The Old Pal. credit: My Athens/Rachel Bailey

Best of the Southeast: Explore Georgia like a local

You don’t want to travel like a tourist. You want to be in the know. In the AJC’s annual Best of the Southeast travel special section, we give you the lowdown on where locals eat, drink, play, relax, shop and discover.

Go beyond Atlanta and discover craft drinks in Athens, great boutiques in Thomasville and farm-to-table fare in Macon.

Drink: Imbibing in Athens, Ga.

Home to the University of Georgia, and famous for its music scene, Athens is something of a hidden gem when it comes to bars, restaurants and craft breweries.

Creature Comforts Brewing (271 W. Hancock Ave., Athens. 706-410-1043,, @creaturebeer) has garnered national attention since opening two years ago in the former Snow Tire building downtown. It’s best known for lush Tropicalia IPA, but look for an array of seasonal and year-round beers at tours and tastings offered Tuesdays-Saturdays.

A classic from chef Hugh Acheson, Five & Ten (1073 S. Milledge Ave., Athens. 706-546-7300,, @fiveandten) was named to the Wine Enthusiast list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2016. The broad, 130-label-plus wine list is annotated with wit and wisdom, and there are well-curated seasonal selections by glass, too. The bar opens daily at 5 p.m.

Seabear Oyster Bar (297 Prince Ave., Athens. 706-850-4367,, @seabearoysters) is an oysters-and-cocktails concept in a convivial corner of the Bottleworks building. Open from 3 p.m. until midnight every day, it offers two happy hours daily with drink specials starting at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Enjoy beer, traditional absinthe service and fun drinks like a Negroni slushy.

The Classic City’s first craft brewery, Terrapin Beer Co. (265 Newton Bridge Road, Athens. 706-549-3377,, @TerrapinBeerCo) is now the second biggest in Georgia. A new tasting room and frequent live music events make it a popular destination. Find Hopsecutioner IPA and at least a dozen other beers at tours Wednesdays-Sundays.

Named for the vintage rye cocktail, the Old Pal (1320 Prince Ave., Athens. 706-850-4340, is an atmospheric neighborhood bar in retro/hipster Normaltown. It features some of the best drinks in the city, with a focus on the classics, plus thoughtful craft beer, old-world wine and whiskey lists.

Trappeze Pub (269 N. Hull St., Athens. 706-543-8997,, @trappezepub) can be laid-back or lively, depending on the time of day. Regulars come for solid pub grub, friendly servers and a big beer list of American craft and Belgian selections with over 30 taps and at least 200 bottles and cans.

Bob Townsend, for the AJC

Shop: Boutiques in Thomasville, Ga.

Thomasville ( is known for its well-preserved downtown, which continues to thrum with more than 100 retail and dining establishments lining its brick-paved streets. While strolling the square, take time to admire Victorian architecture and visit historic museums between stops to shop and eat.

“The revitalized area of downtown, called the Creative District, offers an artsy walk through what will soon include a new amphitheater and a trailhead for a new multiuse trail system connecting historic districts and parks,” says April Norton, Main Street & Auditorium director for the city of Thomasville. “Downtown Thomasville has seen great economic growth already this year, with 10 new businesses opening and several more anticipated to open soon.”

Downtown Thomasville’s variety of shops includes antiques, fashion, jewelry, books, art, home decor, craft and children’s goods. But foodies are in for special rewards.

Start at Grassroots Coffee Company (118 S. Broad St., Thomasville. 229-226-3388,, a local gathering spot that serves specialty coffee drinks and roasts small batches of beans in-house. Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop (123 S. Broad St., Thomasville. 229-228-6704,, @sweetgrassdairy) sells the award-winning cheeses made at its 140-acre family farm in Thomasville. Find imported cheese at Liam’s Restaurant, Lounge & Cheese Shoppe (113 E. Jackson St., Thomasville. 229-226-9944, What better to pair with cheese than wine? Head to Farmer’s Daughter Vineyards Tasting Room (106 N. Broad St., Thomasville. 229-233-8314,, @FDVineyards) to sip samples before buying whatever uncorked treats made your taste buds dance.

Don’t miss Relish (107 S. Broad St., Thomasville. 229-236-5999, to stock up on professional-quality cooking gear, gadgets and gourmet foods. Be sure to grab some jars of locally made Blackberry Patch (, @theblackberryp) jams, jellies and fruit ketchups, named one of Oprah’s favorite things. If your furry best friend has discerning tastes, go to HuggaMugga’s (210 W. Jackson St., Thomasville. 229-236-9663, for homemade dog treats made with ingredients such as Sweet Grass Dairy cheese and wild Alaskan salmon.

Hope S. Philbrick, for the AJC

Relax: Luxury teepees in Lula, Ga.

While North Georgia Canopy Tours (5290 Harris Road, Lula. 770-869-7272,, @NGaCanopyTours) is known as home to some top-notch zip lining adventures that send folks flying through the trees, offering birds-eye views of the dramatic North Georgia terrain, the eco-friendly company also provides some out-of-the-ordinary glamping experiences. Consider the campsites boasting seven teepees — one sleeps 10 — outfitted with heating and air conditioning, lights and electrical outlets.

The sites are named after the seven clans of Cherokee society, and teepees are vividly painted with authentic Cherokee symbols. The campsites include a large bathhouse and grills for outdoor cooking.

You can spend carefree days on the scenic property, which is located on 136 acres bisected by the North Oconee River, where the Appalachian Mountains meet the Piedmont Plateau at the Eastern Continental Divide.

Along with zip lining, you can entertain yourself with disc golf — think golf with Frisbee-like discs instead of balls and clubs — geocaching and, of course, hiking or meandering among nature. But there’s nothing wrong with hanging out in the teepee with a good book, either.

Sabine Morrow, for the AJC

Discover: Greensboro, Ga. — hometown by the lake

Greensboro gets touted as “Lake Oconee’s hometown,” but most people who vacation on Georgia’s second largest lake have never set foot within its city limits a few miles to the north. Founded in 1786, it’s much older than the lake, which was created in 1979.

Greensboro’s tiny, charming downtown contains an abundance of antique shops, art galleries and boutiques. Perhaps the most notable building is a jailhouse, built in 1807 with 2-foot-thick granite blocks when the surrounding area was still a frontier land inhabited by the Cherokee and Creek tribes. The Old Gaol, as it’s called, still has its irons where prisoners were chained to the floor and a trap-door gallows where the condemned were hung.

You can gander at this historical treasure from the outside or make an appointment for a free inside tour through the Greene County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (111 N Main St., Greensboro. 706-453-7592, The Old Gaol opens up for special events, including the Southland Jubilee each April, Greensboro’s largest annual event. Main Street becomes a pedestrian-only zone for the fest, which draws in visitors from around the region who come to sample an authentic taste of small town rural life.

Another historic downtown building will become home to one of Georgia’s newest craft breweries later this year when the Oconee Brewing Co. ( opens for business. The brewery, which will offer a tasting room and tours, is housed in the former Chero-Cola bottling plant next door to a small but magnificent old train depot. Plans call for the depot to become a gastropub. This kind of development is bound to bring more of the lake folks into town. For locals, the brewery has generated excitement in this hybrid community of agriculture and resort life. Greenboro is that rare kind of place where John Deere and Mercedes Benz share the roadways.

Blake Guthrie, for the AJC

Eat: Dovetail Restaurant in Macon, Ga.

Dovetail’s in-town disciples often cite the restaurant’s locally and regionally sourced tendencies — you’ll find a list on its website — as reason to repeat. Located above the boozy revelry of the Rookery, Dovetail’s Tuesday through Saturday dinner hours also draw residents due to the eatery’s critical acclaim.

As the downtown in Macon, Ga., continues its resuscitation, Dovetail flies out front, putting foodie thought into Southern tradition. Fans recommend doubling down on the cheese plate. Braised rabbit may hop to the top of your favorites, as long as gamey phobia doesn’t lurk into your picture of the perfect meal. Don’t be surprised to find fried chicken, burgers draped with slices of wallet-thick bacon and mountain trout on the menu.

Forgive the tattooed ultra hipsters with handlebar mustaches behind the bar. It takes both style and substance to sling more than 70 types of whiskies. The Moonhanger Group operates this place, along with sister restaurants and live venues. Not-to-miss Moonhanger properties include H&H Soulfood, a favorite haunt among Allman Brothers Band fans, and the restored Cox Capitol Theatre.

543 Cherry St., Macon, Ga. 478-238-4693,, @DovetailMacon.

Jon Waterhouse, for the AJC

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