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Whether you're looking for music, museums, or just a slice of old Southern majesty, the Peach State has something for every family. There are small, quiet coastal communities whose citizens are directly descended from slaves and who still speak an African dialect. There are gleaming modern cultural centers in Atlanta, lovely green “pocket parks” in Savannah and porch banjo sessions in the Appalachian foothills. It’s all Georgia; a mix of the old and the new. So buckle your seat belt and hit the road! Here are 20 top destinations for family fun and learning.
1. Savannah - This gracious neoclassical Southern city still has room for kids. Take your Scouts to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, where the US Girl Scouts were founded in 1912. Have a Southern meal at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse, Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons or the Pirates House (the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.) Walk off your meal on the antebellum Factor’s Walk promontory along the Savannah River, or perhaps in Forsyth Park’s special fragrant Garden for the Blind. The Telfair air museum and SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) both have family-friendly programs.
2. Mountainous northeast Georgia – To explore the southern part of the Blue Ridge and the foot of the Appalachian Trail, make Dahlonega a base. It’s the site of a gold rush that beat the California 49ers by two decades, plus arts-related events at the Holly Theater and a busy live Appalachian music scene. The “Wild and Scenic” Chattooga River has excellent whitewater rafting for families (try the Nantahala Outdoor Center.) Area high school students documented their families’ mountain crafts and stories, creating the back-to-the-land Foxfire phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s – the Foxfire Museum helps Southern Appalachian heritage live on today.
3. Sapelo Island and Hog Hammock – Fans of the children’s television program “Gullah Gullah Island” already know a little about the unique Gullah/Geechee African-American culture in this part of the South. Today, the remote Sapelo Island and its only town, Hog Hammock, are still inhabited by the descendents of slaves who preserved their language dialect and food thanks to that isolation. Get here on a state-operated ferry from Meridian and take the guided tour, or contact writer and island resident Cornelia Bailey about her Geechee tours and lodging.
4. Roosevelt’s Little White House – The polio-ridden President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to come here to Warm Springs for the therapeutic waters; it’s now a state park and visitors can see his home and many artifacts of the New Deal era. There are numerous living history and interactive programs geared to families, and for one special weekend in late August, visitors can swim in FDR’s pool.
5. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site – The site includes several Atlanta properties, including Dr. King’s birthplace, which can be seen in small groups on ranger-led tours only (so reserve early). The Visitor’s Center has a variety of exhibits including “Children of Courage,” about the youngest participants in the Civil Rights movement. The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change is located here, along with the Ebenezer Baptist Church (home to three generations of King preachers) and the historic surrounding Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
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