A drive up I-75 may call to mind places to pick your own apples or watch the leaves change color in the fall, but there’s much more to see. Northwest Georgia can show you surprising things: dinosaur skeletons and space capsules; folk artist Howard Finster’s exotic visions of distant worlds and celebrations of this one; imagined scenes celebrating cowboy life; and the actual place where an Indian nation prospered before its people were forced to march west on the Trail of Tears. Here are five places you might find worth a trip.
Rev. Howard Finster claimed he “took the pieces you threw away and put them together…” into art. The folk artist, who died in 2001, gained fame by making tens of thousands of works (he numbered them) in order to spread the gospel and his views of this world and others.
He also somehow found the time and energy to assemble the extraordinary place known as Paradise Garden. Using concrete, wood, mirrors, discarded tools and bicycles, shards of pottery, baubles and even the liner to a box of chocolates, Finster cobbled together buildings, flowers and colorful sidewalks into a place where visitors casually can stroll through what feels like a piece of another world.
The garden now is operated by a nonprofit foundation.
Where: 200 North Lewis Street, about three miles north of downtown Summerville, just off U.S. 27. Take Exit 306 from I-75, turn west on Ga. 140. Turn right on U.S. 27. Take U.S. 27 through Summerville. Look for mile marker 13 and turn right onto Rena Street. Follow the signs and go about three blocks to turn into the entrance to the garden.
Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: $15 adults; $10 seniors (55 and older); $5 students; younger than 12, free.
For more: paradisegardenfoundation.org, 706-808-0800.
New Echota Historic Site
New Echota once housed the capital of another nation. In 1825, Cherokee lawmakers established their capital at this site. During the next decade, it was home to the Cherokee nation’s legislature and courts, and the first Indian-language newspaper. The community also gave its name to the treaty that relinquished Cherokee claims to lands east of the Mississippi River and led to their forced removal to the west on the infamous Trail of Tears.
Today, visitors can learn about the history of the Cherokee in Georgia, walk among a dozen original and reconstructed buildings, watch a hand-operated press print a mock newspaper page and even hear a recording of “Amazing Grace” sung in Cherokee.
Where: 1211 Chatsworth Highway NE, Calhoun, Ga., 30701. Located in Calhoun one mile east of I-75, Exit 317 on Highway 225.
Hours: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Cost: adults aged 18 to 61, $7; seniors 62 or older, $6.50; youth aged 6 to 17, $5.50.
For more: gastateparks.org/NewEchota.
Booth Western Art Museum
Cowboys in Cartersville? Why not? The Booth promises one of the largest collections of western art in the South. It features realistic and abstract painting, sculpture and a collection of portraits and signatures of American presidents. A larger-than-life cowboy riding a bucking horse in a sculpture out front sets the tone; inside, works by more than 200 artists examine the mythic west, the modern west and the lives of westerners.
Where: 501 Museum Drive, Cartersville, Ga., 30120. Take I-75 to Exit 288. Turn west and follow Main Street (Ga. 113 /61) about 2.2 miles into Cartersville’s business district. Turn right on Gilmer Street, go two blocks under the bridge. The museum is on the left.
Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.
Cost: adults $10 + tax; seniors (65 and over) $8 + tax; students $7 + tax; children 12 and under free.
For more: boothmuseum.org.
Tellus Science Museum
Gemstones, dinosaurs, cars, airplanes and space travel are among the scientific subjects touched on in the displays within this sprawling structure in Cartersville. The museum’s exhibits explore places from the center of the Earth to outer space, and examine a century of changes in transportation.
Where: 100 Tellus Drive, Cartersville, Ga., 30120. Take I-75 to exit 293.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but closed on major holidays.
Cost: adults, $14 + tax; children (3 – 17), $10 + tax; students, $10 + tax; active military, free (1/2 price admission for active duty dependents with ID); seniors (65+), $12 + tax.
For more: tellusmuseum.org, 770-606-5700.
Bartow History Museum
This local history museum focuses on the settlement and development of Bartow County. Visitors can check out Cherokee and pioneer cabins, sit in a one-room schoolhouse or learn about the Civil War and the early textile industry, the museum’s webpage promises.
Where: 4 E. Church St., Cartersville, Ga., 30120. Take I-75 north to Exit 288 and drive into downtown Cartersville.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: adults, $5.50; seniors/students, $4.50; children younger than 5, free.
For more: bartowhistorymuseum.org, 770-387-2774.