Venture into the wild and mysterious Okefenokee Swamp. Photo by @wandernorthga
1. Experience the Best of Atlanta
Atlanta has been recognized as the only U.S. city in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 and National Geographic’s Best of the World for its role in culture and history. It’s in the center of it all, between the international airport and Interstate Highway System. There are so many reasons why Atlanta is the place to visit.
The City in a Forest’s green spaces are unmatched, starting with sprawling Piedmont Park, where festivals like Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Atlanta Pride, and Music Midtown take place. There’s also the sculpture-filled Atlanta Botanical Garden. The Atlanta BeltLine is another favorite, with trails all over the city where you can explore by bike or foot.
Learn about Atlanta’s role in history, starting with Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. The site includes the Martin Luther King, Jr., Birth Home and Ebenezer Baptist Church as well as The King Center, home to Dr. and Mrs. King’s Tomb. Next, see the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which provides a wider view of the civil rights movement and other human rights movements around the world.
Atlanta is experiencing a boutique hotel revival, with properties cropping up all over the city. Hotel Clermont in a converted motor lodge is known for its playful rooms and award-winning restaurant. The Bellyard Hotel on the Westside has gained both locals and visitors as fans for its stylish guest rooms and shared spaces like the rooftop bar.
Buckhead also has plenty of options, including the Intercontinental Buckhead, which has poolside cabanas and a bourbon bar. The Kimpton Sylvan has an acclaimed restaurant, The Betty, and mid-century-inspired decor.
When you’re looking for a good meal but can’t decide on what to eat, Atlanta has food halls with something for every palate. Ponce City Market is a favorite for its stalls like Minero and Bar Vegan. The Municipal Market in Sweet Auburn, Krog Street Market, and Chattahoochee Food Works are additional options.
2. Cheer on Your Favorite Georgia Sports Team
Georgia has an abundance of professional sports teams, meaning you’re never far from a game. Support World Series champs the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park and The Battery, the entertainment district with shops, bars, and restaurants like the Terrapin Taproom at Fox Bros. BBQ. Fans can tour the park and stay at the Omni Hotel at The Battery, with suites overlooking the field.
Tour Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, with its retractable roof, skyline views, and dining options from Atlanta’s best restaurants. The Omni at CNN Center is the best place to stay for any downtown sporting event.
Neighboring State Farm Arena is a must-see for basketball fans, home to the Atlanta Hawks, along with concerts and performances throughout the year. The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame has interactive exhibits detailing the history of college football’s most notable teams. Cross the street to Centennial Olympic Park, site of the 1996 Olympic Games.
At Gateway Center Arena in College Park, catch the WNBA Atlanta Dream and NBA G League College Park Skyhawks. A short drive north of Atlanta, don't miss the high-energy Atlanta Gladiators minor league ice hockey team, the Gwinnett Stripers minor league baseball team, and the Georgia Swarm professional lacrosse team.
You're not limited to pro sports, though. College sports are a BIG deal in Georgia! Experience the thrill of game day in Athens when you cheer on the 2022 College Football Playoff National Champions, the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Whatever your favorite sport is, you can find exciting matchups at all levels of play throughout the state.
3. Island-hop through the Golden Isles
Home to three of the four Georgia barrier islands you can reach by car, Georgia’s Golden Isles have a variety of experiences, whether you’re on a family vacation or a private getaway. This majestic stretch of coast - which includes St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, along with the mainland city of Brunswick - teems with coastal charm and unspoiled natural beauty unlike anywhere else in the South. The hardest part is choosing which area to spend your time in!
Jekyll Island is home to the annual Shrimp & Grits Festival. Start the day with sunrise at the photographer’s favorite Driftwood Beach. The Wanderer Memory Trail tells the important story of the Wanderer, a slave ship that illegally landed 160 years ago. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is home to rescued and rehabilitated sea turtles. The best place to stay is the Jekyll Island Club Resort, once a members-only club for Gilded Age millionaires.
Luxury lovers turn to the four Forbes Five-Star Sea Island. Sea Island has a variety of accommodation options, including The Lodge at Sea Island and The Cloister at Sea Island, as well as The Spa at Sea Island, and the Georgian Room restaurant.
Or disconnect at Little St. Simons Island, one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands, covering 10,000 acres with 7 miles of shoreline. The Lodge on Little St. Simons has homey cottages where guests enjoy daily meals, naturalist hikes, and kayaking.
Charming Brunswick is the can’t-miss gateway to the islands. Wander the city streets and squares with historic homes and buildings from the 1800s, shops, restaurants and a distillery. Learn about the coastal ecosystem on a shrimping tour with Lady Jane Shrimpin’ Excursion.
4. Indulge in the Richness of Savannah
One of the oldest cities in the country, Savannah always has something to discover from food to arts, culture, and history. Located on the Georgia coast, less than a four-hour drive from Atlanta, it's a popular place to visit in March, when it hosts the country’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
The Plant Riverside District is the new must-see area of the famous historic River Street with dozens of shops, and restaurants, along with live entertainment and experiences overlooking the Savannah River. The JW Marriott Plant Riverside is spread across three buildings with two rooftop bars and a museum-quality collection of minerals and fossils.
The City Market District has the city’s best shopping for unique gifts, restaurants, and cafes, as well as the American Prohibition Museum, which has its own speakeasy.
Stay at one of the city’s boutique hotels like the acclaimed Mansion on Forsyth Park, a Victorian home known for its opulent decor, original artwork, restaurant, and cooking school. The Perry Lane Hotel is another gem, with a rooftop bar and two restaurants.
Savannah has endless options for delicious meals. Grab a reservation at The Grey, an award-winning restaurant located in a restored Greyhound Bus Terminal. Sister restaurant The Grey Market is a more casual experience. Finish off your day with a sweet treat at Leopold’s, a retro ice cream parlor.
Related: Guide to Savannah
5. Retreat to the North Georgia Mountains
The state’s wine region is found here, home to Wolf Mountain, Montaluce, Kaya, Frogtown Cellars, Cartecay, and Bear Claw Vineyards. Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant, Barnsley Resort, and Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa offer nice accommodations.
Pamper yourself with a treatment at Serenity in the Mountains in Blue Ridge, Equani Spa in Young Harris, or the Spa at Barnsley in Adairsville. Or enjoy outdoors therapy by fly fishing in Blue Ridge with Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods.
6. Explore Georgia’s Only Bavarian Village
Step back in time in Alpine Helen, known for its Oktoberfest celebrations and shops, restaurants, and hotels with Bavarian-inspired buildings. Located less than a two-hour drive north of Atlanta, the town's nostalgic atmosphere and abundant outdoor adventures beckon visitors year-round.
If you’re not visiting during Oktoberfest, you can still enjoy seasonal tubing through operators like Helen Tubing & Waterpark and Cool River Tubing. Ride the thrilling Georgia Mountain Coaster down the mountain or see the forest at nearby state parks like Smithgall Woods and Unicoi.
Check into the veteran-owned Valhalla Resort, which has luxurious rooms, a spa, and even a rooftop bar. At The Heidi Motel, you can stay in the famous windmill suites. Lucille’s Mountain Inn & Spa has unrivaled views, with free daily breakfast.
Related: Guide to Helen
7. Embrace the Great Georgia Outdoors
Take camping to the next level in Georgia where visitors can connect with nature. Book your spot early at the Len Foote Hike Inn, a backcountry lodge only accessible by a five-mile trail. It’s north of Amicalola Falls and is on the approach to Springer Mountain. Enjoy soft beds, hot showers, and meals included in your stay.
In the famous swamp between Georgia and Florida, outdoor lovers can enjoy platform camping in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll need an advance permit before paddling up to 12 miles to one of seven sites. Stop into the Okefenokee Swamp Park as it celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2022, and take boat tours, see exhibits and wildlife, and much more.
Another undisturbed natural experience is on the coast. Permits and reservations are also required for Cumberland Island National Seashore Camping, where you’ll see the wild horses roaming. Choose from one of five campgrounds ranging from a short walk from the ferry to many miles.
The yurts at Cloudland Canyon are best for the new campers, with comforts like futons and bunk beds, not to mention heaters and electrical outlets.
8. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping with Thrilling Adventures
You don’t have to go too far from the cities to find adventure. A short drive from Atlanta is the longest zip line wire course, the Screaming Eagle, spanning nearly 40,000 feet at Historic Banning Mills.
In downtown Columbus, Whitewater Express brings guests through the manmade urban whitewater rafting course, the largest in the world. It has varying levels of water released daily. You also can zip line across the river into Alabama!
The Altamaha River was named one of the “75 Last Great Places on Earth” by the Nature Conservancy. It’s also the second-largest watershed on the East Coast and remains completely undammed, running 137 miles from Hazlehurst to the coast.
See the state from above by taking a lesson at Lookout Mountain Flight Park, the largest and most popular full-time hang gliding school and resort in the country. The 110-acre site has camping and lodging close to the landing zone.
Avid mountain bikers will love Mulberry Gap, where the day starts with a hearty breakfast before hitting the trails. Guests enjoy nightly dinner and warm showers.
9. Chase Hidden Waterfalls
Georgia has so many incredible waterfalls worth seeing with some on paved trails or less than a mile from the parking area.
Start at the top with Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, which is both the tallest in the state and the starting point for the famed Appalachian Trail. Nearby Anna Ruby Falls and DeSoto Falls provide unrivaled views.
Related: 5 Easy Waterfall Hikes for Families
10. Follow in the Footsteps of Your Favorite Characters
Georgia has become known for its film industry, creating countless movies and television shows, including "The Walking Dead," "Remember the Titans," "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Ozark," "My Cousin Vinny," and more.
Mystic Falls Tours visits locations from "The Vampire Diaries" in Covington, which was the show’s base for its television run. Covington Ghost Tours also visits haunted sites and filming locations for television shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard," "In the Heat of the Night," and, of course, "The Vampire Diaries." Filmed in the South Film Tours visits places from hit series and movies filmed in Georgia like "The Originals," "The Walking Dead," "Sweet Magnolias," "Stranger Things," "Forrest Gump," and "Black Panther."
While in Covington, grab a bite to eat at Mystic Grill, inspired by the hangout from "The Vampire Diaries," or City Pharmacy, a beloved restaurant that was once a licensed pharmacy. The Twelve Oaks B&B is both a nice place to stay and a filming location.
Nearby is the Olde Town Conyers Entertainment District, home to specialty stores, unique eateries, and filming locations like the Olde Town Pavilion and downtown streetscapes. The Celtic Tavern serves as the home of Gillespie's Pub featured on the spinoff show "The Originals."
11. Groove Your Way Through The Classic City
Known for its live music scene, Athens has many musicians seeking inspiration and music lovers looking to check out rising stars. The college town has plenty of incredible restaurants and breweries, as well!
The historic Morton Theatre is one of the first vaudeville theaters in the United States built, owned, and operated by an African American businessman, hosting musicians like Duke Ellington, Ma Rainey, and Cab Calloway.
The 40 Watt Club is a famous venue, hosting up-and-coming acts nearly every night of the week. The iconic Georgia Theatre has welcomed acclaimed bands such as Goo Goo Dolls, Sister Hazel, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Zac Brown Band.
Graduate Athens is one of the best places to stay, set in a former foundry with bulldog-themed rooms, a spa, and a coffee shop. ATH|BNB is a modern bed and breakfast with 14 luxurious suites, started by UGA grads in 2021.
Dine at Weaver D's, made famous for its "Automatic for the People" slogan that became R.E.M.'s most popular album. The menu includes fried chicken, pork chops, mac & cheese, and squash casserole. Last Resort Grill and Mama’s Boy are also local favorites.
The best way to visit the city’s famous breweries, including Creature Comforts, is on the Athens Beer Trail. Collect stamps in your passport at local breweries to earn your very own Athens Beer Trail Mug.
Related: Guide to Athens
12. Experience Big Charm in Small-Town Thomasville
Thomasville is worth the trip for its delectable cuisine, museums and historic homes, and charming shops. It’s also home to the annual Rose Show & Festival, a southwest Georgia tradition since 1922.
Book a spot on Taste of Thomasville, a three-hour tour of the best local restaurants. If you’re still not full, head to Jonah’s Fish & Grits, which serves seafood and Southern favorites. Chop House on the Bricks has steaks and oysters, while 1861 Distillery crafts local whiskey.
Don’t miss the Thomasville Rose Garden, which has hundreds of unique and intricate roses. The Big Oak is one of the largest Southern Live Oak trees east of the Mississippi. The Jack Hadley Black History Museum is Thomasville’s first Black history museum, with more than 4,669 pieces of African American artifacts collected by historian James “Jack” Hadley.
Related: Guide to Thomasville