Nothing says summer more than piling the entire family into a car, rolling down the windows, turning up the music and hitting the road.
While everyone can enjoy a day trip to places like historic downtown Charleston, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta or Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C., there are truly unique stops throughout Georgia and South Carolina just waiting to be explored.
Here are 25 out-of-the-ordinary sights that are worth checking out:
Providence Canyon State Park
Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Providence Canyon is a true testament to the power of man’s influence on the land. This natural wonder was formed after massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused by poor farming practices in the 1800s and years of erosion. The result is a canyon with pink, orange, red and purple hues in its soil that resembles the massive Grand Canyon in Arizona. The state park includes more than 1,000 acres with campsites and picnic areas. More camping, cottages and efficiency units are available nearby at Florence Marina State Park next to Walter F. George Lake.
The Big House (The Allman Brothers Band Museum)
On Vineville Avenue in Macon, Ga., stands a home nicknamed “The Big House” because for about three years, from 1970-73, it became the home of members of The Allman Brothers, along with their roadies, friends and families. The home is said to be the focal point of gathering in those early years of The Allman Brothers Band, and it is often described as “the house that Southern rock built.” Within the walls of this home, The Allman Brothers changed the course of popular American music and turned Macon into the recording hot bed of the 1970s. The Big House now serves as a museum to this legendary band.
On top of a small hill about seven miles north of Elberton on Georgia Highway 77 are the Georgia Guidestones: a mysterious six-piece granite monument that is nearly 20 feet tall and weighs 119 tons. On each side of the stones, engraved in four ancient languages, are the words: “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.” And written in several different languages, including English, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Classical Hebrew, Swahili, Hindi and Spanish, are cryptic instructions for rebuilding society post Doomsday. The 10 instructions include messages such as “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature,” and “Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity,” and “Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.” The guidestones, also referred to as the American Stonehenge, are considered one of the country’s most mysterious monuments.
The Krog Street Tunnel
There is a 400-foot-long tunnel that serves as an underpass connecting the Atlanta neighborhoods of Cabbagetown and Inman Park. It has been a part of Atlanta’s history for more than 100 years and locals adore this tunnel because not only is it an underground passage and pedestrian walkway, but it is considered a functional work of art. The Krog Street Tunnel is literally covered with graffiti that offers a canvas and message board for the entire community. From colorful tags to giant murals, the tunnel barely has an inch of unpainted space and is constantly changing.
Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden
The Rev. Howard Finster was one of this country’s most widely known and prolific self-taught folk artists producing almost 47,000 pieces of art before his death in 2001. During his lifetime, Finster constructed an incredible display of unique objects at what he called the “Plant Farm Museum,” which is now known as Paradise Garden in Summerville, Ga.
“I built the park because I was commissioned by God,” Finster once explained. “I started the Garden in 1970 about 100 feet into the backyard, built a cement walk and put up a haul shed and started to display the inventions of mankind. My park is a memorial to inventors. The inventors don’t get recognition. They don’t have an Inventor’s Day. To represent them, I’m trying to collect at least one of every invention in the world.”
For those ready to immediately hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, Paradise Garden will host “Finster Fest,” an annual festival honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Finster on May 26-27.
Tank Town USA
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive an enormous tank and crush a car like a pancake? Does the idea of operating a massive 40,000-pound construction excavator sound appealing? If so, Tank Town USA in Morganton, Ga., provides visitors the opportunity to flatten a car with 17 tons of military steel during a heart-pumping, 25-minute session behind the controls of a tank. While these adventures come at a fairly steep price tag (for example, it’s $599 for a 25-minute turn at crushing a car with a tank), it’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Toccoa River Swinging Bridge
Located just a short quarter-mile hike from the end of Fire Service Road 816, just east of the town of Blue Ridge, Ga., the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge in Suches is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. Built by the National Forest Service in 1977, not only does this bridge swing, but it also bounces and jostles its visitors with each and every step. It’s a fun and wild adventure for those who aren’t afraid to be bounced around above the river. While it isn’t the highest swinging bridge in the Southeast, the length of the bridge causes it to constantly sway. Visitors also are allowed to camp along the river under the bridge, but prime spots are often quickly taken.
The Rock Garden
Located just behind the Calhoun Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Rome Road in Calhoun, Ga., The Rock Garden is known as a “peaceful, healing place to meet with God” which is surrounded by hand-built folk art stone castles next to a quiet, slow-moving stream. The Rock Garden contains more than 50 miniature structures crafted from tiny stones, pebbles, shells, odd pieces of broken glass, rocks and ceramic tile. The buildings vary from tiny churches and houses to castles and cathedrals. The garden even contains a structure modeled after the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris that includes stained-glass windows and incredibly tiny porcelain figures inside the church.
Habitat For Humanity’s Global Village & Discovery Center
Located in Americus, Ga., this 6-acre village allows visitors to see life-size Habitat for Humanity houses with authentic furnishings from countries all around the world. The Global Village & Discovery Center also shows poor housing conditions and explains how such living environments are a global epidemic. Guests learn about Habitat’s mission to build safe and decent housing in partnership with families all around the world. The Global Village is also a destination on the historic SAM Shortline Excursion Train route, which includes President Jimmy Carter’s home and museum in Plains, Ga., and his boyhood farm in Archery.
The Lunch Box Museum
Everyone remembers his or her first lunch box. Whether you were a child of the 1970s and had a “Six Million Dollar Man” lunch box or you grew up when “The Dukes of Hazzard” was all the rage in the 1980s, your inner child will go crazy stepping inside The Lunch Box Museum in Columbus, Ga., which features more than 2,000 lunch boxes. Owner Allen Woodall Jr. has everything from metal to plastic lunch boxes featuring TV series such as “Flipper,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and even a Hopalong Cassidy lunch box dating back to 1951. It’s quite a collection.
St. Marys, Ga.
Cumberland Island is the largest and southernmost island in Georgia consisting of beautiful undeveloped beaches, forests and marshes. Known as one of the few islands where feral horses roam, Cumberland Island also offers 9,800 acres of wilderness, 18 miles of beaches and 50 miles of trails thriving with deer, squirrels, raccoons, armadillos, boars and alligators. It’s a magical island that is protected by Congress and is accessible only by boat, so planning is definitely required for this trip. A concession-operated passenger ferry regularly departs from downtown St. Marys, but there are no amenities on the island beyond the restrooms and water fountains, so be prepared.
Doll’s Head Trail at Constitution Lakes
Located in southeast Atlanta near Constitution Lakes Park is something known as “Doll’s Head Trail.” This bizarre trail is a mix of an art exhibit, wildlife refuge and a hiking trail all rolled into one. When the South River floods, trash — including doll heads — have been found along the trail and visitors are encouraged to create artwork from these objects. So, scattered through the trail are bottles, old televisions, sheet metal, broken tiles, bricks and doll heads that were once trash, but have been transformed into sculptures. Let’s just say, it’s not your average walk through the woods.
Old Car City USA
While Old Car City USA in White, Ga., started out as a small general store in 1931, it has evolved into one of the world’s largest known classic car junkyards. This family-owned and operated attraction mixes folk art, heavy vegetation and more than 4,000 classic cars from the early 20th century all on its 34-acre lot. Over the past eight decades, thousands of photographers, videographers and media companies have visited Old Car City to see these classic cars. The attraction has been featured in <>The New York Times<>, as well as television programs such as CBS Sunday Morning, the BBC and Georgia Public Television.
The David J. Sencer CDC Museum
Ever want to learn about diseases around the world? Originally called the Global Health Odyssey Museum, the CDC Museum was established in 1996 to coincide with the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 50th anniversary. The CDC Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate that uses award-winning exhibits and innovative programing to educate visitors about the value of public health. Currently, the museum has a special exhibit called “Ebola: People + Public Health + Political Will” which looks at the Ebola Fever Virus epidemic in West Africa, the United States and around the world.
Babyland General Hospital: Home of Cabbage Patch Kids
Anyone who was a child in the 1980s knows all about Cabbage Patch Kids. After all, fights used to break out in toy stores across this country among parents vying to buy their kids these special little babies supposedly “born in the secret cabbage patch.” Well, did you know that there is a museum, or rather a “Babyland General Hospital” in Cleveland, Ga., where “Mother Cabbage” is on display beneath the branches of the “Magic Crystal Tree?” In fact, Babyland General is the only place in the world where visitors can witness the “birth of a hand-sculpted Cabbage Patch Kid.” And, of course, there are thousands of Cabbage Patch dolls to choose from if visitors want to purchase one to take home.
St. Marys Submarine Museum
St. Marys, Ga.
Dedicated to preserving the distinguished history of the Submarine Force, the St. Marys Submarine Museum lets guests experience what life would be like aboard a submarine. With a functioning periscope, vintage submarine equipment and World War II relics, this 5,000-square-foot museum has more than 20,000 artifacts on display including torpedo models, deep-sea diving suits, submarine uniforms and scaled replicas of submarines.
Expedition: Bigfoot (The Sasquatch Museum)
Cherry Log, Ga.
Are you a believer in Bigfoot? If so, Cherry Log, Ga., has the perfect place for you. Known as one of north Georgia’s biggest family attractions, The Sasquatch Museum off Highway 515 is a 4,000-square-foot complex that is believed to contain the country’s largest permanent display of “Bigfoot” artifacts. The museum offers numerous life-size exhibits, photos, sketches, maps of sightings around the world and what is believed to be the only Bigfoot Research and Tech Vehicle on display. The complex also has a “Sasquatch Theater” and a “Bigfoot Reference Library.”
Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks
10th Street and Piedmont Avenue in Midtown Atlanta
Right in the heart of Atlanta’s LGBT community is a colorful square of rainbow crosswalks that were permanently installed earlier this year next to Midtown’s bustling shops and restaurants. In the past, temporary rainbow crosswalks appeared in 2015 during Atlanta’s pride festivities, but the community decided they wanted to keep them. So, a few years ago, more than 20,000 people signed a petition to make them a permanent fixture. The colorful memorial is meant as a symbol of unity and acceptance.
The Waffle House Museum
Avondale Estates, Ga.
Just northeast of Atlanta, fans of America’s favorite 24-hour restaurant can visit The Waffle House Museum, which is located on the site of the very first Waffle House in Avondale Estates, Ga. The restaurant has been restored to feel as if visitors are stepping back into the 1950s. In addition to the restaurant, the museum features Waffle House memorabilia from the past 60 years. It all began back in 1955, when two neighbors, Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner, decided Avondale Estates needed a 24-hour restaurant. Today, the chain has more than 1,700 restaurants in 25 states.
With millions of people around the world obsessed with AMC’s television show, “The Walking Dead,” the small town of Senoia, Ga., is attracting a lot of new and unusual visitors. Senoia is the setting for the towns of Alexandria and Woodbury featured in the show. Each day, thousands of the show’s fans, who are nicknamed “Walker Stalkers,” travel to Senoia to catch a glimpse of where their favorite characters were bitten and eventually became zombies, otherwise known as “walkers.”
Sheldon Church Ruins
U.S. 21 at Yemassee in Beaufort County, S.C.
Believed to be the one of the first Greek-Revival structures built in the United States, Prince William’s Parish Church was constructed between 1745 and 1753. Surrounded by moss-draped live oaks, only 3 1/2-foot-thick colonnaded walls and four columns remain from the original structure. According to the S.C. Department of Archives and History, when British Gen. Augustine Prevost invaded the Lowcountry of South Carolina in 1779, the church was burned. However, the church was rebuilt in 1826, but once again burned during the Civil War by Gen. William T. Sherman’s men in 1865. Today, only the church’s ruins remain in a lovely, tranquil setting.
Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden
Ever since 1981, one man in the small town of Bishopville, S.C., named Pearl Fryar has dedicated his life to creating a yard full of whimsical topiaries. It all began when Fryar decided to be the first African-American in the small town of 3,600 people to win the “Yard of the Month Award” from the local gardener’s club after he heard several of his neighbors claim that African-Americans “don’t keep up their yards.” Needless to say, Fryar proved everyone wrong and transformed his three-acre property into an extraordinary wonderland full of more than 300 topiaries. Along with his beautiful garden, Fryar is also known for his kindness, tremendous work ethic, dedication and deep belief in the power of positive thinking.
God’s Acre Healing Springs
For decades, residents from all over the state of South Carolina have driven to the small town of Blackville in Barnwell County to fill their plastic jugs full of water from God’s Acre Healing Springs. According to the legend, local Indians led wounded British soldiers, who were left to die during the Revolutionary War, to drink from the springs and they were miraculously healed. In 1944, property owner L.P. “Lute” Boylston deeded the springs to “Almighty God” to be used by the sick and afflicted, as well as all people praying for the springs’ healing powers.
South of the Border
Exit 1A on S.C.’s stretch of Interstate 95
If you’ve never driven along Interstate 95 in South Carolina, you haven’t gotten the chance to meet Pedro. He’s the mustachioed, 97-foot-tall figure with his giant sombrero, who greets weary travelers looking for a pit stop, some grub and plenty of tacky souvenirs at South of the Border. While Pedro is definitely not the most politically correct symbol in South Carolina, he’s been loved by many throughout the Palmetto State for more than 50 years.
The Barnwell Sundial
Given to the city of Barnwell by a state senator named Capt. Joseph D. Allen, this sundial was placed on Main Street outside the county courthouse in 1858. It is believed to be the only free-standing, vertical sundial in the country. The sundial has kept almost perfect standard time (within two minutes) since 1858, although standard time was not officially set up until 1884. It is truly a remarkable “town clock” that was way ahead of its time.