Georgia On My Mind
February 22, 2004 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Advice and suggestions for upcoming trip to Georgia please (more insideo...)

I'm a brit coming to Georgia (Gainesville to be specific) for work for a few weeks in April, and I'm thinking about staying on for a week or so at the end. Any advice or suggestions about where to go? any good festivals etc going on? I'm a fairly adventurous traveller and tend to like visiting more offbeat places and things while abroad. I'm also thinking about maybe trying to fit in a bit of hiking and wondering if anyone can recommend any good spots within striking distance. General advice on travelling on a budget in the US and cheap car hire etc very gratefully recieved.
posted by gravelshoes to Travel & Transportation around Georgia (18 answers total)
Wish I knew the name of places, but there are lots of good hiking places. There's the base camp-site to the Appalation Trail about 2.5 hours from Gainesville...Its got a nice litte 6 mile hike to the "real" portion of the trail that has a lodge to stay in if you like that. If you like music, You're about half an hour away from Athens (thats where I live, which was voted to have the best music scene in America) where you can find lots of good acts on any given night. This magazine website is a good resource of things to do in Athens. You're a tad bit further away from Atlanta (45 minutes?), but there's also a good amount to do there, from bigger-name music acts to hockey games. Also, Atlanta has Stone Mountain (the biggest piece of granite above ground, or something like that), which has a 1.5 mile trail going up the side of the mountain and a very nice view from the top, and its someplace you can spend an afternoon or a whole day exploring. Also, you can find hotels for like $29.99/night if you don't care about aesthetics, but they will be POS's.
posted by jmd82 at 9:44 AM on February 22, 2004

Other than the Okeefenokee Swamp in South Georgia, I would recommend you bring some books and catch up on your reading. Or, plan on some weekend trips out of state.
posted by mischief at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2004

I'll leave it to others to talk about Atlanta; I always found that town to be a bit of an overly-generic dump. Good zoo though.

If you want to see historic city stuff, I honestly think you'd be better off driving the several (but less than 6) hours to Savannah or, ideally, Charleston. Both are much more pedestrian-friendly than Atlanta, with fairly concentrated downtown cores with a lot going on, and lots of historic stuff to see, esp. some great federal-style houses and old churches (and, in Charleston, an old synagogue). Charleston and Savannah have the virtue of not having been completely burned by Yankees during the Late Unpleasantness, so there's stuff older than 1865 there.

I'd hit the mountains, but that's what I like. You're not far from the foothills of the Appalachians, and you can continue up to North Carolina through Cullowhee and the Cherokee reservation and through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and back down to Georgia through eastern Tennessee, maybe stopping in Knoxville if you want to see a big college town.

Odds are at least one town on that route or near it would be having some sort of springtime festival. I'd hit mapquest to see the general area and then look for festivals in the relevant towns.

Budget hints: Motel 6 and Super8 are both generally cheap (Motel 6 usually about $40, Super8 usually about $50-60), reliably clean and non-creepy, but basic and highly generic.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2004

I'd go to New Orleans for a day or two if you've never been. And Charleston is supposed to be fun, and gorgeous (but you're missing Spoleto by a month or so)
posted by amberglow at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2004

Response by poster: thanks for all your suggestions - I'm going to sit down with a map later and look them all up. I like the idea of going to a swamp, but then Athens and the mountains sound good too.

Can anyone recommend a good cheap car hire company in Atlanta?
posted by gravelshoes at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2004

A good time to visit Athens would be during the Twilight Criterium (April 26).
posted by fletchmuy at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2004

Can anyone recommend a good cheap car hire company in Atlanta?

They're all more or less the same except for the brands of cars, the kinds of deals offered (week-long deals versus weekend deals, etc), and stuff like that.

The classic cheapo company is rent-a-wreck, except they don't seem to be in Atlanta.

If you go here, you'll find a list of the rental companies at or near Hartsfield. Just browse down into each one and see who can get you the best deal for the time period you want.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2004

Since you'll be in Gainsville, I'd head just across the border to North Carolina and hang out a day or two in Pisgah National Forest, a very nice, lush area with lots of hikes, waterfalls, and the world famous (ok, not) sliding rock. It's probably 2 hours from Gainsville.

Other options for culure, besides those given above. are Madison Georgia, not that far from Athens. It's got some pre-civil war mansions (one is a museum that's tour-able). It's also got the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum, which is awsome. Contact him for a tour, if the museum isn't open the public yet.

The Okeefenokee swamp is amazing, especially in April before it gets too hot (it'll be plenty hot and humid in april of course). A smaller and less cool (but closer) swamp is Congaree Swamp. It's in South Carolina and would be pretty much on the way if you went out to Charleston.

Please be sure to eat the following foods to make your visit to Georgia complete: cheese grits (savory, not sweet breakfast food), krispy kreme donuts (hot only), and 'sweet tea'. Enjoy!
posted by zpousman at 3:22 PM on February 22, 2004

I'd like to pimp a few options if you come to Atlanta.

1/ MLK center/birthplace/tomb - a mecca of the civil rights movement.

2/ Ebenezer Baptist Church - also historical in term of civil rights.

3/ CNN center - home of Atlanta-based CNN.

4/ Visit the Fox theater - One of the great depression-era masonic movie theaters. It's really amazing, especially the faux Moroccan skyline and starry sky ceiling. One of a kind.

5/ Visit some of the intown neighborhoods, Virginia Highland (no "s", by the way...), Inman park, Decatur... (Definitely NOT generic, although the xuburbs are certainly that...). Atlanta is really about the intown lifestyle, which is great, and not about touristy stuff... Also, Atlanta is not very "Southern" - most of the folks intown are transplanted yankees (like me, 20 years this March...).
posted by jpburns at 3:36 PM on February 22, 2004

Gainesville isn't a bad little town. Nearby Lake Lanier is great. Gainesville proclaims itself to be the "Poultry Capital of the World", so make sure you go see the Rooster Monument (aka the "Chick on the Stick") in Poultry Park.

You may want to check out the local paper. Or the visitor's board. Or the town's official site.

Nearby, the hills of Northeast Georgia reward some exploration. Dahlonega was the center of the Georgia Gold Rush (before the California one) and is worth a visit.

Atlanta -- there are some good things there. I lived there for four years and would second jpburns' suggestions. (I also lived intown, as jpburns apparently does.) The Fox Theater is indeed amazing; try to take one of the walking tours (I think they're on Saturday mornings.) The King Center and National Historic Site are also required. CNN Center can be interesting as well, and the Centennial Olympic Park across the street is rather nice. Eat at the Varsity, Mary Mac's, Daddy D'z, or a bunch of other neat places. Go drinking at the Star Bar, the Righteous Room, or the Universal Joint. Have fun! (E-mail me for more recommendations.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2004

And for nearby offbeat/bizarre travel, go to Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. You can see where the Cabbage Patch dolls come from...and you can see them undergoing hospital care such as open-heart surgery. Plus every now and then the PA system will say something like "Mother cabbage dilated eight leaves, stat!" and you go into the Birthing Room where a frighteningly serious young employee will pull a "newborn" Cabbage Patch doll out of the "Mother Cabbage."

I was no fan of the Cabbage Patch craze, but this is a fascinating place just in terms of the marketing success and general bizarro nature.

Hiking: Amicalola Falls State Park is gorgeous and not too far from Gainesville.

Also in North Georgia, the Cherokee Nation established a capital, complete with schools, courts, and newspapers in Cherokee, at New Echota.
posted by Vidiot at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2004

I have not read all of it but was given a book called Weird Georgia a while ago. If you are looking for off beat places to visit, I think this might help you. I live in Athens, myself, so I think you should visit here for sure. Any night you will be able to choose from dozens of bands and a multitude of bars and coffee shops. Send an email if you want any more info.
posted by spynotebook at 7:49 PM on February 22, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for great suggestions - you've filled out my patchy knowledge of what to expect in Georgia no end. If I can afford it I think I'll try and hire a car and use this list as a rough guide for my usual random wanderings. I might email a couple of you with more specific questions nearer the time if that's ok. Many thanks.
posted by gravelshoes at 1:07 AM on February 23, 2004

Well, it's cold, and the President resigned last year. ..
posted by ascullion at 1:12 AM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: ascullion - funnily enough I lived in Tbilisi for a while. It's a great country - Sakartvelo is what the locals call it - they get pretty fed up with being confused with Georgia, USA all the time
posted by gravelshoes at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2004

If you make it to Savannah, you may want to check out Tybee Island. They've got a Civil War fort that you can walk through and a lighthouse that's a couple hundred years old.

As for hiking, I second Stone Mountain park (they have trails other than the one up the mountain) or hitting the Blue Ridge Mountains (the beginning of the Appalachians). I highly recommend climbing the highest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald. Once you get to the top, you can watch a great movie from the seventies all about it. It mentions roughly 10 times that the climate at the top of the mountain is the same as a certain exotic far-away land known as Boston, Mass. Good times.

If you make it to Atlanta, I'd recommend a trip to the Clermont Lounge before they tear it down/change it/do whatever the new owners decide. It' experience.
posted by toothless joe at 8:18 AM on February 23, 2004

That's cool, Gravelshoes, sorry to be a pain :)
posted by ascullion at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2004

And I'd second toothless joe's recommendation of the Clermont Lounge. Just picture a strip club for over-the-hill dancers, populated by Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski lookalikes. They serve PBR to you in the can. There's a jukebox, but the sign says "Dancers Only." And I once heard the bartender berate a group of shoddy tippers, yelling at them "Now don't forget Kelli's got kids in college, and she needs to pay the bills!" in a strong Deep South accent. Classic.

And on weekend nights, Blondie, a six-foot statuesque woman, has been known to read her original poetry while crushing beer cans between her breasts. Really.
posted by Vidiot at 10:06 AM on February 23, 2004

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