When one talks of Georgia of course Atlanta comes to mind, and if you are well traveled, Savannah also is on the tip of your tongue. But Georgia has a plethora of medium and small towns over flowing with historic homes, gardens and eateries. The town of Newnan, south of Atlanta, is known for the reclamation of Dunaway gardens by the Josh Bryant family, which is today a venue for events and a passion of one families devotion to its continued improvement. Newnan also is home to a surprisingly profession high school arts program. The arts thrive in Newnan, due to the devotion of Don Nixon, director of the centre of performing and visual arts.
Nixon professes, ”When pen comes to paper, when sound is arranged into melody, when layers of pigment are put together, then the life of a people come together.” Newnan has connections with the ancestors of entertainer Lena Horne’s family. Minnie Pearl got her start at the Dunaway summer theatre, and Mother in law to Margaret Mitchell of “Gone with the Wind” fame, has history here. Woodbine circle is a collection of Newnan historic homes, which is a sampling of many antebellum and post antebellum structures preserved throughout Georgia.
Preservation continues at the nearby town of Senoia, which has a burgeoning movie industry starting off with scenes from the southern iconic movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Modern townhouse construction conforms to the city’s devotion to the towns architectural integrity and even has one unit designated the Southern Living Magazine home.
Over in LaGrange, touring the house and gardens of Hills and Dales is a must. Its literary and visual boxwoods and seasonal Wisteria, Azalias and Orchid Greenhouse bring back the era of lux living. Towering century old trees are a testament to a well tended era. Down the interstate a public tour of the new Kia Plant plunges you into the world of modern robotic technology. After seeing the dedication of its workers to their products quality, your respect for the automobile industry naturally increases.
A boat ride from the Highland marina melts all your cares away, and you might be hosted by TV angler celebrity Joey Mines. If you really want to escape, a trip back to biblical times can be had at Explorations in Antiquity Center, where a biblical style meal can be arranged after touring the biblical architecture recreations teaching the customs of the times.
Moving on to Macon (www.visitmacon.org) you will discover the soul and song of the south with a tour of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. www.georgiamusic.org Here Georgia’s own, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Johnny Mercer and even opera diva Jesse Norma, are honored along with many other home state artists. The extensive Sports Hall of Fame features areas for all sports, amateur, professional and Olympic. This cathedral to sports is an exhibition all the family can appreciate. www.georgiasportshalloffame.com
The Tic Toc Room, formerly Ann’s Tic Tock Lounge is where extravagant Little Richard was a dishwasher turned performer. Today this gourmet restaurant is an extravaganza of world class cuisine, accompanied by a full bar. While still in Macon visit the Hay House as an example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture which was featured on A&E’s “American Castles.” www.hayhouse.org
Milledgeville is Georgia’s Antebellum Capitol (www.milledgevillecvb.com) and a visit to the Old Governor’s Mansion and the Old Capitol museum is mandatory, along with a country visit to author Flannery O’Connor’s farm, Andalusia. A casual Italian meal can be enjoyed at Amici’s, and a gourmet meal is to be admired at the Ritz Carlton Lodge where Chef Gardner perfects the Farm to Fork philosophy of fine dining. www.ritzcarltonlodge.com
The only way to top the dining experience is as stay at the Lodge, where you can be pampered at the Spa or relax by the infinity pool or cruise the lake on the Spirit of Oconee. For down to earth accommodations without sacrificing comfort for economy, the new Hampton Inns in Newnan and Covington may fit your needs perfectly.
You may have already seen Covington and not even have known it. The courthouse and several homes were the settings for the long running TV show, “In the Heat of the Night.” www.newtonchamber.com
Maybe Madison, Georgia’s most popular attraction is devouring the iconic southern cooking delights at the Blue Willow Inn. www.bluewillowinn.com Every dish desires a second helping including: fried green tomatoes, chicken, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, fresh green beans with new potatoes, chicken and dumplings, and much much more.
Conyers is a quaint main street town to send you away from Georgia with the preservation and reuse philosophy that is so much a part of your historic yet contemporary safari. The rescued old train station and the colorful shops and galleries on main street gives a sense of time and place that all travelers seek.