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There’s a reason Georgia is on everyone’s mind. Its capital, Atlanta, has been nicknamed Hollywood of the South for its growing film industry, attracting movie stars, production crews, and fans for short-term stays that often become permanent. With its leafy neighborhoods, five major pro sports teams, living Civil Rights history, and the ever-growing Beltline (a former railway corridor turned multi-use trail lined with parks, bars, and restaurants), Atlanta has all the essential ingredients for a thrilling city break.
Venture east to Athens for a quintessential college-town vibe, complete with record-shopping and brewery-hopping; north to set off on the hike of a lifetime on the Appalachian Trail; or south to fall in love with the achingly romantic Spanish-moss-draped streets of historic Savannah and the islands off the southern coast. Fuel your adventure with regional specialties like pecan pie, Georgia peach cobbler, and boiled peanuts from former president Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains.
There’s a saying in the south: Whether you’re going to heaven or hell, you have to change planes in Atlanta. Touted as the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) is your likeliest way into this fast-growing Southern state, followed by Savannah/Hilton Head Airport (SAV) on the Southern coast. Though Atlanta was once known as Terminus (the city was founded in 1837 as the final stop on the Western & Atlantic railroad line), today jets take off and land constantly over the downtown skyline, making rail travel seem quaint by comparison; the Amtrak from D.C., for example, takes 15 hours.
Once on the ground, renting a car seems inevitable if you plan on exploring the state — or even just the capital city — in any depth. But bring all the zen you can muster: Atlanta traffic is notoriously bad. If you plan to stay in one of Atlanta’s more compact neighborhoods located ITP — or inside the perimeter formed by I-285, which encircles the city — you might be able to get by with public transport (called MARTA), bike-share, and e-scooters.
Spring is a glorious time to experience Georgia’s tulips, daffodils, and azaleas in full bloom, or to escape to the beach at St. Simon’s or Tybee Island for spring break. Fall is similarly scenic, especially in the northern mountains when the leaves begin to turn. Summer can be hot and humid, especially in Atlanta, but that doesn’t deter the nearly 100,000 people who pour into the city every Labor Day weekend in full cosplay regalia for the pop culture and comic-book convention known as Dragon Con. Winters in Georgia are mild overall, with snow falling on the northern mountains and highs in the 60s Fahrenheit along the southern coast. But you don’t want to get caught in a freak snowmageddon in Atlanta, whose streets and drivers are ill equipped to handle icy conditions.
Created in 2008, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail spotlights important landmarks in the ongoing fight for equal rights in America, and Georgia is home to nearly a dozen of them, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he served as co-pastor until his assassination in 1968. Civil Bikes also offers two-wheeled tours of Atlanta’s civil-rights history.
The northern part of the state is home to millions of acres of protected forests and wilderness areas, brilliant fall foliage, and mountain communities bursting with small-town charm. Go waterfall-hunting at Amicalola Falls State Park, mountain biking in Ellijay, wine-tasting in Dahlonega, or ride a historic railway line in Blue Ridge.
Ninety minutes south of Atlanta, smaller Macon hides a big musical legacy as the birthplace of southern rock. Macon-based Capricorn Records was once home to many popular recording artists of the 1970s, and you can still listen to cuts from its catalog at Mercer Music at Capricorn.