Situated in the southeastern part of the U.S., Georgia has been able to retain much of its historical charm despite playing host to some of the most prominent cultural hubs and modern cities in the country. From relaxing beaches to breathtaking mountain scenery to a gazillion of beautiful small towns – it can be a tough task to shortlist the places you shouldn’t miss out on during your visit to the state that borders the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. To make your job easier, we present some amazing places here that should definitely feature on your Georgia travel itinerary.
Bolstered by some of the most lively college music scenes across the country, Athens boasts of its prominence as one of the coolest towns that merges its historical traditions seamlessly into its urban cityscape. Apart from being home to famous bands like Reptar, Of Montreal, R.E.M. etc, Athens is filled with multiple entertainment venues and historic landmarks.
Double-Barreled Cannon – one of the city’s most famous landmarks – was created during the era of the Civil War and is a must see if you’re a history enthusiast. To get a feel of Athens’s music scene, you can head straight to the world famous Georgia Theatre (formerly the Elite Theatre) that has been host to all the city’s greats including the B-52’s and R.E.M. When you’re there, be sure to visit its rooftop bar to take in the best view in town.
Located on UGA’s campus, the George Museum of Art, which boasts of over 10,000 artworks, is a heaven for art enthusiasts. Your Athens visit would be incomplete if you don’t see the historic symbol of UGA – The Arch. You can take a brewery tour to enjoy the independent scene and local vibe of the city. Be sure to include Terrapin that conducts brewery tours and plays host to live music, and Creature Comforts in your itinerary.
If sport is something that makes you move, try to experience a UGA football game and you’ll understand why Athens is a true college town. You can also visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia that features an array of trails winding around the Oconee River, where you can go for kayaking too. If possible, take a stroll around some beautiful, historic cemeteries like the Oconee Hill Cemetery that dates back to the mid-1800s.
Athens is filled with a diverse range of restaurants offering mouthwatering fare from both up-and-coming talents and internationally acclaimed chefs. To enjoy some distinctively delicious local flavors, you can head to Mama’s Boy (for breakfast and lunch), and Porterhouse Grill (for spectacular wine list, steak and seafood), among others. Taqueria Tsunami (for flavors from the Far East), DePalma’s Italian Café (for Italian dishes) etc would be good options if you’re looking for international flavors. If you want to discover Athens first-hand, nothing can beat staying at a local bed and breakfast or hotel. Originally established in 1860, The Colonels Bed and Breakfast is located in the vicinity of the historic Downtown Athens and preferred by many visitors. If you’re not the bed and breakfast type, consider staying at hotels like Hampton Inn, Country Inn & Suites, Hotel Indigo-Athens, and Graduate Athens, among others.
Being the oldest town in Georgia, Savannah offers a fine combination of southern charm, abundant Spanish moss and cobblestone streets. If you’re a history buff, standing in a tranquil square with historic homes around and feeling like stumbling through a portal into the history is simply incomparable. But the city has much more on offer beyond the antebellum nostalgia for moonlight and magnolias. To get a feel of the welcoming and warm nature of Savannah, take a trolley tour that would let you experience a lot of the city in a short time. Remember to check out the artsy and eclectic nature of the city by visiting local museums like the SCAD Museum of Art and Telfair Museums.
If you can spare some time, head straight to Tybee Island, which is just a quick drive from the downtown area and is famous for offering you the perfect lazy beach escape. Here, you can hit the beach for surfing, picnicking, or just relaxing and unwinding by experiencing the sunset over the ocean. You may even ride a bike through the streets while ogling at the vivid cottages. To enjoy a killer view of Tybee, just walk up to the top of the Tybee Island Light Station. If you want to live like a local during your Tybee Island sojourn, book your stay at a vacation rental like Mermaid Cottages. Some other lodging options include Surf Song Bed & Breakfast, Beachside Colony Resort, Hotel Tybee etc. Some of the great places to satiate your taste buds include A-J’s Dockside, The Social Club, and Fish Camp, among others.
Did you know that Savannah is considered as one of the most haunted cities in the country? Consider signing up for a ghost tour like Ghosts and Gravestones, Blue Orb, or Boos and Brews walking tour. Cemetery and churches go hand in hand with Savannah’s history. To have a glimpse of their historic significance, you can visit the Bonaventure Cemetery and Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Be sure to stop by some incredible places to shop like The Paris Market, E. Shaver Booksellers, Savannah Bee Company, and One Fish Two Fish among others. Forsyth Park is another major attraction that draws huge footfalls. Here, you can play some tennis, visit the rose garden, attend a concert, or just take a stroll through the park.
In Savannah, you’ll find a perfect combination of Southern comfort flavors and incredibly fresh seafood. Some options worth exploring include The Collins Quarter, Treylor Park, Soho South, The Public Kitchen & Bar etc. If you want to stay right in the heart of Savannah, book your stay at The Kimpton Brice Hotel where you can enjoy fine Italian dining, rentable bikes, outdoor pool etc. Some other lodging options include the Hamilton-Turner Inn, the Kehoe House, Eliza Thompson House, and Zeigler House Inn, among others.
Being one of the country’s most pristine seaside regions, Cumberland Island boasts of pure sand dunes and windswept white beaches. Reachable by ferry from the Cumberland Island Visitors Center at St. Marys, this 17.5-miles long island is considered a heaven for wildlife enthusiasts. Visiting Cumberland Island is synonymous to stepping into gleaming sand beaches, a wilderness of maritime forest and salt marshes alive with waving grasses. Here, you’ll find towering oaks wrapped with Spanish moss along the trails of the forest, which is the habitat for hogs, deer, armadillos, wild turkeys, wild horses, raccoons etc. Cumberland Island’s estuaries and marshes are inhabited by ducks and crabs, fishes etc with hundreds of birds wheeling overhead. To explore all these and more, you can rent a bike or sign up for a tour with the park rangers. Remember to visit the Dungeness ruins – remnant of the lavish Dungeness Mansion, which was built in the late 19th century and was destroyed in 1959 by a fire. It may sound surprising but at Cumberland Island, you’ll have the chance of enjoying the beach alone because only a limited number of visitors are allowed here at any given time.
The island boasts of 50 miles of hiking trail that runs through interior wetlands, marshlands, maritime forests and gorgeous beaches. You can check out the Parallel Trail that runs around 6 miles from the Sea Camp into the backcountry wilderness. While there’re lots of activities that would be enough to keep you occupied, you can always kick back and soak in the beauty and magnificence of Mother Nature around you.
While you can always visit the island as a day trip, it’s best to plan to stay overnight if you want to truly explore this destination. Camping is the most feasible and economical option here, but you should make prior reservations to avoid last-minute disappointment. Each campsite offers a fire ring, grill, picnic table and food cage to prevent wildlife. If you’re an avid camper and can backpack several miles, there’re wilderness and backcountry sites like Stafford Beach that you can opt for. Other than camping, Greyfield Inn is a great lodging option that offers a private ferry to its guests and lets them enjoy Cumberland’s beauty from the water. You can also book your stay at Goodbread House B&B, or Emma’s Bed and Breakfast in St. Marys.
If you’re an international traveler
If you’re a citizen of a country participating in the visa waiver program and plan to visit Georgia, you’d need to get your ESTA application approved. ESTA or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization lets you enter the US without a visa provided the duration of your trip is less than 90 days and it’s for pleasure or business. It’s important to check ESTA status before you travel to the US. Something like “how can I check if my ESTA is valid?” is one of the most frequent questions asked by international travelers. If you too belong to the same league, just visit the official ESTA application website, fill up and submit a simple and short online form there, and the system will quickly show your ESTA validity.