The quaint city of Thomasville in the southwestern part of Georgia is located less than an hour from Tallahassee, Florida. Not to be confused with Thomasville, Florida, this Thomasville is the epitome of Southern tradition, charm, and hospitality. The historic downtown and its main street (Broad Street) are among the finest in the South.
In days past, the wealthy flocked to Thomasville for the clean, crisp, pine-scented air that was thought to provide health benefits and long life, curing pulmonary issues. Being the terminus of the railroad, Thomasville became known as “the Winter Resort of the South,” and the affluent who traveled there built plantations and Victorian mansions. They were visited by friends who appreciated the sporting life and lavish country living.
It is best to travel to Thomasville by car. To me, this place is everything a true Southern town should be, and then some. Here are 12 memorable experiences to have in Thomasville.
I was hosted by The Paxton and the Taste of Thomasville Food Tour, but all opinions are my own.
1. Visit The Thomasville Rose Garden
One of the must-see attractions in Thomasville is the city’s rose garden. Why? First, Thomasville is “Rose City,” and second, the sheer number (1,500+) and variety of rose bushes are spectacular. I found a few roses that I wasn’t familiar with — Sugar Moon, Belinda’s Dream, and Scentimental, to name a few. What a feast for your senses!
Visiting the garden is free. I love taking pictures there and then heading to the adjacent park for a walk along the boardwalk that encircles Cherokee Lake.
2. Feast On Charcuterie
You’ll find some of the best cheese in the country at Sweet Grass Dairy in downtown Thomasville. I learned about it in Southern magazines and have been a big fan for nearly 10 years. Sweet Grass Dairy has a small shop with cheeses, meats, upscale packaged foods, and gourmet staples, but the best part is the restaurant and bar area, where you can chow down on one of the best charcuterie platters ever.
I recommend the Taste of Thomasville, featuring Green Hill, pimento, Thomasville Tomme, and Asher Blue cheeses; roasted pecans; artisan crackers; house-made bread-and-butter pickles; and Blackberry Patch preserves. It is sensational. Pair your board with a creative cocktail from the “Liquid Courage” menu or a glass of vino.
3. Shop In The Historic Downtown
Downtown Thomasville is a place you’ll want to explore for hours. The buildings date to the 1880s and now house over 100 locally owned boutiques, restaurants, coffee and dessert shops, and much more. A few of my favorite shops are Fuzzy Goat (yarn and knitting supplies), Firefly (home accents and children’s gifts), Kevin’s (upscale outdoor clothing), Imagination Emporium (toys), and Relish (gourmet food products and cookware). I can never resist a stop at The Bookshelf, and Harden’s Taxidermy is probably the most interesting shop in the area.
Pro Tip: If you need a unique gift for the man in your life, the feathered bow ties (think pheasant and turkey) at Kevin’s are spectacular.
4. Take A Fantastic Food Tour
The Taste of Thomasville Food Tour, in business for nearly a dozen years, is one of the best you’ll ever take — and that is coming from someone who has taken dozens around the world.
You’ll learn some fascinating facts about the town’s history and colorful locals with Debra Smith, the owner/operator. You will also feast on some tasty morsels from local eateries like Empire Bagel, George & Louie’s, Grassroots Coffee Company, and AJ Moonspin Pizza. The walking food tours last about 3 hours, and you will walk approximately 1.2 miles.
Other tours include Victorian Sweets, Children’s Food Tour, Getaway Combo (with an overnight), and Taste of Thomasville After Hours.
5. Partake In A Wine Tasting
Farmer’s Daughter Tasting Room is a lounge-style space that serves award-winning small-batch wines. The ambience of the tasting room is friendly and welcoming, and the staff is knowledgeable about the products.
Among the Farmer’s Daughter wine choices are Saltwater Gypsy, Hellraiser, Knockout, and Bombshell, all really tasty — and I would know, since I have sampled them more than once. You can pair your wines with organic chocolates or a charcuterie board.
Pro Tip: Farmer’s Daughter serves sangria on Fridays and Saturdays.
6. Tour A Unique House
Thomasville’s Lapham-Patterson House, a state historic site maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, is a structure worth seeing. Built around 1885 for homeowner C. W. Lapham, the home has fish-scale shingles, inlaid pine floors, and a cantilevered balcony. But those are only a few of the intriguing things you’ll see in this mysterious house. It also has 50 different exits, as well as some stunning stained glass windows.
7. Stay In An Elegant Bed And Breakfast
The Paxton is a boutique inn with possibly the most beautiful furnishings I’ve ever seen in a bed-and-breakfast setting. The inn offers gorgeous rooms with modern amenities and high-end linens, while the common rooms showcase priceless artwork, paintings, and china. Enjoy a top-notch breakfast (think frittata, pancakes, eggs, and fruit salad) on antique blue dishes in the Florida Room, or relax in the wicker furniture on the wraparound porch. This historic inn is stunning and in pristine condition.
8. Eat Amazing Southern Food
Thomasville is an exceptional place to sink your teeth into fabulous Southern cuisine. My favorite place is Jonah’s Fish & Grits, known for making the state’s best shrimp and grits. This award-winning dish has been mentioned in so many publications that I’ve lost count. The Cajun shrimp and grits dish is wonderful. The creamy goodness of the rich grits, spices, and fresh shrimp sent my taste buds into a frenzy. Jonah’s hushpuppies are amazing, too. Don’t choose to diet on the day you eat here!
Next door, Liam’s is another favorite. You can try locally sourced ingredients in the North Georgia trout, smoked fish dip (pickled veggies and crackers), and buttermilk-fried quail. Modern classic cocktails and killer martinis are other specialties. I’m a fan of their artisan cheese boards, too.
9. Tour Former Plantations
Two noteworthy plantations to visit in Thomasville are South Eden Plantation and Pebble Hill Plantation. South Eden offers 27 luxury rooms; the grounds are home to nature walks, a koi pond, cottages, landmark stables, and a 1939 pool house. It is a stunning place and a popular wedding venue.
Pebble Hill Plantation, once a cotton and rice plantation, is now a well-preserved museum. The 3,000-acre property and whitewashed brick home of Elisabeth “Pansy” Ireland Poe are operated by her foundation and spectacularly preserved. The plantation is a good place to learn about the area’s history. The art collection and Louis Vuitton trunks were my favorite parts, but the grounds are equally impressive.
10. Visit The Museums
Two significant museums in Thomasville are the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and the Thomasville History Center.
Jack Hadley decided to share his private collection with locals and tourists alike by opening the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, and it has been very well received. The collections on display (covering military history, religion, sports, education, Civil Rights, etc.) include photographs, memorabilia, exhibits, and firsthand accounts by local and regional figures.
The Thomasville History Center was founded in 1952 to share the town’s exciting history — the museum opened in 1972. There are thousands of items on display in the museum, and seven historic buildings have been moved there, including an 1896 bowling alley, 1870 log cabin, and 1892 courthouse. You can take a guided or self-guided tour of the museum as you explore the great history of this charming Southern city. I would allow an hour or a little more for this tour.
11. Have Your Picture Taken
Once visited by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Thomasville’s enormous Big Oak was born in 1685 and has a circumference of 26 feet. You can have your picture taken in front of the Big Oak by calling (229) 236-0053 and smiling for the camera across the street. Later, log on to the Big Oak’s website to download your picture. Search by the month you visited. How fun! The Big Oak is located in Elisabeth Ireland Poe Park.
12. Treat Yourself To The Spa
You’ll find a few noteworthy spas in Thomasville, perfect for relaxing and unwinding. Downtown’s Metta Day Spa offers the works for spa treatments, including Thai massage, which is a great stretch and unique offering. Blush Salon & Day Spa is another reputable choice, with body treatments, cupping, waxing for men and women, and several types of massage, including neuromuscular and deep tissue.