Why Georgia’s former capital is a perfect weekend getaway

The Old Governor’s Mansion was used by General Sherman as his headquarters during his March to the Sea in 1864.

The Old Governor’s Mansion was used by General Sherman as his headquarters during his March to the Sea in 1864.

STORY: Jan Schroder
Dylan Stephens Photography

A Southern girl, born and bred, I can think of no better way to end a day than sipping a glass of wine on a wraparound porch. That’s exactly what I did after a day of sightseeing in Milledgeville, Georgia, a perfect weekend getaway from Atlanta. This former capital city is just 95 miles south of Buckhead and offers a range of accommodations, outdoor activities and tours, including the former home of one of the country’s most famous writers.

Luxury amenities meet industrial style at the Soho Lofts in downtown Milledgeville.

Luxury amenities meet industrial style at the Soho Lofts in downtown Milledgeville.

My choice of accommodations was the charming Antebellum Inn, where the six rooms feature private baths, clawfoot tubs, polished hardwoods and antique furnishings. Breakfast the first day took me by surprise. After I served myself some coffee, granola and yogurt and took a seat in the light-filled dining room, I soon learned that was just the first course. It was soon followed by a huge, hot meal fit for a hungry farmhand.

Built in 1890—OK, so it’s not technically antebellum, but who’s counting?—the inn is owned by Kim and Marty Martin, who also own the Soho Lofts, four loft-style suites in downtown Milledgeville, where the style is more uptown chic than old South. Each of the suites has hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and full kitchens.

For an introduction to the history of Milledgeville, take the two-hour tour on Milly the Trolley, which meanders through the historic district and visits sites such as the Gothic Revival-style Old Capitol building, built in 1807.

A hot breakfast, afternoon wine and bikes are included with a stay at the Antebellum Inn.

A hot breakfast, afternoon wine and bikes are included with a stay at the Antebellum Inn.

Don’t miss the beautifully restored 19th-century Old Governor’s Mansion, located on the Georgia College campus. During the one-hour tour, you’ll discover it housed 10 governors during the time Milledgeville served as the capital prior to it being moved to Atlanta in 1868. One of the town’s quirkier events is the annual Historic Doll Wedding and High Tea, held at the mansion each March. Apparently, Mary Virginia Brown, the daughter of Governor Joseph Brown, “married” her two dolls in 1859 and invited the entire town, an event that’s reenacted with replicas of the dolls, along with tea and a maypole dance.

Tour the town with a local guide to learn more about Milledgeville’s history on Milly the Trolley.

Tour the town with a local guide to learn more about Milledgeville’s history on Milly the Trolley.

Less than five miles away is Andalusia, author Flannery O’Connor’s home from 1951 to her death in 1964. The house recently reopened after extensive renovations to the grounds, kitchen and her bedroom. And yes, peacocks still roam around the former cattle farm, where O’Connor once surrounded herself with as many as 40 of the colorful birds.

For nature lovers, hikers and cyclists, Bartram Forest has three nature trails and a new 11-mile cycling trail. Cool off by the water or hike and bike along the Oconee River Greenway, where kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available to rent. Stroll the grounds and visit the free public gardens at the Lockerly Arboretum, which has almost 50 acres, a picnic area and a pond. This being Milledgeville, there’s also an antebellum home, Rose Hill, that dates back to 1852 and is open for self-guided tours.

The 10 blocks making up historic downtown Milledgeville are smalltown charming, easily strollable and lined with locally owned restaurants and shops, including J.C. Grant Company, which has been bejeweling its customers since 1886. Visit town during the school year and you’ll mingle with some of Georgia College’s 7,000 students. When you get hungry, grab a cup of coffee at Blackbird Coffee, a burger at Buffington’s, spring rolls at Kai Thai, pulled pork at Georgia Bob’s Barbecue Company or some bar grub at The Brick. Then after dinner, settle in for some good ol’ porch-sittin’.

For more information on Milledgeville, visit visitmilledgeville.org.