Downtown Americus, Georgia. Photo by @gamainst

Downtown Americus, Georgia. Photo by @gamainst

7 Small Towns with Surprising Stories to Tell

Beyond the busy streets of Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia’s small towns have the most surprising stories to tell. Detour to these destinations to discover hidden histories you might not have learned about in school.

Downtown Dahlonega. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

Dahlonega

This North Georgia town is known as the place where, in 1829, gold was discovered, long before it happened in California. Thousands of prospectors arrived in Dahlonega, then a part of the Cherokee Nation, to find their own riches. Mining continued over the next few decades, and a U.S. Mint branch was established in town to turn the gold nuggets into coins. The land was seized from the Cherokees, forcing them onto the Trail of Tears, and gold was mostly gone by the 1860s.

The story of gold in Georgia is told in the center of town at the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site, set in the historic courthouse, where a 5-ounce gold nugget is on display. Tour the mines and pan for gold at the Consolidated Gold Mines and Crisson Gold Mine.

Visit Dahlonega

Aerial view of the Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island

Before Jekyll Island was a popular beach getaway, it was the stomping grounds of the rich and famous. The Jekyll Island Club was founded in 1888 as a private membership club, boasting names like Vanderbilt and Rockefeller in their ranks. They stayed in the main building or in lavish homes nearby. It was here that the Federal Reserve Bank was idealized and where the first transcontinental phone call took place. Today it’s a resort, retaining its historic charm.

Mosaic, The Jekyll Island Museum is just one place to learn about this Gilded Age period. See the inside of the grand homes on tours, including Passport to the Century and The Rockefeller Experience.

Visit Jekyll Island

Jimmy Carter Campaign Headquarters in Plains, Georgia. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

Plains

President Jimmy Carter was born in the small town of Plains, Georgia, on a peanut farm. Today, his Boyhood Farm and Plains High School serve as a part of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, which tells the story of his rural upbringing, military service, and marriage to wife Rosalynn. At the Billy Carter Gas Station Museum, you can learn about the campaign that won him the presidency.

Visit Plains

Downtown Americus, Georgia. Photo by @gamainst

Americus

Complete your trip with a stay at the Presidential Suite of the historic Windsor Hotel in nearby Americus, where President Carter has stayed. The castle-like hotel has 53 rooms, all unique, and is complete with tower and turret, balconies, and a restaurant and bar.

Visit Americus

Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Photo by @lookout_photo

Rome

Photo by @lookout_photo

In 1902, socialite Martha Berry established a school in Rome, Georgia, to educate impoverished children of mill workers. It became the Berry College campus, now a four-year university with the world’s largest campus at 27,000 acres. Learn about Berry’s life at her former home, Oak Hill & The Martha Berry Museum. The campus also has been used in films like “Remember the Titans” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Visit Rome

The Booth Museum in Cartersville, Georgia

Cartersville

In nearby Cartersville, visit the town’s award-winning museums. At The Booth Museum, view the impressive collection of Western art, Native American artifacts, and letters from every U.S. president. The Tellus Science Museum has everything from dinosaur fossils to minerals to a replica of the Wright Brothers flyer. Admire the stars in the planetarium, or catch a documentary at the big-screen theater. There’s also a children's area for younger visitors.

Visit Cartersville

Downtown Senoia, Georgia. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

Senoia

Since its premiere in 2010, the hit AMC zombie apocalypse drama “The Walking Dead” has been filmed in and around the small town of Senoia. Located about an hour south of Atlanta, nearby Raleigh Studios and the streets and houses around town have been used as backdrops. See the show’s filming locations on one of many tours, including those by Georgia Tour Company and Walkin’ Dead Tours & Events Haralson. There are also Walking Dead-themed businesses, including The Woodbury Shoppe and The Waking Dead Cafe.

Visit Senoia

Published: July 2020
Written by: Caroline Eubanks