Tam Coc Ninh Binh, Vietnam. 2008
Outside of extended, long distance travel, I thoroughly enjoy experiencing a new town over a weekend. This year I've had weekend getaways in Athens, Baltimore, and Boston; this time I got off the beaten path and headed for the town of Valdosta, Georgia.
Valdosta is only twelve and a half miles from the Florida border, and about sixty five miles from Tallahassee, Florida. Getting there is actually really easy. Only Delta flies into Valdosta, from Atlanta. For those of us in the Raleigh-Durham area, a flight from RDU to Atlanta with about an hour and a half connection, a quick concourse change, and a thirty minute flight to Valdosta is all it takes. The airport in Valdosta has one gate, so it's a breeze to get into and out of. I stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was relatively new and definitely a good, moderate option. Another good choice would be the nearby Hilton. Most people will want to rent a car, but Uber is definitely available in Valdosta. Fortunately for me, I have dear friends in Valdosta who were willing to drive me; there's nothing like having a native local-guide!
There's a charming downtown area in historic Valdosta. We had an outstanding lunch at Steel Magnolia's, a truly southern restaurant with an authentic and exemplary lunch menu. At our table, there were orders of Pulled Pork Deviled Eggs and Pulled Pork & Pimento Cheese Wontons as appetizers. For the main course, there were orders of Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, Philly Cheese Steak, and the Blackened Grouper Sandwiches. All of which were really great, and I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not taking pictures of all the food and posting it on Instagram.
After lunch and our walk through the downtown area, we headed for the Grand Bay Wetland Management Area. This wildlife refuge is about 8,500 acres of land owned and managed by both the state, and (licensed by) the US Air Force (Moody Air Force base is nearby). About 3,000 acres of the area consists of upland pine and hardwood forest ecosystem, while nearly 5,500 acres are cypress/gum wetlands. The area is used for regulated hunting and fishing, along with an education center where school groups are taken to learn about the wetland ecosystem.
For tourists like us, the draw of Grand Bay is the boardwalk through the wetland. With tannin laced, dark brown to black swamp water up to the slats of the boardwalk, you can walk through the cypress swamp, underneath the hanging Spanish moss. The swamp has flowering lily pads throughout the gnarled pneumatophors of the cypress trees. While alligators are present, they are pretty hard to see. Lucky for us, there was about a six foot alligator just next to the boardwalk (don't worry, there's fencing along the boardwalk, so they can't quite getcha). At the end of the boardwalk, there's a tower, with an easily climbable staircase to the top, so you can get a great view of the overall area.
Before my flight out on Sunday, there was one last Valdosta classic I had to enjoy, "Breakfast in a Cup"! There's a great fast food chain in Valdosta called Zacadoo's, and they've got a classic southern staple, served in a unique way. Any stop through southern Georgia, or Tallahassee, and you've got to get breakfast at Zacadoo's. Their "Breakfast in a Cup" is everything you need and a little more: grits, eggs, and sausage, layered in a cup. Their grits are outstanding and they go great with the egg and sausage. A perfect Southern breakfast.
Valdosta is a charming Southern town with a great downtown area, warm weather, exciting wildlife, hospitable people, and amazing food.
Born and raised in the travel industry, Avery clings to a unique and profound drive to explore the planet's people, their cultures, history and architecture, as well as natural settings, landscapes and ecosystems. Outside of his upbringing in the travel industry, Avery's higher education mainly consists of Environmental Biology and Anthropology; his knowledge in both greatly influence his travel.