Athens Situated on the Oconee River about 60 miles east of Atlanta, Athens combines Victorian heritage with a hip, collegiate vibe to create one of Georgia’s most appealing locales. Known as the “Classic City”, Athens was chartered in 1806 and named after the ancient Greek city. A few years earlier, in 1785, the University of Georgia was founded as America’s first state college, spawning the birth of the city. The present-day restored downtown area is alive with nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries and shops. The Civil War figures prominently in Athens’ past. Many Confederate leaders hailed from the area, and several Civil War trails are open for history buffs to explore. Fifteen neighbourhoods are on the National Register of Historic Places, and a number of walking tours are available, including the “Museum Mile”, a tour of homes that boast Federal and Greek Revival architecture. Those interested in 19th-century Southern history will find the T.R.R. Cobb House to be a compelling site and helpful resource centre. Today, Athens is fondly acknowledged as a “college town”. With the largest presence in the city, the University of Georgia lends not only academic status, but athletic prominence, as well. Its sports programme includes nationally-ranked teams, and every autumn thousands of fans descend upon the campus to throw football tailgate parties and cheer on the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. Under the helm of UGA you can find two cultural attractions of note. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia serves as a “living laboratory” for students and researchers, and is also a public garden encompassing more than 300 acres. The Georgia Museum of Art, the state’s official museum, offers exhibitions from local, national and international artists, and admission is free. In the early 1980s, Athens became known as a hotbed of emerging musical talent, particularly of the alternative rock genre. Cult bands, R.E.M. and the B-52s, were products of the Athens live music scene, once playing at now-famous venues such as the Georgia Theatre (where R.E.M.’s video for the song “Shiny Happy People” was filmed) and the 40-Watt Club, which still hosts live music almost every night. The city continues to foster a thriving music scene that draws a diverse group of performers and fans. Augusta Founded in 1736, Augusta is Georgia’s second largest city. A port on the Savannah River, it figures prominently in Civil War history, gained celebrity in modern times as the genteel host city of the Masters Tournament, and offers a wealth of water- and land-based recreational activities. Visitors can start with a Historic Trolley Tour of Augusta for an introduction to historically significant sites downtown. The tour includes a visit to the Augusta Museum of History, which houses the state’s secession flag from the Civil War, among other artefacts. History buffs shouldn’t miss a visit to the Confederate Powder Works Chimney, the remaining structure of the Confederacy’s largest gunpowder manufacturing plant. The trolley tour goes by the Augusta Canal, the nation’s only industrial power canal still in use, which features miles of waterways through downtown and activities such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing and guided boat tours. The Augusta Riverwalk, located along the banks of the Savannah River, features beautiful gardens, shaded pavements on which to take a leisurely stroll, a playground, two museums, an amphitheatre and several restaurants. The Morris Museum of Art, located on the Riverwalk, focuses solely on art and artists from the American South and includes a research library for the study of Southern art. Augusta Common, a park and festival space, links the Riverwalk to Artists Row, a growing hub in the bustling downtown commercial district for galleries, shops and working art studios, where visitors might find a unique piece of fine art, pottery, glasswork or photography. Coffee houses and quaint bistros offer respite for browsers. Every year, thousands of golf enthusiasts travel to Augusta to witness the Masters Tournament - or just to soak up the atmosphere. One of the most well-known sporting events in the world, it is hosted by Augusta National Golf Club, the site of a former indigo plantation. The private club is the crown jewel of golfing in the area, but the city is home to numerous beautiful semi-private and public courses for those who wish to tee up during their stay. Columbus Columbus lies in west central Georgia at the northernmost navigable point of the Chattahoochee River. This unique position of access to the Gulf of Mexico accounts, in large part, for the city’s historical role as a shipping and military manufacturing centre. Established as a trading post in 1828, the city now offers a unique culture that is influenced by its past and present as a proud military town. Columbus is home to Fort Benning, one of the United States Army’s largest infantry posts and training facilities, which serves more than 120,000 active and retired members and families, reservists and civilian employees. The nearby National Infantry Museum at Patriot Park boasts one of the most extensive collections of military artefacts, and includes combat simulators, an IMAX theatre and the Fife and Drum restaurant. The National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus tells the naval story of the American Civil War, with vessels from the Union and Confederate navies and hundreds of artefacts. It is one of many points of interest located along the 22-mile Chattahoochee RiverWalk, the city’s linear park that serves as a route to historic sites and cultural venues, as well as shops and restaurants. Columbus’ cultural hub is RiverCentre for the Performing Arts. Its largest venue, the Bill Heard Theatre, seats 2,000 and has hosted artists such as Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. A smaller hall and theatre support regional and local endeavours. An antique treasure, the Springer Opera House (the State Theatre of Georgia) is a 19th-century theatre opened in 1871 by an immigrant from Alsace. After years of economic ups and downs, it was restored in 1965 and is now home to a vibrant professional theatre company and actor training programme. For water sport enthusiasts, the excitement in Columbus surrounds the planned 2013 opening of the longest urban white water course in the world. Two dams on the Chattahoochee will be breached, creating Columbus GA Whitewater. With the release of the river, the natural habitat of many aquatic species will be restored, creating a paradise for fishermen as well. The Golden Isles Nestled on the Georgia coast, less than an hour south of Savannah, lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beautiful barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape and create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land reaching out to the barrier islands. The largest of The Golden Isles, St. Simons Island, continues to reveal the remarkable beauty and fascinating history of what 16th-century Spanish explorers called San Simeon. Visitors come year-round to swim, stroll and sail along its miles of lovely beaches, to challenge its 99 holes of superb golf and numerous tennis courts, and to explore its countless shops and restaurants. Reached by causeway from St. Simons Island, Sea Island is an internationally acclaimed resort. Though much of Sea Island is residential, island life centres around The Cloister, perennially honoured as one of the world’s great hotels. Golf club, beach club, gun club, horse riding, fine dining and numerous other activities are among the amenities enjoyed by its guests. Jekyll Island offers an abundance of recreational activities that are sure to please visitors of all ages. Miles of white sandy beaches, 63 holes of golf, an outdoor tennis complex, water park, fishing pier, nature centres, bike trails and more await. Accommodation is invitingly varied and includes a grand historic hotel, oceanfront properties and camping. Jekyll Island, once a haven for America’s elite, now beckons to all. Accessible only by boat, Little St. Simons Island is the northernmost of The Golden Isles and certainly the most secluded. For many years a privately owned retreat, the island now offers a limited number of guests the rare opportunity to experience the enchantment and solitude of the isolated beaches and marshlands that bound its 10,000 acres of pristine woodlands. Mainland Brunswick is named for Braunschweig, Germany, the ancestral home of King George II, grantor of Georgia’s original land charter. The streets and squares of this quiet port city were laid out before the American Revolution and their names, like Newcastle, Norwich, Prince and Gloucester, give Brunswick a decidedly English flavour. The unmistakable flavour of the South, too, can be sampled here, home of the original Brunswick stew. Macon Nestled alongside the beautiful Ocmulgee River about an hour and a half south of Atlanta, the middle Georgia city of Macon has a rich cultural heritage. From ancient Native Americans who once resided in the area to modern-day musicians who call the city home, Macon shares centuries of history and a diverse offering of experiences to visitors. The history of the Native American Indians is preserved at the Ocmulgee National Monument, featuring mounds dating back 10,000 years. Macon is also home to the Tubman African American Museum. The city owes much to the cultural influence of its African American community, and the museum houses the South-East’s largest collection of African American artefacts. Macon is synonymous with beautiful architecture. Untouched by General Sherman’s destructive march during the Civil War, many of the city’s most gorgeous old buildings and homes remain intact, including the Hay House, the Cannonball House and a number of Greek Revival mansions and Victorian cottages. Built in the mid-1800s, Rose Hill Cemetery was designed to double up as a park and a cemetery (it includes a Civil War section), and many argue that it is the loveliest spot in the city with its gently terraced hills, majestic trees and ornate gravestones. Several of the South’s most famous musical talents - Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers Band - got their start in Macon or called the city home. Many played the famous Douglass Theatre, now restored and open for live performances. The Allman Brothers Band Museum, known as the Big House, is where the band, roadies and their friends lived in the early 1970s, when they were emerging as a national sensation. Two of the band members are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery. Each year Macon ushers in springtime by hosting the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, the perfect time to visit the city and experience its diverse history and culture - and perhaps discover some talented new artists hoping to make their own mark on the town. Savannah Founded in 1733, Savannah was Georgia’s first capital. Its founder, James Oglethorpe, crafted city plans based on a grid of squares, which today make up the United States’ largest registered urban historic district. Beacons of Savannah’s historic past - beautiful houses, cobblestoned streets, moss-draped oaks, churches and cemeteries - make it a hugely popular tourist destination. The city offers a variety of tours catering to every taste, travelling by trolley, carriage or boat or on foot. The easy pace of walking tours allows visitors to slow down when they encounter something of particular interest. There are Civil War and historic house and garden tours, food enthusiast or pub tours, gallery tours, and even haunted house and ghost tours (savannahwalks.Com offers group, private and multilingual options). The Port of Savannah, the second busiest port on the East Coast and the largest container facility in North America, certainly lends economic stature to Georgia. The waterfront also offers one of the most popular areas to visit, the Savannah Riverfront, and specifically River Street, where you’ll find historic monuments, shops, restaurants and bars. Savannah’s reputation as a hostess is evidenced by the more than 150 festivals that take place there throughout the year, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and party and the internationally renowned Savannah Music Festival. Almost every weekend sees a celebration of some sort, welcoming a range of live musical acts, artists, performers and chefs. A thriving arts culture attracts people to Savannah from all over the U.S. and the world. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is one of the country’s top-rated and most comprehensive art and design schools and has played a major role in the city’s revitalisation over the past few decades. The SCAD Museum of Art features contemporary works and functions as a teaching museum, hosting artists and speakers year-round. In addition, SCAD students and staff exhibit works in galleries throughout the city. History, commerce, arts, culture and nightlife make Savannah one of the most lively and interesting destinations in the country.
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