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Although there are SO many vacation spots in Georgia that aren’t on the Georgia’s seven wonders list, I was intrigued when I found about it! Don’t worry, I’d never heard of the Georgia seven wonders either until I started travel writing a few years ago. When I really started digging beyond the Georgia beaches, I found so many unique places to visit in Georgia. So here I am spilling the beans again about hidden places for family trips besides Georgia beach vacations ideas (although those are amazing too).
VACATION SPOTS IN GEORGIA
Back in 1926, a newspaper journalist asked the state librarian what Georgia’s most stunning physical features were and she responded with a list that was published in a Georgia magazine. The list was revised and placed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2001 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Again, there are many vacation spots in Georgia to visit that are not on this “wonders” list like Jekyll Island, Cumberland Island, this beach resort, with fun places for kids and the best weekend getaways that usually mysterious places in Georgia! As per usual, I’m spilling the secrets and bragging on my home state to show you the incredible beauty that this diverse state truly is.
Now, let’s get on with that list, shall we?
#1 OKEFENOKEE SWAMP
It’s ironic that I have fallen so in love with the Okefenokee Swamp in Waycross, Georgia. You see, I grew up living very close to it, but as a young kid, I didn’t think much about it. Yep, I totally took it for granted. In my twenties, a friend was visiting the Georgia from Arizona and begged me to take him back to my childhood town for a tour of the Okefenokee. I couldn’t understand why they were so excited. When we arrived at the swamp, it was then that I saw (through their eyes) the uniqueness the Okefenokee Swamp and how special it truly is.
Walking up to the welcome center, three large alligators were sunning themselves on the sidewalk, a mere four feet from us. My friend was ecstatic to be so close to their first, in-real-life alligator. “You’ve never seen an alligator before?” I asked.
“Um, no, are you kidding?” they replied.
Oh yeah, I forgot, everyone doesn’t have these gargantuan creatures lurking around like those of us in the south do. Again, I took for granted that this vacation scene was one that everyone had already experienced. I was wrong!
There’s so much more to see than scary alligators, though. Take a 45-minute boat tour or a train tram through the black swamp and see for yourself what other wildlife is busting out. I mean, the Okefenokee swamp contains beavers, snakes, beautiful birds, black bears, otters, water turkeys, and more.
I found out that festivals and activities go on throughout the year and recently, a friend and I took our daughters on a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp Pioneer Day. Fascinating teachers showed us the old-fashioned ways of soap making, blacksmiths, arrowhead artifacts, and palmetto crafts. I was especially intrigued by the history of its first Native American inhabitants and the families that later moved to the island as well.
My favorite part of this fabulous vacation spot in Georgia was checking out the old 1800s homestead owned by one of those families who experienced tragic history with those Indians. Let’s just say the word ‘massacre’ is part of the story.
See, there’s this thing called the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge that stretches across south Georgia nearly half a million acres. The Swamp Park is just a small entry, giving all of us a glimpse so that we can have an appreciation for the wildlife, natural beauty, and culture of the “Land of the Trembling Earth,” a name given by the Seminole Indians. You can:
- Jump on the railroad tour and go back in time to Pioneer Island
- Keep your eyes on nature with the live animal show
- Take a primitive adventure walk to the Observation Tower
- See the Alligator, Otter, and Turtle habitats
- Take a guided boat tour through the Seminole Indian waterways
- Visit the bear observatories
- Touch “Ole Roy” the big, bad stuffed alligator
- Walk “into” the Okefenokee on the boardwalk
- Visit the Nature Center
- Check out the Swamp Building
- See what’s in the Living Swamps Exhibit
- Experience the Pogo Possum mascot creation and creator, Walt Kelly
- Try out the Snack Shack (Yes, a gator burger is on the menu)
- Ride the Light Show Train (during Christmas holidays)
Here’s a link to a printable coupon to use along with the park’s holiday close dates. If you live in one of the eight surrounding counties of the Swamp, here’s a link to a local’s printable coupon. Fabulous photos and video are on the Swamp’s Instagram.
Bonus: There are people milling around but I’ve never witnessed excessive crowds or ridiculous lines, and the welcome center is fabulous. The Okefenokee is within an hour of Georgia beaches as well.
#2 PROVIDENCE CANYON IN WEST GEORGIA
It kills me that I didn’t hear about Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon as one of the most unique vacation spots in Georgia until a couple years ago. Look at the jaw-dropping view! The history of the way that the canyon came to be is especially interesting as well. I also love how you can’t tell secrets while you’re hiking through the canyon. What?
Providence Canyon was formed quite by accident. Yes, there has been some natural erosion over the years (and continues to be), but this unusual masterpiece was created by poor land management in the 1800s. A combination of specific farm practices, lots of sand, and a lack of natural vegetation caused the sand to slide downhill and form the gullies – up to 150 feet deep. These days, it’s the multicolored sand layers (pink, orange, red, and purple) that paint such a gorgeous picture against the green trees and blue sky.
Hike one of the many trails, take a picnic, or pitch a tent in the backcountry campground. Providence Canyon does not have RV camping, though. RVers can travel eight and a half miles west of the canyon and stay at Florence Marina State Park. Oh, and the word is that you don’t want to be sharing your deepest, darkest secrets while walking through the floor of the canyon because your voice echoes throughout and can be heard loud and clear from the top of the canyon’s rim. Be careful with that, y’all.
Bonus: The crowds haven’t heard about Providence Canyon except for serious hikers and backpackers. Yay!
#3 WARM SPRINGS, GEORGIA
Early on, Warm Springs Georgia found its fame when settlers heard about the healing waters that the Iroquois and Creek Indians had been taking their sick people to for years. In the 1800s, the town boomed with resort amenities surrounding the springs, but it wasn’t until Franklin Delano Roosevelt (he wasn’t the president yet but a politician and wealthy businessman at the time) visited in 1924 and fell in love with this town in Middle Georgia, that this little community gained more wealth and attention as one of the most desirable vacation spots in Georgia.
Franklin D. Roosevelt first sought out Warm Springs to find a cure in the healing waters for Polio, a disease that had been ravishing his body for three years and had left him paralyzed from the waist down. For the next several years, he was instrumental in making Warm Springs not only a vacation retreat but also a place where polio patients could find relief in the special pools created for them where the temperature was always 88 degrees – all year long.
Roosevelt loved Warm Springs so much that he visited as often as possible for twenty-one years, and even died in his “little white house” during his presidency. The Little White House has been preserved and is a neat thing to see because it remains like he left it when he passed in 1945. You can also see the White Springs Museum, Memorial Fountain, the Walk of the States, and Roosevelt’s classic cars that he loved.
Warm Springs downtown has over 60 little shops (including a cute, Lil ice cream parlor) in century-old buildings. We also enjoyed camping at FDR State Park, a trail ride with Roosevelt Stables, and a visit to Callaway Gardens, all of which are very close to downtown Warm Springs.
Bonus: Did you know that the “unfinished portrait” is on display inside the Little White House (the portrait that was being painted of Franklin when he began suffering the cerebral hemorrhage that caused his death)? There is also a mini replica of the Mayflower, which was carved from the 1620 ship’s timber, which was given to him by the Quaker society.
#4 RADIUM SPRINGS, GEORGIA
Not to be confused with Radiator Springs in the Cars movies, Radium Springs is famous all the way back to the 1500s with mentions from Spanish expeditions and Creek Indians paddling its waters. In its heyday, Radium Springs was one of the most bustling resorts in the state. Radium was discovered within the Springs (which was thought to heal ailments), and in 1927 a casino, hotel, cottages, and golf course, and trails overlooked the Springs.
The Great Depression closed down the resort initially and it suffered major damage from flooding over the years. Radium Springs made a comeback, however, as a historical gardens area and is now open to the public again.
There are gorgeous gardens, walkways, courtyard, gazebos, picnic area, resort ruins, and a terrace. Self-guided tours are fun to see the 70,000 gallons of clear water pumped per minute with a steady 68 degrees from an underground cave.
Bonus: Radium Springs is a lovely place to take the family to the park for a picnic. It’s also a fabulous backdrop for photo opportunities.
#5 STONE MOUNTAIN
Even though Stone Mountain is one of the most easily recognizable landmarks of the south, it has not become an overly crowded vacation destination for families. Its magnificence can only be experienced in person with the granite dome 650 feet in the sky. Did you know that Stone Mountain is 2 miles long and 7 miles in circumference around the base, making it the largest exposed granite in the world?
To reach the summit of Stone Mountain, you can ride the Skyride or hike the one-mile trail to the top. Take a scenic train ride around the mountain, experience the largest laser light show with fireworks, hike the fifteen miles of walking trails, or play a round of golf. There are simply too many Stone Mountain activities to list.
The laser light show is also an experience that must be done at least once in your lifetime. Kids are thrilled with the music and light sychronization. Promise me you’ll grab your oversized blanket and wait for the light show to begin with your family!
Bonus: Check Stone Mountain’s site throughout the year as they have many seasonal events. The most thrilling to date, in my opinion, is when Stone Mountain becomes Snow Mountain. Your kiddos will be singing your praises!
#6 AMICALOLA FALLS
If you want to be a waterfall chaser, this is the place to start. Amicalola Falls is by far the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast (east of the Mississippi) at 729 feet. Wow, it’s breath-taking in person. You can choose to walk the pathway (a bit more adventurous) or you can take the (more challenging) stairway to the top. If you are a true hiker, you can take the 8.5-mile trail to Springer Mountain, which is part of the famous Appalachian Trail. Not that skippy? Then just take the smaller, Amicalola loop.
When visiting Amicalola Falls, you can stay at the campground, cottages, or 56-room lodge. Take part in fishing the trout fishing stream, ranger programs, Geocaching, picnicking, the amphitheater and visitor’s center, the Lodge’s restaurant, the playground, and about 9 different types of trails.
Bonus: While hiking on the beautiful waterfall trail, be sure to look for the little-known moonshine truck that apparently tumbled down the hill during the days of the Prohibition. History is where you least expect it when you simply look for it!
#7 TALLULAH GORGE
Tallulah Gorge is a one-of-a-kind adventure because it’s a 1,000-foot deep chasm that has been formed by the Tallulah River flowing through the floor of the gorge. If you enjoy photographing magnificent nature, then Tallulah Gorge has more photo opportunities than you can possibly keep up with. Definitely start at Visitor’s Center and watch the movie about the gorge before heading out to hike the rim.
Bonus: If you are a serious hiker seeking some adventure, arrive at the gorge early to get one of the only 100 permits given per day to hike the floor of Tallulah Gorge. Call ahead to ensure that the water levels won’t interfere. Enjoy this video I found that showcases how gorgeous vacation spots in Georgia like Tallulah Gorge are. You don’t want to miss this:
Were you aware of all of these vacation spots in Georgia know as Georgia’s seven wonders? You do now! I’m so enamored with my beautiful home state so I’m spreading the word about each of these destinations that are incredible opportunities for clean, outdoor fun with your family. I remember watching one of my favorite shows called Georgia Traveler on Georgia Public TV and I was hooked on Southern travel.
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Now you can learn even more detail about these magnificent places I’ve shared with you …..