ABOVE PHOTO: Museum of Aviation.
By Renée S. Gordon
“If these walls could talk they would sing.”
–Rock Candy Tours
A wonderful place to begin the second leg of our trip through Georgia’s Historic Heartland and Magnolia Midlands is at Watermelon Creek Vineyards in Tattnall County. The Padgett family settled the land in 1820 and operated various businesses along with the farm and now, the ninth generation has restored many of the structures and created a 15-acre destination complex. On the banks of rural Watermelon Creek guests can tour the vineyard and historic buildings and visit the Winery Complex with its elegantly laid out 2-story Tasting Room. www.watermeloncreekvineyard.com
Metter, Georgia is a gem of a small town. It was a simple crossroads until the railroad came in 1898. The following year the town consisted of 21-blocks in a grid pattern with streets named after members of the architects’ family. The downtown business district is listed on the National Historic Registry and their motto, “It’s Better in Metter,” is true.
Visitors must stop in Metter’s Welcome Center. The building is a 19TH century commissary with all original walls, floors and windows. In addition to the tourist information you can get here the center shows an orientation film and sells local products that make excellent souvenirs. www.metter-candler.com
Metter’s largest attraction is Guido Gardens, three landscaped acres with a chapel that is open 24 hours a day for meditation and contemplation. The gardens are filled with flowers, statues, waterfalls, inscribed benches and a replica of the biblical tomb. A museum on the site relates the story of Michael Guido, “The Sower,” who was responsible for an international ministry, the creation of the gardens and the production of one-minute inspirational radio and television spots.
“Nights of Lights” is the signature event at the Garden. Each Christmas more than 250,000 lights create scenes from sunset until 10 PM for 25 nights. It is a sight to behold and admission is free. www.the-sower.org
George L. Smith State Park is a short drive from Metter. This delightful 1,634-acre park has a lot to offer, a 412-acre lake, eight cottages, pioneer campground, fishing, boating, birding and geocaching. www.gastateparks.org/GeorgeLSmith
Mill Pond Kayak offers guided tours of the lake. Kayakers have great opportunity for photographing the moss-draped cypress trees and wildlife found along the trail. The kayaks are wide and stable and tours can take up to 20 people and are approximately 3-hours long. This is a way to make a very special memory. www.millpondkayak.com
You cannot leave Metter without taking the challenge extended by Papa Buck’s BBQ Restaurant. The Pigzilla Challenge involves a sandwich made with 3-lbs of pulled pork, slathered with BBQ sauce, on a 1-lb Hawaiian sweet roll that must be consumed in 45-minutes. The prize is $100 and bragging rights forever. You can order smaller portions and the food is delicious. www.PapaBucks.com
In 1797, Fort Wilkinson was built in what is now Milledgeville to establish a trading post and Indian boundary line. Natives needed a passport to cross the Oconee River. By 1802 the Indians owed $23,000 in trading debt and they were encouraged to pay the debt in land.
On December 12, 1804 Milledgeville was established to be the fourth state capital of GA because it was centrally located was on a river and access to 8 natural springs in the area. It would remain so throughout the Civil War and until Atlanta became capital in 1868. The 500-acre town was named in honor of Gov. John Milledge. www.visitmilledgeville.org
The Greek revival Old Governor’s Mansion was built in 1839 to serve as the Executive Mansion. Charles Cluskey designed the 3-story structure with an Ionic portico and a central rotunda. Sherman chose the mansion as his headquarters for one night on his march to the sea.
The mansion tour is guided and begins in the slaves’ work area. It is furnished with many period pieces and a few originals. Of special note is the Governor’s Office with Gov. Brown’s original desk and the Messenger’s Room featuring a bed with elaborate African beading handcarved by a slave. The mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. www.gcsu.edu/mansion
Lockerly Arboretum was founded in 1965 and features 47-acres of flora and fauna. Also on the premises is Lockerly Hall constructed in 1858 to replace an 1832 mansion known as Rose Hall. The masonry Greek revival classic has two story columns and 18-inch thick exterior walls. www.lockerly.org
Tours of the interior feature a central hallway, a faux finish around the doors, windows baseboards and risers. The public rooms have marble fireplaces and mahogany pocket doors. Highlights of the tour are a Biedermeier desk with hidden drawers, an Irish wake table that was designed so that when the edges were lowered a casket could be placed on the table and a stand in the hallway that was crafted by slaves.
The Old Capital Building dates from 1807 and was in use as GA’s seat of government until it was moved to Atlanta in 1868. It was constructed on the highest point in town, once ceremonial Indian grounds. Since 1879 it has been administered by the GA Military College.
The Old Capital is now a museum and on the 3rd-floor visitors can enter the chamber where the Secession Convention took place in 1861. The chairs are original and four portraits, Washington, Jefferson, Oglethorpe and Lafayette, adorn the walls. On guided tours you hear the story of Sam Marlowe an enslaved man who saved the building from a fire by climbing on the roof and pulling off the wooden shingles. For his heroism he was freed. www.oldcapitalmuseum.org
Olive Forge Herb Farm, the only licensed herb garden in GA, is a unique and enchanted place. Situated on 15-acres rife with 280 herbs, antebellum plants, medicinal plants and a Shakespeare Garden filled with all the plants he wrote about. Visitors can make purchases of plants and natural products and spend time with the owners learning all about the farm. It is a little off the beaten path but believe me, you will be glad you took the road less taken. www.your-innervoice.com/OliveForgeHerbFarm
Macon, GA is located on the site of the Ocmulgee Old Fields a Native American homestead for 12,000 years before contact with Europeans. This was part of the land given up in 1806 when Fort Hawkins was established. Thirty years later the first women’s college, Georgia Female College, was founded in Macon. By the onset of the Civil War 6,800 slaves lived in Macon. Sherman did not burn the city during his march. www.nps.gov/ocmu
Music history in Macon got a big boost with the founding of Capricorn Records in the 1960s. Several of the city’s rock and roll legends, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers, recorded in the historic studio. Tours of Macon’s music history are best accomplished by joining Rock Candy Tours for a thorough and entertaining walking or trolley tour. Highlights of the tour are the insider stories and visits to the Tick Tock Room, where Little Richard began and Grant’s Lounge, Macon’s 1st integrated bar and 1st legally owned African American bar. www.rockcandytours.com
Macon’s 14-acre Museum of Arts & Sciences focuses on both the arts and sciences and is the state’s only institution to do so. The permanent collection consists of 8,000 pieces and the museum has gallery exhibits as well as a mini-zoo, a planetarium and an observatory. Current exhibits are “Dinosaurs & Ice Age Animals” and “Native American Prints and Points.” A full schedule of special programs is available online. www.MASmacon.org
Lane Southern Orchards has been producing peaches and pecans for five generations and more than 100-years. They offer a self-guided tour of their assembly line along a catwalk. They can process 70,000-lbs. an hour. There is a retail store and café on site. This is an educational and tasty stop. www.lanesouthernorchards.com
The Museum of Aviation, a U.S. Air force Museum is home of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, the fastest growing military museum in the entire Southeast and the 3rd most visited in the country. The complex consists of 4 buildings featuring 90 aircraft and missiles from pre-WWII to modern day. The Tuskegee Airmen are showcased as are a cutaway of a B-17 and an original F-15 “Eagle.” www.museumofaviation.org
Perry, GA is a charming town, founded in 1821, that was once a major stagecoach stop where travelers could rest before continuing. This remains true today. The historic downtown offers eclectic shops and eateries. Walking tour maps are available. www.perryga.com
The New Perry Hotel has provided respite for travelers since 1850 when it was the Cox Inn. The historic rooms are in the main building while thematic rooms named after Hollywood icons, are in the annex. Rates are very affordable. www.newperryhotel.com
The place to dine here is The Swanson Restaurant for a classic southern meal in a graceful setting. The restaurant began life as a 1790 livery stable with the addition of a three room house in 1880. This much-lauded restaurant is believed to be haunted. www.theswanson.com
Perry’s Go Fish Education Center is totally unique. Visitors travel through an outdoor exhibit that replicates Georgia’s 14 watersheds and natural habitats filled with fish. The goal of the center is to promote fishing and alert people to the state’s natural resources. Highlights here include a walk-thru beaver lodge, fishing simulators and laser shooting gallery. www.gofisheducationcenter.com
Fried Green Tomatoes is set in Alabama but when they scouted film locations in 1991, Juliette, Ga., a deserted mill town, was perfect. They built only one new building for the film. Businesses line the one-block main street but the true treasure here is the Whistle Stop Café. The restaurant has been open since the movie was made, the food is delicious and the interior is a photograph just waiting to be taken. In the rear of the restaurant is the original barbecue pit left from the movie. www.juliettega.com
The real Georgia and authentic South are best found in the small towns and along the less traveled highways. My advice, leave the big cities and have an adventure. www.exploregeorgia.org
I wish you smooth travels!
The Inn at Perry Cabin, one of the most opulent hotels on the East Coast, is located a mere 90 minutes from Philadelphia in the Victorian jewel, St. Michaels, Maryland. The Colonial Revival inn connects white-shingled buildings with the heart of the resort being the 1816 original inn, now the North Wing. In 1980 the structure was converted into a small hotel and nine years later it was expanded into a 41-room, 5-star, luxury resort. In May 0f 1999 Orient-Express Hotels purchased the property and made $17-million worth of enhancements.
The Inn at Perry Cabin is ideal in every respect. It provides luxurious amenities, exemplary service and suites with outstanding views, designer linens and bath products. The Linden Spa offers a palette of services and signature treatments. A waterfront gourmet dining experience is guaranteed perfection at Sherwood’s Landing under the auspices of Executive Chef Mark Timms. www.perrycabin.com
St. Michaels has numerous specialty stores and museums and is a significant stop on the Frederick Douglass Historic Trail because this is the area in which he was born and spent his early childhood. It is one-tank of gas and a world away. www.stmichaelsmd.org