Located within middle Georgia striking distance of the state border with Alabama, Americus, Georgia is the seat of Sumter County.
While having a population of less than 20,000 residents, the city is known for its rich history and fine antebellum and Victorian architecture.
Called the ‘metropolis of Southwest Georgia’, this small city boasts a series of firsts, from the first electric street car system in the state to being the location of Charles Lindbergh’s first solo flight.
Awash with curiosities, these are the 15 best things to do in and around Americus, Georgia.
1. Americus Historic District
The historic important of Americus was officially recognized on a countrywide status in 1976 when the streets of central Americus became listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Americus Historic District.
A haven for architectural styles as diverse as Classic Revival and Romanesque, a stroll around its pleasant streets will open up a whole range of possibilities.
Built in 1892, the Windsor Hotel is one of the most dramatic structures, built in a Queen Anne style complete with corner turret. Its long history has seen both Vice-President Thomas Marshall and Franklin D Roosevelt (as New York Governor) walk its hallowed halls.
Elsewhere, Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr was temporarily imprisoned in the county jail here in 1961 during the Civil Rights struggle.
2. SAM Shortline Excursion Train
An excellent way of getting out of Americus without having to make use of the road network is to hop aboard the vintage cars of the SAM Shortline Excursion Train.
Based in Cordele, roughly 30 miles east, this historic train set makes regular journeys to Americus, and on towards other interesting points of note.
Its vintage passenger carriages date from the late 1940s, when the railroad remained the primary means of traveling between towns, and makes for a unique way to explore this part of Georgia.
Stops served by the SAM Shortline Excursion Train include Plains, the home city of former President Jimmy Carter, and Leslie, known for its Rural Telephone Museum. There’s more on both later.
3. Lindbergh Memorial
It may not be much more than a well-tended field today, but fans of aviation will still want to pay homage to the achievements of Charles Lindbergh at the site in Americus where he made his first solo flight in 1923.
Standing at Souther Field, one of the earliest airfields in the US and now Jimmy Carter Regional Airport, the fine statue reminds visitors just how daring Lindbergh was.
Before even taking to an aircraft cockpit, Lindbergh parachuted and wing-walked. He of course went on to complete the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. And he did this just four years after learning to fly right here in Americus.
4. Rylander Theater
Dating back to another period of the history of Americus is the Rylander Theater. Relatively plain in a neoclassical way to its exterior, its interior has been restored to its former art deco glory.
When it first opened, the Rylander was a vaudeville theater, which encompasses performances of song, dance and comedy.
Step inside for yourself and you’ll soon realize why this performance space has survived for one hundred years. Its thick red velvet curtains decorated with gold brocade are really only just the start.
Moving on from its vaudeville days, today ticket holders can enjoy performances of its rare original 1928 Moller Theater Pipe Organ, drama, and musicals.
5. Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
This site in nearby Plains was created to preserve and protect a number of buildings connected to the life and politics of President Jimmy Carter.
Among its buildings are the president’s home, the school he attended as a child, and the railroad depot that acted as his campaign headquarters during his successful 1976 run for the presidency.
Moving back to Plains after he left the White House in 1981, Carter began to work on fighting poverty. It earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. The medal can be seen on display at Plains High School, which is now a museum and visitor center.
Plains is 10 miles west of Americus.
6. Koinonia Farm
A similar distance south of downtown Americus you’ll find Koinonia Farm. Using an ancient Greek term meaning ‘fellowship,’ the farm was created as a multiracial settlement in 1942 long before the end of segregation in the southern states.
Facing boycotts and threats of violence during the era of the Civil Rights Movement from white supremacists, its stance received national attention and helped the farm to remain a viable enterprise right to the present day.
An inspiration for the Habitat for Humanity charity and the off-Broadway musical The Cotton Patch Bible, a visit to the farm is a humbling experience filled with the scent of baked goods.
7. Wolf Creek Plantation
An alternative type for farming takes place at Wolf Creek Plantation, one of Georgia’s growing number of vineyards.
Visitors are welcome to examine the all-important vines, which are being expanded to cover twenty acres once home to the holes and bunkers of a golf course.
The onsite fermentation tanks can also be seen, as they turn the juice of ten different grape varieties into finished bottles of wine.
Anyone interested in the finished product is welcome to sample the latest vintages in the tasting room, which is also found on the plantation five miles west of Americus.
8. Rural Telephone Museum
This quirky attraction in nearby Leslie is thought to be one of the largest telephone museums in the world.
Largely the work of just one man, the unstoppable Tommy C Smith, it was founded in 1995 and has attracted something of a cult following since.
Attractively set within a cotton mill dating from the turn of the twentieth century, there are estimated to be 2,000 items on display relating to the telephone industry.
They date right back to the earliest days of the science in the 1880s, and cover the entire history of a technology that can truly be said to have changed the world.
Leslie is approximately 12 miles southeast of Americus.
9. Georgia Veterans State Park
Georgia Veterans State Park lies on the eastern shoreline of Lake Blackshear, a long thin reservoir about 30 minutes from Americus. It separates the city from Cordele.
There are not one but two reasons to visit the state park. The first is to enjoy and experience an unspoiled part of Georgia woodland, home to all manner of species.
Allied to this are the charming waters of Lake Blackshear, which at more than 8,000 acres occupy an area almost eight times the size of the park itself.
But an added attraction is the museum featuring large scale military equipment and artifacts from the American Revolutionary War onwards.
10. Andersonville National Historic Site
This attraction 13 miles north of Americus might be better named Camp Sumter. Sumter was used as a prisoner of war camp for captured Union troops for more than a year at the end of the American Civil War.
Filled to four times its capacity, nearly 13,000 of the 45,000 soldiers held here died, leading to the camp commander being executed for war crimes at the end of hostilities.
Liberated in 1845, those who died within its confines are buried in long lines in the National Cemetery. The story of these men and the camp is told in the museum.
The museum also tells the story of all American prisoners of war, including the likes of Senator John McCain, who was tortured by North Vietnamese forces during 5.5 years of imprisonment.
11. Thirteenth Colony Distillery
Georgia’s very first craft distillery, Thirteenth Colony Distillery grew out of a passing conversation between four Americus friends.
Using water that comes from Georgia’s largest and deepest natural aquifer after being filtered over years through limestone and dolomite, the purity of its starting material is guaranteed.
On top of this, each of the spirits produced here are made in small batches for that handcrafted quality.
In addition to various forms of whiskey – bourbon, rye, and corn whiskey – small quantities of vodka and gin are also distilled here.
12. Billy Carter Service Station & Museum
Georgia has its fair share of out-there attractions, and the Billy Carter Service Station & Museum is certainly one of them since it opened in 2008.
The brother of Jimmy Carter, Billy had a collection of mementos from his brother’s presidency like almost no other.
Its display cases, shelves, and specially-prepared drawer displays are filled with documents related to the rather turbulent life of this member of the Carter family.
Like the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, the service station is located in Plains.
13. Windsor Hotel Tours
As well as continuing to offer guest accommodation in its 53 rooms, the Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus also offers behind the scenes tours of its historic structure.
Heading to parts of the hotel not normally seen by the general public, guides amuse tour members with a plethora of tales from the many decades the hotel has had its doors open.
Tours allow those not lucky enough to be staying within its individually decorated rooms a chance to admire the interiors, which excel in their grandeur.
Chandeliers hang from the ceilings of the lobby just as they did when they were first fitted in the 1890s, while some other items date to before the Civil War.
Covering seven acres, Pasaquan is another of Georgia’s unique attractions. It is located roughly 30 miles northwest of Americus outside the town of Buena Vista.
The brainchild of folk artist Eddie Owens Martin (who liked to go by the name Saint EOM) the site contains six major structures that were redesigned as examples of Martin’s unique artistic style.
These include a farmhouse originally dated from 1885 and a total of four acres of masonry all painted in bright colors and designs that took their influence from right around the world.
15. Providence Canyon State Park
Sometimes known as the Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon State Park makes for a great alternative to the real thing.
Hailed a wonder of the natural world, and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, the park also contains more unexpected attractions than the endless canyon vistas. These include an abandoned homestead complete with slowly rusting 1950s vehicles.
Another point to take in is Providence Methodist Church, while the floor of the canyon, which can be up to 150 feet beneath the surrounding cliffs, provides a spectacular place to begin a hike of any length.
The park entrance is situated 45 miles west of Americus.