Pack up your gear and get away from it all with a camping trip to Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @damiandelgado
Best Trips of 2021
No matter when you're ready to travel, Georgia has amazing places to explore. Here is a guide to some of the best trips to take this year.
From the waterfalls and hiking trails in the North Georgia mountains to the world-famous attractions in the capital city Atlanta and the undeveloped beaches on the coast, Georgia is full of exciting places to visit. Keep your calendar handy, and start planning your next trip with this guide to 12 of the best things to see and do this year.
1. Escape to Georgia's Nature Coast
Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Disconnect at Cumberland Island National Seashore, the largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia, with 17 miles of shoreline and countless animal species. Access the island by ferry from St. Marys, where you also can explore Crooked River State Park, a nature trail through the maritime forest and salt marsh home to creatures like fiddler crabs, herons, and gopher tortoises.
Chow down on fresh seafood at the many eateries around the coast. In St. Marys, Lang's Marina Restaurant is one of the best places for Wild Georgia shrimp and Lowcountry boil. Steffens Restaurant in Kingsland is another favorite, a family-owned diner open since 1948 serving comfort food like biscuits and fried chicken.
Sleep at the charming Spencer House Inn, a bed and breakfast in St Marys within walking distance of restaurants and the Cumberland Island ferry.
2. Experience Presidential History in Southwest Georgia
Downtown Plains, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Learn about Georgia's impact on history in Plains, the home of President Jimmy Carter. Start at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, which includes his boyhood farm, his high school, and the train depot that served as his campaign headquarters. Try the peanut ice cream at Plain Peanuts, and pose for a picture at the Jimmy Carter Peanut of Plains Statue.
In Americus, check out the Windsor Hotel, which has a Carter Presidential Suite, and the historic Rylander Theatre. You also can try your hand at glassblowing, or grab a bottle of whiskey from Thirteenth Colony Distillery.
The Resort at Lake Blackshear in Cordele is the perfect base, with a lodge, lakeside cabins, and villas on the shores of the lake.
3. Try Outdoor Adventures along I-20
The Cabins at Pine Knoll Farms in Appling, Georgia
Check out the small towns along Interstate 20 for outdoor exploration like the Serene18 Paddle Trail, which runs 18 miles in Columbia County through Martinez, Evans, and Appling. Test your skills at the 18-hole International Disc Golf Center. Hit the trails at Durhamtown Off Road Resort in Union Point, which boasts 150 miles of trails for dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.
Highrail, Southern Eatery, a Thomson restaurant on the historic Main Street, emphasizes Southern flavors. Rooted Coffeehouse in Evans is a community-driven coffee shop with coffee drinks, smoothies, acai bowls, and sandwiches.
Spend the night at The Cabins at Pine Knoll Farms in Appling, which has four two-bedroom cabins that combine coziness and luxury.
4. Discover Hidden Gems off I-16
Kayaking at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia. Photo by @mpwhidby
Travel along I-16, stopping for remarkable experiences along the way. Visit Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park in Dublin, which is the site of the leader's first public speech as a young high schooler. It features murals and sculptures along with an audio station.
Enjoy kayaking at George L. Smith State Park, one of Georgia's lesser-known state parks with a cypress swamp and historic gristmill. Learn about the incredible birds of prey found in the state at The Center for Wildlife Education in Statesboro.
Book one of the eight newly renovated cottages at George L. Smith State Park, which provides the luxury of glamping with full kitchens and porches.
Related: Guide to Dublin
5. Take A Macon Music Road Trip
The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House in Macon, Georgia
Learn about Macon's lasting impact on American music at The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House, a Tudor-style house where the band lived. It now displays their musical instruments, memorabilia, posters, and photos.
Mercer Music at Capricorn Museum interprets the history and impact of Capricorn Records and Capricorn Sound Studios with interactive displays and artifacts. Stop by the musical photo ops in town, including the Otis Redding Statue at Ocmulgee Heritage Trail Gateway Park, the Jason Aldean Way Street Sign, and Little Richard's Childhood Home.
Dine at H&H Restaurant, a soul food eatery full of Allman Brothers memorabilia where the band frequently ate. The Rookery hosts live music acts, and it has both an Allman Brother burger and a Jimmy Carter milkshake.
Have sweet dreams at the 1842 Inn, a historic inn that offers incredible daily breakfasts, a roster of celebrity guests, and a convenient location.
6. Go Wild in Valdosta
Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Valdosta is home to Wild Adventures Theme Park, which has thrilling roller coasters, water slides, and exotic animal encounters. Interact with more animals at Fifth Day Farm, a petting zoo and family farm with everything from photo ops to goat yoga. Look for wildlife as you navigate the pine forests and cypress wetlands at Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area by kayak, boardwalk, or 54-foot viewing platform.
Dine at Steel Magnolias, known for Sunday brunch hits like fried green tomatoes, beignets, and pulled pork deviled eggs. Hang out in the beer garden at Georgia Beer Company and grab a bite from the rotating food trucks usually parked nearby.
Related: Guide to Valdosta
7. Wander into Northeast Georgia
Minnehaha Falls in Lakemont, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Cool off with hikes at Minnehaha Falls in Lakemont, or climb along the rim of the namesake gorge at Tallulah Gorge State Park. If you're traveling with kids, ride the thrilling Georgia Mountain Coaster in Helen.
Dine in one of the area's incredible restaurants. Grapes & Beans in Clayton is a popular wine shop, cafe, and coffee shop. Fortify Kitchen & Bar, just down the street, has delicious cocktails and a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients, which has earned it the title of one of the top 100 restaurants in the country.
Spend the night at Timpson Cove Cottage in Clayton, which has three bedrooms and bathrooms, and incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Burton.
8. Explore Civil Rights in Atlanta
Learn about the important figures in the civil rights movement year-round at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta's historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood, which includes the Martin Luther King, Jr., Birth Home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached. Pay your respects at Dr. and Mrs. King's tomb at The King Center.
The APEX (African American Panoramic Experience) Museum focuses on African American history specifically from the perspective of cultural contributions, especially those of Georgians. Head to The National Center for Civil & Human Rights, a state-of-the-art museum that connects the civil rights movement to other civil rights movements around the world.
Enjoy a meal at Paschal's, a legendary restaurant that has been the meeting place for civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. Don’t miss the fried chicken, the signature dish.
9. Take in Nature's Bounty In North Georgia
Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia
Wander the 300 acres at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, home to more than 20 million daffodils every spring. Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville boasts the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Enjoy a hard-earned glass of wine on the terrace at Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery in Dahlonega.
Chow down at the Ball Ground Burger Bus, a converted school bus with craft burgers and beer. Maple Restaurant at Amicalola Falls Lodge in Dawsonville has incredible views for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Amicalola Falls State Park's Creek Side Below the Falls cabin in Dawsonville is a cozy place to spend the night, with rustic and modern amenities.
10. Find New Adventures in West Georgia
Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia
Head to Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, also known as "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon." After the hike, enjoy a Georgia craft beer at Omaha Brewing. Ride the rapids at Columbus Whitewater, the largest urban whitewater course in the world or zip line across the river from Georgia to Alabama. You also can visit Pasaquan in Buena Vista, a colorful artist's residence.
Sleep at the Columbus Marriott, a 177-room riverfront hotel located in a historic gristmill.
Related: Guide to Columbus
11. See National Park Treasures in Georgia
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon, Georgia
Among Georgia's National Parks System-affiliated sites is the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area outside Atlanta, the most-visited in the state with tubing, fly fishing, kayaking, and more.
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon honors the legacy of the Native American tribes that lived on the land 14,000 years ago. Learn about the ceremonial mounds and navigate the miles of trails.
Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island interprets Georgia's colonial history. The fort was established as a buffer against Spanish Florida to the south. Archaeology is still ongoing at the site, finding artifacts like pottery and tools.
12. Live Large in Small Towns
Downtown Greensboro, Georgia. Photo courtesy Visit Lake Oconee
Close out the year with a getaway to one of Georgia's many charming small towns. Roswell is a short drive from Atlanta, along the Chattahoochee River. Browse local shops and more than 200 restaurants and Bulloch Hall, the home of Theodore Roosevelt's mother.
In LaGrange, tour Hills & Dales, the stunning former estate of the Callaway family. Get a dose of culture at the LaGrange Art Museum or spend the day on West Point Lake. Taste of Lemon is a classic "meat and three" restaurant. The little ones will love a night at Great Wolf Lodge, a rustic hotel with an indoor water park.
Greensboro is the gateway to the region's lakes, where visitors can spend the day swimming, fishing, and even renting pontoon boats and paddleboards. Don't miss the buttermilk pie at the famed Yesterday Cafe or the restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, including Georgia's and the Barrel Room. The resort also boasts an award-winning spa and golf courses.