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    Take a road trip to discover there’s more to Georgia than Atlanta. From the mountains of northwest Georgia to some classy cities that lie just north of Atlanta and are often overshadowed by their big sister city, you will visit some of the quirkiest attractions and some of Georgia’s best places you’ve never heard about.

     Stop 1. Carrollton

    Watercolors line the outer walls while oils are in the galleries and sculptures placed randomly at Carrollton Cultural Arts Center. There is art in another form at Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum  on the West GA Textile Heritage Trail. Currently displaying quilts made from grain sacks.

    For nature in an urban setting, Carrollton Greenbelt encircles the city and is the largest paved loop trail system in Georgia. Zagster Bike Share has 50 cruiser bikes docked in 10 stations. You can pick up at one location and drop off at another.

    Great for: Browsing. Downtown is centered on a town square filled with shops, restaurant, even a book store with resident cats. A New brewery just opened. For dining try Brown Dog Eatery. The menu has a Southern flair and the Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie is fantastic.

    Stop 2. Villa Rica

    Pine Mountain Gold Museum  was America’s first legal gold mine. You’ll see west Georgia's only authentic 19th century gold stamp mill in action. Ride the train that takes you back to the early 1820s at the Stockmar Mine. Keep you camera ready in the train there are lots of good photo ops passing by fast. Pan for gold and don’t miss the museum.

    Historic Downtown Villa Rica is home to Wick’s Tavern (circa 1830) the oldest commercial structure in West Georgia.

    Great for folks of all ages. Everyone loves the train ride; adults love the story and museum, kids the “Old West” feel.

    If you like Cajun food, and who doesn’t, try Gabe’s for dining.

    Stop 3. Cedartown

    Cedartown Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia is housed in the renovated 1900 Coke bottling plant. The museum was the brainchild of a 20 year-old, Daniel Morris, collector of Coca Cola memorabilia since childhood. Parking is easy here.

     Pirkle’s Deli just down the street has good lunches. Chicken salad is their special.

    Stop 4. Cave Spring

    Take time to wade in the spring water and drink some of the fresh spring water in Rolater Park as you head for the limestone cave filled with stalagmites and the legendary “Devil’s Stool” formation. It’s always 57-degrees in the cave. Bring a water bottle and you can fill it at the spring. If you wear shorts and easy-off shoes, wading in the stream is fun. Inside the cave, good walking shoes are a must as it gets slippery and cave floor is steep and wet in places.

    On the Town Square just outside the park, a two story log cabin belonging to Cherokee citizen Avery Vann was discovered hidden inside another newer building, the old Green Hotel.  The Vann Cabin has been removed from the other building and is a recognized site as a historic place by the National Park Service and by Trail of Tears Association as being located on the Trail of Tears.

    Linde Marie’s just outside the park and a few yards from the Vann Cabin for upscale dining.

    Stop 5. Rome

    Climb the 109 steps to the top of Rome’s Clocktower for a bird’s eye view of the city. Murals and a few artifacts downstairs tell Rome’s history. Don’t try and climb to the top of the Clocktower in rainy weather. Stairs get very slippery.

    Berry College is the lynchpin of Rome, GA. You can tour Oakhill, former home of Martha Berry, and the museum and learn how she founded a prestigious college singlehandedly. Be sure to see the Old Mill the most photographed place on campus.

    Eco Center (E.C.O.) is where you can interact with wildlife and learn the natural history of Floyd County here. Staffer, Jason Hosford, states, “E.C.O. won the LEED Gold award and 2012 Rome Area Heritage Foundation Award for the renovation and adaptive re-use of the 1893 Oostanaula Pump Station.”  

    Take time to ride the “Roman Chariot” AKA a golf cart that takes you around downtown Rome. And view the Capitoline Wolf in front of the Municipal Building. It was a gift from its sister city, Rome, Italy presented by Mussolini in 1929. Because of this, during WWII it caused an outcry and had to be hidden in the cellar of the building to protect it.

    Rome’s history includes the earlier inhabitants, Cherokees. Major Ridge’s home is well worth a visit for a glimpse of Cherokee life. It is preserved as the Chieftain Museum

    Great for: Something for kids (ECO) and adults. Lots of nightlife here also.

    Stop 6. Summerville

    Howard Finster is one of America’s best known folk artists. His Paradise Garden is filled with quirky religious art. He began his career at the age of 59 when he claimed “his finger” spoke to him and told him to paint religious art. He answered “I don’t know how.” and the finger replied “How do ya’ know?”  Howard Finster went on to create over 46,000 pieces of work in his lifetime.   Wear good shoes as garden path is uneven. Be sure to take a selfie in the Mirror Room.

    It’s worth a detour to visit two stops enroute to next stop. Georgia Winery is unique for blending  fruit in its wine and is the most northwestern winery in Georgia. Tour and sip here. You will never find a better pizza than at Bob’s Brick Oven Pizza in Rock Spring. The lettuce for your salad is hydroponically grown right in the window. And his ice cream is homemade too.

    Stop 7. Tunnel Hill

    Remember the movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase?” Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel is part of where it happened. Andrew’s Raiders tore through the tunnel. General Sherman stayed awhile at the Clisby Austin House. General Hood left his leg behind. You can tour in a limo golf cart.  Walk over from the Clisby Austin House to view the tombstone for General Hood’s amputated leg.

    Stop 8. Dalton

    You’ll see peacocks all over Dalton. It relates to the city’s former history as the chenille bedspread capital of the world. Today that has morphed into carpet manufacturing but there is a lot of fun to be found in Dalton. You’ll see a lot of Cherokee history you won’t find in textbooks.

    Fans of the old movie “Thunder Road” will be right at home with Raymond Butler at Dalton Distillery He and his family have been producing real Georgia moonshine for more than 100 years. He talks of things he has made liquor from over the years. “Any kind of fruit. If it will ferment, I can make you drunk.” Raymond and his son Chuck produce a moonshine made with sunflower seeds. You gotta taste it to believe it. More about it here

    Across the street the 1911 depot serves as a Visitors Center.  It’s rail fan heaven with a live feed inside showing trains approaching as well as lots of train and Civil War memorabilia.  Outside the 1949 Southern "Crescent City" Pullman car is a work in progress.

    Co-owners David and Pauline Aft have combined the best of a gallery, a studio and an event space where local and regional artists and performers can strut their stuff.

    One of the wealthiest of the Cherokee was Rich Joe Vann. He lived in luxury on his successful plantation built by his father, Chief James Vann. It was the first brick house ever built by a Cherokee and shows a marked Moravian influence in style and design. The centerpiece of his home is the magnificent cantilevered staircase. The doors, known as Christian doors, have features representing a cross and an open Bible

    Prater’s Mill on the National Register of Historic Places is an 1855 working mill and more. Best time to visit Prater’s Mill is during a festival usually held in October.

    Stop 9. Resaca

    Resaca Battlefield Historic Site is a brand new 483-acre park commemorating the first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign in the Civil War. There are four miles of hiking trails in the park. Dogs on leash are allowed. If you are in the area in mid-May go see the reenactment that takes place at nearby Chitwood Farm, a 650 acre section of the original battlefield.

    Stop 10. Calhoun

    New Echota was the Cherokee capital before the Trail of Tears when they were forcibly exiled to Oklahoma. By 1827, the Cherokee had established a form of government modeled after the United States. They built civic building here to house the seat of their government.  Today Georgia commemorates that heritage as a state park with several recreated or moved Cherokee buildings and one original one. Marvel at the similarity of their government to ours. Be sure to see remains of the original type at New Echota used to print the Cherokee paper The Phoenix. For more

    The ROCK Garden is a unique combination of folk art flowers and flowers. The more than 50 miniature rock buildings represent places like Paris and Notre Dame Cathederal. This is mainly the work of an unusual garden "architect" named "Old Dog” with the help of his wife Lady Joyce.

    Stop 11. Adairsville

    Barnsley Gardens and Resort is a a combination of different venues. It’s a beautiful heritage garden. You can stay in either the Inn or an English cottage, dine at several restaurants or in the ruins of an antebellum mansion, ride horseback, hike, relax at the spa, even visit their farm animals. Plus it has my favorite history/ghost story with a lost love; a Confederate Soldier; an Indian shaman; and greed that relives Cain and Able’s story. Ask about the bloodstain in the museum that once was the mansion’s kitchen.

    Stop 12. Cartersville

    Cartersville is home of the World’s First Coca-Cola Wall Sign painted by a syrup salesman in 1894 on the side of Young Brothers Pharmacy. You can still see it and notice that he must have had a bit too much rum in his Coke as he left out the “i” which was squeezed in later.

    Old Car City is a graveyard for classic cars. Those who remember searching for a part to pull in a junkyard will wax nostalgic. Younger visitors will thrill to relics they have only seen in movies. Actually several movies have been filmed here. It’s about 7 1/2 miles out of town toward White, GA. Old Car City will require good closed shoes. Lots of overgrown area here.

    Booth Western Art Museum is a top-drawer museum with a Smithsonian Affiliation. There is much more than just paintings here. Be sure and see the Camelot and President’s galleries. Kids will love Sagebrush Ranch, interactive gallery for children.

    Right next door is the Bartow History Museum. Be sure to check out the antique dentist office and beauty parlor upstairs.

    Tellus Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate with everything from dinosaurs to space shuttles plus there is a excellent cafe onsite.  It will prove that electric cars are not just a recent invention.

    Rose Lawn Museum on the National Register of Historic Places is a beautifully restored Victorian mansion that was once the home of nationally renowned evangelist Samuel Porter Jones, the Billy Graham of his era.  Bit of trivia, Nashville's Union Gospel Tabernacle better known as Ryman Auditorium in Nashville was built for Sam Jones.

    Etowah Mounds is a National Historic Landmark Site that was home to several thousand Native Americans from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D. You can explore six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits and defensive ditch at this most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast.

    Downtown Main Street is a great place to browse and dine. Table 20 is a good choice if you like a varied menu and many unusual salads.

    Stop 13. Roswell

    Yes, Georgia has a Roswell too and it’s every bit as much fun as the one with the extraterrestrials. The Ghost Tour will take you to many of the places you want to revisit in the daylight.  This is not one of those cutsie ones. These guys are serious paranormal investigators.

    Old Mill Park takes you back to the earliest days of the city when Roswell King decided Vickery Creek was a great place to put a mill. He was right and the three homes below all tell part of the subsequent riches to more riches story. Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall, and Smith Plantation are house museums that were home to early movers and shakers in Roswell.

    After touring three house museums, it’s time to get back to nature at North Chattahoochee Nature Center. This is a facility geared to all ages with real animals and realistic exhibits; If you garden or grow any vegetables you want to see the Unity Garden.  The Nature Center is the oldest and largest private non-profit natural science learning center in the Southeast.

    Find time to relax at Gate City Brewing Company, Roswell’s first Craft Brewery.

    Great for: Enjoy a driving tour of Georgia’s “Great Street” AKA Canton Street. It’s filled with great dining like Table and Main and boutique shops and galleries like award-winning Raiford Gallery..

    Stop 15. Alpharetta

    A day in Alpharetta is a pampered treat. Do a little shopping starting with North Point Mall where you can find the only American Girl Boutique and Bistro in Georgia. Improve your cooking skills with a cooking class at Sur La Table. There’s something new in Alpharetta called Avalon. It’s a cross between a shopping, dining and entertainment venue and a chic town with more than 500,000 square feet of retail, a 12-screen theater, homes and apartments, and a full-service hotel currently under construction.  Plus of course, great shopping.

    Start with breakfast at Bantam and Biddy  and El Felix for genuine “Mex-Tex” food, or South Main Kitchen downtown. Downtown is a wonderful place to just roam. There are historic marker signs telling the history of some of the buildings, many dating back to the turn of the century.

    To exercise it all off, hike or bike the Big Creek Greenway.. You can walk it but there is a partly free bike concession called Zagster.

    No offence to Atlanta. It's a fun city but there are other places in Georgia worth a trip

     

    Public Disclosure-- Please Readbr> I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column. 

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