I’m a Georgia fan! You’ve seen my posts on wild, undeveloped Cumberland Island and the lovely, languorous Savannah…
But here are five Georgia gems that may not be on your radar… and should!
Come see the gorgeous houses built by the rich “Yankees” (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. B. F. Goodrich, Alexander Graham Bell) when they came down from cities in the Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s.
“As the terminus for the railroad, Thomasville was accessible from the north and, during the late 1800’s, became known as the ‘Winter Resort of the South.’ In the beginning of this era, Northerners and other visitors came to Thomasville for their health, breathing the pine-scented air as a curative for pulmonary ailments. They were soon joined by friends to enjoy hunting, fishing, and an active social life, including golf, horse racing and bicycling. Thomasville came to represent the best of Southern hospitality with the lavishness of the resort lifestyle…
Once they discovered that it cost less to purchase land than rent hotel rooms, these wealthy families bought property and built grand Victorian mansions and plantation homes. Many of these plantations are still owned by the families who built them and…have been lovingly restored,” according to Thomasville’s website.
Thomasville is definitely worthy of an overnight. Stay at The Paxton and request the first floor room, as they don’t have an elevator and who wants to lug heavy suitcases upstairs?! The Paxton is in Thomasville proper, so you can walk to restaurants around this small town. Dine at the Sweet Grass Dairy, a cheese shop (123 S. Broad Street) and restaurant with cheese-centric dishes. Shop at Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel (111 S. Broad Street). In addition to hunting and fishing gear, Kevin’s sells beautiful tableware, splashy coffee table books, and even offers travel services
If you would rather experience staying on a plantation, book a cottage at nearby Pebble Hill Plantation…or just visit for an afternoon. “Hard times during the Civil War and afterwards during Reconstruction created rundown, disheveled property all across the South. Pebble Hill was no exception. The beautiful Main House, designed by architect John Wind in 1851, was in desperate need of repair when Mel purchased the property in 1896,” according to the Pebble Hill Plantation’s website. “Mel” was one of the rich “Yankees” who came from the Midwest to escape the snow.
For an excellent list of more things to do in the Thomasville area, click here. BTW, did you know that Joanne Woodward was born in Thomasville? You just know she brought Paul Newman (swoon) home to visit!
- is on the Southern Literary Trail, connecting places in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi that influenced great novelists and playwrights of the 20th Century. Writers Flannery O’Connor (“Wise Blood,” etc.) and Alice Walker (“The Color Purple,” etc.) grew up near Milledgeville. Visit peaceful and evocative Andalusia Farm, where Miz Flannery completed the bulk of her literary work when she lived there from 1951-1964.
- is a thriving, small college town, thanks to Georgia College & State University, founded in 1889.
- has a dramatic Governor’s Mansion with an interesting history.
Alex Hitz, who The Wall Street Journal called “the very best host in the world,” grew up in Atlanta. This summer, I have been cooking my way through his beautiful and sophisticated cookbook, “My Beverly Hills Kitchen.” His recipes are classic Southern cooking with a French twist. Three traits make his cookbook a stand-out:
- The recipes are consistently good.
- The intro paragraph to each recipe is always interesting. For example, did you know that Vichyssoise was invented in the U.S.?
- Most of his recipes include recommendations for accompanying dishes.
You might want to make some of Alex’s pimento cheese for a snack on your road trip around Georgia. When my friend, Mary Ann, took me on a trip to a small town in Georgia, I was offered glorious pimento cheese sandwiches from three different hosts within 24 hours…and that’s what I like about the South!
- President Jimmy and First Lady Rosalynn Carter are from Plains, a small, unpretentious, rural town, where the Carters were prosperous peanut farmers. Jimmy and Rosalynn were high school sweethearts, whose families were good friends. This couple has come a long way, baby!
- Visit the Old Schoolhouse Museum for the story of President Carter’s life from boyhood to the presidency.
- I have heard from a reliable source that the Buffalo Café (118 Main Street) is wonderful!
- Visit Maranatha Baptist Church where President Carter still teaches Sunday school, attracting people from all over the world. So impressive, especially given that he is 94 years old! Click here to read an article about this in The Washington Post.
- Check out nearby Andersonville Civil War cemetery, former site of a prisoner of war camp.
Between Plains and Macon is beautiful Massee Lane Gardens in Marshallville, home of the American Camellia Society. Best in winter for blooms.
Also en route from Plains to Macon, stop at Farmer Brown’s Produce Market in Montezuma, GA. Summer or fall for peaches, produce, peach blossom dessert and ice cream, and zinnia picking. Sounds like a little slice of heaven to me!
Check out its…
- eye-popping architecture
- Southern throwback comfort food at
- S&S Cafeteria
- H&H Restaurant located downtown, with the same wonderful food as S&S, but almost a shrine to the Allman Bros. along with other musicians who dined there in the heyday of Capricorn Records, per my Georgia friend, who took this scrumptious photo…
- Dovetail – “divine new Southern cuisine downtown,” according to my Georgia friend, Mary Ann, who knows good food!
- Rookery – “downtown institution with great bar food,” says Mary Ann.
- Wesleyan College, the first woman’s college in U.S.. Ever heard of the Soong sisters? I bet you’ve heard of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Well, before she was Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, she was one of the Soong sisters, from far away China. They attended Wesleyan College. Click here, for their intriguing story.
- Sidney Lanier Cottage – The SLC was the birthplace of GA’s poet laureate and author of “Song of Hiawatha,” among many others. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Landmark of American Music and a Landmark of American Poetry.
- Harriett Tubman Museum – “dedicated to educating people about the Art, History and Culture of African Americans,” per its website.
- Allman brothers house – While there are major AB footprints all over Macon, this house is the HQ.
Musical Travelling Companions
Pack your CDs, hop in your car, crank up the volume and get your groove on with Southern rock and soul bands produced by yet another Georgia gem, Capricorn Records!
We’re talking the incomparable Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, Delbert McClinton (that man’s got soul) and many more.
Literary Travelling Companions
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, and An Hour Before Daylight, by Jimmy Carter
A hearty thanks to my Georgia friend, Miz Mary Ann, and her wonderful parents, without whom I would not have known about most of these gems. It sure pays to know interesting and interested people!