Stay and Play in Georgia
There’s so much to see and do beyond Atlanta! Try some of Atlanta Parent’s ideas for a family road trip in Georgia this summer.
Four Family Favorites Worth the Drive
The Rock Ranch, located in The Rock, is one of the state’s hidden gems. Created as a foster home for children by Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, it has evolved into a family destination that hosts public events, corporate picnics and conferences, lodging, camping and school field trips. Rock Ranch offers more than 25 attractions, including a locomotive train, zip lines, pumpkin cannon and carousel.
Towns County, located in the northeast Georgia mountains, offers guests recreation and relaxation. After a day of horseback riding, hiking or golf, enjoy a swim in the beautiful indoor/outdoor pool … all part of a stay at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa. Other area activities include boating on Lake Chatuge, a gorgeous botanical garden, concerts, festivals and much more.
At Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, visitors can witness a “birth” at the home of Cabbage Patch Kids and Little People. This 70,000 square-foot southern-style home sits on 650 acres in the north Georgia mountains. Doctors and nurses administer lots of TLC and “imagicillin” with adoption consultants available. Enjoy beautiful seasonal gardens. Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.
Lane Southern Orchards Roadside Market and Café is home to the best peaches and pecans in Georgia. Take a self-guided tour and watch the peach packing process. Show your kids where their food comes from, then grab a rocking chair on the porch while the kids play on the farm-themed playground with real tractors. Located south of Macon off I-75 at exit 142.
Athens: Let your kids bring their backpacks and pretend they are college students as you tour the University of Georgia campus and Butts-Mehr UGA Sports Museum. Explore 225 acres of woodlands and wetlands at Sandy Creek Nature Center and visit the education center to see live reptiles, amphibians and aquariums.
Blairsville: You can see a lot of Georgia from Brasstown Bald near Blairsville, the highest point in the state. Vogel State Park’s 22-acre lake has a beach with mountain views. A fun experience is Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm; visit during an open house date or make an appointment to see the animals.
Blue Ridge/McCaysville: Take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway to McCaysville, where kids can put one foot in Georgia and the other in Tennessee. Have lunch and ice cream, then head back to Blue Ridge and visit Mercier Orchards for blueberry picking in summer and apples in fall.
Cartersville: Cartersville is almost “close-in” to the northern suburbs, but still a hike for those farther south. It’s worth the drive to see the Booth Western Art Museum and spend time at the Tellus Science Museum. Also, explore the Etowah Indian Mounds and Cartersville Lake.
Cleveland: This city is known as the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids. Visit the Babyland General Hospital where they are born and leave with an “adoptee.” Tour the North Georgia Zoo and Farm and see farm animals. Unicoi State Park has archery, ziplining and lots more activities for kids.
Dalton: This city is more than the “Carpet Capital of the World.” Tour the Chief Vann House Historic Site, the first brick house in the Cherokee Nation. Then take a Civil War Railroad Tunnel Tour at Tunnel Hill. Hike around nearby historic Prater’s Mill for a scenic outing.
Helen: In this Alpine village, visit beautiful Anna Ruby Falls, pan for gold and gems at Dukes Creek Gold and Ruby Mines or hop in an inner tube and float the Chattahoochee River. Visit Charlemagne’s Kingdom to see a 50-foot model railroad, and see a master glassblower at work at the Glassblowing Shop.
Rome: Float the scenic Etowah River in a tube or kayak on the most urban section of the Etowah River Water Trail system. Tour the beautiful Berry College grounds and visit Oak Hill, the 1800s home of founder Martha Berry. Time your visit to see the Rome Braves play baseball.
Toccoa: A top attraction in Toccoa is Toccoa Falls. Also, visit the Currahee Military Museum to learn about the men who trained at Camp Toccoa and the “Band of Brothers” who fought in World War II.
Augusta: Go canoeing, kayaking and SUPing on the Savannah River at Savannah Rapids Park, take a stroll on the Augusta Riverwalk and visit the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area for a boat or bike tour and a history lesson. Fans of comedy team Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy will want to visit the Laurel & Hardy Museum in nearby Harlem.
Columbus: Experience life in the 1850s with interpretations, demonstrations and hands-on activities at Historic Westville, reopening in June after a move from Lumpkin. See the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center with artifacts from 240 years of American military history. The interactive Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a hit with kids. Save time for a short stroll along the 15-mile Chattahoochee Riverwalk.
Macon: A stroll through the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park is a great lesson in Indian history. Kids will like the Museum of Arts and Sciences with lots of hands-on activities and the Tubman African American Museum, which celebrates African American art, history and culture. Take a drive just south of Macon to Lane Southern Orchards, tour the packing plant and satisfy your craving for fresh Georgia peaches. Fans of the Allman Brothers will want to stop by the band’s Museum at the Big House.
Pine Mountain: Summer is one of the best times at Callaway Gardens when Robin Lake Beach and Aqua Island are open and the Florida State University Flying Circus performs. Nearby Wild Animal Safari (animalsafari.com) has more than 550 animals on 500 acres. And Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park and Roosevelt’s Little White House provide a portrait of the revered former president and his time in Georgia for polio treatments.
Statesboro: Visitors proclaim the Center for Wildlife Education at Georgia Southern University to be inexpensive ($2 admission) and fun, with good reason. Kids love seeing eagles, raptors, reptiles and amphibians up close and hearing about their habits. A splash in the Boro water park with its Lazy River and pools is a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Warner Robins: The Museum of Aviation has a fascinating collection of aircraft and U.S. Air Force history and lots of interactive fun for kids – and it’s free. Plan also to visit the Go Fish Education Center in nearby Perry where kids can learn about trout fishing and catch and release trout.
Albany: Experience the eco-systems of the Flint River at the Flint RiverQuarium with interactive exhibits, shows and animal feedings. Visit the Albany Civil Rights Institute to understand the civil rights struggle in Southwest Georgia. At Lake Chehaw, fish for crappie, bream and bass.
Americus: See life-size Habitat houses from countries around the world and learn how other cultures live at Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and Discovery Center. The Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in nearby Leslie has the largest collection of antique telephones and memorabilia in the world, plus antique clocks and cars.
Andersonville: Almost 13,000 Union soldiers died at the Camp Sumter military prison here during the Civil War and the Andersonville National Historic Site pays tribute to them and other prisoners of war.
Brunswick: Take a fishing excursion with a charter or watch the shrimp boats come in with their catch and sample some at a local restaurant. Plan your visit to take in a show at the Historic Ritz Theatre.
Cordele, Plains and Archery: Hop on the Historic SAM Shortline Railroad train at Cordele, the Watermelon Capital of the World, and take a fun trip all the way to Archery, with stops at Americus and Plains. You’ll have time to tour former President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains and visit his Boyhood Farm in Archery.
Tifton: Kids can learn about farming and the state’s agricultural roots with fun activities at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village, formerly known as Agrirama. You’ll see demonstrations of farm and village life in the 1800s, including blacksmithing.
Savannah: This coastal city has stately homes and beautiful gardens. Visit Old Fort Jackson and Fort Pulaski for cannon firings and weapons demonstrations, watch dolphins at play on a dolphin tour, take a Pirates and Privateers Tour with Black Betty to learn about the city’s pirating history, take in a Savannah Bananas baseball game, spend a day at Surf Lagoon or take a ghost tour.
Valdosta: Wild Adventures Theme Park has lots of kid-friendly and teen-pleasing rides plus lots of animals and a water park. See wetlands, pine forests and game animals on a walk through the 2,623-acre Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area.
Waycross: Visit the Okefenokee Swamp for an unforgettable experience – take a ride on the Okefenokee Railroad, a tour boat into the swamp or a walk through the swamp to an observation tower. Reserve cottages or campsites at Stephen C. Foster State Park.
– Amanda Miller Allen