Georgia Holiday Planning Guide
Founded in 1733, Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies that became the United States. Much more geographically diverse than most visitors realize, the state features a scenic seacoast, high mountain peaks, and large urban centers, with broad rural areas in between. Once famous mostly for historical attractions memorializing the Civil War era and the Civil Rights Movement, Georgia now draws tourists from around the world with its rich musical tradition and distinctive cuisine. Start your Georgia vacation in Atlanta, the state's economic powerhouse, and then road trip to the coastal barrier islands, nature preserves, and chic vacation resorts.
Places to Visit in GeorgiaAtlanta
Nicknamed the "Capital of the South", the economic and cultural powerhouse of Atlanta is a sprawling city made up of distinct neighborhoods. Its great significance to Civil War and Civil Rights movement makes for great historical sightseeing in Georgia.Savannah
Georgia's oldest and arguably prettiest city, riverside Savannah plays host to fine antebellum architecture, imposing oak trees, and elegant cobbled streets. Despite its genteel charm, the city also boasts a boisterous nightlife scene fueled by killer cocktails.Brunswick
A port city and America's shrimp capital, Brunswick draws visitors with its sandy beaches, lively waterfront area, and Victorian center. Tybee Island
Tybee Island has long served as a weekend getaway for residents of Savannah; its long sandy beaches and relaxed atmosphere make it easy to see why.Golden Isles of Georgia
Made up of four barrier islands, the Golden Isles of Georgia are renowned for their natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and premier golf courses.Athens
A college town, Athens boasts a vibrant music and arts scene. It's quirky and compact downtown area plays host to an increasing number of foodie-friendly restaurants, counted among top tourist attractions in Georgia. Blue Ridge
Blue Ridge sits on America's national scenic trail, and though the famed route spans 14 states, this small resort town is considered one of its major highlights, offering superb fishing and kayaking along with a charming downtown area. Augusta
Providing a taste of the Old South, Augusta features historic streets boasting outstanding examples of pre-Civil War architecture. The city is known internationally for hosting The Masters golf tournament every spring. Helen
Once a logging town, Helen reinvented itself in the 1960s to become a picture-perfect alpine town. Though the tiny resort boasts just 400 residents, its cobblestone streets offer more than 200 shops.
Things to Do in Georgia
Popular Georgia Tourist AttractionsGeorgia Aquarium
Home to more aquatic life than any other aquarium in the world, this Georgia attraction dazzles visitors with dolphin shows, touch tanks, and a walkthrough tunnel.Savannah Historic District
With ample green spaces and buildings that date from the 18th and 19th centuries, the Savannah Historic District oozes old-fashioned southern charm. Six Flags Over Georgia
Part of the famous amusement park franchise, Six Flags Over Georgia encompasses 12 rollercoasters, numerous kid-friendly attractions, and a waterpark. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Savannah's oldest Catholic church, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is admired for its imposing Gothic architecture and stained glass windows, which are over a century old.Atlanta Botanical Garden
Boasting a wide selection of rare plants, the Atlanta Botanical Garden encompasses a Japanese garden, rainforest collection, and a small-scale desert. Bonaventure Cemetery
The final resting place of many famous figures and home to a variety of fine statues, the scenic Bonaventure Cemetery famously featured in the novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," which made it a popular, if unusual, Georgia tourist attraction.Stone Mountain Park
Best known for its huge Confederate Memorial carving, Stone Mountain Park is a popular spot for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and golf. Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta plays host to a wide variety of exotic creatures and includes the largest zoological collection of gorillas and orangutans in the country, as well as a popular giant panda exhibit. Fort Pulaski National Monument
A significant site of the American Civil War, visitors to the Fort Pulaski National Monument can learn more about the landmark events that took place here through a guided tour and historic weapons demonstrations. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Spanning several buildings, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s boyhood home and the church where he served as a pastor, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site chronicles and interprets the life of Atlanta's most famous son.
Planning a Georgia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Georgia with Kids
As is the case with much of the U.S., Georgia is a family-friendly destination that offers plenty to keep younger travellers interested. Atlanta
is an obvious choice, providing plenty of stimulation with its interactive museums, amusement parks, and a smattering of city parks. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Georgia's long and sandy coastline by basing yourself in a beach resort. Saint Simons Island
and Jekyll Island
boast superb public beaches as well as plenty of adventure activities you can enjoy as a family, such as fishing and hiking. Savannah
caters to a wide variety of interests, allowing both you and the kids to stay entertained throughout your Georgia vacation. You can begin your tour with an educational exploration of the city's historic sites before heading to the river for some water sports.
Things to Do in Georgia with Kids
Georgia is a diverse state that allows families to choose from a wide range of kid-friendly activities and attractions. For a taste of the great outdoors and plenty of opportunity for adventure, take your children to some of the region's nature reserves or parks, such as the breathtaking Chattahoochee National Forest
or action-packed Stone Mountain Park
. Animal centers and wildlife reserves also provide a good opportunity to get outside, and of course, see some cute critters on your Georgia trip. Those with young children can consider checking out Georgia's children museums, like the interactive Interactive Neighborhood for Kids (INK)
and the outdoor Savannah Children's Museum
. If you've got a thrill-seeking brood, head for one of the state's several amusement parks; Six Flags Over Georgia
, Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park
, and Wild Adventures Theme Park
are all popular Georgia tourist attractions for families with toddlers and teens.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Georgia
Rent a car for your Georgia tour to take advantage of good roads and skip the stresses of dealing with public transportation. Keep in mind that Georgia is the largest state east of Mississippi River, and distances can be long. It's a good idea to bring along some games, snacks, and audio books to keep little passengers occupied on long drives. Those traveling on a budget can consider camping as an economical accommodation option. Pitching a tent is not only a great way to take advantage of Georgia's fine weather and outstanding scenery, but remains one of the most cost-friendly and fun ways to house the whole family.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Georgia
Cuisine of Georgia
Cuisine forms an integral part of this Southern state's culture and many visitors find dining one of the highlights of their trip. The dishes of Georgia offer an interesting and distinct blend of Native American, European, and African cooking, a result of rich history that included colonization and slave trade.
The food most associated with the state is the peach, so much so that Georgia's has been nicknamed the "The Peach State." These sweet fruits are plentiful in Georgia, and the ones grown locally rank among the best in the world. Try them raw or as part of a peach pie, cobbles, salsa, or cider. Georgia also holds the title of number-one peanut producing state in the country and grows the famous Vidalia
onions, renowned for their sweet flavor. You can learn more about this onion's economic and culinary significance by including the Vidalia Onion Museum
on your Georgia itinerary. Corn grows across Georgia and features in a number of iconic Southern dishes, such as savoury cornbread, grits (coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk), and hush puppies (small cakes of cornmeal dough deep fried). You'll find corn on the cob served as a side dish, accompanying specialties like fried chicken, butter-beans, black-eyed beans, and okra.
As you might expect from a state blessed with 160 km (100 mi) of coastline, seafood forms a large part of the diet here. Commercial shrimping remains a big business and you're likely to spot shrimp boats hard at work if you spend any time on the coast. Locally caught shrimp ranks among the finest in the country and is well worth a try on your Georgia vacation. Inland, fishing for catfish is highly popular and the Southern delicacy appears on many menus. If you prefer meat, make sure to sample some of the local pork, a staple of barbecues. It also regularly appears in Brunswick
stew, a hearty Georgian dish allegedly invented by a plantation cook in the 19th century.
Sweet iced tea is a great way to wash down a big plate of Southern cooking, but if you'd prefer something truly Georgian, order a Coke. Though you can find this ubiquitous soft drink practically anywhere in the world, Coca Cola was born in Columbus
and is headquartered in Atlanta
. You can learn more about this iconic local beverage on your Georgia holiday by visiting World of Coca-Cola
Shopping in Georgia
From towering megamalls to dusty antique shops, the state of Georgia boasts a wide variety of stores for all your souvenir needs. With over 200 shops and a wealth of dining and entertainment attractions, Mall of Georgia
remains the largest of its kind in the Southeast. It even includes an outdoor shopping village, created to replicate a traditional town square.
If you prefer shopping in quirky and independent stores, make sure to swing-by Savannah
on your Georgia tour. Savannah Historic District
is packed full of colorful galleries, museum stores, and unusual shops while the City Market
plays host to a number of artisan stands and food counters. Pay a visit to the The Salt Table
to pick up some Southern spices and Georgia-grown produce. Athens
offers plenty to the curious shopper; the Victorian-era buildings found downtown conceal a diverse assortment of art studios and speciality shops.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Georgia
History of Georgia
Before Europeans settled in Georgia, the land was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including ancient mound-building cultures, the Cherokees, and the Creeks. Disease and conquest means little remains from these peoples and their civilizations, but sites such as the 900-year old mounds of Ocmulgee National Monument
provide some insight into in Georgia's native heritage.
By the time James Oglethorpe founded the British colony of Georgia in 1732 , Europeans had been visiting the region for around two centuries, with Spain and Great Britain fighting fiercely for control over the area. With Britain victorious against Spain, it became the last of its original Thirteen Colonies and was named after King George II. Oglethorpe, a Member of Parliament back in his homeland, proposed that Georgia be settled by the "worthy poor" of England, helping to overcome the overcrowding of debtors' prisons in England. Savannah's Oglethorpe Square
was designed by Oglethorpe himself.
By 1765, tensions over taxation without representation, trade regulations, and foreign rule led to widespread revolutionary activity in Thirteen Colonies, with most determined to overthrow British rule. Though Georgians remained divided about how to respond to the rebellion, their region soon became a significant battleground in the struggle for independence. Fort Morris
, available to visit on your Georgia vacation, was one of the southeast's most significant defensive structures, though it was later seized by the British. In 1783, the Colonies secured independence and founded the United States of America,
In 1829 gold was discovered in Georgia's northern mountains, leading to the Georgia Gold Rush and a sudden influx of white settlers. The growing white population put pressure on the government to confiscate land from the Cherokee Nation. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act became law, forcing Native American nations into reservations. Three years later, federal troops rounded up Georgia's Cherokee population to deport them west of the Mississippi River. In the process of forced relocation over 4,000 Cherokee people died. Include New Echota
, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, in your Georgia itinerary to learn more about how the Cherokees governed themselves and the tragedy of their involuntary exodus from the land, today known as the "Trail of Tears".
The development of the cotton gin had a profound effect on Georgia's economy. Cotton plantations grew, many of which dependent on black slave labour. Though Congress banned the slave trade back in 1808, Georgia's slave population continued to expand. By 1860 Georgia's population hovered around the one-million point, with enslaved African Americans making up 44 percent of the total population. A number of antebellum plantations still stand in Georgia; Jarrell Plantation
is one of the best-preserved examples of a middle-class Southern plantation in America today.
In the 1860 presidential election, the Republicans headed by Abraham Lincoln supported the ban of slavery in all U.S. territories. Southern States, dependent on the institution of slavery, saw this as a violation of their constitutional rights. The Republican Party, with the support of the North, managed to secure the majority of electoral votes and Lincoln was elected president. However, before his inauguration, Georgia and six other Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy. The secession was rejected by the remaining states as illegal and as efforts of peaceful compromise floundered, both sides prepared for what was to become the American Civil War.
Georgia was a major theater of conflict throughout the four-year struggle and contributed nearly 100,000 soldiers to the Confederacy's efforts. In 1865, the Union forces succeeded in securing a Southern surrender and the Confederate states began the process of rejoining the Union. Georgia did not become part of the Union until July 15th, 1870, making it the last state to do so. Today, Georgia's plethora of civil war sites provide some insight into that dramatic time in American history. Make a stop at Andersonville National Historic Site and National Prisoner of War Museum
, Fort McAllister State Park
, and the National Civil War Naval Museum
during your Georgia holiday to learn more.
The years of strife and violence destroyed much of Georgia's infrastructure and the abolition of slavery had severe consequences for its economy. During the Reconstruction, Georgia was occupied by the military and experienced biracial Radical Republican rule. The return of white Democratic rule in 1875 signalled the end of Reconstruction and the whites who regained power passed a series of laws to ensure the disenfranchisement of the black population along with their exclusion from economic and political power.
Georgia remained a heavily rural state and was badly hit by the Great Depression of the 1930s. World War Two helped to stimulate its economy, with many training bases, munitions plants, and shipyards playing an important role in America's war effort. Soldiers returned home at the end of the war; among them were African Americans who had been asked to lay down their lives for the nation but returned to a segregated country where they were disenfranchised and disadvantaged by wide range of laws. Many joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other groups fighting for black people's' constitutional rights. Atlanta
was the base of a number of traditional black colleges and thus sustained a sizeable educated and middle-class African American population. The leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement emerged from this community, including the movement's most famous figure, Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
provides an opportunity to explore the buildings that helped shape the Alabama-native's life. Despite much resistance, national opinion came to endorse the moral position of civil rights for all citizens. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a successful lawsuit against Georgia, requiring it to integrate public schools. In 1970, the newly elected Governor Jimmy Carter declared that racial segregation had ended. Visit the Tubman Museum
on your Georgia trip to learn more about African American art, history, and culture.
Although great swathes of Georgia remain rural, the 1980s saw Atlanta
transformed into a national center for finance, insurance, and real estate companies. The city's growing profile was confirmed when it was awarded the role of host for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Its airport has been the world's busiest since 1998.
Landscape of Georgia
Boasting the largest land area of any state east of the Mississippi River, Georgia's landscape is as diverse as it is beautiful. The rugged north is dominated by tall mountains, the Appalachians in the northwest and Blue Ridge Mountains
in the northeast. At 1,458 m (4,784 ft) Brasstown Bald Mountain
represents the highest part of the state, and its summit has been made accessible by a short but steep trail. On a clear day, you can enjoy views of four different states from the top. The center of Georgia, the Piedmont Plateau, enjoys a much gentler landscape and plays host to the majority of the state's inhabitants. Green hills rise and fall and the favorable climate allows for diverse plant and animal life.
The southeast of Georgia straddles the Atlantic Ocean, with the coast playing a major role in its landscape. Golden beaches, windswept dunes, and bustling ports can all be found here, making it a popular Georgia holiday destination.
Holidays & Festivals in Georgia
Attending one of Georgia's lively holidays and festivals offers a great opportunity to learn more about the state's vibrant culture. The Georgia National Fair in Perry
remains one of the largest such annual festivals. Held in October over 11 days, the celebration includes live music performances, agricultural and livestock shows, and nightly fireworks.
If you're planning a spring-time Georgia trip, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to parties and events to attend. Atlanta
Jazz Festival, North America's largest free jazz festival, offers free jazz events every night through May in clubs, parks, and restaurants. Savannah
Music Festival, typically taking place for three weeks in late March and early April, presents musical artists from all over the world spanning a wide range of musical genres. For something completely different, head to Macon's
International Cherry Blossom Festival to witness one of mother nature's most extravagant displays. The whole town gets into a celebratory spirit as over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom in an amazing explosion of color.
While June through August can get a little hot for partying across most of the state, summertime visitors can still find a number of festivals to attend. If your Georgia vacation falls include the Independence Day weekend, you'll find the state in full-on celebration mode as locals enjoy the days off work. Barbecues and fireworks take place across the land and a number of public parties beacon to tourists and locals. Centennial Olympic Park
hosts a particularly explosive fireworks display.
Georgia Travel Tips
Climate of Georgia
Featuring a primarily humid subtropical climate, Georgia is a four-season state with each season bringing its own distinct weather conditions and accompanying blooming plants. In springtime, Georgia experiences its most changeable and unpredictable weather, with temperatures typically ranging between a pleasantly warm 24 C (75 F) and positively chilly 4 C (40 F). April remains the wettest month, although Georgia receives moderate to heavy precipitation year round. The summer is hot and humid, and unless you're visiting some of the north's chilly mountain peaks, you'll hear the buzz of air-conditioning wherever you go. Daytime temperatures regularly exceed 30 C (86 F) and only fall to around 20 C (68 F) at night. Fall may be the most pleasant time of year to vacation in Georgia, with the Peach State enjoying sunny and dry days, averaging around 26 C (78 F) in the day and 10 C (50 F) at night, along with some spectacular fall foliage. Winters are mild throughout most of Georgia and even the cooler mountains receive considerably less snow than much of the Appalachians.
Georgia is one of the America's most frequent sufferers of tornadoes, although these rarely exceed F1 on the Fujita scale. The Atlantic Ocean also makes the state vulnerable to hurricanes. Despite this, Georgia's curved coastline provides effective protection from a direct hit.
Transportation in Georgia
With an outstanding road network, stunning scenery, and reasonably priced gas, Georgia lends itself to road travel. However, those who are spending the duration of their Georgia trip in a major city can easily get by without a car. Atlanta benefits from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority's (MARTA) system of buses and trains. They service the majority of the city's popular destinations and tourist attractions and you can plan your route using their online journey planner. In the Savannah metropolitan area, you can use Chatham Area Transit buses. For travel between cities and towns, you'll find public transportation options severely lacking. You can use Greyhound's bus services between several cities, but you may have to make several changes. Atlanta, Savannah, and Athens are all directly connected by Greyhound buses.