Colorful buildings at Pasaquan in Buena Vista, Georgia

Pasaquan in Buena Vista, Georgia

Places You Wouldn't Think Are in Georgia

Head to one of these surprising destinations for immersive experiences off the beaten path.

Sometimes you take a trip to experience a place where everyone else has been. And sometimes, you take a trip to discover something new, someplace a little hard to get to or somewhere full of unexpected surprises. That's what these five places in Georgia promise travelers: the thrill of discovery that's more than worth the trip.

From an artist's playful and mystical compound down a backroad in a small Southern town, to an enchanting bamboo forest in Atlanta mere minutes from the highway, these hidden gems never fail to leave visitors in awe.

Woman walking into a colorful building at Pasaquan in Buena Vista, Georgia.

Pasaquan in Buena Vista, Georgia

Pasaquan

In 1957, visionary folk artist Eddie Owens Martin (known as St. EOM) began a 30-year transformation of his late mother’s house in Buena Vista into a seven-acre art installation. Today, visitors are wowed by the Technicolor mash-up of Native American and African–influenced sculptures, murals, totems, and painted structures, surrounded by more than 900 feet of brilliantly decorated masonry walls. Thoughtfully restored and maintained by Columbus State University, the site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, welcomes guests on weekends and hosts Pasafest in April, an annual celebration of outsider art in the Southeast.

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Woman hiking in Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia. Photo by @capturecalliope

Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia. Photo by @capturecalliope

Providence Canyon State Park

Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” this geological wonder in southwest Georgia about an hour south of Columbus formed as a result of poor farming practices in the 1800s. Over the years, water runoff created chasms, ravines, and cliffs with stunning multicolored sediment. Streams flow along the canyon floors, and 10 miles of scenic hiking trails are adorned with magnolias, trumpet creepers, and wildflowers. Pause and take in the views from the overlooks; there’s no shortage of breathtaking photo ops.

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Man looking up at bamboo on the East Palisades Trail in Atlanta. Photo by @lifeofbrittanyadele

East Palisades Trail in Atlanta. Photo by @lifeofbrittanyadele

East Palisades Trail Bamboo Forest

Follow the East Palisades Trail through a peaceful oasis just a few miles northwest of Atlanta's core in Sandy Springs. The Chattahoochee River vistas along the approximately five-mile loop are beautiful, but the most surprising feature is the enchanting bamboo grove. Listen as the towering, 30-foot stalks knock together in the breeze, creating a natural, soothing melody to accompany your exploration of this unexpected dreamscape. Part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, the park lands are open year-round from dawn until dusk.

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Family looking at a dinosaur at Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Smithsonian Museum Affiliates in Cartersville

This small North Georgia town lays claim to three Smithsonian affiliates: The Booth Museum, Tellus Science Museum, and the Savoy Automobile Museum. The architecturally impressive Booth Museum contains the world’s largest exhibit space for Western art, while Tellus is a playground for science buffs of all ages, displaying everything from dinosaur fossils to glittering gemstones. As the newest addition to the trio, Savoy’s extensive automobile collection will convert anyone into a car enthusiast.

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Wild horses near Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @wandernorthga

Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @wandernorthga

Cumberland Island

It doesn’t get much more remote than this barrier island celebrated for its wild horses, undeveloped beaches, and Dungeness Ruins (the remains of a once-stately mansion built by Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie). Travel the island’s unpaved roads via bicycle or guided walking tour, and spend hours combing the beaches on this National Seashore for shells. For an overnight stay, book a room at the luxe Greyfield Inn, or camp out beneath the moss-draped branches of Southern live oaks.

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Published: February 2022
Written by: Lia Picard