Election Season 2016 was incredibly stressful, which made it easy to forget exactly how great we have it in Georgia. From the Beltline to Downtown skyline, there are a lot of beautiful things around here... so many, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. That's why we’ve rounded up 13 of Georgia’s most magnificent places that you absolutely need to experience. Get to cascading waterfalls or mountain gorges this weekend, take a deep breath, and finally relax.
A 1,000ft-deep gorge that’s nearly two miles long, TG is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, and is more aptly called Tallulah Gorgeous, especially when you consider the nearly 2,700-acre Georgia state park adjacent to it. With six waterfalls, which cause the river to drop 500ft over one mile, an 80ft-high suspension bridge, and ample hiking and biking space, it’s literally breathtaking. Pro tip: if you want to hike the gorge floor, get there early for a permit -- and keep in mind they’re not available during water releases.
This 822-acre historic site near Savannah boasts the ruins of a fortified home constructed by one of Georgia's colonial founders, Noble Jones; a museum; an interpretive center focusing on daily life in the 1700s; and, most importantly, a picturesque oak-lined 1.5-mile avenue that’s as romantic… um, that’s as romantic as any place where slavery was once practiced anyway.
Arabia Mountain is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the country, i.e., places recognized by Congress for their peerless contribution to the nation’s history. What you’ll appreciate most, though, is its starkly beautiful granite landscapes, incredible, awe-inducing views, and dozens of brilliantly colored rare plant species. If a more serene place exists, we haven’t found it yet.
Despite being smack dab in the middle of the city, Lullwater Park is a total retreat. You can't hear the cars zipping by over the quiet sounds of leaves rustling in the trees, but you can zone out and enjoy exploring the old water mills. When it comes to parks, Lullwater really has it all: shade and sun, hills and open fields, multiple trails, peaceful running water and fishing ponds, and beautiful serenity. It’s basically nature’s answer to a stiff after-work drink.
A true hidden gem tucked away by the CDC, Morningside Nature Preserve is a secret even to many who live in the neighborhood. It’s a great place for hiking, trail running, walking, letting dogs frolic, or simply forgetting that a huge metropolis is hidden behind the lovely trees, trails, brush, creeks, suspension bridge, and sandy beaches. Seriously, you’ll feel like you actually got away without ever really leaving the city.
A public garden and resort on 14,000 acres of beautiful Appalachian foothills near Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens is teeming with gorgeous views of multiple multi-acre kaleidoscopic flowers gardens, and much more, including some legit golf course action, too.
Despite being landlocked, Atlanta has some really gorgeous bodies of water nearby, including the stunning Panther Creek Falls, a cluster of multi-tiered waterfalls that drop into a pool of clear, beautiful water below. Oh, and if you want to do more than simply bask in the falls’ cool serenity, you can enjoy the nearly six-mile Panther Creek Trail that runs alongside.
This 54-acre site is the most intact Mississippian culture (a mound-building Native American civilization) site in the Southeast, and it features six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits, and a defensive ditch. Artifacts at this archaeological site include huge, hand-carved stone effigies that still have some original pigments. No doubt: this is one of the coolest history lessons you’ve ever had.
Nestled away in Dahlonega is a Montaluce, a stunning winery (and upscale restaurant!) that offers not only fresh, artisanal wines but also breathtaking views of both the North Georgia Mountains and the sprawling vineyards responsible for all that sweet vino. It also offers events such as deluxe wine tastings, nature hikes, tours, holiday festivities, and more. Pro tip: splurge on a meal and at least a case of wine. You won’t regret it.
The largest intact freshwater and black water wilderness swamp in North America, Okefenokee Swamp has to be seen to be believed. It’s full of vegetation and animals you’ve probably never seen before, like alligators and cranes. Check it out via paddle/motor boat water trails that are the sweetest way to explore the indigenous creeks called “The Land of Trembling Earth.”
Yes, that’s in Georgia. While much of the state thinks little, if anything, south of Atlanta is noteworthy, Providence Canyon State Park proves them wrong. The 1,000-plus-acre park contains Providence Canyon, which is known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon” because the massive, up-to-150ft gullies resemble the real thing so closely. They definitely look like nothing else you’ll find in the Peach State.
Step off the ferry on Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island and you’ll immediately feel like you’re on your own private beach, where you can swim, take quiet strolls, fish, bird watch, and more… all amidst ancient, twisted trees, lush vegetation, similarly ancient turtles, and beautiful roaming wild horses. The best part, especially for anyone who’s sick of Atlanta traffic? Cumberland Island is a car-free zone.
About a mile from Midtown Atlanta, there’s a huge hole in the ground that was mined for centuries. In recent years, thanks to gorgeous blue water and rocks that look straight outta the Rockies, it’s been featured in The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead, but if you want to see it in real life, you’d better hurry: the city is planning to turn it into a reservoir, meaning the whole place will soon be under water.
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