The last stop heading south on Interstate 75 through the state of Georgia is the city of Valdosta.
In Valdosta’s earliest days, Creek and Seminole tribes lived alongside Spanish missionaries and European colonists who settled in South Georgia. Today, these influences are still visible in the city’s architecture and regional farming traditions, especially pecans.
Valdosta is the kind of city where visitors can feel like locals through community happenings like music festivals, farmers markets or the Valdosta Azalea Festival, a springtime event that happens when the namesake flowers are in full bloom.
From a theme park featured in a popular zombie movie to a museum packed with East African artifacts, here are the best things to do in Valdosta, Georgia.
Roam the palm-lined campus of Valdosta State University
The biggest landmark in the city is the campus of Valdosta State University, a public university that began as a small local college in 1913. The scenic, 85-acre campus features Spanish mission–inspired architecture, palm trees and public sculptures by regional artists.
The campus also has a series of walking routes, including the Jewel Whitehead Camellia Trail, which winds over 1400 ft (926m) in total. Visitors can also wander via a self-guided tour using QR codes that highlight facts related to the trail’s 14 stops.
Ride coasters (without the zombies)
Located just off I-75, Wild Adventures is a family-friendly theme park that was a shooting location for the 2009 comedy Zombieland. You won’t have to fight off the undead here, however: expect to find some of the state’s most thrilling roller coasters, including the looping Boomerang.
Test your skills on the water
Valdosta is home to the Valdosta Wake Compound, an artificial lake that mimics the experience of wakeboarding on the open water. Structures in the lake provide optimal hang time, while a cable system helps to pull you across the water. The compound welcomes beginners and professionals alike, with gear rentals and lessons. If dry land is more your speed, the facility also has a skate park and a campsite at which to spend the night. Prices start at $20.
See the graves of the city’s notable residents
The most interesting stories from Valdosta’s past can be contemplated at Sunset Hill Cemetery, a Victorian park-style burial ground that opened in 1861. Politicians, athletes, colonels and the enslaved make up the over 25,000 burials at Sunset Hill.
Among the notable markers are the parents of Wild West legend Doc Holliday and mother of Sanford and Son actor Demond Wilson. Look out for the gravesite of James F. Holmes, a son of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company owner: it features a Coke bottle sculpture.
Catch a live music act
Since Valdosta has its own musical legacy – often serving as a stopover for touring artists or fostering acts like country musician Rhett Akins – visitors will find numerous places to see live music here. Try downtown’s monthly First Friday celebrations, when the entertainment district comes to life at 5pm with local acts, shopping and drinks (which you can take with you in “go cups”).
Even if your stay doesn’t coincide with the festivities, you can watch a band play every weekend over a tray of oysters and tacos at The Salty Snapper Oyster Bar & Live Venue.
Visit Valdosta’s only craft brewery
Georgia’s breweries are mostly clustered around the capital of Atlanta, though that’s slowly starting to change. The southernmost in the state, the Georgia Beer Co. is Valdosta’s first and only craft brewery.
Founded in 2014, the Georgia Beer Co. incorporates as much of the state’s produce as possible into its IPAs and blonde ales. (We particularly love the Saint Helen Oktoberfest beer, a nod to the small, Germanophile North Georgia town’s fall festival.) The brewery hosts food trucks and has games and an outdoor beer garden for kids and pets.
Fill your belly with empanadas or tacos
Empanadas and More is one of the most popular eateries in town. Located in an unassuming strip mall on Northside Drive, the restaurant serves up Colombian fare with an emphasis on crunchy empanadas. Pair them with tostones, yucca fries and arepas, or opt for one of the daily specials like pork-chop stew.
For traditional Mexican cuisine, La Jalisco Supermercado is both a restaurant and a market selling essentials like masa, queso fresco and dried chiles. If you’re hungry, the tamales, ceviche and menudo soup are all local favorites.
Wander through the gardens
In 1915, a group of local women founded The Garden Club to host annual flower shows and, during World War II, to promote Victory Gardens.
In 1951, the organization saved an 1898 mansion from demolition to found The Crescent at Valdosta Garden Center. The since-restored house sits under Spanish moss–draped trees, and is filled with many of the original family’s preserved furnishings.
After your visit, wander through the garden, especially during the spring when the azaleas are in full bloom. The property also includes a chapel and circa 1900s schoolhouse. The Crescent is open to the public on weekdays, by appointment and during the annual holiday open house.
Dive into the city’s local history
Located in the town’s former Carnegie Library, the Lowndes County Historical Museum exhibits all aspects of South Georgia history. The two floors of galleries house photographs and artifacts like military uniforms that once belonged to local residents, handmade quilts and Gilded Age–era clothing.
A train caboose and a pioneer cabin with a garden of historic plants are also on the grounds. The museum also has a genealogical archive for those interested in learning about their ancestry in the region. Best of all, it’s free to visit.
See East African artifacts at Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts
Located in downtown Valdosta, the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts is a showcase for regional and national artists. The seven-gallery art center houses around 30 exhibits annually including the Spring Into Art exhibition, which invites artists of all skill levels to participate in the yearly event.
The undisputed highlight of the center are the East African artifacts in the Jerry Tillman Gallery. Part of the art center’s permanent galleries, this 600-piece collection includes sculptures, masks and instruments acquired during Tillman’s time living in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia.
The center also offers free tours for those looking for a deeper dive into the artworks on display.
Start that day with a balanced breakfast at GUD
While you’ll certainly find an abundance of Southern-style breakfast spots and coffee chains in Valdosta, GUD Coffee is a local cafe that focuses on lighter options. The eatery opened in 2019 in the heart of downtown and quickly became popular with Valdosta State students.
In addition to the coffee (with beans sourced from Intelligentsia Coffee), the menu includes lattes and tea, smoothies, bagels and toasts. There’s a cozy seating area styled with murals, a neon-light wall and plants, creating the perfect setting to enjoy your meal or plan your day of exploring. GUD Coffee also hosts live music during First Friday.
Experience South Georgia’s unique ecosystem at the Grand Bay Wetland Center
One of the last cities before the Florida state line, Valdosta has landscapes that veer more toward marshland than the hills you’ll find elsewhere in Georgia. Set on thousands of acres of hardwood forest and cypress swamp, the Grand Bay Wetland Education Center is home to the best outdoor activities near Valdosta.
Here, visitors can walk on the elevated boardwalk and watchtower while looking for birds and other wildlife. There are also hiking trails and canoe put-ins to paddle through the waterway. Geocaching and fishing are also offered seasonally.
Spend the night at a waterfront campground
If you’re looking for something different, skip the highway chain hotels in favor of Eagles Roost RV Resort. Located just south of Valdosta in Lake Park, the campground is set among beautiful oaks and has RV sites with electricity and internet.
For those looking for added comfort, the property has cabins along with an outdoor pool, laundry facilities and grills. The campground is next to the Bargainville Flea Market – another Valdosta mainstay.
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