The city of Tifton is located in south central Georgia. It lies in an area that has historically been key to the region’s agricultural successes.
The county seat for Tift County, Tifton was founded in 1872 by sawmill owner Henry H Tift. Incorporated as a city eight years later, it has now been the county seat for more than one hundred years.
Tifton boasts a range of cultural and historic attractions within its limits, while an even larger number of points of interest are located within an hour’s driving time.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around Tifton, Georgia.
1. Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage
The Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage can be found within a beautiful Romanesque red brick church built more than 110 years ago.
Originally the city’s First Methodist Church, the interior is decorated with large stained-glass windows, vaulted ceilings and beautifully-finished doorways.
Built by the city’s founder, these days visitors to the structure will discover a regularly rotating series of art exhibitions.
They range from traditional paintings to porcelain and wooden sculpture, while the center is also a popular destination for arts workshops.
2. Coastal Plain Research Arboretum
Although several hundred miles from Georgia’s Atlantic coast, the geographic coastal plain stretches all the way to Tifton. This fact has led to the creation of the Coastal Plain Research Arboretum at the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus.
For visitors, the arboretum provides one of the best places in the state to see the coastal plain’s species of native flora.
Its 38 acres provide a home for somewhere in the region of 280 native species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, including many now in danger of becoming extinct in their natural habitats.
Established in 1987, the arboretum has matured into wonderful gardens encompassing pine woods, gently-running streams and indigenous wetlands.
3. Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village
This outdoor museum of historic structures has been created by carefully moving more than 35 important buildings to the site to create a nineteenth century southern Georgia town.
Actors dressed in authentic recreations of clothing from the era are on hand to provide greater insight into life during this time
Visitors are able to walk up Main Street to explore the produce available in the variety of small stores, or jump aboard the Vulcan Iron Works Steam Locomotive.
But rather than be a static museum, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village has a constant range of activities taking place, from regular farming duties to quilt making.
4. Fulwood Park
This quaint park in the center of Tifton has been part of the city’s community since it was first created in 1916.
Named after another early settler to the city, the park can be reached via dramatic 1930s gateways, from where a whole series of pathways run around areas of lawn and beneath shady trees.
There’s a small children’s playground for younger visitors within its 28 acres, as well as basic facilities that include restrooms and picnic pavilions.
Covering a couple of city blocks, Fulwood Park is a great escape at the heart of downtown Tifton, and busy throughout the day with picnickers, joggers and dog walkers.
5. Tifton Residential Historic District
One part of a city which tourists often miss off their itineraries are its residential areas, since they tend to lack major attractions, and hotels are generally located around downtown areas.
Despite this, visitors to Tifton should make an effort to discover the Tifton Residential Historic District, which can be easily explored on foot.
Its quiet streets are the location for a variety of intriguing private homes, many of which date back to the turn of the twentieth century.
These include the blue-gray Queen Anne style of William Cobb House, constructed in 1905, and the cream exterior of the 1892 Pope House-Lankford Manor. During the 1930s, this was a favorite restaurant and boarding house for those heading south towards Florida.
6. Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts
The architectural glories of downtown Tifton don’t end at the turn of the century as you’ll uncover for yourself if you take a trip to the Tift Theatre.
First opened in 1937, the structure is a fine example of the Art Deco period, with smooth curving lines drawing people in from far and wide.
Now diligently restored to its former glory, come nightfall its large fin-like Carrara glass façade glows with neon lighting.
The 650-seat theatre itself is the city’s premier performing space, hosting events as varied as classical music concerts, contemporary Broadway shows and Hollywood movie screenings.
7. Tifton Commercial Historic District
A sister to Tifton’s Residential Historic District, the Commercial Historic District is equally enthralling to visitors. Both are important enough to have made it onto the country’s National Register of Historic Places.
It was originally listed as a ten-block area brimming with warehouses and storefronts dating from the 1890s right through to the 1930s.
It was later expanded to include another four blocks, including the Masonic Lodge – the only three-story building listed.
Others worth looking out for include the Art Deco Bowen Building, as well as the Tift County Courthouse and the 1917 Bank of Tifton. Designed by Atlanta architect William Edwards, this is one of the city’s most distinct buildings, with a resemblance to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
8. Tifton Terminal Railway Museum
The last passenger railroad service pulled out of Tifton in the 1970s, but the era of the railroads lives on thanks to the Tifton Terminal Railway Museum.
It occupies the former passenger depot of the Atlantic Coast Line, and aims to preserve the heritage that led to the very foundation of Tifton to begin with.
A wood-built caboose passenger engine stands proudly outside, along with the Southern Railway’s Pullman sleeper called the Flint River.
Within the same structure as the museum, visitors will also find the Atlantic Coastline Artists Station, a small gallery space featuring the work of both professional and amateur southern Georgia artists.
9. Jefferson Davis State Historic Site
The alternative name of the Jefferson Davis Capture Site gives a hint at the history behind this site 20 miles north of Tifton.
It was here that in 1865 the President of the breakaway Confederate States was captured by Union forces during the American Civil War.
A granite monument topped with a bronze bust of the president marks the exact spot of his capture, while the grounds of the 12.5-acre site also contains a small museum dedicated to retelling the story of his flight from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
Captured after a brief gun battle, Davis was imprisoned for two years for treason, before being released. His capture marked the end of the war.
10. Rutland Farms
Owned by the Rutland family since 1916, their farm has become a major agritourism attraction in Tifton.
Compared to modern American farms many would consider Rutland Farms to be entirely insignificant. However, that ignores the introduction it provides to the agricultural history of the region.
At around 2,100 acres in size, the farm is able to grow more than twenty different crop types, with fruits that can be picked by visitors themselves and vegetables sold in the farm shop known as The Market.
11. Fitzgerald Blue and Gray Museum
The Blue and Gray Museum in the neighboring town of Fitzgerald has brought new life to a fully-renovated railroad depot.
Its collection centers around the city’s links with the Civil War. Among its various exhibits is the Hall of Honor, which celebrates the names of those Civil War veterans who went on to found the city.
Also commemorated are other local heroes, including General Raymond Gilbert Davis, the most-highly decorated Marine anywhere in the United States.
Fitzgerald is located 28 miles northeast of Tifton, with road journeys taking around 30 minutes.
12. Flint RiverQuarium
Given its name, it probably won’t be earth shattering news that this 54,000 square feet aquarium is located on the banks of the Flint River.
Through its various tanks it seeks to tell the story of the river, covering its entire 340-mile length from source to sea.
In total, the RiverQuarium provides a home for around 100 different species. Its largest tank stands in the open air and has a depth equivalent to a two-story building.
Its 130,000 gallons were designed to create an ecosystem covering all the species that call the river their natural habitat. That said, the alligators and birds are both housed in separate enclosures – just in case.
The Flint RiverQuarium can be found in Albany, which lies roughly 40 miles west of Tifton.
13. Albany Museum of Art
Albany is also home to the excellent Museum of Art. While only founded in the middle of the 1960s, its permanent collection of artworks is large enough to require six main galleries.
This collection includes a large proportion of American artists from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The impressionist Edward Henry Potthast, and pop artist Andy Warhol, both feature.
Elsewhere within the galleries there are paintings, drawing and works of sculpture from Europe, and one of the largest gatherings of African tribal art in the southeast United States.
Consisting of items from right around the African continent, displays are filled with a fine selection of masks, gold work and ceramics.
14. Lowndes County Historical Society & Museum
Head south of Tifton and you’ll soon come to the city limits of Valdosta, around 50 miles away. Further on, in downtown Valdosta is the Lowndes County Historical Society & Museum, a must-see attraction.
Its displays are, of course, dedicated to Valdosta’s past. It begins on the ground floor with a round-up of the major turning points in the city’s history.
These moments are looked at in more detail on the museum’s upper floor, with a series of exhibits that are rotated through the seasons.
Outside the walls of the Carnegie Library where it is located, the museum provides a lasting place for an authentic pioneer cabin and a rail car.
15. Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
President Jimmy Carter, the 39th man to hold this august position, is famously a child of Plains, Georgia.
Not only that, but Carter and his wife returned to Plains after their four years in the White House in Washington DC came to an end.
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site was created to preserve a whole series of buildings connected with the president’s life, including his home, and his school.
Perhaps the most notable attraction is the museum located within the former Plains High School. Its artifacts include the medal the president was awarded in 2002 by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for his work to alleviate poverty.
Plains is 60 miles, or an hour and a half, northwest of Tifton.