Taking its present name in 1854, Cartersville is a relatively small city. It is located on the north-western edge of the metropolitan Atlanta region, 70 km from the state capital’s downtown area.
The county seat of Bartow County, Cartersville has a population of around 20,000. It became the seat after the city of Cassville was deliberately destroyed during the American Civil War. However, it wouldn’t become a city itself until 1872.
The last 150 years have seen the city slowly evolve into a well-to-do Atlanta suburb that manages to combine several centuries of history with modern museum spaces and great outdoor sites.
These are the 15 best things to do in and around Cartersville, Georgia.
1. Bartow History Museum
Bartow History Museum occupies a grand brown brick building documenting the history of Bartow County.
Spanning the full breadth of the region’s past, its permanent collection of archive materials, photographs and artifacts begin when the area was part of Cherokee territory.
Carefully detailing major periods from the removal of the Cherokee to the American Civil War, 200 years of history are helpfully explained within the historic surrounds of an old courthouse.
Its rooms are light and its displays modern, including a variety of reconstructions and mock-ups which show what life in the county was like in previous eras.
2. Lake Allatoona
Look at a map of Cartersville, and you won’t fail to notice the twisting shoreline of Lake Allatoona, also known as Allatoona Creek.
Formed from the damming of the Etowah River, the lake’s primary purpose is as a source of drinking water for the metropolitan Atlanta region.
However, both its shoreline and surface waters have also become a favorite escape just a few minutes from the downtown area.
Eight marinas and two yacht clubs are in operation for anyone who fancies taking to the water on something larger than a canoe or kayak. Public boat ramps make access really easy for these vessels too. Needless to say, camping and hiking are also popular.
3. Historic Downtown Shopping District
Cartersville’s downtown district is one of the city’s most charming areas. Commercial premises dating back decades and even centuries today act as a treasure trove for anyone in search of that special something.
Its independent and often family-run boutiques specialize in everything from fine art to aromatherapy oils, with antiques and collectibles hunters particularly well catered for.
While known as a shopping destination, the downtown district is also home to several important historic structures.
One of these is the Grand Theater, now beautifully restored to its former 1920s glory and used as the community’s premier performance space.
4. Booth Western Art Museum
The ‘western’ in the Booth’s name refers to the Western United States, making it the only museum in the country’s southeast that is dedicated to this other part of the North American continent.
At 11,000 square metres in size, the Booth Western Art Museum has the largest permanent collection of art from the Western United States in the country, and is also the second-largest museum anywhere in Georgia.
Its collection includes native American works of art and craft, Civil War iconography, vintage movie posters, and a vast selection of works by western artists including Charles Marion Russell and Howard Terpning.
5. Pine Mountain
Visible from much of Cartersville, the forested slopes of Pine Mountain rise to a height of 476 metres above sea level.
The third tallest mountain in Bartow County, the tree cover begins to diminish towards its summit, which is made up of several outcrops of rock and provides views across to Lake Allatoona as well as Atlanta.
Two main trails lead towards the summit, which despite multiple switchbacks can still be reached in not much more than 1.5 kilometres of walking.
Starting on either side of the mountain, they are known as the East and West Loops, and form part of the greater Pine Mountain Recreation Area trail system.
6. Terminus Wake Park
The two large pools and total of four floating zones at Terminus Wake Park welcome children and adults, experts and total beginners.
For anyone who doesn’t know what wake boarding is, it is what snowboarding is to skiing, with the boarder strapped in to a single large board before being towed by a motorboat or line.
The largest cable wake part in the United States, Terminus boasts a learn-to-ride cable for those fearful of not knowing what to do, and an inflatable obstacle course over the water called the Aqua Park for anyone who prefers slipping and sliding to wake boarding.
The center is less than 10 km southeast of Cartersville, in Emerson.
7. Tellus Science Museum
A similar distance north of Cartersville is Tellus Science Museum. More than three times the size of the Booth Western Art Museum at more than 36,000 square metres in area, this museum focuses on natural history.
As a result, it contains a large fossil gallery, and visitors are met by the brontosaurus skeleton that dominates the main lobby.
The Vault gallery displays local discoveries of minerals and objects from our distant past, complementing the Weinman Mineral Gallery.
In addition, there is also the Millar Science in Motion Gallery of transport, and the Bentley Planetarium.
8. Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site sits a short distance south of downtown Cartersville on the banks of the Etowah River.
It consists of a 22-hectare archaeological site with remains from three periods of native American settlement dated to between 1000 and 1500 AD.
Widely thought to be the most intact settlement from the native American Mississippi culture in the region, the site consists of three main platform mounds and a further three smaller ones.
The tallest rises to almost 20 metres, and like each of the others, was once topped with either sacred or other important buildings. The artifacts discovered during excavations can be enjoyed in the onsite museum.
9. Leake Mounds Interpretative Trail
Leake Mounds is another even earlier native American site built by the Swift Creek Culture and dating to what is known as the Middle Woodland period. This goes back to the prehistoric era between 300 BC and 600 AD.
The interpretative trail of 18 markers covers around three kilometres. It details the archaeological finds discovered during digs, and what they mean for our understanding of this period of history.
The trail takes in the remains of three mounds, as well as a large semi-circular ditch or moat, and a midden – a prehistoric landfill site.
10. Rose Lawn Museum
The Rose Lawn Museum is housed within an impressive Victorian mansion. Its exterior is boldly decorated in the authentic colors of cream, grey, and rust red.
Inside, this home has been converted into a museum detailing the life of Samuel Porter Jones. Jones lived at Rose Lawn with his wife for around 30 years. He is known best for being a Christian Revivalist, today probably better known as an evangelical Christian.
Other exhibits cover the life of another famed Cartersville resident, Rebecca Latimer Felton. A suffragette, she became the first woman to serve in the US Senate, albeit for only a single day.
11. Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area
Otherwise known as Cooper’s Iron Works, this parkland has made it onto the Register of National Historic Places as the only surviving remains of a town by the name of Etowah.
It was destroyed in 1864 by the Unionist General Sherman as he and his army forced his way towards Atlanta on his march to the sea.
Trails lead around the iron works, while the parkland also includes picnic pavilions and a small children’s playground.
Offering views of the dam that hold back the waters of Lake Allatoona, it is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. They also operate the nearby Allatoona Lake Visitor Center and Museum.
12. Cooper’s Friendship Monument
The same Cooper – Mark Anthony Cooper – who owned the iron works above was a wealthy southern industrialist who fell on hard times.
He was supported during this time by 38 of his friends and colleagues, which led him to install the Friendship Monument in downtown Cartersville.
Thought to be the only such monument in the world, it was commissioned in 1857 and today stands in pride of place in Friendship Plaza.
Nearby, Cartersville is also able to boast the world’s very first outdoor Coca-Cola sign. Formulated in Atlanta, the sign covers the side wall of Young Brothers Pharmacy.
Despite the passing of more than one hundred years, it is still recognizable from cans and bottles of the world’s favorite branded drink.
13. Pettit Creek Farm
This 30-hectare farm has been in the Allen Family since 1945. Today it offers an insight into a traditional southern farm by offering walking tours, hayrides, and pony rides.
But it also offers more unusual attractions for the southeastern United States, since Pettit Creek is home to kangaroos, zebra, and lemurs in addition to cows, chickens, and goats.
Proud to be the location of the largest camel herd in Georgia, although we’re not sure how much competition there is for this title, it also has two separate zip line courses to help get the blood pumping.
14. Red Top Mountain State Park
Lying on the opposite side of Lake Allatoona to Cartersville is Red Top Mountain State Park, one of Georgia’s most popular state parks.
It takes its name from the high iron ore content of the soil on the mountain, which can be found in the north-westernmost corner of today’s park. In the vicinity you’ll also find evidence of mining operations that once sort out the iron.
On the lakefront, there is a swimming beach, while angling can be enjoyed from both the shore and from the center of the lake by boat.
The six-kilometre Iron Hill mountain biking trail takes in lake views, while a total of 20 km of hiking trails are designated easy to moderate and stretch from just 1-9 km.
15. Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center
This museum to the area’s African-American history is suitably housed in the former Noble Hill Rosenwald School.
It was originally constructed in 1923, when racial segregation remained an everyday part of life in the southern United States. It was the first school intended to educate black children in the northwest of Georgia.
The attractive whitewashed clapboard structure is now a space emphasizing the life of Georgia’s African-Americans from the early twentieth century to the present day.
Its interior includes a replica of what the school would have looked like when it was functioning, beside displaying household items and other historic objects.