The Georgia city of Newnan is part of the wider metropolitan Atlanta region, lying approximately 65 kilometres southwest of the state capital.
Despite its proximity to the state’s largest city, Newnan has its own distinct ambience and history. It was founded in 1828, during the first wave of European-American settlement in the southeast of the United States.
Heavily reliant on slave labour to power the cotton industry that made it rich, Newnan was largely untouched by the American Civil War. This means the city is able to demonstrate excellent examples of antebellum (pre-war) architecture.
In addition, Newnan has some exciting cultural and natural attractions, while the bright lights of Atlanta are never far away.
Here are the best things to do in Newnan, Georgia.
1. Downtown Newnan
Newnan’s downtown district covers nine square blocks and continues to follow the layout created with the founding of the city in 1828.
Its wide avenues lead around the grand edifice of Coweta County Courthouse.
It was built from red-brown brick in a Greek Revivalist style in 1904, and includes a tower with a clock whose mechanism was once wound by hand.
The area also contains the first Carnegie library in the state and several historic religious buildings.
What’s more, there’s a section of stores along East Broad Road that is a rare surviving example from the period when racial segregation extended to the shopping habits of Newnan.
2. McRitchie-Hollis Museum
Occupying another fine red-brick Greek Revival style building, today’s McRitchie-Hollis Museum was built in 1937.
Now fully renovated to its former glory, it acts as an introduction to what life was like in the American south during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and the Second World War which followed.
Its exhibition spaces contain original furniture from the Hollis family who had previously called the building home. Visitors are also able to see how simple kitchen and bathroom facilities were roughly one hundred years ago.
A beautiful curving staircase leads upstairs, from where visitors are able to take in the lawns and mature planting outside.
3. Brown’s Mill Battlefield Site
Although the buildings of Newnan survived the American Civil War largely untouched, this does not mean the city was unaffected by the war.
The Brown’s Mill Battlefield Site is a relatively new public open space with an area of slightly more than 80 hectares.
It was the site of a battle that saw a defeat of Abraham Lincoln’s Unionist cavalry by the soldiers of the confederate south.
Largely in its original state, it contains walking and biking trails that loop around the site and its small lake.
Interpretative signs provide more information for anyone interested in learning more about the battle of 1864 itself.
4. Senoia Area Historical Society Museum
The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum is located in Senoia, 30 minutes east of Newnan.
Its atrium and five rooms have been filled with antique pieces of furniture in dark hardwoods, and cabinets filled with mementos that help visitors discover life in Senoia over the ages.
Surrounded by original plasterwork mouldings, the dedicated History Room contains teller windows from the Farmers and Merchants Bank that date to 1874.
More recently, there is also a display dedicated to the torch relay of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, meaning that this museum space truly spans the full history of the region.
5. Oak Hill Cemetery
Newnan’s Oak Hill Cemetery contains some 12,000 graves. Created in 1833, just five years after Newnan was founded, this historic cemetery contains a number of noteworthy graves.
Fine stone monuments rise up across the 25-hectare site, which includes the graves of two of Georgia’s governors.
It is also the final resting place of soldiers from the War of Independence against Britain, and 270 confederate troops that died during the Civil War.
Many died of wounds or diseases away from the battlefields around Atlanta in Newnan, recognised as a hospital city in the period.
With graves continuing into the time of the Vietnam War, Oak Hill Cemetery is an important landmark not just for Newnan, but for the entire United States.
6. Dunaway Gardens
Roughly 12 kilometres north of Newnan on the road to Roscoe, Dunaway Gardens cover less than half the size of Oak Hill Cemetery.
However, that doesn’t mean that this botanic garden is easy to miss off the list of the best things to do in Newnan and around.
Re-established after being abandoned for many years, these gardens tumble down a hillside in a series of five terraces.
Dotted with sightlines pointing to sculptures and viewpoints, these terraces contain waterfalls, hanging gardens, and goldfish ponds. In addition, there’s a granite outcrop known as Little Stone Mountain.
7. Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Head a similar distance west rather than north, and you’ll reach Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
The park lies on the southern bank of the Chattahoochee River as it meanders in a large arc.
One of Georgia’s largest state parks, it has almost 20 kilometres of hiking trails, and somewhere in the region of six kilometres of mountain biking trails.
But even if you have no intention of being particularly active, it’s worth making the short journey here, to enjoy a fine example of Georgia’s wilderness – and maybe an ice cream at the gift shop too.
8. Coweta County African American Heritage Museum and Research Center
While small, there are several reasons to consider spending some time in this museum.
Also known as Caswell House, its artefacts relating to African-American history are housed within a shotgun-style home common in the American south from the civil war until the 1920s.
Next door, is the Farmers Street Cemetery, which many researchers believe could be the largest cemetery for enslaved people in any of the southern states.
But Caswell House also has a reputation for being haunted. People have seen the figure of Ruby, who once owned the structure, and apparently enjoys playing with children who might come to visit.
9. Abide Brewing Company
The first brewery to call Newnan home, the Abide Brewing Company is one of the new wave of craft breweries producing some exquisite and unusual beers.
So small they call it a nano-brewery, Abide was set up by three Newnan locals with a dream. And while you can sample the result in many of Newnan’s bars, there’s nothing quite like heading to the brewery itself.
The staff here offer regular tours of the facilities behind the scenes, in addition to having their full range of beers on tap, from lagers to European-style brews.
10. The Little White House
A favourite retreat of Franklin D Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, the Little White House is located roughly 50 kilometres south of Newnan in Warm Springs.
Roosevelt had this retreat built on Pine Mountain long before he became president, when he was the governor of New York.
Visiting regularly, it was at the Little White House that Roosevelt died on April 12th 1945, just three months into winning a fourth term in the real White House in Washington DC.
Preserved as it was on the day Roosevelt died, the museum is filled with Roosevelt’s personal items, including his favourite chair, and an unfinished presidential portrait.
11. Greenville Street Park
This small city centre park a short distance from Newnan’s historic downtown district has been an important meeting point for the citizens of Newnan for decades.
It features a grand entranceway featuring 25 Greek-style columns. These lead down to a fountain, terraced lawn that are a great place for picnics, and the various paths that wind their way around the space.
The garden also contains two sculptures. The first is Flight Lesson, and the second is called Lady of the House.
It sees a joyful woman holding a piece of clapboard, used to build many of the homes in Newnan, above her head. It is said to represent the uniqueness of the city, since no two pieces of clapboard are ever the same.
12. Barbie Beach
Perfect for anyone who enjoys the quirky and unusual, you’ll find Barbie Beach around 16 kilometres from Newnan on the road to Senoia.
This witty roadside attraction features a beach of entirely nude barbie dolls, and so charmed the producers of the hit TV show The Walking Dead that they donated some zombie dolls to the collection.
Their beachside activities are changed on a regular basis, so you’ll never quite know what you’ll come across if you pay the beach a visit. However, scenes tend to echo current events such as major sporting competitions.
13. Historic Banning Mills
This Newnan attraction might sound like a museum, but if that’s what you’re expecting you’re in for a huge shock.
Historic Banning Mills is, in fact, an adventure resort offering everything from ziplining to climbing walls.
Nestled in spectacular natural scenery, the resort also provides the chance to trek through its woods and across its streams on horseback or on the water itself by kayak.
At the same time, guests are able to spoil themselves at the spa, and relax amid the sort of hospitality the south is known for throughout the world.
Historic Banning Mills is 25 kilometres northwest of Newnan.
14. Delta Flight Museum
Roughly double the distance from Newnan as Historic Banning Mills, the Delta Flight Museum is located in the southern suburbs of Atlanta.
Dedicated to the first one hundred years of Delta Airlines, it can be found in two historic hangers dating from the 1940s on the outskirts of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Its displays and artefacts collection date even further back in time, and include a 1931 six-seater plane that was the airline’s very first passenger aircraft.
Dwarfing it is the Spirit of Delta, a 767-200 aircraft that was the company’s flagship plane right up until 2004.
15. Georgia Aquarium
While you’re in the Atlanta suburbs, you should also check out Georgia Aquarium in the centre of the state capital.
One of the largest aquariums in the world, it is one of just a handful of aquaria that are able to boast a whale shark tank.
In addition, popular attractions include noisy California sealions, pure white beluga whales, and massive bulk of its manta rays.
In all, the aquarium covers each of the world’s major ocean environments in turn, from tropical shallows home to brightly-colours corals, to the coldest waters on the planet.