Valdosta is a city situated in the flat coastal plain of southern Georgia, just a few miles from the state’s border with Florida.
It was incorporated in 1860, just a few months before the outbreak of the American Civil War. At some distance from the fighting, it developed quickly, and in 1910 was calculated to be the richest city in America.
Still rated highly when it comes to its standard of living, it has become a thriving university city. Attractive, sports-mad and filled with sightseeing potential, the ‘Azalea City’ is a great family-friendly stop off on the way to the beaches and theme parks of Florida.
These are the best things to do in and around Valdosta Georgia.
1. Wild Adventures
In fact, you don’t even need to cross the state border into Florida to get the adrenaline flowing at a theme park.
Wild Adventures is well-named, combining eight major rollercoasters and other thrill rides with a Polynesian-themed water park called Splash Island and a zoo.
There are rides suitable for younger children as well as adults, and a safari train which allows visitors to get up close to native animals and the likes of lions and elephants.
Wild Adventures is located 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Valdosta, just off Interstate 75 in Clyattville.
2. Lowndes County Historical Society & Museum
Located in Valdosta’s Carnegie Library, a structure on America’s National Register of Historic Places, this museum has almost 1,000 square metres dedicated to the history of the city and its surrounding area.
A whistle-stop tour of Valdosta’s development is unravelled on the museum’s ground floor, while its upper floor has a regularly rotating series of artefacts related to specific moments in time.
But the museum isn’t limited to its red brick walls. Its grounds contain a number of larger exhibits, including a pioneer cabin, belfry, and rail car, as well as historically-accurate planting.
3. Miss Kate’s Tours
Miss Kate’s Tours cover the history and culture of Valdosta’s central downtown area through the flavours typical of this part of Georgia.
The tours allow those new to the city to find its hidden gems when it comes to both food and drink. This means they can begin the enjoyable pastime of working their way through the Deep South’s delightful and unique culinary creations, from peach cobblers to po’boys.
You’ll stroll from kitchen to kitchen, taking in many of Valdosta’s most important structures along the way, making these tours a fabulous way to spend an afternoon or evening.
4. Valdosta Wake Compound
Making use of a purpose-built series of lagoons designed by wake boarders themselves, Valdosta Wake Compound is another attraction for those who like to get the adrenaline coursing through their veins.
It boasts a six-tower full cable system, meaning visitors can enjoy the thrill of wake boarding without the need or the extra cost of a speedboat to tow them along.
Suitable for those who have never been on a wake board before, it also offers a number of obstacles for those with a little more experience, including ramps, handrails, and pipes.
And in addition to its wake board rentals, visitors can instead opt for water skis, or even kayaks and canoes.
5. Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts
A fine exhibition space for all manner of artworks, the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts runs temporary exhibitions featuring the works of artists local to the area.
Its permanent galleries, by contrast, host an array of European porcelains, and African tribal artefacts.
In total, the centre has eight separate gallery spaces, as well as larger works of sculpture on its lawns outside.
A cultural hub that extends beyond the art world, the centre has an almost-daily list of events and activities too, from ukulele classes to yoga sessions.
6. The Crescent
Though almost demolished in the 1950s, the Crescent is one of Valdosta’s most recognisable buildings thanks to its curving portico of 13 columns representing the first states to form the United States.
Built in 1898 by a US Senator, the site includes a small chapel that’s a popular wedding venue and a schoolhouse shaped like an octagon.
Its gardens were created as test gardens, to see which plants would do well in the sub-tropical climate of southern Georgia.
7. Golf courses
Part of the Georgia Golf Trail, Stone Creek Golf Club has an 18-hole championship course that follows a loose figure of eight formation.
It covers just under three square kilometres of natural meadows and woodland, including a beaver lake.
Nearby, the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club has a 72 par 18-hole championship course designed by Davis Love III that rises and dips with the land it’s on.
In its first ten years it had already hosted the South Georgia Classic, and five other PGA qualifying competitions, with its undulations adding an extra dimension to the region’s golf.
Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee, lies just an hour and a half southwest of Valdosta. As such, it is home to some important points of interest, including the Museum of Florida History, which spans literally millions of years – as demonstrated by its display of a rare mastodon skeleton.
The museum also cares for Knott House, from where Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was read out during the Civil War, guaranteeing the freedom of slaves in the Florida panhandle, and where Florida’s first black doctor had his surgery.
Elsewhere, the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park preserves a hub of the Fort Walton native American culture, which was active from around 1050-1500 AD.
9. Raisin’ Cane
Agriculture was the mainstay of Valdosta employment and economics for many decades, with the surrounding countryside an important growing area for cotton, tobacco, and timber.
Raisin’ Cane is a working farm where children can learn about where their food comes from, in between enjoying attractions that include a maize maze and hay rides.
Adults might prefer the food courts and farmers markets that Raisin’ Cane also hosts. Here visitors have the opportunity to enjoy tasty homemade casseroles, and take away loafs of freshly-baked bread or a selection of gifts and souvenirs.
10. Barber-Pittman House
This Greek Revival style building was built in 1915 to the design of Lloyd Barton Greer, a local architect who also helped with the construction of the city’s Carnegie Library (now the history museum).
Visitors to the house are able to undertake self-guided tours over two floors.
It allows them to take in many of the house’s original features, including the complex ceiling design of the dining room, and the building’s rich wood wall panelling.
11. Grand Bay Wetland Education Center
Discover more about the natural landscapes and habitats of southern Georgia at the Grand Bay Wetland Education Center and the Wildlife Management Area that encompasses it.
The area covers a total of around 3,500 hectares, roughly divided into an area of hardwood forests and upland pines, and another of cypress wetlands.
A boardwalk and lookout tower provide great ways to explore a landscape that’s home to deer and various species of waterfowl.
Walking trails also slip through the scenery, for those looking for a more definitive exercise session.
12. Georgia Beer Company
South Georgia’s first brewery offers guided tours to its homely wood-built facility in Valdosta that, perhaps ironically, was first constructed a hundred years ago to house the municipal waterworks.
Mixing things up when it comes to taste, this relative newcomer to the brewery scene produces both traditional beer styles and those that are a little more innovative and experimental.
Using crops grown in the state whenever possible, the Georgia Beer Company’s brewing rooms incorporate a taproom where its beers can be sampled in atmospheric surroundings.
The knowledgeable staff will direct you through the range of beers available at the time of your visit, which might include such flavours as peach, pecan, and blueberry.
13. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and protected by federal law, this wildlife refuge lies around an hour east of Valdosta.
With an area of more than 1,600 square kilometres (402,000‑acre), the refuge was set up in 1937 to preserve the habitats of Okefenokee Swamp, which takes its name from the native American for ‘trembling earth’.
The refuge offers a huge number of different attractions. The Swamp Island Drive is a 14-kilometre route that can be followed by car, bicycle, and on foot. It leads to the visitor centre at Chesser Island, alongside a three-kilometre round-trip boardwalk and homestead that shows how the earliest settlers to the region lived.
Those interested in exploring the wetlands by water will be pleased to hear the refuge has almost 124 miles (200 kilometres) of canoe trails.
14. Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village
This site is basically an open-air living museum that allows visitors to explore more than 35 historic structures.
They have been brought here literally piece by piece and reconstructed to create a village dating back more than 200 years.
It also contains the Vulcan Iron Works steam train, the only locomotive of its kind that’s in regular operation in Georgia.
At the same time, actors in authentic clothing demonstrate some of the era’s major employment opportunities, from farming to weaving.
This attraction can be found approximately 50 minutes north of Valdosta in Tifton.
15. SAM Shortline
Continue north from Tifton for another 40 minutes and you’ll reach the town of Cordele, home base for the SAM Shortline Railroad.
Using vintage carriages from the late 1940s, this railway provides excursions to nearby points of interest, and is one of the more unique ways of exploring southern Georgia’s small towns.
From Cordele, journeys can be taken to Plains, Americus, and Leslie. Plains remains the home of former US president and Nobel peace prize winner Jimmy Carter, who also grew up nearby.
Americus has the glorious Windsor Hotel, built in 1892, while Leslie is home to the eccentric Rural Telephone Museum.