Pretty as a peach and packed with attractions as pleasing as a bite of the state’s trademark fruit, Georgia makes for a glorious group destination.
Long-loved, must-see historical treasures abound here, but the state also keeps up with the times, consistently dishing up unique new offerings. From following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. to mingling with meerkats, groups can find nearly everything they’re looking for in Georgia. Toss in some truly spectacular lodging and restaurant choices, all served with a big scoop of Southern charm, and you’ve just created an itinerary sure to fill every seat on the motorcoach.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park
Atlanta’s top tourist attraction, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, comprises 38 acres of moving, thought-provoking landmarks, monuments and exhibits honoring the remarkable life and heroic work of the Civil Rights legend. Leaders should set aside at least a few hours for their groups to explore the park, which has free admission. Essential sites include King’s restored birth home; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was a co-pastor and where visitors can hear recordings of his speeches; and the tombs of King and his wife, Coretta.
Savannah Historic Landmark
Savannah’s Historic Landmark District is the country’s largest, so leaders might want to charter a guided tour by trolley to give their groups a good overview of the area before zeroing in on individual attractions. There are certainly oodles of them to choose from, including the 30-acre Forsyth Park, with its iconic fountain; the breathtaking French Gothic-style Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist; and the Mercer-Williams House, made famous by the book and film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center
Located on the outskirts of Columbus, The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center is a massive, meticulously realized and deeply stirring institution dedicated to commemorating the courage of the U.S. Army’s infantrymen. The museum details some 240 years of this country’s military history through immersive galleries, video presentations and interactive exhibits showcasing thousands of historical artifacts. Customizable packages, which may feature everything from guided tours to Giant Screen Theater tickets and a catered meal, are available to groups.
Up and Coming
Passport Springs and Spa
Scheduled to open next year in metro Atlanta, Passport Springs and Spa will transport groups to pampering pools around the planet as it re-creates the environments of celebrated hot springs in Israel, Costa Rica, Rome and Japan. Luxurious pavilions will replicate the architecture and landscapes of each destination, allowing guests to indulge in experiences as diverse as sipping sake while soaking under a pagoda and floating in water with the same mineral content as the legendary Dead Sea. The Grotto, an extensive subterranean space, will feature snow, salt, steam and sauna chambers.
Georgia Safari Conservation Park
Leaders may want to get their bookings in now for Georgia Safari Conservation Park, which is sure to be a hit when it opens come November in Morgan County. Groups will be able to opt for a guided, drive-through tour of the 500-acre park’s bucolic plains and forests, filled with African animals like zebras and giraffes, before strolling the attraction’s walk-though zoo, featuring meerkats, monkeys and more. A treetop lodge is also in the works, and special experiences for group visitors — including custom tours and behind-the-scenes events — will be available.
Game Changer at Lanier Islands
Fun for all ages is the name of the game at Game Changer at Lanier Islands, which debuted in February at the popular lakeside resort. The 23,000-square-foot, two-story facility serves up enough good times to fill a festive afternoon with a nine-hole indoor putting course; an escape room; axe-throwing lanes; suites with virtual sports like golf, baseball and basketball; and more than 50 arcade games. Groups will want to refuel in the on-site restaurant, specializing in Southern delicacies like fried chicken and peach pie.
The Partridge Inn
Dubbed “PI” by locals, Augusta’s storied Partridge Inn, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection and a member of the Historic Hotels of America, boasts 140 unique rooms and suites; a sleek, modern restaurant; and a rooftop bar offering the city’s best views. There’s history here, too. Built in 1910, the hotel is the closest to Augusta National Golf Course, where the Masters Tournament is played, and has hosted not only famed duffers but also celebrities including Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson.
City Mills Hotel
City Mills Hotel takes its name from its distinctive location: an exquisitely renovated 19th-century grist mill on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Columbus. The boutique property’s attention to detail truly wows, from the carefully preserved architectural features, which include the original mill’s brick walls and wood beams, to the handsome, locally sourced artwork. The city’s beloved RiverWalk, a linear park leading to downtown, is steps from the front door, while the hotel’s recently opened Millhouse Kitchen + Bar specializes in American cuisine with “a Southern twang.”
Tucked away in the lovely little mountain town of Blue Ridge, Mercier Orchards offers one of the state’s prettiest settings in which to dine. During the week, group visitors can enjoy boxed lunches on the deck overlooking the lush, rolling fields, while the cafe serves hearty, homemade meals on the weekend. Groups will also want to peruse the wares at the market and bakery, famous for its fried pies, and enjoy a tour of the farm, a fourth-generation family effort celebrating eight decades in operation this year.
Beaver House Restaurant
The Beaver House Restaurant in Statesboro affords groups the singular opportunity to dine boarding house-style on hearty Southern dishes in a rambling, reputedly haunted home built in 1911. Twice daily, the restaurant serves “traditional Sunday dinners” on large platters meant to be shared, rather than on individual plates. Favorite fare typically includes fried chicken; scratch biscuits prepared with cream; black-eyed peas over rice with a spoonful of pickle relish and chipped Vidalia onion; and loads of sweet tea.