The city of LaGrange is located in Troup County, roughly one hundred kilometres southwest of Atlanta, and just a short distance from the state border with Alabama.
The city is named after a country estate outside of Paris, France. It was incorporated in 1828, making it one of the region’s earliest European-American settlements.
LaGrange quickly became wealthy off the back of cotton production, and suffered less damage than elsewhere during the American Civil War, with various historic sites to explore as a result.
Thanks to the donations of the Callaway family, the city has a number of attractions more normally associated with cities of much larger size.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around LaGrange, Georgia.
1. Legacy Museum on Main
The Legacy Museum right at the heart of downtown LaGrange is a museum space based around the archives of Troup County.
Its rotating gallery of temporary exhibitions includes displays from its own extensive collection of paperwork as well as visiting exhibitions from national museums.
These exhibitions span the full spectrum of LaGrange’s past, beginning with the settlement of the area by European-Americans after the removal of the Creek Indians, and extending as far as the modern developments of the streets that lie around it.
The museum also contains a bale of Troup County cotton from the 1870s, recognised as the oldest anywhere in the United States.
2. LaGrange Art Museum
LaGrange Art Museum is located within a late Victorian jailhouse which demonstrates all the unnecessary architectural detail of the period.
Its grounds contain a sculpture garden, while inside there are four galleries. These hold a small but important collection of around 500 contemporary American artworks.
Internationally-important artists such as Andy Warhol share the wall space with Georgia artists including Lamar Dodd and Mildred Thompson.
The museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, making it an unmissable stopping point for anyone interest in the contemporary art scene.
3. West Point Lake
We turn from artistic beauty to its natural cousin, in this case West Point Lake, located less than 13 km west of LaGrange.
Actually a man-made reservoir created by the damming of the Chattahoochee River, the lake has almost 1,000 km of attractive shoreline to choose between.
A wildlife management area, and two regions of wetland, Dixie Creek and Glover’s Creek, provide important habitats for a variety of species. These include the endangered Bald Eagle.
The lake is a popular spot for anglers to drop a line, with fish such as the bluestripe shiner common. But be warned, alligators have been spotted doing a little fishing here too.
4. Biblical History Center
Sometimes still referred to by its former name, the Explorations in Antiquity Center, the Biblical History Center aims to bring alive the period around the birth of Christ.
It does this through archaeological finds and historical reconstructions. The centre’s time tunnel takes visitors back to the period when the worship of pagan gods still took place in the area of modern-day Israel for instance.
Visitors will discover how everyday people lived their lives roughly 2,000 years ago, and as a result how Christ was likely to have lived his own.
Exhibits include the goat hair tents traditionally used by shepherds in the region, the grape presses used to create wine, and recreations of some of the common foods of the period.
5. Bellevue Mansion
This antebellum (pre-Civil War) home is one of the best examples of the Greek Revival style of architecture in Georgia. It is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.
Impressive Ionic columns rise two storeys in front of the exterior verandas. The interior is rich in grand wood carvings, plaster mouldings on the ceilings, and marble fireplaces shipped from Italy.
Its rooms are furnished in the style of its 1850s heyday, which include a half-tester canopied bed in the upstairs bedroom.
A number of family mementos decorating the period pieces of hardwood furniture create an authentic period atmosphere.
6. Piedmont Mountains
Translating from the French as ‘foothills’, this description does the Piedmont Mountains a disservice.
This range of mountains sweeps from Alabama across to the southern reaches of New York State. The range is typified by mountains dotted around LaGrange including Sweat, Alcovy, and Stone Mountain, which is approximately 1.5 hours from LaGrange.
An isolated monadnock of quartz, Stone Mountain has an unusual globular appearance, and comes close to being the highest point in the greater Atlanta region.
However, the mountain is probably best known as the location of the world’s largest bas-relief carving, which portrays (somewhat controversially) three Confederate generals at what was once a memorial to southern troops.
7. Hills and Dales Estate
One of the most impressive structures in LaGrange, this estate was the home of the Callaway family, who made their money from the region’s textile industry.
Comparable in look to the palace of a small European noble family, the house is surrounded by perfectly-manicured gardens first laid out by Sarah Ferrell in the late 1800s. They are some of the best preserved in the United States.
Stepping across the threshold, visitors are able to explore all three floors of the Italianate villa finished in 1916. Tours include a 15-minute film describing some of the history of the estate and its owners.
8. Lamar Dodd Art Center
LaGrange’s second art gallery, this centre of art is named after local artist Lamar Dodd. Located on the campus of LaGrange College, the centre boasts a constantly changing display of artworks across its 3,000 square metre three-storey building.
A stylish space with a sweeping staircase and rooms bathed in natural light from the large number of double-height windows, the centre hosts a variety of artistic forms.
Sculptures are cleverly placed to offer the maximum impact, while wall-based art ranges from pencil drawings and paper cut outs to colour photography.
9. Callaway Memorial Tower
It’s difficult to escape the name of Callaway in LaGrange, because the family has done so much for the city they called their home.
Based on the design of the famous campanile that rises above the delights of St Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, this tower was built in 1929.
It commemorates the founder of the dynasty, Fuller E Callaway, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens that make it a fitting place to visit at pretty much any time of year.
Uninterrupted views of the tower from all sides also makes it a popular subject for both amateur and professional photographers.
10. LaGrange College
No ordinary school, LaGrange College not only has the Lamar Dodd Art Center but also a wider range of attractions worth exploring in its 50-hectare campus grounds.
Founded just three years after the city itself, it is the oldest private college in Georgia (though welcoming of visitors) and nationally recognised for the quality of its graduates.
Smith Hall is one of the campus’ oldest structures, while the chapel incorporates stones from the ancient Greek temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, and from Saint George’s Chapel in Britain’s Windsor Castle.
The chapel has some fine examples of modern stained-glass windows as well.
11. Former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant
Few drinks companies can have a bottling plant as beautiful or as architecturally important as this one on Broad Street.
Created in Atlanta in 1886 by John Pemberton, the world’s favourite commercially-produced drink was already expanding its reach by the early 1900s.
In the 1930s it was so big in LaGrange that a local bottling plant was needed, and in 1940 a ‘streamline moderne’ art deco building with curving windows and brickwork was created.
The Coca-Cola logo can still be seen chiselled above the main entrance out of pale stone, below a carved contour bottle inside a scallop shell.
12. Cecil B Day Butterfly Center
This butterfly centre is made up of a large greenhouse located within Callaway Gardens, in the town of Pine Mountain, roughly 30 km southeast of LaGrange.
The largest glass tropical conservancy in North America, the centre has over one thousand free-flying butterflies fluttering between the verdant leaves of its plants.
Made up of more than 50 species of this beautiful insect, the collection also contains a screening room with the award-winning documentary Wings of Wonder on a loop.
Elsewhere in the gardens, visitors are able to tackle a 16 km bicycle trail, or settle on the white sands of Robin Lake Beach, the largest artificial beach in the world.
13. Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center
Back in the town of Pine Mountain, those taking a day trip to the Cecil B Day Butterfly Center should also consider reserving time for the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center.
Named after one of the co-founders of these gardens, the centre lies on the banks of Mountain Creek Lake and is surrounded by mature tree cover.
There’s an information point which describes the creation of the gardens and highlights some of its most important parts.
These include a cinema space showing a film detailing the purpose of the gardens, a wildlife-friendly green space, and a small amphitheatre that hosts regular bird of prey shows.
14. Stonewall Confederate Cemetery
In many ways the American Civil War has left scars that are yet to fully heal. These scars are particularly difficult for the southern states that broke from the Union to form the Confederacy and ultimately lost the war.
It makes sites such as the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery all the more important for acknowledging the sacrifice of soldiers fighting for their way of life even if their ethics don’t match today’s ideals.
The cemetery contains the remains of around 300 Confederate troops, most of whom died from either disease or wounds in the city’s hospitals. Their final resting places are marked by simple headstones similar to the one placed at the head of President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.