Author Topic: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia  (Read 877 times)

Watchmaker

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Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« on: May 17, 2021, 05:58:44 PM »
I'm going to be visiting family in FL later this year (yay vaccines!), and we'll be driving down there (from WI). We've already got some ideas of places to stop along the way in IL/KY/TN, but no ideas for Alabama or Georgia. Anyone have suggestions for:

-Cool small towns
-Nature (hikes, parks, whatever)
-Art (museums, installations, etc)
-Restaurants

or anything else you'd recommend in either of those states. We won't have a lot of time, but are willing to make big detours for something interesting.

bacchi

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2021, 07:07:53 PM »
Cumberland Island
Jekyll Island

desk_jockey

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2021, 11:33:27 PM »
Iím guessing that youíll come down I-75 from Chattanooga to Florida.

History: Youíre basically paralleling the railroad that formed the backbone of Shermanís Atlanta Campaign.  The battlefields of Chickamauga, Tunnel Hill, Rockyfaced Ridge, Resaca, Adairsville, Kennesaw Mountain, Pickets Mill, etc are all a short distance away from I-75.   Many of these battlefields of these have some good nature hikes in addition to the historical aspect.

In Atlanta, the MLK National Historical Site is worth a visit, or Stone Mountain Park if you want a fun hike to the top and the very opposite of the MLK site.   The 1996 Olympic Park is good when the whether is nice and there are a handful of other attractions surrounding it. 

As you approach Florida east of I-75, the Okefenokee swamp has hiking and boat trips.

CupcakeGuru

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2021, 05:58:46 AM »
I am also assuming that you are coming down I-75.
Lookout Mountain
Tellus Science Museum
Red Top Mountain
MLK Center
High Museum of Art
Stone Mountain
Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Callaway Garden
Okefenokee State Park

Trifele

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2021, 06:33:57 AM »
Russel Cave National Monument is totally worth a detour if you're going to be passing nearby.   It's tucked into the NE corner of Alabama, between Huntsville and Chattanooga, TN.  It's a preserved pre-historic cave shelter where early humans lived, and a free museum.  There's a ranger on site who leads really cool tours and learning experiences.  Our kids got to grind corn using actual grinding stones that were found in the cave, and we got to throw spears using an atlatl.    https://www.nps.gov/ruca/index.htm

And as others have said -- on the coast of Georgia, Cumberland Island is worth the visit.  We've been several times. 


megaschnauzer

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2021, 06:37:25 AM »
cloudland canyon is up by lookout mtn. really nice place. if you're heading to the panhandle of florida then oak mtn state park near birmingham is a nice place to hang out. there's some really good mountain biking in alabama if you're into that.
i'd look at the atlas obscura website for interesting places off the beaten path.

jrhampt

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2021, 06:59:06 AM »
In Georgia, I'd visit Savannah.

Watchmaker

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2021, 07:58:05 AM »
Thanks all!

We'll be taking our time, so we don't need to necessarily follow I-75, if that changes anyone's suggestions. We probably won't make it over to the Atlantic coast though--we did this drive once before and went over to the coast and down, stopping in Savannah and Charleston.

@CupcakeGuru If you were going to go to one museum in Atlanta, which would it be?

@desk_jockey I admit I have an interest in seeing Stone Mountain. What's the vibe at the park--I've read about various protests there, but what's it like on a normal day?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2021, 10:27:44 AM by Watchmaker »

desk_jockey

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2021, 08:54:36 AM »
@desk_jockey I admit I have a interest in seeing Stone Mountain. What's the vibe at the park--I've read about various protests there, but what's it like on a normal day?

Stone Mountain Park is a nice place to visit.   The mountain is well worth the climb.   Quite doable if kids are 6+ years old, and there is a gondola for those that canít do the hike.   In the summer youíll want to climb it early to avoid the heat.
Stone Mountain a large park with conference centers, golf, camping, picnicking, and various attractions.   Itís privately run by the same group that manages other parks like Dollywood, so it does have aspects of the commercial theme park but if youíre not interested in that itís easy to avoid. 

Aside from the mountainís sculpture itself and a museum that includes civil war exhibits, most of the confederacy flag waving has long since been cleaned-up (I exaggerated in my previous post, but the park does have a dark past).    On a typical weekend or summer day, Iím guessing the park is less than 25% tourists, and over 75% people from the local community and greater-Atlanta area just out getting exercise and enjoying the day.

There were some protests a while back.   Such protests are registered, so you can know in advance that theyíre happening if you check the local news.  Again, the park is quite large and it would be easy to enjoy to park and avoid protests even if there happened to be one underway. 

Dee18

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2021, 07:00:23 PM »
In Chattanooga try the Flying Squirrel Bar for some great food.  Also visit the outdoor sculpture garden.

If you end up on I-65 through Nashville to Alabama be sure to check out Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, just off the interstate, although it's best known for the cranes that winter there.

Just Joe

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2021, 11:55:12 AM »
If you like to bicycle or run or walk, the Chattanooga River Walk is nice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Riverwalk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloudland_Canyon_State_Park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_South_Fork_National_River_and_Recreation_Area
(nowhere near Chattanooga)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_Creek_Falls_State_Park

Don't know what your taste in distraction is or what your schedule allows.


dougules

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2021, 11:57:59 AM »
I have a few for Alabama.

In terms of natural attractions
   Desoto Falls & Little River Canyon - the grand canyon of the east
   Bucks Pocket - another nice canyon area
   High Falls in Dekalb County
   Monte Sano - a nice stop if you happen to be in Huntsville.  Among other things, you might check out the Natural Well.

Peach Park - Central Alabama right off I-65.  It's a must if you're on I-65 in the summer and like fruit or ice cream.

Isom's Orchard - Not far from I-65 in Athens AL. Has really good peaches in early summer and really good apples later.

Huntsville
   Space & Rocket Center - Probably only really interesting if you're into space, but if you are, definitely visit.
   Lowe Mill - old textile mill that has been converted to studios and workshops for a lot of local artists

Alabama has some decent natural attractions, but Tennessee has a lot more nature-wise honestly.  I have some ideas there if you want. 

Also on the subject of Tennessee I'd really recommend spending some time in Chattanooga.  It's a cool town.  I could also give some ideas there if you want, but you said you already have Tennessee covered. 

I'll probably post again with some other suggestions, but I thought I'd throw out what I have now for the moment. 

Sugaree

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2021, 12:14:27 PM »
I think everyone else has hit on the outdoor stuff.  There's also Dismals Canyon with the glow worms.  In the area between Birmingham and Atlanta, there are a couple of neat quarries if you dive. 

As far as restaurants go, I'd recommend the Bright Star, Hot & Hot Fish Club, Satterfields, or Full Moon BBQ in Birmingham.  If you're going to be closer to Mobile then I like Callaghans (specifically the LA burger), Jerusalem Cafe, or Wintzell's (though these can be found in other places).  I hear good things about the Royal Scam, but haven't eaten there. 

Fireball

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2021, 12:47:01 PM »
Cool little town in GA - Helen.   Bavarian style architecture makes it look like a little Switzerland.  Can confirm Cloudland Canyon near Chattanooga is a treasure. Amicalola Falls in GA is also beautiful, plus that's where the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail begins.

Also, a friendly warning. If you plan to visit the Smokies on your way through TN, anytime in October(didnt know if you specified) is an absolute train wreck. Don't do it. Outside of that, just get there early.

Watchmaker

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2021, 01:01:06 PM »
This is great, keep the suggestions coming!

@dougules

Re: Chattanooga- We've been through there before and thought is was really cool (my favorite part was a restaurant called Aretha Frankenstein's), but we don't know it well. Definitely open to suggestions for there.

I am interested in space stuff. If you've been to both, how would you compare the Space & Rocket Center to the Kennedy Space Center? (I've been to Kennedy a couple times.)


Tig_

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2021, 03:00:22 PM »
I haven't been yet but I hear fantastic things about the civil rights attractions in Alabama:
- National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (which is right next to the 16th St Baptist Church)

Birmingham isn't a small town and I wouldn't say their beer is amazing (especially if you are coming from Wisconsin), but I really like the vibe of a lot of their breweries - I think Back Forty is my fave - a lot of outdoor space, right next to the train tracks and they go by pretty frequently, but there's a lot of fun ones throughout the city and they all seem pretty family friendly. As far as actual food, I've been massively disappointed in Birmingham so far.  The only place I've been that I want to go back is Gian Marcos (wine, pasta, fancy, expensive) and their cheaper cousin GM Pizzeria. Can't speak to any of the places Sugaree mentioned but looking forward to trying them myself!  I think we've been to every Thai place in the city - never again. There's also lots of coffee places - Domestique and Seeds are two that I like a lot.  I hear great things about Slutty Vegan in Atlanta and Birmingham is getting one too but I don't think it's open yet.

NumberJohnny5

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2021, 03:46:22 PM »
If you pass near Fall Creek Falls, it's worth a stop. Heading further south it's absolutely beautiful going down the mountain into Dunlap and back up the next (heading south toward Chattanooga). On the way back up there is a nice pull off that gives great views of any hangliders that are doing their thing. Or you could skip that, take a right (heading west) into Dunlap, and there's another route toward Chattanooga that is a traditional scary (at least on the way down) curvy mountain road that has AWESOME views of the river. If you can do this a week or so before the leaves change...they'll have changed on the mountain already, it can be breathtaking.

In Chattanooga, I'd go with a trip to the aquarium, especially if there are kids involved. There are two separate buildings next to each other. Between them there was a water area for the kids, it's been a while and it wasn't anything to write home about, but ours had fun.

Always enjoyed Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain, the incline railway, etc.

If you hit the Smoky Mountains area, I hear Dollywood is nice (haven't been personally...it was closed the day we tried going). I personally enjoyed Pigeon Forge more than Gatlinburg, but that's just me. Plus they're right next to each other, no reason to not spend a day in each.

Mobile Alabama has a battleship if that's your thing. I saw it when I was a kid. Going by memory, more impressive than the ship I saw in Darling Harbour in Sydney. But the memory is likely influenced by the fact I was young when I saw the Alabama one...everything seemed bigger at that age!

Sugaree

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2021, 09:10:02 AM »
I haven't been yet but I hear fantastic things about the civil rights attractions in Alabama:
- National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (which is right next to the 16th St Baptist Church)

Birmingham isn't a small town and I wouldn't say their beer is amazing (especially if you are coming from Wisconsin), but I really like the vibe of a lot of their breweries - I think Back Forty is my fave - a lot of outdoor space, right next to the train tracks and they go by pretty frequently, but there's a lot of fun ones throughout the city and they all seem pretty family friendly. As far as actual food, I've been massively disappointed in Birmingham so far.  The only place I've been that I want to go back is Gian Marcos (wine, pasta, fancy, expensive) and their cheaper cousin GM Pizzeria. Can't speak to any of the places Sugaree mentioned but looking forward to trying them myself!  I think we've been to every Thai place in the city - never again. There's also lots of coffee places - Domestique and Seeds are two that I like a lot.  I hear great things about Slutty Vegan in Atlanta and Birmingham is getting one too but I don't think it's open yet.

That's disappointing about the Thai food.  When I'm in town, I usually hit one of the above mentioned places or get Greek food at either Nabeel's or the Purple Onion but I'm always on the lookout for good Thai food.  There is a pretty good Thai place near Noccolulah Falls in Gadsden called Kati if you're up that way.

dougules

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2021, 12:58:52 PM »
I've never been to Kennedy Space Center, so I don't know the comparison.  I'm honestly not a big rocketry geek, but the big exhibit for the Saturn V is probably worth it just by itself if you are.  They also run tours of Marshall Space Flight Center where all the engineering for the Apollo program happened.  I don't know the details of what they visit or what the status of the tours is with the pandemic, though.   

If you do end up in Huntsville some places to visit would be:
- Lowe Mill - old textile mill converted to artist studios, definitely worth a visit
- Twickenham neighborhood - right by downtown, largest antebellum district in the state
- Monte Sano - State park is nice
   - Natural Well - really deep sinkhole with vertical sides
- Campus 805 - old middle school converted to breweries and bars.  The speakeasy is kind of cool.
- Big Spring, Big Spring Park, and Downtown
- Huntsville Museum of Art - traditional art museums aren't my thing, so I don't know if it's good.
   I'm just throwing it out as something to look into.
- Huntsville Depot
- Mooresville - tiny little town about 15 miles W of Huntsville with several big antebellum mansions
- Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk - not worth a dedicated trip, but worth a stop if you go to
   Mooresville or Greenbrier

Places to eat:
- Greenbrier Restaurant - a bit west of town close to Mooresville.  Classic old cotton gin restaurant
   with good chicken and barbecue.  Also best place to try North Alabama's white barbecue sauce.
- Bandito Burrito - hole-in-the-wall hipster Mexican, but food is really good. 
   Right across from Campus 805
- La Michoacana - a little Mexican popsicle and ice cream place right next to Bandito and Campus 805
- India Kitchen - don't know if they will have dine-in by then, but might be good to take as a picnic to
   Big Spring Park or the Monte Sano Pavilion if not
- Thai Garden
- Surin
- Twickenham Treats - near downtown, good brookies


Rural Alabama:
- stuff in my last post
- Cathedral Caverns
- AL 65 between Huntland TN and Paint Rock AL is a nice off-the-beaten-path drive down through the
   Paint Rock River Valley
- Walls of Jericho - nice hike in the same area
- Unclaimed Baggage Center - where items lost in airports are sold.  Not as good as it was back in
   the day, but still worth a quick stop if you're on hwy 72 anyway. 
- Mentone AL - I haven't been there in a long time, but I seem to remember they have a thing
   with folk art if you happen to be close.
- Sauta Cave - 200k bats fly out of the mouth of the cave every summer night just before dark


Birmingham:
- Sloss Furnace is kind of interesting if you like industrial history
- +1 on Nabeel's
- Al's is a hole-in-the-wall middle eastern restaurant with a nice patio


Chattanooga:

Stuff to see:
- Chattanooga is a good place for sidewalk hiking and people watching
   - Would recommend the Walnut Street Bridge, North Side, Downtown, and the Bluff View District    
- Tennessee Aquarium - haven't been in a long time, but it's interesting if you like aquaria
   Even if you don't go into the aquarium, the fountains around it are kind of nice. 
- Paddleboard on the river - haven't been but I've seen it from the bridge and it looks cool
- Hunter Museum - sits on a bluff above the river. 
   as before traditional art museums are not me, but something to consider if it's your thing.
- Raccoon Mountain - a little bit west of town.  pretty cool and doesn't seem very well-known. 
   TVA pumps water into a reservoir on the mountain to store energy for peak electric demand.
   The loop around the reservoir is kind of a trip to be between the water and a 1000 ft drop-off.
   The Visitor Center has a really underrated view of the Tennessee River Gorge

Places to eat:
- Lupi's Pizza - obligatory stop for us when in the area
- Taco Mamacita
- Julie Darling Donuts
- Rembrandt's Coffee - has a really nice patio area
- Clumpies Ice Cream


Rural Tennessee:
- Foster Falls - big waterfall.  plunge pool is a great place to go swimming, although the water
   is really cold to us Southerners. Very popular with rock climbers.
- Virgin Falls - called "Virgin" because the creek comes out of a cave, goes over a 120 ft waterfall
   then promptly goes back into another cave at the bottom
- Buggytop Cave - haven't been yet, but it's on my list
- Stone Door and Greeter Falls
- Falls Creek Falls - supposedly tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi
- Cherohala Skyway
- Raft the Ocoee - can be crowded, but still cool.  River only flows certain days of the week. 
- Sewannee - pretty little college community.  Not very big but might be worth a stop if you're close.
- Falls Mill - very photogenic and sells good stone ground corn meal and grits
- Prichard's distillery - in an old school, has good rum
- Jack Daniel's distillery - kind of overrated IMHO, but still worth a visit if you're close


If you end up braving Atlanta traffic:
- Buford Highway northeast of Atlanta proper has tons of great ethnic restaurants 
- High Museum - as before traditional art museums aren't me, but I hear it's pretty good.


A disclaimer on my suggestions is that I don't know the pandemic status on most of these, and it may change before your trip anyway.

I think my interest in this thread shows how bad my pandemic cabin fever is.  I need a vacation, too. 

Just Joe

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2021, 01:22:37 PM »
Cool little town in GA - Helen.   Bavarian style architecture makes it look like a little Switzerland.  Can confirm Cloudland Canyon near Chattanooga is a treasure. Amicalola Falls in GA is also beautiful, plus that's where the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail begins.

Also, a friendly warning. If you plan to visit the Smokies on your way through TN, anytime in October(didnt know if you specified) is an absolute train wreck. Don't do it. Outside of that, just get there early.

Beware - the resort towns of Gatilinburg and Pigeon Forge are very busy on the weekends right now. Maybe b/c of COVID cabin fever. Friends wanted us to go with them recently. We declined. They reported 90+ mins waits for food from what I would describe pretty ordinary franchise brands. Also, lots of traffic. Lines to get into and out of certain shopping areas. Those are not the reasons we go to the Smokeys (shopping) but we've been known to stop for food in those towns. I think we'll let those destinations cool off for a couple more years.

Watchmaker

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Re: Places to visit in Alabama and Georgia
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2021, 04:01:37 PM »
Thanks for all the suggestions, it's going to take awhile for me to research all these places.

- Sauta Cave - 200k bats fly out of the mouth of the cave every summer night just before dark

I can tell you I'm not going there--I get enough bats in my basement, I don't need to see any more.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2021, 04:16:46 PM by Watchmaker »