Georgia’s small towns offer big possibilities for meetings.
From historic homes and Civil War history sites to some of the top museums in the country, these diminutive Georgia destinations exude charm, Southern hospitality and a more relaxed way of life while still managing to offer first-class hotels and meeting facilities.
Augusta’s booming culinary scene, walkable downtown, history and location on the Savannah River make it an appealing destination for meeting planners seeking fun locations. The downtown area is just one block from the Augusta Convention Center. The 38,000-square-foot venue is attached to the Marriott Standard and Marriott Suites hotels. Both hotels also have meeting space, bringing the convention complex’s total meeting square footage to 100,000, all under one roof. There are 372 guest rooms in the complex, as well as an Italian eatery called Agustino’s.
The city boasts several rooftop bars that make great offsite venues. The Partridge Inn Augusta, a boutique hotel that is part of Curio Collection by Hilton, has some limited meeting space, along with a rooftop bar overlooking downtown Augusta. The Hyatt House Augusta/Downtown also has a rooftop bar and serves as overflow for the Marriott.
The Augusta Museum of History relates the history of Augusta and the surrounding region. Augusta is known as the City of Soul, as it is the birthplace of James Brown. It also is famous as home of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Course.
For fun, meeting attendees can take a historic tour or bike tour of the city, touching on the top historic sites and sites that were meaningful to James Brown. Groups wanting to get competitive can rent Broad Axe Throwing Club, which offers food, drink, events and team-building activities. Groups also can rent kayaks downstream of the Marriott. The Augusta
Canal Heritage Center has bike and walking paths but also offers cruises aboard an old Petersburg boat that runs on hydropower. The boat can seat up to 40 people and visitors will see turtles, alligators and other wildlife.
Augusta has more than 7,000 guest rooms at 70 hotels and more than 300 restaurants.
Tifton is a small town with a big-city vibe. It is right off Interstate 75, and many visitors discover the quaint destination as they are passing through on their way to somewhere else. The city has a rich agricultural history as well as tons of shopping, including 80,000 square feet of antique stores.
The Georgia Museum of Agriculture is a top attraction in the city. It is also a great place to host meetings or events. The museum has 5,000 square feet of conference space that can accommodate up to 400 people, including the Atrium and conference rooms, East and West. The Opry Shelter, Peanut Museum, Pole Barn and Fulwood Garden Center also have meeting spaces.
Meeting groups can immerse themselves in the agrarian and cultural traditions of the 19th century American South. Attendees can explore the historic village, visiting businesses, workshops and homes that give them a taste of what life was like over the past 150 years.
Visitors also can take a ride on the Vulcan Steam Train, the only steam locomotive still in operation in Georgia. It was built in 1917. Langdale Nature Center helps visitors interact with the local flora and fauna, and Destination Ag offers learning stations and exhibits that connect guests to where their food, fiber and shelter come from.
The largest meeting facility in Tifton is the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center, with 95,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 2,035-seat auditorium, ballroom and banquet facilities and 17 conference rooms. The entire ballroom, which can be divided into four rooms, boasts 14,400 square feet and can host group up to 1,000.
The city has five hotels with meeting space and several unique offsite venues, including the Peach Barn at Timbermill Acres, which has 5,000 square feet of rustic indoor space. Tifton has 1,300 hotel rooms.
Madison has one of Georgia’s largest historic districts, with house museums downtown. Just an hour outside of Atlanta, the town of fewer than 5,000 residents has kept its welcoming and charming atmosphere with nearly 30 family-owned shops and restaurants.
Founded in 1809, the city has pushed historic preservation of local architecture. The city has three historic house museums to tour, including Rogers House, which was built the same year the city was incorporated; Heritage Hall; and Rose Cottage, which was built by Adeline Rose, a former slave, who bought land in town with her earnings as a laundress. Before the Civil War, the city was rich in agriculture and cotton farming.
Visitors can also learn about Madison’s African American heritage at the Morgan County African American Museum or take a guided walking tour through 26 points of interest in the city, including historic sites.
A local developer who fell in love with Madison started buying up downtown spaces, repurposing them as a coffee house, a Mexican restaurant and an English pub. He plans to open more businesses in the area all while keeping the integrity and beautiful designs of the historic buildings.
Cultural heritage travelers are attracted to the history and architecture of the area, and many wellness travelers enjoy the welcoming atmosphere. The city has 600 hotel rooms and several meeting spaces in smaller inns. The 17-room James Madison Inn has an attached conference center that can accommodate up to 100 people. It also has a beautiful outdoor venue with a gazebo and event lawn.
Like many smaller towns, Madison has several chain hotels, including Days Inn, Deerfield Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Quality Inn and Red Roof Inn.
Cartersville considers itself Georgia’s museum city. With fewer than 25,000 residents, Cartersville is fortunate to have two Smithsonian-affiliated museums, the Booth Western Art Museum, with one of the largest collections of Western art in the Southeast, and the Tellus Science Museum, with its digital planetarium,
dinosaurs and world-class mineral gallery, featuring more than 4,000 rocks, gems and minerals. The Savoy Automobile Museum, which opened in December 2021, also has applied for Smithsonian status. Sitting on 37 acres, the museum has four exhibition galleries, a presentation theater, an on-site café, a storage garage and outdoor pavilion for car shows, concerts and swap meets.
Cartersville was a rail stop and has a wonderful historic downtown, with locally owned shops and restaurants. One of the city’s claims to fame is a top-notch selfie spot: the first known outdoor Coca-Cola sign, which was painted in 1894 on the side of Young Brothers Pharmacy by a syrup salesman.
Allatoona Lake and Red Top Mountain State Park are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and outdoor networking events. The lake features fishing, kayaking, hiking and Pine Acres Retreat, a 210-acre retreat center with cabins, campsites and event space. Barnsley Resort, on the opposite end of the lake, is a luxury resort with an inn and cottages, and event and meeting space. It has a championship golf course, horses, archery, canoeing and a shooting clays facility.
The largest meeting venue in the area is the Clarence Brown Conference Center, with 44,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. A new 118-room Courtyard by Marriott is adjacent to it. The Hilton Garden Inn on Main Street has 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
Situated on the border with Alabama, LaGrange’s top attraction is the only Great Wolf Lodge in Georgia, with a fantastic water park and meeting space that can host groups of 1,000. LaGrange is right on West Point Lake, which is a big attraction for families and fishermen and offers many recreational opportunities.
LaGrange’s most famous attraction is Hills and Dales Estate, which features a large 19th century home and includes formal gardens. Visitors can take a step back in time as they tour the home and gardens or host an event there. The estate’s visitor center and terrace is suitable for events of all sizes and includes a 1,200-square-foot great hall, 1,000-square-foot gallery and the Legacy Theater, equipped with audiovisual equipment for short films or presentations. The facility includes restrooms and a catering kitchen. In addition, the pool terrace, home terrace, porte-cochere and historic garden provide scenic locations for outdoor events.
The city has 12 hotels, ranging from the Courtyard by Marriott downtown to a variety of chain hotels encompassing 1,488 guest rooms. Most of them have smaller conference spaces for groups between 40 and 50 people.
Del’avant Event Center downtown can host groups up to 350 people theater-style, and the Oakfusty Conservation Center, which is expected to open in fall 2023 or spring 2024, will host 400 people right on the lake. The facility, when completed, will be an outdoor conservation center by day and an event venue by night.