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21 Hidden Gems in Georgia (US) You Probably Didn’t Know About

botanical gardens Athens, GA - one of the best hidden gems in Georgia

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Atlanta might be the most well-known city in Georgia, but it’s certainly not the only place you’ll want to visit if you travel here. The state of Georgia is full of hidden gems, places you might not know about but are truly special. When you’re planning a trip to the state of Georgia, make sure to consider a few of these hidden but charming destinations. 

21 Beautiful Hidden Gems in Georgia, According to a Local

I’m a Tennessee-native who has spent most of my adulthood in Georgia. This list celebrates the weird, wonderful, and beautiful places you might not know about here in the state of Georgia.

Go ahead and grab a glass of sweet tea made Southern-style and enjoy these hidden gems.

Town Park Madison GA
Town Park Madison, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

1. The Story Shop — Monroe, GA

The Story Shop Monroe, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

One of my favorite hidden gems in Georgia is The Story Shop. You’ll find it in historic downtown Monroe, an hour east of Atlanta. This independent children’s bookshop has much to delight children and adults alike.

Step into the story time wardrobe, and you’ll feel like you’ve visited Narnia. Poke your head inside the hobbit hole or climb into the teepee with a book. This shop is truly magical and is a must-see destination for any book lover.

2. The Whistle Stop Cafe — Juliette, GA

On your way to Macon, Georgia, it’s possible to overlook Juliette. It’s a tiny town that doesn’t seem to get moving until lunchtime. You might even mistake it for a ghost town if you drove through early on a weekday morning.

However, Juliette’s claim to fame is that it was the filming location for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. You can even sample some of the tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in town. The food is delicious, and you can pair your visit with a viewing of the film during your stay. 

3. Smith-Gilbert Gardens — Kennesaw, GA

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is among my favorites of the botanical gardens in Georgia. This City of Kennesaw garden is not as well known as the botanical gardens in Atlanta, but it’s surely one of the best hidden gems in the state.

Located north of Atlanta, you could easily drive by this garden and not even know it existed. However, if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself visiting, you can enjoy seeing the Hiram Butler Home (circa 1880), 31 sculptures, an extensive bonsai exhibit, a camellia garden, a rose garden, a tea house and waterfall, and more. 

4. Swan Drive-In — Blue Ridge GA

One of my all-time favorite north Georgia destinations is the Swan Drive-In. You’ll find it in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Established in 1955, you’ll find that Swan is one of the few remaining drive-in movie establishments in the state and among the 310 operating worldwide.

All you need is a car with FM stereo for sound, and you can enjoy concessions at the drive-in while you watch your movie. It’s such a fun experience, and you’ll be sure to make memories at Swan.

5. Cumberland Island National Seashore

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Another must-see location is the Cumberland Island National Seashore. If you want to visit the island, you’ll have to take a ferry from St. Marys to enjoy the 9,800 acres of nationally protected wilderness including a live oak forest, salt marsh, and beautiful unspoiled beaches.

A one way ticket costs $20. The duration of the trip is approximately 45 minutes.

The park offers hiking, biking, camping, fishing, swimming, bird watching, star gazing, boating, and kayaking. The island is known for its wild horses – but remember not to approach them!

You might also spot armadillos, alligators, and sea turtles in the area. Nature lovers will want to make Cumberland Island a primary destination! 

6. Expedition: Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum — Blue Ridge, GA 

Expedition Big Foot Blue Ridge, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson
Expedition Big Foot Blue Ridge, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

I promised the weird and wonderful, and The Sasquatch Museum certainly delivers. It’s located in Blue Ridge, Georgia, and it’s a must-see if you’re in the area.

This indoor attraction has everything for sasquatch fans. Not a believer? You don’t have to be to enjoy the whimsy of this carefully curated museum. 

7. Ruby’s of Rutledge at Hard Labor Creek State Park — Rutledge, GA

If you happen to visit Hard Labor Creek State Park in “Small But Special” Rutledge, Georgia, you’ll want to make a plan to have lunch at Ruby’s Tea Tavern.

This tearoom has a plant-based menu sure to please any tastebuds. Try the grilled cheese, which is so good you’ll swear it’s actual cheese and not a dairy alternative. Try the green, black, and herbal teas available at Ruby’s, and you can even take home your favorite tea leaves.

This tea experience is great for fans of tea, healthy eating, and a delicious food experience at a beautiful state park. 

8. The State Botanical Gardens of Georgia — Athens, GA

State Botanical Gardens Athens, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

The State Botanical Gardens in Athens, Georgia, is easily one of my favorite places. It has great hiking trails and an amazing children’s area. Here are some of the experiences you can have at this gorgeous garden:

  • Visit the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden complete with playground, garden plots, a treehouse, and more! 
  • Enjoy the Discovery and Inspiration Garden as you enter. 
  • Check out the extensive Flower Garden, which also hosts concerts and events throughout the year.
  • Explore the Heritage Garden for more about the botanical history of the state of Georgia.
  • Check out the Hummingbird Trail to watch these beautiful visitors to the garden.
  • Enjoy the International Garden and learn more about the botanical history of areas across the globe.
  • Tour the Shade and Native Flora section to learn more about what grows naturally in the Southeastern United States. 
  • Drop into the Tropical Conservatory, Herb, and Physic Garden for orchids, herbal remedies, and more.
  • Stop in at the garden shop before you leave to pick up a plant or souvenir. 
  • Don’t forget to check out the art displayed indoors and the sculptures located throughout the garden.
  • Refresh yourself at the cafe with a drink and snack before continuing on your tour of the gardens.

The State Botanical Gardens is managed the University of Georgia and prides itself on education and conservation. Spend the day hiking, roll out a yoga mat on the lawn in the flower garden, or simply take your children to play on the naturally inspired treehouse playground.

You’re sure to find something for everyone here, and the best news is that it’s entirely free (although donations are accepted). 

9. Radium Springs Gardens — Albany, GA

Photo by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash

I’m not sure how one of Georgia’s 7 Natural Wonders has been relegated to a hidden gem, but this is one of those locations you won’t know about unless you hear about it from someone else.

Located in Albany, the Radium Springs Gardens pump 70,000 gallons of water each minute at 68 degrees from an underground cave. The garden stands at the site of a former casino, and there’s a memorial inside the garden for victims of a 2017 tornado. 

10. Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park — Macon, GA

Another hidden attraction in the state of Georgia is the Ocmulgee Mounds located in Ocmulgee National Park in Macon, Georgia. This area has been home to human inhabitants for over 17,000 years, and the park has partnered with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to preserve this natural area and share the stories of its past.

Stop and visit the United States only Earth Lodge with a floor dating back 1,000 years. Visit the Great Mound Temple and check out the former site of a Colonial British trading post.

11. Tallulah Gorge State Park — Tallulah Falls, GA

Tallulah Gorge is one of those locations you need to see to believe. It’s a 1,000-foot chasm located over the Tallulah River and has 6 cascading waterfalls. These strenuous trails are ideal for advanced hikers.

Keep in mind that pets aren’t allowed on much of the trail including the Hurricane Falls staircase and suspension bridge. Climbing walls are available when the peregrine falcons are out of nesting season. Don’t forget to visit the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center to learn more about the town and protected species. You can watch an award-winning film about the gorge and visit the gift shop before you go.

12. Amicalola Falls — Dawsonville, GA

Amicalola Falls State Park is another waterfall hike that you don’t want to miss! This waterfall plunges an impressive 729 feet.

You can elect to take the accessible trail or the challenging trail with multiple staircases all the way to the top. You can also take an 8.5-mile trail to Springer Mountain from the park to reach the southern end of the Appalachian Trail.

13. Gibbs Gardens — Ball Ground, GA

Another North Georgia hidden gem, Gibbs Gardens is a must-see for any nature lover. With plenty of gardens and walking trails, you could spend a leisurely day feasting your eyes on the beauty of the gardens and surrounding woods. Here are the sights you don’t want to miss at Gibbs.

Manor House Gardens — Allow 1 ½ hours to enjoy seasonal floral displays such as the Daffodil, Azalea, Rhododendron and Hydrangea Gardens, the Rose Arbor, the Woodland Shade Gardens and Nature Canopy Walk.

Valley Gardens — Allow 1 ½ hours to tour the display gardens of the Japanese Gardens, Monet Waterlily Gardens, Grandchildren’s Sculpture Gardens, Rose Gardens, The Fern Dell, The Pleasance and Daylily Gardens.

Inspiration Gardens — Due to the steep natural terrain of this garden, all wheeled transportation (wheelchairs, electric scooters, baby strollers, wagons) are prohibited entry. The garden may be viewed outside from above on the Manor House Rd.

14. Washington Farms — Watkinsville, GA

My favorite time to see Washington Farms is in the fall for pumpkin picking and to enjoy the extensive farm fun available. The farm offers bounce houses, a petting zoo, a ride-on train for children, a hayride, s’mores, an extensive corn maze, pig races, a playground, and more.

You can also visit seasonally to pick your own strawberries, wildflowers, or sunflowers. Support agritourism by visiting Washington Farms and other pick-your-own farms in the area for fresh produce and good old fashioned family fun. 

15. Sleepy Hollow Farm — Powder Springs, GA 

If you’re on the other side of Atlanta from Washington Farms, might I suggest Sleepy Hollow Farm in Powder Springs? This family-friendly destination hosts events year-round.

Enjoy a pumpkin patch and corn maze in the fall, and come back to get your tree as the winter holidays approach. There’s even a Spring Festival you don’t want to miss! 

16. Mitcham Farm — Oxford, GA

Mitcham Farms Oxford, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

When it comes to strawberries, my first thought is always of Mitcham Farm where I enjoyed several days of social distance strawberry picking during the pandemic. It’s easily my favorite location to pick strawberries and to enjoy the many strawberry offerings in the cafe.

Pick up strawberry donuts, strawberry smoothies, and even strawberry shortcake during your visit. They even have a Strawberry Festival! You’ll also find that they now offer seasonal events in the Fall.

17. Mercier Orchards — Blue Ridge, GA

Another family favorite among our hidden gems is at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia. You can pick your own apples, go on a tractor tour, try fresh-baked goods, visit the market, and stop by for wine and hard cider tastings at their winery.

There’s much to see and do, and it’s certainly worth a visit in the Fall on your trip to North Georgia. 

18. The Firefly Festival — Madison, GA

Town Park Madison, GA — Photo by Crystal Jackson

A personal favorite, the Firefly Festival is a hidden gem in Madison, Georgia. The festival consists of two days of activity. The first day is the kid-friendly event. For a $5 wristband, your child can enjoy free ice cream and entertainment at the park.

There are usually puppets, stilt walkers, giant bubbles, magicians, trampolines, bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo, an art activity, and more. Don’t expect a ton of extra fees once you’re inside either. While you can certainly buy more ice cream, you’ll get the first free with your ticket. 

The second night of the festival offers a live Motown band, dancing, and a picnic under the stars. Bring your own picnic and wine, and don’t forget your dancing shoes. This event is adult-only and tickets are sold online or at the gate. 

Also, the festival takes place every year at the end of July.

19. Dahlonega Wine Trail — Dahlonega, GA

Wine enthusiasts will love this hidden gem. While you’re in North Georgia, you really need to check out the Dahlonega Wine Trail.

It’ll take you an hour and 15 minutes to drive along the trail — and you’ll want to add in extra time to stop and taste the wine. There are 12 tasting rooms and 8 wineries along your route. Bring your designated driver and enjoy!

20. Goats on the Roof — Tiger, GA

Goats on the Roof — Photo by Crystal Jackson

One of the weirdest destinations on this list might just be Goats on the Roof in Tiger, Georgia. This family-friendly stop offers gem mining, goat feeding, homemade fudge, award winning nitrogen ice cream, food a food truck, a souvenir shop, and a playground.

It’s an eye-catching location that makes the perfect pit stop along your road trip. In fact, you might want to make it a destination rather than detour. 

21. Fox Tales Book Shoppe — Woodstock, Georgia

When I’m not recommending agritourism locations, I like to favor the independent bookstores. One of my favorites is Fox Tales Book Shoppe in Woodstock, Georgia. Once upon a time, I was a member of a book club there.

When I lived nearby, I got so many recommendations from the knowledgeable booksellers — and not one of them steered me wrong. This charming book shop still hosts book clubs, and it also offers must-see author events in the store. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss out on Fox Tales! 

10 Georgia Food Experiences You Don’t Want to Miss

While you’re here for a visit, don’t forget to include the following local food and drink. These are staples of Georgia you’ll want to try during your stay. Keep an open mind, and enjoy!

Stop for Boiled Peanuts (Really!)

Look for roadside stands selling boiled peanuts. This local delicacy is not to be missed! Whether you love them or hate them, boiled peanuts offer a true Georgia experience. 

Find Fresh Peaches at a Roadside Stand

You’ll want to look for roadside stands and fresh markets to try out a juicy Georgia peach — in season, of course. A summer peach is a not-to-be-missed experience in this state. It’s delicious, and you can even bring home a basket. 

Put Peanuts in Your Coca-Cola

If you’ve never put peanuts in your Coca-Cola, give it a try. Not Pepsi, mind you. Georgia is firmly Team Coke. Drop some salted peanuts in, and let us know what you think. 

Have a Glass of Sweet Tea

You can’t come to the south and not have a glass of sweet tea. Try the tea southern style, especially on a hot day. You just might find that you love it. 

Enjoy BBQ and Brunswick Stew

A trip to Georgia isn’t complete without barbecue and Brunswick stew. You’ll find plenty of locations that sell both, although residents of the city of Brunswick might just tell you theirs are the best and most original. Either way, give it a try while you’re here. 

Bring Home Some Vidalia Onions

Vidalia onions, much like peaches, are a Georgia staple. Pick up some to take home, or just enjoy them when you’re out dining. Vidalia, Georgia is the home of the Vidalia onions, but you can get them anywhere. 

Try Some Praline Pecans

Don’t leave Georgia without some pecans. Try the praline pecans if you have a sweet tooth. Whether you say it PEE-can or puh-cahn, you definitely want to try some if you don’t have a nut allergy.

Try Out Some Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings is another southern staple you can try when you’re here. Find a local Cracker Barrel or another southern establishment if you want to see what it’s all about. 

Sample Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk pie is another Georgia specialty. Look for buttermilk pie on the menu in the area where you’re staying. You have to at least give it a try! 

Enjoy Some Soul Food

Georgia is home to some truly delicious soul food. Order up some black-eyed peas, cornbread, mac and cheese, collard greens, sweet potato pie, fried okra, fried chicken, and more. Don’t forget to try the banana pudding, too, made with vanilla wafers. 

Visiting Hidden Gems of Georgia

These hidden gems of Georgia could add a dash of whimsy and wonder to your trip. There’s much to see and do in the state of Georgia, and these 21 hidden gems are a drop in the bucket compared to the delights of the state.

I could easily have thrown in a Cabbage Patch doll hospital or other interesting sights you’ll want to add to your itinerary. What would you add to this list of gems of Georgia?

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