Carrollton is a city in northwest Georgia of around 30,000 people. It lies between the border with Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia’s state capital.
Established in 1829, the city was named after Charles Carroll, the last living signatory to America’s Declaration of Independence.
Small enough to have avoided the troubles of the American Civil War a generation later, Carrollton would become rich off the back of the textiles industry.
Still largely surrounded by rural farming communities, today Carrollton is a well-administered college town within easy reach of attractions in two states.
These are the 15 best things to do in and around Carrollton, Georgia.
1. Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Quilting – the hand sewing of intricately decorated bed covers – is a fundamental part of the culture of the southern United States.
Since it opened in 2012, the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum has displayed a range of new and historic quilts and textiles on both permanent display and as part of a series of temporary exhibitions.
Fittingly housed within a converted cotton warehouse, the exterior is decorated with two ‘metal quilts’ by the nationally-important sculptor Gordon Chandler.
The museum sits just a short stroll from the centre of historic Carrollton at Adamson Square.
2. Carrollton Center for the Arts
This state-of-the-art centre was created to act as a permanent arts hub within Carrollton, and hasn’t failed to achieve this distinction during its relatively short life.
With no expense spared, the Carrollton Center for the Arts was completed to a budget of $5.2 million. Within its walls stands a 300-seat theatre, which hosts performances that range from contemporary dance to comedy dramas.
The centre is also able to boast a 185 square metre exhibition space for hanging art, in addition to a permanent galleria.
Elsewhere in Carrollton, the Maurice K Townsend Center for the Performing Arts is another space dedicated to music and theatre.
3. Little Tallapoosa River
A tributary of the Alabama River, the Little Tallapoosa runs for 156 km from Georgia’s Piedmont mountains and across the state border into Alabama.
Its clear waters wind their way through Carrollton in a series of bends, and are a perfect demonstration of some of Georgia’s most picturesque landscapes.
Largely navigable, there are numerous points at which it’s possible to launch a boat, kayak or canoe. The presence of three types of black bass make the river popular with anglers too.
The lawns of East Carrollton Park enjoy views not only of the river, but also of Lake Carroll, a favourite with holiday home owners.
4. Road to Tara Museum
With the city mentioned in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind, the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro is a great addition to any list of the best things to do in Carrollton.
It combines objects used in the Oscar-winning film of the same name with artifacts from the Civil War. It therefore shows the real events on which Mitchell based her bestselling book, while separating fact from fiction.
Specific displays also focus on the actors Hattie McDaniel (who played Mammy) and Butterfly McQueen (who played Prissy). As African-Americans, they weren’t even able to attend the film’s premier as it was held in a segregated whites-only theatre.
Jonesboro is roughly an hour east of Carrollton.
5. Carrollton Greenbelt
At close to 30 km in length, Carrollton Greenbelt is the largest conservation project city officials have ever attempted. It is also the largest paved loop trail to be found anywhere in the state of Georgia.
Forming a continuous linear park, the greenbelt provides an alternative method to getting about many of the city’s distinct neighbourhoods, parks, and malls, rather than relying on motor vehicle.
But more than that, it is in itself an important habitat for the area’s wildlife species.
As a loop you can join the Carrollton Greenbelt at various locations. The easiest are perhaps the designated trail heads that can be found at East Carrollton Park, Lakeshore Park, and Hobbs Farm Park.
6. Historic Banning Mills
Matching a historic mill location with thrills more usually found at a theme park is this unusual attraction in the city of Newnan 30 minutes southeast of Carrollton.
That’s because at Historic Banning Mills a range of adrenaline-fueled adventures await. These include trekking and horse riding through the surrounding woodland, kayaking on natural streams, and tackling the climbing walls.
The highlight of the mills must be the Screaming Eagle zipline, recognised by Guinness as the world’s longest. However, some visitors might instead enjoy the more relaxing surrounds of the onsite spa.
7. West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail
As any visitor to the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum will already have realised, the textile industry has played a huge part in creating the Carrollton we know and love.
This heritage can be explored in greater detail thanks to the creation of the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail.
Stretching from Dalton to Columbus, its central region includes Carrollton. Here, several mills were built to convert raw cotton fibres into clothing, since the railroad made transport of the finished products across the country all the easier.
The Maryon Hosiery Mill building is one of the points on this trail, while other privately-owned structures include the Mandeville Mill built in 1899.
8. Hills and Dales Estate
Built using a fortune generated through the Callaway family’s textile empire, the Hills and Dales Estate consists of a stunning house and gardens with an Italianate feel.
Completed at the height of the region’s textile industry in 1916, the landscaped gardens that surround the European-style villa were first laid out in the late 1800s by Sarah Ferrell. They are therefore some of the best-preserved nineteenth-century planting schemes in the country.
The villa itself – house is too small a word – covers three floors, which visitors are able to explore for themselves. They are also able to enjoy a 15-minute documentary which details much more of the estate’s astounding history.
The estate lies in LaGrange, roughly 70 km south of Carrollton.
9. Talladega National Forest
Cross the nearby border into Alabama, and you can swap the manicured gardens of the Hills and Dales Estate for the wilds of Talladega National Forest.
Incorporating 1,500 square kilometres of the Appalachian Mountains, the forest also protects a number of wilderness areas.
For instance, Cheaha Wilderness has some of the best areas of unspoilt nature within its bounds. At the same time, Dugger Mountain Wilderness seeks to ensure the continued success of species around Alabama’s second-highest peak.
Head here, and there’s a chance you’ll catch sight of some of the south’s most evocative wildlife species, including black bears, coyotes, and raccoons.
It will take you roughly 45 minutes to reach the forest from Carrollton by road.
10. Historic City Cemetery
Laid out across two hills, the city’s historic cemetery is another spot in which to take in Carrollton’s first two centuries.
In fact, the cemetery’s Park Street area contains the graves of various founders and early settlers of the city. The earliest readable birth dates on the stones are in the 1700s.
As time went on the grave markings became more elaborate, with the angel standing guard over Georgia Price particularly poignant. She was the first freed African-American slave to become a business owner in the city.
Other graves include those that link directly to the Civil War, such as that of the confederate colonel William E Curtis.
11. John Tanner State Park
The pleasant surrounds of John Tanner State Park include two lakes and the largest sand beach of any Georgia state park within its 56 hectares.
Ten kilometres west of Carrollton, the lakes are well-known for their pedal-boats and fishing opportunities. Its lawns are a much-loved outdoor space to enjoy time with friends and family.
Around them are walking and nature trails, as well as a bunk house and campsite for anyone looking to stay overnight.
The park is named after a local businessman who created it as his own private escape between 1954 and 1971.
12. Sewell Mill Textile Exhibit
Delve into Sewell Mill and you’ll also be delving into the history of the all-important textile industry that kept this part of Georgia prosperous for so many years.
The museum inside is filled with extraordinary survivors from this period, including archive photographs and a time clock which checked when workers entered and left the factory each day.
If you clock in for yourself, you’ll then be guided through the information displays to what it took to create the clothing worn throughout the country a hundred years ago.
Bremen lies 20 minutes north of Carrollton.
13. West Georgia Museum
A further 15 minutes east of Bremen lies Tallapoosa. Though smaller than Carrollton and Bremen, Tallapoosa is home to the West Georgia Museum.
Its eclectic mix of exhibits ensures there are displays that will interest all visitors whatever their age. Its entrance is dominated by a replica T-Rex more than nine metres high, which towers over even the other dinosaurs on display here.
Stepping beyond, visitors will find artifacts stretching all the way back to the 1800s, such as a range of vintage vehicles. These include a horse-drawn buggy from before the advent of the internal combustion engine, and a Ford from 1923.
Other attractions here include the reconstruction of various old storefronts.
14. McIntosh Reserve Park
The McIntosh Reserve sits on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. It was named in honour of William McIntosh Jr, who was of mixed native American and Scottish ancestry and became an important Creek Indian leader.
The two-storey log house in which he lived has been recreated within the reserve. However, the role of McIntosh as a leader did not end well. He was the signatory of a treaty selling Creek land to the federal government, which lead to him being sentenced to death by his own tribe.
His grave can be found on the opposite side of the road to his home, approximately 30 km south of Carrollton.
15. Six Flags Over Georgia
Around half the size of McIntosh Reserve Park but still impressive in size is the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park.
Six Flags has 11 rollercoasters, two of which – Goliath and Mind Bender – are highly-rated not just regionally but nationally. In all there are over 30 different individual attractions and amusements here, including a water park called Hurricane Harbor.
Superhero fans should note that many of the rides are based on characters from the Marvel and DC universes, including the Superman: Ultimate Flight ride.
Six Flags Over Georgia is located on the western outskirts of Atlanta, around 45 minutes from Carrollton.