Just outside Atlanta you'll find small towns steeped in southern charm and antebellum beauty. This scenic drive takes you to a few of the most enchanting destinations south of the Mason-Dixon line, and you'll even meet a tree that owns itself.
In the quaint little town of Juliette, you'll find the Whistle Stop Cafe. The building was the town's general store back in the 1930s, but it's best known for its role in the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes". Of course, their menu features the Southern staple quite prominently, along with other dishes like fried chicken, pork chops, and BBQ. Afterwards, work off your meal by exploring the little shops around town!
Macon's most opulent mansion is, hands down, the old Hay House. It's being restored and is open for tours, so you can see how one of the richest men in Macon lived during the Gilded Age. As you tour the richly detailed home, you'll learn how the builder, William Butler Johnston, put in all kinds of cool touches that were totally unheard of for the mid-19th century: central heating, a speaker system, hot and cold running water, and even an early version of an elevator.
Each visit to Milledgeville's Lockerly Arboretum brings new views, depending on what's in bloom. Oaks, azaleas, magnolias, pines, and all kinds of flowers can be found in the 50 acre garden, complete with trails and ponds. There's also a lovely antebellum home on the property that just adds to the character of the place!
The Antebellum Inn Bed and Breakfast is the perfect vintage getaway. Enjoy a drink on the wraparound porch after taking a dip in their full-sized swimming pool (located in the lovely gardens), and then drift off to sleep in a comfy bed in one of their five guest rooms. It's located near all of the best restaurants, attractions and shops that Milledgeville has to offer, so it's the perfect home base for your trip.
Immerse yourself in the environment that inspired famed author Flannery O'Connor. She lived at Andalusia Farm between 1950 and 1964, and wrote both of her novels and both of her collections of short stories while here. Wander the grounds and explore the buildings (there's an aviary, a cow barn, horse stables, and more) as you learn more about the life and works of O'Connor.
Athens is a great town to explore. It's the home of UGA, so it has awesome college town vibes, while still being a pretty big city with loads to explore. The Georgia Museum of Art is a total hidden gem: galleries of sculptures and paintings, ranging from Italian Renaissance art to modern American works. Plus, since it's open every day except Monday and admission is totally free, it's worth at least browsing a few galleries!
Another great, free attraction in Athens is the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. It's 300 acres of pure, natural bliss. You can find flowers, herbs, cacti, trees, and even sculpture art tucked away among the plants! There are 5 miles of hiking trails here, so you can take as much or as little time exploring here as you want. And don't forget to stop into the visitor center for additional info on the plants you'll find, and what happens to be in bloom!
One of the more offbeat attractions in Athens is The Tree That Owns Itself. It's technically the Son of the Tree that Owns Itself (the original tree toppled over in the 1940s and was replaced with an acorn from the first oak) but the story behind this stately tree is no less fascinating.
The story of how the Tree That Owns Itself came to, well, own itself is a little murky. According to an 1890 front-page article in the Athens Daily Banner, a man named William Jackson grew up on the property and had such fond childhood memories of the tree that he wanted to make sure that it would never, ever get cut down. So, to ensure that the tree would be protected even after his death, at some point between 1820 and 1832 he deeded ownership of the tree and surrounding land to the tree itself.
Unfortunately, if such a deed ever did exist, it would have absolutely no legal standing whatsoever. Common law 101 (and common sense) states that the person receiving the property must have the legal capacity to receive it-- and a tree isn't exactly capable of accepting any property. Furthermore, research into William Jackson proves that while he did live on the same property as the tree, it was when he as an adult, not a child. The icing on the cake is that there's no evidence of such a deed, and even at the time of the article, no one could remember much about how the tree came to own itself.
But, even though the deed is basically bunk in the eyes of the law, the public recognizes it wholeheartedly, and even the government has professed that they would acknowledge that the tree (and thusly, its son) owns itself. But don't worry about trespassing on its property... It probably likes having visitors every now and then.
The Grit is one of those beloved college town staples that has been around for a long time, feeding generations of students meals that are actually decently healthy and not too expensive. It serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, so stop by whenever for a hearty meal of vegetarian deliciousness. You won't even miss the meat, promise. Veggies will love the seitan bahn mis and gyros, and those who aren't fans of meat substitutes will still love the falafel, nachos, and the chili.
You never know what you'll come across as you explore Georgia's small towns: natural beauty, renowned works of art, and delicious vegetarian food can be found among the quaint diners and antebellum architecture, making every little settlement worth exploring!
Discover Georgia’s scenic beauty from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal islands. Along the way, stop into historic small towns, homegrown restaurants and unique local shops. Experience outdoor fun at Georgia’s state parks filled with breathtaking foliage, trails, waterfalls and much more.