by Brian Jewell
Published July 05, 2018
Georgia knows how to roll out the red carpet.
Spend some time in the towns of southwest Georgia, and you’ll likely be charmed by the area’s warm weather and even warmer hospitality.
That’s what 11 tour operators, travel agents and other readers of The Group Travel Leader found during a four-day familiarization tour in Georgia’s Plantation Trace region in April. Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, this tour visited Valdosta, Thomasville and Albany, three destinations with a distinct flavor and appeal for visitors.
During the trip, participants toured beautiful plantations and homes, shopped in historic downtown districts, experienced wildlife and animal attractions, and enjoyed amazing Southern cuisine. Along the way, they spent time with some of the tourism and hospitality professionals who specialize in helping groups plan great trips in Georgia.
Follow along on this itinerary to enjoy your own exploration of Georgia’s Plantation Trace region.
• Arrival in Valdosta
• Wild Adventures
• Valdosta Wake Compound
• Downtown Valdosta
• Dinner at Steel Magnolias
Guests traveled from around the country to Valdosta, the largest city in southwest Georgia, and met at a local hotel to begin the tour. From there, the group departed for lunch and a private tour at Wild Adventures, a local theme park and zoo.
The next stop was Valdosta Wake Compound, a man-made watersports park where guests can watch wakeboarding demonstrations or attempt the sport themselves. After that, the group enjoyed a walking tour through downtown Valdosta, with a stop at a local coffee shop and time to browse other area shops. The day ended with cocktails and dinner at Steel Magnolias, a popular downtown restaurant that serves inventive takes on classic Southern cuisine.
Few communities the size of Valdosta have their own amusement park, which makes Wild Adventures a popular destination for visitors from throughout southwest Georgia. This theme park features several roller coasters and thrill rides in addition to hundreds of exotic animals from around the world. FAM participants got a private tour of the park and had some special encounters with cuddly baby animals as well as the opportunity to hand feed a giraffe. Wild Adventures also features a nature trail through a wetland area, an African safari ride, a 17-acre water park and a holiday event that features millions of lights.
Valdosta Wake Compound
Wakeboarding, a hybrid of waterskiing and skateboarding, has become a popular extreme sport among young people, and the Valdosta Wake Compound is one of the country’s top wakeboarding facilities. A special pulley system at this man-made lake allows riders to practice high-speed boarding and tricks on the compound’s lake without being pulled by a speedboat. The FAM group got to learn about wakeboarding and watch professional competitors demonstrate jumps, flips and other aerial maneuvers. Groups can also take wakeboarding lessons at the compound to try the sport.
Valdosta was founded in 1860, and its historic downtown district is full of interesting landmarks and late-19th- and early-20th-century buildings. The FAM group toured downtown with a representative of the local Main Street organization who highlighted aspects of the area’s recent $12 million improvement project. They also saw the early-1900s courthouse and a building that once housed the dental office of legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday, who grew up in the area.