Many travelers heading south to Florida pass through Atlanta and South Georgia on their way to Gainesville and beyond. It’s one of two routes on major highways but you can also detour to the small towns that run alongside the highway for an enjoyable road trip.
While I-75 is the fastest route, following the first half of the road trip between Atlanta and Savannah, you can also take I-85 to state roads 280 and 82. It adds an hour to the journey if you aren’t in a hurry.
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Newnan and Surrounds
Atlanta’s southern suburbs extend to the communities around an hour south of downtown, made up of golf communities and historic towns.
In Newnan, visit Dunaway Gardens, which was established by a notable actress and became a visiting spot for celebrities of the day like Minnie Pearl and Walt Disney.
LaGrange is the perfect stopover for families because of the abundance of attractions. Hills and Dales is the former home of the Callaways and is now a museum and gardens open to the public.
Located south of LaGrange is Callaway Gardens, known for its botanical gardens, walking trails, golf courses, boating, fishing, watersports, a spa, and even a ropes course.
The Southwest Georgia city has endless activities for families. The Columbus Museum is free to visit and combines history, culture, and art in one location.
At Fort Benning, The National Infantry Museum is an important attraction, which details the history of the military, specifically infantry divisions, in America’s wars.
Go on a rafting trip on the dam-controlled Chattahoochee River with Whitewater Express, who also run zip lines and ropes courses between Columbus and Phenix City, Alabama.
Detour slightly to Albany, stopping at the many farm stands along the way for fresh Georgia produce. Start at the Albany Civil Rights Institute, which talks about the city’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and an early protest led by Martin Luther King Jr.
Chehaw Park is an all-in-one attraction with a zoo, frisbee golf course, mountain biking trails, and even campsites. Flint RiverQuarium is a unique aquarium experience as it focuses on the ecosystems of the Flint River, which runs alongside the attraction.
The college town of Valdosta is the last city before crossing into Florida so it’s a popular spot to stop and stretch your legs. If you have time, head to Wild Adventures, a local theme park and music venue that was a filming location for Zombieland.
Connect with nature at The Grand Bay Wetland Education Center, which has a half-mile boardwalk over the wetlands as well as a 54-foot observation tower for spotting wildlife.
Crossing into Florida, Lake City is one of the last destinations before arriving in Gainesville. It’s a jumping-off point for the Osceola National Forest, a Cypress swamp and hardwood forest named for a Seminole warrior.
Here you can spot countless animal species including alligators, tortoises, and woodpeckers. There’s also a historic battlefield within the forest. In town, you’ll also find a historic courthouse-turned-museum.