"Georgia on my Mind" was Ray Charles' classic hit, a tune so captivating and warm it felt like a day at the beach. This examiner had the pleasure of even hearing him sing it live at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel in the early '90s. And many artists have sang it since, from Michael Bolton to Willie Nelson, all evoking the same type of passion and enthusiasm visitors to the Peach State have enjoyed.
While Georgia is multi-varied, with the allure of sexy Savannah justaposed by the pastoral towns leading to Atlanta, it's homogenous in both mood and mindset. People are welcoming, food is delicious (especially the peaches!), and business is hopping here.
First stop, Hotlanta
Something for every traveler exists in Atlanta, but for my money a good first stop is the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. "Gone With The Wind" is the highest-grossing movie of all time, and the book has been beloved by generations. Enjoy a guided tour and see where Mitchell, who was born in Atlanta in 1900, penned her masterpiece. You'll even see her typewriter and family heirlooms. (Sadly, Mitchell died crossing Peachtree street in 1949, somehow fitting to die so close to where she was born.)
After visiting, check out South City Kitchen in Midtown for some dynamite fried chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. Oversized glass windows and polished copper evoke modern chic, but all set against the aromas of your grandmama's kitchen (if she was born in Georgia). Friendly staff and superb service grace this world-class establishment.
Many hotels are fine, but recommended for new travelers is the Hyatt Regency for both its superior attention to detail (and you!) and its proximity to everything.
Second stop, Washington
Head outside Atlanta about 2-1/2 hours for a sweet drive to this tiny town boasting many antebellum properties as well as National Register of Historic Places such as the Robert Toombs State Historic Site and the Wilkes County Courthouse. Drive around and just let intuition be your guide. If you see a flea market or roadside bar, pop in.
Washington also has a museum where you will find remnants from the days of slavery in this area, a startling and horrific legacy, yet seeing artwork from former slaves is educational and fascinating.
The University of Georgia rises like a phoenix from miles of farmland and otherwise nondescript Georgian land dotted by burger shacks and peach vendors.
Known for an outstanding journalism department as well as science professors including Dr. Samantha (Mandy) Joye, who has made remarkable discoveries in the Gulf since the BP oil spill in 2010, the school is well worth a visit. Architecture dates from pre-Civil War times and includes such masterpieces as the President's House on Prince Ave., a Victorian era mansion nicely refurbished by the university in the 1970s, and which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The town itself boasts plentiful examples of the early Victorian styles, with huge columns and romanesque white columns. Ceilings tend to be high enough to put three people on top of one another and still not reach the top. The city churns with youthful energy juxtaposed by the established presence of longtime residents and professors.
To book a trip to Georgia, visit Expedia and fly out on a Tuesday or a Wednesday to save money. Flying into Atlanta will run Angelenos about $430 roundtrip. Rent a car from Enterprise for about $50 a day and head out to Washington (just under two hours east) and then venture to Athens, just under an hour's drive on US-78 west.
Should your party wish to hit Savannah and check out Paula Deen's Lady and Sons restaurant or the fabulous and sultry inns there, forgo Athens and head directly east to Savannah from Washington (3 hours east.) Note, Miss Dean recommends making reservations in advance.
Bold marks and hyperlinks are those of the examiner's.