Downtown Roswell, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Downtown Roswell, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

5 Small Towns That are Big Fun for Families

These five destinations have everything you need for unforgettable family getaways.

For one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, friendly accommodations, and activities for all ages, you don't have to look much farther than Georgia's small towns. The qualities that make them great places to live, work and raise families are the same qualities that make them great places to visit.

From just outside Atlanta in historic Roswell to coastal St. Marys, gateway to Cumberland Island, Georgia is dotted with small towns filled with places to explore.

Play with the kids at an indoor water park in LaGrange and venture into town for soul-satisfying Southern cooking. Get out on the lake in Greensboro and shop the unique boutiques in town. Wind down after a day of outdoor adventure in the North Georgia mountains at wineries in Ellijay.

Get away with the family to small towns and make special memories for years to come. Here are five small towns the whole family will love.

Canton Street in Roswell, Georgia
Canton Street in Roswell, Georgia

Roswell

With its prime location on the Chattahoochee River, Roswell — which began as a cotton mill town — has long been a destination for outdoor adventures such as kayaking and hiking. Visitors are also drawn to this refined bedroom community just north of Atlanta for its historic homes, numerous galleries, and thriving culinary scene.

Were that not enough, the town is beloved for its walkability and inviting, dog-friendly streets lined with patio dining, breweries, and boutiques. Spend the morning on Canton Street shopping for art and antiques and exploring independent stores, from fashion retailers such as Belle Mode and Spirited to home goods stores including Black Dog Interiors and Steel & Cotton Ltd.

Stroll to nearby Bulloch Hall, the circa-1839 home of Theodore Roosevelt's mother, for a tour. When it's time to eat, 200 restaurants await, including Gate City Brewing, Gracious Plenty, and Bistro VG.

Kayaking with Nantahala Outdoor Center - Roswell. Photo by @benjamingalland
Kayaking with Nantahala Outdoor Center - Roswell. Photo by @benjamingalland

DO: Stop in at the new Nantahala Outdoor Center to get outfitted for tubing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, or biking adventures along the Chattahoochee. Visit Chattahoochee Nature Center for wildlife walks featuring rehabilitating native animals. More things to do in Roswell

EAT: Fellows Cafe on Green Street serves up innovative brunch treats (think sweet potato eggs benedict) in an 1890s house, while nearby Table & Main presents simple but unsurpassed Southern fare — with a twist. More restaurants in Roswell

SLEEP: The new Home2 Suites by Hilton is lo­cated close to all Roswell attractions, from Canton Street to the Chattahoochee, and the recently remodeled DoubleTree hotel offers complimentary shuttles to the downtown area. More places to stay in Roswell

Visit Roswell


The Goodbread House Bed & Breakfast Inn in St. Marys, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
The Goodbread House Bed & Breakfast Inn in St. Marys, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

St. Marys

Perhaps best known as the gateway city to pristine Cum­berland Island, the coastal town of St. Marys draws visitors with a host of natural attractions. Three rivers — the St. Marys, the Crooked, and the North — and the Cumberland Sound come together here, making it a popu­lar destination for fishing and boating. Birdwatchers flock here, too, as they travel Georgia's Colonial Coast Birding Trail, along which more than 300 species have been spotted.

New gardens and walking paths en­hance the downtown, home to a charming bookstore (Once Upon a Bookseller), a vibrant art gal­lery (Old Towne Gallery), and a handful of antiques dealers. Con­tinue on foot to the nearby St. Marys History Walk and discover local history — from Timucua settlements in the 1500s to the shipbuilding industry of the 19th and 20th centuries — from a se­ries of interpretative panels set along the shaded trail.

Discover more about the town's maritime legacy at the St. Marys Subma­rine Museum, where you can get a feel for life aboard a sub. Or tour nearby Naval Sub­marine Base Kings Bay, the East Coast home of Ohio-class sub­marines, the largest ever built for the U.S. Navy.

Cumberland Island ferry in St. Marys, Georgia. Photo by @katiecherry72
Cumberland Island ferry in St. Marys, Georgia. Photo by @katiecherry72

DO: Book a ride on the Cumberland Island Ferry, which departs from St. Marys for day trips on Georgia's largest barrier island. The 45-minute ride is itself a great way to ex­perience the area's natural wonders (keep an eye out for the wild horses). More things to do in St. Marys

SLEEP: Built in 1916, the stately Riverview Hotel shines after a recent remodeling. Settle in on the ve­randa or head down­stairs to Seagle's Saloon for a cocktail with the locals. More places to stay in St. Marys

EAT: Hit Locals Dockside on the riverfront for the Captain Cal Platter with grilled shrimp, crab cake, and fish fried to perfection served with grits and sweet potato fries. More restaurants in St. Marys

Visit St. Marys


Layfayette Square in downtown LaGrange, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Layfayette Square in downtown LaGrange, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

LaGrange

Located near Georgia's western border, LaGrange combines small-town charm with a full slate of offerings, from water-based recreation to buzzy craft beer destinations. First a bit of history: LaGrange was named after the estate of Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette (of Hamilton fame), who traveled through the area and said it reminded him of the grounds surrounding his chateau near Paris.

These days, visitors in search of great estates can tour the Italianate villa Hills & Dales, completed in 1916, and its 35 acres of rolling grounds and formal gardens. Another way to experience the town's inspiring environs is a visit to West Point Lake, a popular spot for boating or fishing.

Back in town, take a self-guided walking tour of historic houses of worship and architecturally significant homes. Cap the day at Wild Leap Brewery, where innovative beers and a cool vibe earned it the title of best new brewery from USA Today, or pay a visit to Beacon Brewing Company, operating in a former textile mill. And be sure to check the schedule of Sweetland Amphitheatre; the popular downtown venue regularly hosts big-name acts from Emmylou Harris to Fantasia.

Indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Georgia
Indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Georgia

SLEEP: Families head to Great Wolf Lodge for a one-stop vacation. Over-the-top amenities include log cabin–themed suites, a rock-climbing wall, a ropes course, and an indoor water park the size of a city block. More places to stay in LaGrange

EAT: Housed in a former church, Taste of Lemon is a must-visit for its "meat and two sides" specials and fresh cobblers. More restaurants in LaGrange

DO: LaGrange Art Museum, situated in the former county jail built in 1892, celebrates Southern artists with rotating exhibits. The nearby statue of General Lafayette is a highlight of any downtown stroll. More things to do in LaGrange

Visit LaGrange


Downtown Greensboro, Georgia. Photo courtesy Visit Lake Oconee
Downtown Greensboro, Georgia. Photo courtesy Visit Lake Oconee

Greensboro

Located halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Greensboro lures visitors with the dual charms of a historic town and 374 miles of shoreline along scenic Lake Oconee for families to explore. Start the day with a stroll through downtown Greensboro, soaking in the architecture of this town founded in 1786. Don't-miss stops include the historic jail (or "gaol"), Greensboro Antique Mall, and the Yesterday Cafe, known for its buttermilk pie.

To appreciate the area's mix of outdoor fun and unabashed elegance, plan an outing on the lake followed by a spa treatment or dinner at the AAA Four Diamond Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. Greensboro is also home to six top golf courses, including Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee, which was recently redesigned by Jack Nicklaus.

Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. Photo by @jessicadauler
Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. Photo by @jessicadauler

SLEEP: Airbnb offers an array of rental properties, some­thing for every bud­get. Find the house that will provide the setting for your ultimate lake-life experience. More places to stay in Greensboro

DO: Rent jet skis or paddle­boards from Young Harris Water Sports for a few hours of fun or book a day­long excursion on a pontoon or ski boat helmed by a profes­sional captain. More things to do in Greensboro

EAT: Plan on dinner at The National Tavern at Reynolds Lake Oconee, then enjoy a nightcap at the Ritz-Carlton's new lounge, Barrel Room, where certified bourbon stewards help navigate the list of exclusive bourbons and whiskeys. More restaurants in Greensboro

Visit Greensboro


Apple picking at R & A Orchards in Ellijay, Georgia. Photo by @diaryofdualeh
Apple picking at R & A Orchards in Ellijay, Georgia. Photo by @diaryofdualeh

Ellijay

Ellijay, the state's apple capital, draws thousands of visitors each fall, but the appeal of this small northwest Georgia mountain town extends well beyond harvest season. Families can look forward to year-round fun at a number of popular outdoor destinations.

Ellijay's name purportedly derives from a Cherokee word meaning "many waters," and the town is a jumping-off point for trips to nearby waterfalls and outings on area rivers and Carters Lake. Mountain biking is big here, too; a popular pick is Bear Creek Trail, which winds past the 100-foot-tall Gennett poplar, reputedly Georgia's second-largest tree.

The town is also home to numerous wineries, among them Cartecay and Engelheim vineyards. For those who come for the apples, pick your own or grab a bag (and a cider donut) at one of a number of nearby apple houses; a favorite is R&A Orchards, named best orchard in 2019 by USA Today. End the day back in town at The Roof, a rooftop bar with panoramic views of downtown Ellijay and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Airstream trailer camping in Elatse'Yi in Ellijay, Georgia. Photo by @northgeorgiaglamping
Airstream trailer camping in Elatse'Yi in Ellijay, Georgia. Photo by @northgeorgiaglamping

SLEEP: Glamping, anyone? Bed down in a geodesic dome or Airstream trailer at Elatse'Yi, a nature-loving destination. The cabin set is well served by Blue Sky Rentals and Dragonfly DreamsMore places to stay in Ellijay

EAT: The Shack serves a selection of bubble teas, from peach-coconut to cotton candy, and an Asian fusion menu featuring poke and noodle bowls. For excellent coffee and pastries, visit Ellijay Coffeehouse, nestled in a restored 1940s building. More restaurants in Ellijay

DO: Visit the new Ellijay River location of Cartecay Bike Shop, a cyclist's dream. Snap Instagram-worthy pics in front of the downtown What Lifts You mural. More things to do in Ellijay

Visit Ellijay

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