The city of McDonough, Georgia is situated approximately 30 minutes south of Atlanta, the state capital.
It has a permanent population of less than 9,000 people, but is none the less the county seat of Georgia’s Henry County.
McDonough was founded in 1823 around a traditional town square setting as European-Americans slowly moved westward across the continent.
The town square still lies at the centre of the city, while more widely McDonough is a good base from which to explore the region’s history and enjoy a huge number of outdoor activities.
Here are the 15 best things to do in McDonough, Georgia.
1. McDonough Historic District
McDonough’s historic district encompasses more than 80 hectares at the centre of the city, and contains buildings dating right back to the city’s foundation.
One that stands out is Henry County Courthouse and historic jail, which sits on the northern side of the town square.
Mainly made of red brick, it has a white clocktower that rises above the square. It was built in 1897 in a Romanesque Revival architectural style.
Other attractive and important buildings in the district include an art deco Standard Oil petrol station that’s now a tourist information centre, and the grand Palace Theatre, known today as the Clay Plaza Building.
2. Heritage Park Veterans Museum
Small but perhaps perfectly formed, the Heritage Park Veterans Museum sits within an iron red barn. Inside, there is an impressive array of military artifacts.
The earliest go back more than one hundred years to the US involvement in the First World War, with displays continuing to the modern military of the present day.
The museum is large enough to contain several vehicles from the 1910s, in addition to a raft of uniforms, equipment, and example ration boxes.
Staffed by military veterans, it stands opposite the city’s Wall of Honor, which consists of a 25-metre-long piece of granite showing famous scenes from past military engagements.
3. Shanes Hot Shots Paintball and Airsoft
Family-friendly, this centre is one of the largest and also one of the most advanced in the southeast United States.
The centre has all you need, from guns to safety equipment, to take on the thrill of paintball in a purpose-built facility with friends or family.
Alternatively, you could instead try out airsoft, which uses replica weapons firing small plastic pellets.
Metropolis has an indoor arena dedicated to this growing sport, which has a similar game play to paintball without the mess or pain of the balls themselves. Instead, it operates on a trust system.
4. Ghost tours
It seems ghosts and otherworldly apparitions like McDonough as much as the living do. You can learn all about the spooky goings on in the city by joining one of several ghost tours offered in and around downtown McDonough.
These lantern-led walking tours last for around 90 minutes, and take in a variety of locations, including the town square, restaurants, and shops where ghost sightings have been reported.
One of these locations acted as a mortuary after an event known as the Camp Creek Train Wreck disaster, while another is so haunted it has appeared on several paranormal television shows and is known across the United States.
5. Southern Belle Farm
McDonough may be just 30 minutes’ drive time from Atlanta, Georgia’s biggest city, but it is even closer to rural communities that continue to make their income through farming.
A great example of this lifestyle in Southern Belle Farm. A working farm of more than 130 hectares, Southern Belle offers visitors an insight into exactly what it takes to run a successful agricultural business here.
These include a dairy barn exhibition, hayride tours, and the opportunity to get close to the farm’s most charming residents – its animals.
There are also a range of activities that change from season to season, from fruit picking throughout the spring and summer, to the pumpkin patch that comes into its own towards Halloween each October.
6. Martin Luther King Sr Heritage Trail
The metropolitan Atlanta region is closely linked to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which took much of its inspiration from the charismatic church pastor Martin Luther King Jr.
Arguably, the demand for equal rights was begun a generation earlier with Martin Luther King Sr. Born and brought up in nearby Stockbridge, he is remembered with a heritage trail running through the centre of the city.
Stops include the Floyd Chapel Baptist Church, which was attended by King Sr and was where he gave his first sermon once ordained.
Elsewhere, a commemorative plaque on City Hall details much of this legacy of the King family in Stockbridge, 15 minutes north of McDonough.
7. Hood Street Arts Center
There can be no argument that the Hood Street Arts Center is the hub for cultural events in McDonough. Formed from a collective of different community arts organisations, the centre is based in an 1,800 square metre space.
Built in the 1930s as a hosiery mill, it provides a base for the Henry players actors, a ballet school, and an art gallery filled with natural light.
At the same time, the McDonough Arts Council and Henry Arts Alliance both host regular events, making the city an impressive destination for anyone who enjoys art and culture.
8. Heritage Park Historic Village
As well as its Veterans Museum, central Heritage Park also hosts a historic village taking visitors back to the earliest days of McDonough.
The village contains a settler’s log cabin from 1827, a two-room schoolhouse, Henry County’s first library building, and a blacksmith’s shop as some of its main attractions.
Rail enthusiasts will also be happy to hear there is a steam locomotive dating from 1934 alongside the reconstruction of a passenger depot.
Set within the park’s landscaping, there is a children’s playground, and various benches and picnic tables.
9. Stone Mountain Park
The most visited destination anywhere in Georgia, Stone Mountain doesn’t sit in a mountain range, but as a solitary mound of rock rising out of the surrounding landscape 45 km north of McDonough.
The mountain has a base circumference of eight kilometres, although it rises to a height of just 250 metres from its base, or slightly over 500 metres from sea level.
The hiking paths to its summit offer up a range of dramatic scenes, while it’s also possible to reach its highest point via the Skyride cable car.
However, the mountain is perhaps better known for being the home of the largest bas-relief carving in the world, which depicts three of the Confederate south’s most important leaders.
10. Camera Museum and Escape Room
Just a few hundred metres from the historic heart of McDonough, the Camera Museum displays a wide variety of vintage and antique cameras.
In all, its collection includes some 1,200 cameras, accessories, and other related items such as images and old advertisements.
As a result, it is able to cover the entire history of photography, from its earliest days in the 1830s, up until the advent of digital photography 150 years later.
At night, the space turns into one giant escape room, with three different themes for those who like a challenge.
11. Clayton County International Park
This park roughly 30 minutes north west of McDonough towards Atlanta is a demonstration of the lasting legacies that can exist by hosting major sporting events such as the Olympic Games.
There’s no doubt that the local communities around Clayton County International Park benefit from its existence.
Constructed as the site for the 1996 Atlanta Games’ beach volleyball competition, not only does the beach remain, but there are also sports fields, biking trails and spots for anglers to try their luck in the lake’s waters.
If you’re travelling with little ones, their eyes will probably be drawn to the giant water slides, although swimming in the lake itself is a great alternative.
12. C.O. Polk Interactive Museum
This museum in downtown McDonough puts modern technology front and centre as a means of exploring 200 years of city history.
Combining physical objects with the online world, its range of physical and virtual displays stretch back to before the founding of the city, when the area was the ancestral homeland of the Creek Indian Nation.
Moving on to the first years of McDonough, drawings of the main square are blended with objects from the district’s historic buildings.
It goes on to cover some important names that have lived in the city, and the industry that helped create what stands proud today.
It also covers major historic events including the civil war, and the reason McDonough is sometimes called the Geranium City.
13. World of Coca-Cola
Atlanta, 30 minutes north by road, has given the world some of its most famous brands, and few of these can compete with Coca-Cola, born in the city in 1886.
The giant World of Coca-Cola tells the story of the Earth’s most famous drink from its humble beginnings to the present day.
The complex spans an amazing 81,000 square metres, and sits just a few blocks from where the formula was created by John Pemberton.
It includes a 4D movie that skilfully takes people around the secret formula, and also allows visitors to taste the 60 different versions of Coke that exist around the globe.
14. Nash Farm Battlefield
Found on the western edge of Henry County, Nash Farm Battlefield covers an area of 80 hectares.
Today’s parkland was in 1864 busy with military activity as the defending Confederate forces sought to push back Unionists during the civil war.
It was one of the campsites for troops belonging to the Confederate General Lee’s Army Corps, and also the location of infantry battles that eventually brought the Battle of Atlanta to an end.
Historical markers across the site provide the option of self-guided tours, covering events including Kilpatrick’s Raid.
Nash Farm Battlefield lies close to the city of Hampton, which is 20 minutes from McDonough.
15. RE-taking History Tour
If you’d prefer an even more local approach to the region’s history, look no further than the RE-taking History Tour of downtown McDonough.
Focussed around its historic square and the streets that run to and from it, this tour can be made by locating the 15 special markers that are found within the city’s pavements.
It is named the RE-taking history tour because the intention is that visitors can retake historic photographs before comparing them to the originals. The result is an intriguing then and now view of what has changed – and what has stayed the same.