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Georgia: Valdosta’s a belle on the southern border

All photos courtesy Valdosta Tourism

From a geographical standpoint, Valdosta is about as far south as Georgia towns go. Another fifteen miles down Interstate 75 and you’ll cross the Florida state line.

Valdosta’s Southern leanings go far beyond its location. Step away from the busy interstate interchanges, and you’ll find a healthy downtown square and residential neighborhoods, three of which, like the business district, are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among Valdosta’s most Southern sites is the Crescent, an imposing white mansion whose 13 columns, forming a half-moon-shaped porch, inspired its name.

Both the home and its gardens, well tended by local garden clubs, welcome receptions and other special events.

Tastes of the South continue in the business district, where the bistro  306 North offers an appetizer called the Southern Sampler, a platter of pimento cheese, deviled eggs, pickled okra and smoked sausage. The downtown association is more than happy to help orchestrate receptions in an alleyway called Benny’s Alley before groups move on to presentations at a restored 1939 movie theater, now home to a local theater company. Valdosta State University’s Peach State Summer Theater, the official musical theater of Georgia, is a summertime entertainment option.

Even the city’s Rainwater Conference Center, within view of buzzing I-75, has a Southern sway. The 47,000-square-foot facility, with an 11,000-square-foot exhibit hall, seven breakouts, a 4,000-square-foot conference room and two boardrooms, overlooks a cypress pond.

The center is bounded by two limited-service hotels, the 184-room Hampton Inn and the 132-room Wingate Inn.

Although Valdosta has only one full-service hotel, the 158-room Holiday Inn Valdosta Conference Center, it has a new portfolio of limited-service properties.

“A lot of meeting planners want to know, ‘How old is the product,’ and in Valdosta, we have so much new product that it has to be intriguing,” said Jeff Stubbs, regional tourism rep with the Georgia Department of Economic Development. He estimates that most of properties have been built within the past three to five years.

One of the city of 45,000’s major attractions is Wild Adventure, a 170-acre amusement park that’s also home to 500 wild animals.

Families can wile away a summer afternoon at the park’s water park or jump on rides that include a wooden roller coaster. If the timing is right, groups might enjoy one of about 30 free concerts scheduled for the park’s spring through summer season. This year’s performers run the gamut from the Backstreet Boys to Steven Curtis Chapman.

The park is also amenable to group events. “When the Georgia Governor’s conference was held here, we had a luau out there,” said Stubbs.

The event was held in the water park area and in addition to having souvenir photos snapped, guests could jump on rides, snack on cotton candy and other amusement park fare and listen to the music of the Tams.



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