos.

Similarly, the Flint RiverQuarium interprets the history of the Flint River, which has a unique ecosystem. The facility has a blue hole spring, more than 100 species and educational lessons for visitors.

The Freedom Singers in Albany, Georgia
The Freedom Singers in Albany, Georgia

Learn about South Georgia’s role in the Civil Rights Movement at the Albany Civil Rights Institute, an interactive history museum. Learn about the Leesburg Stockade and Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to the town. Try to visit on the second Saturday of the month to catch a performance of the Freedom Singers.

The diverse collection at the Albany Museum of Art has been welcoming visitors for more than 30 years, with works spanning thousands of years of art history. The exhibitions include one of the largest collections of sub-Saharan African art in the Southeast United States. Best of all, it’s free to visit.

Pay tribute to Albany’s most famous native son at Ray Charles Plaza, which features a life-size bronze sculpture of him singing at his piano. It lights up and plays his music. The sculpture is located within a park that has a sidewalk designed like piano keys that wind down to the Flint River.

Thronateeska Heritage Center is three museums for the price of one, including a history museum, science museum and planetarium. Set in a 1913 Union Station depot, the community first repurposed this building in 1974.

Places to Stay

Merry Acres Inn & Event Center in Albany, Georgia
Merry Acres Inn & Event Center in Albany, Georgia

You're sure to feel like part of the family at Merry Acres Inn & Event Center, which has more than 100 boutique-style rooms. Originally built in 1952, their cocktail hour is popular among guests and locals alike. They offer free buffet breakfast daily as well as shuttles to their partner restaurants.

Albany also has a number of larger properties. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Albany is a smoke-free property with free WiFi, a business center, fitness center, an indoor pool and complimentary hot breakfast.

Hilton Garden Inn Albany offers similar amenities, including complimentary WiFi, flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers and more than 13,000 square feet of event space. Enjoy free complimentary breakfast at Wingate by Wyndham Albany, or take advantage of the fitness center and pool.

The Park Inn by Radisson Albany also has a breakfast bar, fitness center and rooms with microwaves and fridges. Known for their comfy beds, Hampton Inn & Suites Albany also has in-room microwaves and fridges, as well as free WiFi and breakfast. Also with free WiFi and flat screen televisions, Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany is a great place to rest your head.

Complimentary breakfast at Baymont by Wyndham Albany at Albany Mall
Complimentary breakfast at Baymont by Wyndham Albany at Albany Mall

The Country Inn & Suites by Radisson - Albany has complimentary breakfast, daily cookies, a business center and indoor pool. Start your day with continental breakfast at Baymont Inn & Suites Albany before exploring the area. Courtyard Albany also has free WiFi and breakfast.

Where to Eat

Henry Campbell's Steakhouse in Albany, Georgia
Henry Campbell's Steakhouse in Albany, Georgia

Albany has a fantastic selection of locally owned restaurants, serving just about every type of cuisine. Splurge on a night out at Henry Campbell's Steakhouse, Albany’s steakhouse that serves only the finest steaks and seafood. There’s also a fully stocked bar with top-shelf liquor and wine.

Enjoy the freshest coastal fare at Albany Fish Company, which features menu items like oysters, catfish po boys and low country boil.

Chow down on pizza with a side of live music at Harvest Moon, a local favorite. In addition to daily specials, menu highlights include their loaded cheesy bread, homemade chicken pot pie and the signature Full Moon pie.

Set in a 1908 building downtown, The Bread House is equal parts farm to table restaurant, bakery, and juice and coffee bar. The restaurant benefits a non-profit charity called GraceWay Recovery Residence, a women’s drug and alcohol rehab facility.

Blackbeard's B&B Bar-B-Que serves up barbecue, as the name implies, along with burgers, sandwiches, and Southern food like Brunswick stew and country fried steak.

The Cookie Shoppe in Albany, Georgia
The Cookie Shoppe in Albany, Georgia

The Cookie Shoppe has been open for 28 years, serving homemade sandwiches, soups and salads, baked goods, and authentic baklava for breakfast and lunch.

Family owned Pearly's Famous Country Cooking is always busy, open for breakfast and lunch. Their biscuits are the stuff of legend, but daily meat and three specials are also favorites like turkey with dressing.

Old-fashioned hot dog joint Jimmie's Hot Dogs has been a part of the Albany community since 1940. There aren’t any tables inside, and it’s cash only, so come prepared.

Grab your Mexican favorites on the go or on the patio at San Joe's to Go. They have tacos, burritos, tortas and salads.

Dine on Italian fare at a reasonable price at Villa Garganos, serving items like bruschetta, veal Parmigiana and lasagna.

Events

The Snickers Marathon and Half Marathon in Albany, Georgia
The Snickers Marathon and Half Marathon in Albany, Georgia

There’s always something happening in Albany! The Snickers Marathon in March is a popular race for those training for other marathons and half marathons thanks to the relatively flat course that passes many local attractions.

Celebrate the holiday season at the Festival of Lights, held every year at Chehaw Park. The park also holds the Native American Festival, which honors the history of the Native American tribes with crafts and demonstrations. Chehaw’s Frontier Festival recreates the 1700s frontier days in America with costumed performers and artisan demonstrations.

Let the good times roll at the Mardi Gras Festival, which features live music, vendors and a kid-friendly area.

Published: September 2018