9 Surprising Cultural Attractions in Georgia
The cultural patchwork of people and attractions in Georgia will surprise you and maybe even make you reconsider what it means to be Southern.
Southern culture is a phrase that covers quite a lot of ground. After all, Georgia is a diverse state, both in topography and people. From remote mountains to gleaming cities, all the way to the secluded beaches, there is a lot to discover in Georgia. The following cultural patchwork of people and attractions may surprise you and make you rethink what it means to be Southern.
The Gullah Geechee People of Georgia
The Gullah Geechee are descendants of African slaves brought to the shores of Georgia from the rice and grain regions of Sierra Leone in Western Africa to work the cotton and rice plantations. After emancipation, many stayed on the coastal land no one else wanted, forming tight-knit communities somewhat insulated from the discrimination experienced in other Southern towns. Experience the Gullah spirit in places like Pin Point Heritage Museum near Savannah, and Hog Hammock on Sapelo Island. Learn more about the Gullah history at The Harrington School on St. Simons Island and the Geechee Kunda Center in Riceboro. It’s all part of Georgia's Gullah Geechee Trail.
Southern Appalachia People
What started as a high school project to chronicle the everyday lives of the student’s ancestors has turned into a world-renown heritage museum on 106 acres, with 10 authentic pioneer log cabins, a chapel, workshops and more. The Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center near Black Top Mountain uses the physical environment, stories, artifacts and more to teach the self-sufficient lifestyle of the Southern Appalachia people. Totally immerse yourself by booking a heritage craft class like weaving, spinning, gardening, soap making, chair bottoming and more.
Pasaquan, Buena Vista
St. EOM's Pasaquan is a unique colorful folk art installation set on seven acres in middle Georgia, just south of Columbus created by Eddie Owens Martin (St EOM.) CNN has proclaimed Pasaquan as one of the "16 Intriguing Things to See and Do in the U.S.," and the installation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The man himself is a bit controversial — some love him, some not so much — but his art is truly something to see.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Lilburn
This gorgeous Hindu Temple is the largest temple outside of India and welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds to visit. Fun fact: it was built in 17 months using 1.3 million volunteer hours. For more facts like that and the history of the Mandir, take a self-guided audio tour. Tours are available in the gift shop. To make the trip extra special, stay for the ceremony of light, also known as the "arti ceremony" performed each morning at 11:15.
Folk Art Garden, Calhoun
In the backyard of a Seventh Day Adventist church, stands a unique folk art garden called The ROCK Garden. It’s about an acre and includes miniature castles, homes and more, all painstakingly built of pebbles, shells, ceramic tile, glass and cement. There are about 50 structures of varying sizes among plants and shrubs, making it look like a fairytale village.
Tiny Doors ATL, Atlanta
Wee folk are also alive and well in Atlanta. You can find their houses hidden around the city as a series of fairy-sized doors called Tiny Doors ATL. Some of these tiny art installations are permanent fixtures that are constantly being updated; others are temporary pieces only available for a limited time. Each of these small facades are magical, the first of which, in the Krog Street Tunnel, even uses virtual reality!
Paradise Garden, Summerville
Howard Finster was a folk artist of “sacred art” and a minister in Summerville. He has been called both “the grandfather of Southern Folk Art” and “the Andy Warhol of the South.” Finster began building his Plant Farm Museum, later renamed Paradise Garden in 1961. Today, tours are available at the gardens, as well as an overnight stay in one of the cabins. Tip: Ask about the artist residencies.
The Summerville Depot & Turntable
Also in Summerville is one of only a few working train turntables in the Southeast. It turns the majestic antique Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum steam engines each month when the train arrives full of passengers. This is the year to visit, too. The Depot is celebrating 100 years.
Biblical History Center, LaGrange
Travel back to the ancient world with a visit to an authentic archeological replica of Middle Eastern life in the time of the Bible. Located less than two hours outside Atlanta in LaGrange, the Biblical History Center is a walk through the time of Jesus. Step inside a shepherd’s tent, head to the market or relax under an olive tree. Be sure to book a meal featuring food that would have been served in biblical times.