In the southeastern region of the United States, Georgia is a busy hub for international and national tourists. Most famous for its sunshine, peaches, and southern hospitality, this state dazzles with its natural beauty and rich history.
With urban cities, quiet towns, northern mountains, coastal plains, and unique beaches, the diverse landscapes make this state an enticing destination. In Georgia, visitors will also be able to explore some of the most iconic scenes of the Southern United States including oak trees covered in Spanish moss, historic plantations, American Civil War sites, and the Blue Mountains.
Not to be confused with the country of the same name, major cities and tourist destinations in the state of Georgia include Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah. Whether you’re traveling with family and friends or even flying solo, the “Peach State” has a long list of things to do, places to see, and sites to explore.
Livin’ La Vida Georgia
Visit Georgia’s Top Towns and Cities
History of “The Peach State”
Georgia’s state history spans thousands of years from early Native American tribes to modern achievements. However, the most well-known and discussed parts of the state’s history are the Antebellum Era, American Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. The Antebellum Era began in 1800 and ended in 1860.
Derived from Latin and meaning “before the war”, antebellum has become a word that is strongly tied to historic eras of the American South. In Georgia, prior to the Civil War, the Antebellum Era refers to the time when cotton production and slave labor drove the economy. Not wanting to free slaves nor see the end of slavery in the South, Georgia seceded from the Union in January 1861.
The start of the American Civil War would occur just a few months later. For most of the war, the state remained battle-free. It wasn’t until 1863 that the conflict escalated. The Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 was the first major Civil War battle in the state and it was won by the Confederates.
From 1863 to 1864, it is estimated that nearly 550 battles took place in Georgia. The last battle was in April 1865 and it was called the Battle of Columbus. That same month, the Confederacy was defeated and the war was declared to be over.
Georgia struggled to recover after the conflict and the economy was left in shambles. The state would rejoin the Union in July 1870, the last of the Confederate states to be readmitted. Although, the economy would not recover for decades. Nearly a century after Georgia’s Antebellum Era, the state would sit at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement.
Though many Black Americans fought for their rights during the movement, one of the most famous leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta. MLK was a major leader of the Civil Rights Movement for 13 years, until his assassination in April 1968 in Tennessee.
Capital City of Atlanta
The capital and largest city of Georgia is Atlanta with a population of 498,715 people as of 2020. Located in Northern Georgia, the capital is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Uniquely, the local topography has been named the “most dense urban tree coverage” of any major city in the US.
Home to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta has become a major tourist destination and transportation hub. The most visited and well-known attraction in the city is the Georgia Aquarium. With seven major galleries, visitors can view thousands of unique species that live at the aquarium.
Additional attractions include the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Zoo Atlanta, and Piedmont Park. Of the numerous neighborhoods, some of the most popular with visitors include Downtown Duluth, Midtown, Downtown Atlanta, and Inman Park.
Atlanta has also become famous for its cuisine, which includes traditional Southern comfort foods and global infusions. Crispy fried chicken, barbecue, burgers, and ice pops are all traditional foods throughout the city. Some iconic restaurants are Bones, the Colonnade Restaurant, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Nikolai’s Roof, and The Varsity.
Augusta, “The Garden City”
Home to 202,081 people as of 2020, Augusta sits on the Savannah River across from South Carolina. Known for its southern charm, the city is filled with antebellum mansions, gorgeous avenues, and plenty of gardens. Called the “Garden City”, there are hundreds of green spaces growing throughout Augusta.
Other beautiful spots to check out are the Riverwalk in Downtown Augusta, Augusta Canal Heritage Area, Phinizy Swamp, and the Reed Creek Nature Park. To learn more about the history and culture, visitors should check out the Augusta Museum of History, Sacred Heart Cultural Center, Ezekiel Harris House, or the Morris Museum of Art.
One particularly popular spot for tourists is the Downtown Historic District. Situated near the riverbank, many tourists visit Broad Street or Greene Street to view the historic buildings and tree-lined boulevards. Beyond the facades, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars to explore.
Savannah, “The Hostess City of the South”
First founded in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia. Supporting a population of 147,780 as of 2020, the city has grown from a small settlement to a major metropolitan area. Tourism to the city is particularly popular because of the stunning downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District.
Pre-dating the Civil War, the Historic District is renowned for its 18th and 19th-century architecture, 22 squares, and curtains of Spanish moss. Notable landmarks within the district include Forsyth Park, the Sorrel-Weed House, Green-Meldrim House, and Emmet Park. Being a compact neighborhood, the historic district can be easily navigated on foot.
When traveling around the city, visitors should also stop to see the Bonaventure Cemetery, East River Street, Telfair Academy, Georgia State Railroad Museum, and Tybee Island. One of the best ways to see Savannah is by booking a tour. Old Trolley, bike, and ghost tours are all great options for visitors to the city.
Athens, “The Classic City”
A satellite city of Atlanta, Athens is 70 miles northeast of the capital and it supports a population of 127,315 as of 2020. Home to the University of Georgia, most people describe the city as a college town. It’s also famous for being the hometown of various alternative rock bands including R.E.M, Widespread Panic, and the B-52s.
Downtown Athens is the heart of the city and there are a wealth of activities for tourists who want to shop and dine. Additionally, there are numerous galleries and studios for art lovers to peruse. Outside of downtown, there are plenty of family-friendly places to see.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has more than 300 acres and 5 miles of hiking trails. Perfect for the whole family, many trails have wheelchair access and there are special educational programs offered. The Bear Hollow Zoo works as a rescue and it is the perfect place to picnic and view animals.
People unfamiliar with the state of Georgia may not know about the diversity of the local geography. From the north to the south, the 5 main geological regions of the state are the Cumberland Plateau, Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, and the Atlantic coastal plain. Plenty of lands have been protected by the Federal and State government.
In Georgia, there are 11 national parks as well as dozens of state parks, historic sites, heritage areas, and natural landmarks. Some of the more popular parks to visit include the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Stone Mountain Park, and the Tallulah Gorge State Park.
Depending on which park you choose, visitors can enjoy a plethora of activities including hiking, biking, camping, educational programs, and museums.
Along the Atlantic coastal plain, there are just over 100 miles of coastline, which includes 15 barrier islands. Some of the most popular beaches are located on Tybee Island, Jekyll Island, and Cumberland Island. Each uniquely beautiful, Georgia’s coast has become a well-known resort and beach town destination.
Since the 1800s, Tybee Island has been a hotspot for tourists. A mix of coastal charm and historic sites, the island is a popular day activity for tourists in Savannah. The wide flat beaches on the island are perfect for lounging and taking walks along the coast. During calm weather, the waves are safe for swimming.
On Jekyll Island, visitors can tour a 240-acre site that includes 33 historic structures. Once an exclusive destination for famous families like the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers, the island has become home to numerous resorts. The most famous sandy spot on the island is Driftwood Beach.
Much more secluded but absolutely stunning is Cumberland Island. Listed as a national seashore, Cumberland is the largest barrier island on Georgia’s coast. Visitors will love the 17 miles of white sand and the luxury beachfront amenities. Other unique places to check out on Cumberland Island include the maritime forests and marshes.
For history buffs, Georgia is a goldmine of historic sites and landmarks. Dating back to pre-colonization, colonization, the Antebellum Era, American Civil War Civil Rights Movement, and more modern events, visitors will have the chance to learn more about the early history of the Southern United States.
Historic sites that date back to the Native American tribes are the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site and the New Echota Historic Site. The latter is the most famous because of the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the start of the Trail of Tears.
In Savannah, the Wormsloe Historic Site includes the city’s oldest standing structure as well as being where John Oglethorpe (the founder of the colony of Georgia), first settled when he arrived in the area.
Southern Georgia has become particularly well-known for its historic houses that can be found in cities or on plantations. Many of these homes have been preserved and turned into educational museums.
A few of the most famous homes include the Little White House Historic Site, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center.
The Antebellum Trail
Travelers that want to visit even more historic communities and houses should consider completing the Antebellum Trail. Stretching for 100 miles through seven historic communities, the trail weaves through areas that escaped burning during Sherman’s March to the Sea military campaign (American Civil War).
Completing the entire trek takes about 3 days and it passes through the communities of Athens, Eatonton, Gray/Old Clinton, Macon, Madison, Milledgeville, and Watkinsville. The trail is self-guided and along the way, visitors can also enjoy browsing through boutique shops or eating at premier restaurants.
“For the Best Moments of Your Life”
Filled with rich heritage and history, Georgia will make your jaw drop with its diverse beauty. Visitors of all ages will enjoy touring this state as you bounce from mega metropolises to countryside towns and untouched wilderness. Whether you’re an architecture lover, nature enthusiast, or budding historian, a Georgian vacation should be at the top of your bucket list.