Jekyll Island photo by Laurie Roberts, @l.rob90
Best Trips of 2020
Follow this month-by-month guide to the best trips to take in Georgia 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 month-by-month guide to the best things to see and do in the Peach State this year.
January: Renew & Recharge in West Georgia
The beginning of the year is the perfect time for some self-care, allowing you to reset after the holidays. Get away to Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain for wellness weekends and and yoga retreats throughout the year, starting in January and each focusing on a different topic. Guests can stay at Callaway's onsite accommodations, including hotel rooms and cottages.
In nearby LaGrange, visitors can go ice skating at Sweetland Amphitheatre, which runs through mid-February, and enjoy the year-round indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge, a favorite of families. Be sure to visit Hills & Dales Estate, the Callaway family home, to explore the elegant historic gardens that always have something in bloom.
February: Hike Providence Canyon
Providence Canyon photo by David Parham, @slow_motion_countdown
You might have decided to #optoutside in November, but February is another great time to explore Georgia's great outdoors. Providence Canyon is one of the most stunning locations in the state, known as the "Little Grand Canyon" and one of Georgia's seven natural wonders. Located in Lumpkin, south of Columbus, the canyon's natural oranges and reds create dramatic landscapes unlike anywhere else. Winter's cool temperatures and low humidity are ideal for hiking the area's 10+ miles of trails. You can camp overnight on the backcountry trail or stay at nearby Florence Marina State Park's campsites or cottages.
March: Think Pink in Macon
A number of towns have spring festivals centered around the state's flowers, but Macon's International Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the largest, lasting 10 days and literally painting the town pink. The event that celebrates the city's 300,000 flowering Yoshino cherry trees includes state fair-style rides and food vendors, a beauty pageant, concerts, a lantern lighting, and a parade.
While you're in Macon, be sure to dine at the acclaimed Dovetail, and explore the exhibits at Mercer Music at Capricorn, the newly reopened Capricorn Studios. The former recording space of The Allman Brothers Band and countless others has been turned into a music incubator with rehearsal and recording studios, and a museum.
April: Catch College Basketball in Atlanta
Atlanta plays host to the 2020 NCAA Final Four festivities April 3-6, which include dozens of accompanying events like Final Four Fan Fest, a sports wonderland of interactive games, special celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph signings at the Georgia World Congress Center. The March Madness Music Festival, with such acts as Taylor Swift, also will take place during this time, held in neighboring Centennial Olympic Park.
The semifinals and championship game will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
May: Venture into the Okefenokee Swamp
Paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp. Photo by Taylor Coleman, @ooooogurl
The 400,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp is one of Georgia’s natural treasures. It’s the largest blackwater swamp in North America and has countless species of animals. The swamp includes Stephen C. Foster State Park, a designated International Dark Sky Park, which creates optimal conditions for stargazing. Camp overnight under the stars, go on a boat tour, and learn about the wildlife.
June: Get Ready to Rock in Athens
The college town of Athens has deep ties to American music history, fostering acts like R.E.M. and The B-52s. Every year, AthFest brings together up-and-coming and established acts at venues around town, including the iconic 40 Watt Club and Georgia Theatre. Many events are free, and others are no more than $20. But that's not all! Visitors can enjoy an artist market, a kids area, and food and drink vendors from the city’s best restaurants. AthFest benefits AthFest Educates, an organization that supports local music and arts education for youth in Athens and Clarke County.
Related: Athens: Where Music is Iconic
July: Let Freedom Ring on the Coast
Independence Day is a special experience on the Georgia coast. You're sure to see fireworks wherever you are, but that's only part of the fun. Savannah hosts the Fantastic Fourth Celebration on the harbor, where festivities begin in the early afternoon. On nearby Tybee Island, you can bring your chair or blanket to admire the fireworks on the beach.
To the south, St. Simons Island hosts the Sunshine Festival, a tradition that is more than 60 years old. It includes an arts and crafts show, 5K race, golf cart parade, and, of course, evening fireworks.
Jekyll Island has a parade and other activities before the fireworks near the Holiday Inn Resort. Nearby Brunswick has the Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration, which is held at Mary Ross Waterfront Park. The free fireworks over the water are only one part of the festivities, along with free games for kids and watermelon.
Darien's Red White and Blue on the Bluff includes fireworks, a parade, and live music. And in St. Marys, the Independence Day Festival features a hometown parade, a 5K race, arts and craft vendors, and a river cruise before the fireworks on the St. Marys River.
Related: Celebrate July Fourth with a Bang
August: Cool Off at a Lake
Cool off this summer at one of Georgia's great lakes. Lake Oconee and Lake Rabun are just two popular getaway destinations, and both are a short drive from Atlanta.
“A quintessential summer pastime in the South, afternoons on the lake or evenings dining by the water provide a source of rest and quiet from the pace of our busy lives. Nestled in the hills of the North Georgia Mountains, Lake Rabun is one of our favorite spots for family adventures and lakeside getaways.” - @southernladymag
Related: 5 Secret Ways to Enjoy Georgia Lakes
September: Spend Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta
Labor Day signals the end of summer but is one of the busiest weekends for events in Atlanta.
Buy your tickets early for DragonCon, the largest fan convention for comic books and pop culture that brings in big-name actors for panels and events. One of the highlights is the free parade down Peachtree Street, featuring incredible cosplayers.
Also in the area Labor Day weekend, the AJC Decatur Book Festival is a free event that brings notable authors to speak on panels at venues throughout town over the course of the weekend. There are also vendor booths selling books and bibliophile-related gifts.
This weekend is also when college football starts. Two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games will be held over the weekend at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: West Virginia v. FSU on Sept. 5 and Georgia v. Virginia on Sept. 7, 2020.
October: Celebrate 50 Years of Oktoberfest in Helen
Helen Oktoberfest photo by @floridadonny
This year marks the 50th year of the Oktoberfest festivities in Helen. The Alpine town was transformed into its current theme half a century ago and features authentic German-style restaurants, cute shops and architecture. But it’s the fall when the town truly shines, putting on Oktoberfest celebrations that are among the biggest in the nation. The parties start on weekends in September with German beer, food, and dancing and continue daily in October through early November. While you're in Helen, be sure to take a ride on the Georgia Mountain Coaster and take the short hike to see the twin waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls.
Related: Guide to Helen
November: Feast on Shrimp & Grits on Jekyll Island
The annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival will be Nov. 6-7, 2020. The event celebrates the dish made famous by the coastal communities of the South and includes tastings from local restaurants. There's also family-friendly entertainment, live music, craft beer in the historic district and a Go for the Grits 5K race.
Related: Guide to Jekyll Island
December: Get into the Holiday Spirit in Thomasville
Georgia towns take on additional charm during the holidays, but perhaps none as much as Thomasville during its Victorian Christmas celebration. The Victorian-era buildings are decorated for the season, and carolers in period attire stroll the brick streets singing holiday tunes. Carriage rides are offered, along with ice sculptures, a live nativity, and food vendors. Tours are also offered of Pebble Hill Plantation, one of the area's most stunning homes, outfitted for the season.