Established in 1732, Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies in America. It still retains much of its history throughout the state, despite having some of the most modern cities and prominent cultural hubs in the United States. From breathtaking mountain scenery to relaxing beaches, Georgia offers the perfect escape. Here are 13 of the most beautiful cities and towns in the state which show the best of colonial USA and the South.
One of the fastest growing cities in the seat of Cherokee County, Canton lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of what used to be the Cherokee Nation. The Downtown Historic District is home to a number of attractions for visitors who are intrigued by the country’s past, most notably the Cherokee County Historical Society and the Cherokee Arts Center. Canton’s growth over the past 10 years has been bolstered by its thriving social and cultural scene, as well as its high standards of living. You’ll find heritage trails and nature hikes which enable easy-to-access outdoor activities and stunning natural vistas.
One of the coolest towns in the States, Athens has one of the most lively college music scenes in the country, bolstered by being home to bands including R.E.M., the B-52s, Kishi Bashi, Of Montreal, and Reptar. Its current prominence as a college town is combined with historical traditions, with the main attractions including a double-barrelled cannon dating back to the Civil War and several 19th century University of Georgia buildings. The antebellum architecture makes it a perfect destination for weddings, and its close proximity to Atlanta means that it draws in crowds of tourists looking for a more picturesque weekend away. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains also makes the town a convenient stopping point for nature lovers.
A retreat for those who enjoy being surrounded by nature, Blairsville is nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest and north Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. Exuding natural beauty, old world charm and a thriving cultural scene, Blairsville hosts several yearly festivals which celebrate the mountain culture and history. For the rest of the year visitors can explore the state parks and the Track Rock Archaeological Area to discover the area’s extensive past. Blairsville also acts as the gateway to Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in the state, and the Appalachian Trail. It’s also located in close proximity to lakes Nottely and Trahylta, each of which offers water activities that, along with the various hike, bike and horse trails, give visitors plenty of opportunities for adventure.
You’ll be sure to find a fair share of tourists in Dahlonega as it offers an authentic mountain getaway only an hour drive away from Atlanta. Its main claim to fame is being the site of the first major gold rush in the United States; it was built upon the success of those pioneering days. There are still a number of gold-related attractions that are a major draw for visitors all year round, with the original architecture providing some prime examples of 19th-century American buildings and giving a glimpse into the town’s affluent past. More recently, the small city has appealed to wine lovers as it’s recognised as being part of the heart of the North Georgia wine country. California, eat your heart out.
Another of the far-reaching Atlanta suburbs, Duluth is regarded as one of the best places in the country to live and one of the cities that best represents American values. The city prides itself on capturing the spirit of good living, with various concerts and festivals held throughout the year to bring the community together and celebrate the area’s art and talents. The most notable attractions include the Gwinnett Center, the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, and the Southeastern Railway Museum which celebrates the city’s railroad era. Visit the restored downtown area to best appreciate Duluth’s small-town feel, which, combined with the big-city amenities, has made it one of the fastest growing areas in the state.
Named after a Revolutionary War hero, Fayetteville takes you back to the Civil War heyday but remains somewhat recognisable to a modern audience. In 1996 it received designation as a Main Street City and since then the downtown region been transformed in order to revitalise it and encapsulate a historic, unified feel in terms of the area’s architecture. Fayetteville also has a number of well-manicured city gardens and a nearby lake which adds to the picture-perfect feel of the town. The city is also said to have provided inspiration for Gone With The Wind (1939).
An Alpine town in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen may fool you into thinking that you’re in Germany with its old world towers, colourfully painted wooden houses and cobblestone alleys that are modelled after the original European mountain towns. Mandated zoning which was introduced in the 1960s means that the classic south German style is present on every building, even chain stores. Once you have fully taken in this Georgia town, you can try out a range of mountain activities in the area, giving you a chance to take in the impressive views across the mountains, forests and waterfalls. For full German impact, visit during Oktoberfest.
Hailed as the prettiest small town in America and one of the most picturesque villages in the world, Madison continues to draw in visitors all year round. It’s an authentic Southern town, which is designated as part of the Historic Heartland on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail. Its historic district is one of Georgia’s largest, and having been carefully restored, many of its buildings exemplify the town’s boom years in the mid-19th century. Grand style homes and antebellum buildings are the name of the game, and you’ll be hard pressed to not be won over by the town’s commitment to preserving its history.
First explored in the 16th century, St Marys is one of the earliest areas in the current-day United States which was set foot upon by Europeans during their voyages of discovery. Today there are still plenty of places in the town which celebrate its history, with museums, historic churches and a history tram tour all showcasing the town’s rich past. There is also the Oak Grove Cemetery, which holds a tomb stone dating back to 1801. The nearby birding trail, woodlands and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge provide plenty for outdoor lovers to while away their time. St Marys also gets plenty of visitors as it’s the gateway to Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest barrier island and a spectacular natural conservation area.
First conceived as a tourist town in the 1880s, Tallulah Falls continues to bring in plenty of intrepid travellers who are looking to explore the eponymous falls and areas of outstanding beauty within the region. It’s the home of the Tallulah Gorge State Park, with the gorge itself being a 305m (1000ft) chasm, and the falls being a series of six different waterfalls deluging through the gorge and Tallulah River. At the beginning of the 20th century, the town rivalled Niagara Falls in terms of tourism, and it has been used as a filming location for movies such as Deliverance (1972). Tallulah Falls is an area of unmissable natural wonderment, a must-see for lovers of the outdoors.
When looking for picturesque towns that capture the spirit of Georgia, it’s hard to beat Ellijay. Known as the Apple Capital of Georgia and with its own apple festival, the small town has a big reputation thanks to the abundance of open air activities. You can spend an afternoon whitewater kayaking if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, or tackle the peaks of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. There are some great places to stay here too, like Mulberry Gap which is excellent for biking excursions.
This historic destination in the southwest of Georgia has been named a Great American Main Street and recognised by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Excitingly, for 2021, there’s a new hotel in the historic downtown district for the first time in 100 years. Hotel guests can enjoy views that overlook famous Thomasville sites including church steeples, the courthouse cupola, water tower and picturesque street scenes.
Music fans will probably already know about Macon. The town is synonymous with the early Southern rock scene and was once home to legendary artists like Otis Reading, Little Richard and James Brown. You can still visit the Douglass Theatre where Reading was discovered and see the stunning Grand Opera House where Ray Charles once performed on stage. If you make your way here then you should also take a trip to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park which highlights a remarkable 17,000 years of continuous human habitation.
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