There are treasures to be found around every corner in the cities and towns of north Georgia.
That’s what 16 tour operators, travel agents and other travel planner readers of The Group Travel Leader found during a four-day familiarization tour through the region in March. Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the event began in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell and then went to Cartersville, Rome and Villa Rica, each of which has its own appeal for groups.
During the trip, participants toured historic homes, visited local businesses and galleries, sampled Georgia food and beverages, and enjoyed the beauty of north Georgia’s mountainous terrain. 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 the cities and towns of north Georgia.
• Arrival in Roswell
• Chattahoochee Nature Center
• Bulloch Hall
• Dinner at Dreamland Bar-B-Q
• Georgie Ensemble Theatre
Guests flew into Atlanta or drove directly to Roswell, a suburban area just north of the city. After gathering at a local hotel, the group departed for a welcome lunch and tour at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, a 127-acre nature sanctuary.
The next stop was Bulloch Hall, a historic home where Theodore Roosevelt’s parents lived and the host venue for an annual quilt show. From there, the group visited Chamberlain’s Chocolate Factory, where group members enjoyed a delicious hands-on candy-making experience. Dinner was at Dreamland Bar-B-Q, a local smoked-meat emporium. And after dinner, the group was treated to a big-band jazz concert at the Georgia Ensemble Theatre.
Chattahoochee Nature Center
The oldest and largest private nonprofit natural science center in the Southeast, the Chattahoochee Nature Center exists to connect visitors to the beauty of north Georgia’s natural environment. The center features numerous gardens and a 3,000-square-foot boardwalk. Along the boardwalk, guests see exhibits with some 30 species of native wildlife. There’s also a wildlife rehabilitation center, a treetop canopy walk and an aviary where guests can see bald eagles and other animals. There are also some indoor exhibits and a gift shop.
There are many antebellum homes throughout Georgia, but few have a claim to fame as distinctive as Bulloch Hall’s. In 1853, Mittie Bulloch, daughter of the home’s owner, married Theodore Roosevelt Sr. in the living room. The couple’s son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., would become president of the United States. During tours of the home, visitors hear stories of the Bulloch and Roosevelt families and learn about the home’s distinctive architectural touches. Constructed in 1839, it’s considered one of the best examples of temple-style Greek Revival architecture in the South. The home also hosts an annual quilt show with dozens of imaginative quilts created by fiber artists from across the country.
Chamberlain’s Chocolate Factory
Established in 1986, Chamberlain’s Chocolate Factory is the oldest chocolatier in the greater Atlanta area. Now in a new facility, the company offers chocolate tastings and hands-on activities for groups. The FAM participants enjoyed a workshop during which they learned about the history and culinary properties of chocolate. Then, one of the company’s owners led them through making their own chocolate bark — complete with toppings of their choosing — and hand-dipping their own chocolate-covered strawberries.
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
For after-dinner entertainment, the group visited Roswell’s Georgia Ensemble Theatre, a venue that hosts theatrical productions and educational programming year-round. On the night of the tour, the theater presented “Fly Me to the Moon,” a concert performance by local jazz musician Joe Gransden and a 16-piece big-band orchestra. The evening featured a combination of classic American jazz tunes and original compositions by the talented ensemble.
• Oli+Ve Premium Olive Oil and Vinegars
• Raiford Gallery
• Depart for Cartersville
• Booth Western Art Museum
• Tellus Science Museum
• Etowah Indian Mounds
• Dinner at Taverna
The second day of the FAM began with a visit to two shops in charming downtown Roswell: At Oli+Ve Premium Olive Oils and Vinegars, participants had a chance to taste a vast array of flavored oils and balsamic vinegars. Next, they explored the handmade jewelry and Raiford Gallery and got a demonstration from a jewelry artist.
The group then departed for Cartersville, a town about 35 miles to the west. There they toured a pair of world-class museums. The Booth Western Art Museum has a massive collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and other pieces of Western art. Nearby, The Tellus Science Museum presents exhibits that teach visitors about everything from dinosaurs to outer space. Next, the group visited the Etowah Indian Mounds, the site of an ancient Native American civilization, before ending the day with dinner at the Taverna Mediterranean Grill, one of Cartersville’s most popular restaurants.
Roswell’s Canton Street is home to numerous shops, galleries and small businesses. Oli+Ve Premium Olive Oils and Vinegars stocks hundreds of olive oils and flavored vinegars from some of the world’s finest suppliers, and FAM participants sampled products such as basil-infused olive oil and strawberry vinegar. Just down the street, the group visited Raiford Gallery, a contemporary art and jewelry gallery that represents 200 artists. Gallery owner Judie Raiford, who has been making gold and silver jewelry for over 30 years, gave a demonstration of some techniques in her on-site workshop.
Booth Western Art Museum
Founded by Cartersville locals who grew up with a love of Western dramas on TV and radio, the Booth Western Art Museum has come to house the country’s largest collection of contemporary Western American art. This 120,000-square-foot Smithsonian affiliate museum features artwork that tells stories of Native Americans, pioneers, cowboys and other towering figures of the American West. The collection features many pieces of work by renowned Western artists Frederic Remington, Charles Russell and N.C. Wyeth. It also has a presidential gallery, which includes documents signed by every president of the United States.
Tellus Science Museum
The same family that created the Booth Western Art Museum also served as the driving force behind the Tellus Science Museum. Another 120,000-square-foot Smithsonian affiliate museum, Tellus is dedicated to teaching visitors about the natural world through scientific exploration. The museum has casts of several large dinosaur fossils, a display of glowing fluorescent minerals and a high-tech planetarium that can do night-sky shows and other programming for groups. A space gallery at the museum showcases a moon rock and many objects that have flown on manned space missions.
Etowah Indian Mounds
During the ice age, from about A.D. 1000 to 1500, a group of Mississippian Indians established a city where Cartersville now stands. The Etowah Indian Mounds preserves a 54-acre site that was at the center of their civilization. On the site are six earthen mounds as well as a village site, borrow pits and a defensive ditch, making it the most intact Mississippian site in the Southeast. Tourists began visiting the site as early as the Civil War era. Today, visitors, can see a reconstructed wattle and daub house and climb to the top of a 63-foot-high mound for views of the surrounding area.
• Barnsley Resort
• Depart for Cave Spring
• Cave Spring Welcome Center
• Rolater Park
• Progressive Lunch
in Downtown Cave Spring
• Depart for Rome
• Downtown Trolley Tour
• Martha Berry Museum & Oak Hill
• Dinner at Moon River
in Harvest Moon Café
• Rome City Brewing Company
On the third day of the trip, the group departed the hotel in Cartersville first thing in the morning and began making its way toward Rome. Along the way, it made several interesting stops. The first was at Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre property with a beautiful inn, freestanding cottages and numerous historic buildings. The next stop was a small town called Cave Spring, where participants learned about local history, visited the namesake cave and enjoyed a progressive lunch at four downtown dining establishments.
After arriving in Rome, the group was treated to a trolley tour of the scenic downtown area. Then it visited Berry College, where members toured Oak Hill, the home of college founder Martha Berry. After dinner at the Harvest Moon Café downtown, some participants chose to visit the nearby Rome City Brewing Company for a beer tasting.
Inspired by an English country village, Barnsley Resort is a spacious, beautiful property in the mountains of northwest Georgia. Established in 1999, the resort has 11 miles of walking and hiking trails, as well as shooting grounds, horseback riding and canoeing. Groups can dine in three different restaurants at the resort and stay overnight in rooms at the newly constructed inn. Also worth seeing are the ruins of the 1800s Barnsley family manor estate, which are surrounded by a formal English boxwood garden that predates the Civil War.
Cave Spring and Rolater Park
Sixteen miles southwest of Rome, Cave Spring is a town of about 1,200 people. It’s named for a spring inside a cave that is now surrounded by Rolater Park. Groups can hike into the cave to see the source of the spring or fill a bottle with the fresh, cool spring water from a pool just outside the cave. At a visitor center in town, guests learn about preservation efforts underway at the E.S. Brown School. Downtown Cave Spring features 90 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and tour participants enjoyed a progressive lunch with food from four restaurants in the historic district.
Martha Berry Museum and Oak Hill
With 27,000 acres just outside Rome, Berry College has the largest contiguous acreage of any college in the world. The school was founded by Martha Berry, who found her passion for education by teaching local children in rural Georgia after the Civil War. The Martha Berry Museum on campus introduces visitors to Berry’s legacy with a film made by Berry College students in the 1960s. Groups can also tour Oak Hill, the 1880s mansion where Berry lived as an adult. Eighty percent of the furnishings in the home are original, and its stately facade was used in the filming of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
• Depart for Villa Rica
• Pine Mountain Gold Museum
• Lunch at Chat and Choo
• Depart for Roswell
• Return home
The final morning of the trip, participants began the journey to where the tour began outside Atlanta. Along the way, they stopped at Villa Rica, the “City of Riches” that was once the hub of Georgia’s gold rush. There, they visited the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, where they saw a film and artifacts that tell the story of gold mining in the Georgia mountains. The museum also includes a train ride on the mountain and a re-created mine site where visitors can pan for gold.
Following lunch at the Chat and Choo, a Villa Rica institution, the group departed to return to Roswell and the Atlanta airport, where they would leave for home with fond, fresh memories of north Georgia on their minds.