A Trip Back in Time
When I was invited to speak in Thomasville, Georgia, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure exactly where it was. I remembered a vague reference from Cars 3 and I thought I’d seen some photos in a Georgia brochure, maybe. The traveler’s conference was going to take place at a historical plantation called South Eden and the weekend sounded like a unique experience and a great excuse for a road trip. It was 11 hours drive, but there was plenty of fun stops along the way and Mardi Gras was in full swing in Mobile and New Orleans. It was an easy decision.
It turns out that Thomasville was named one of America’s top historic towns a few years ago and it’s easy to see why. The main street looks like it probably did 60 years ago and there’s big beautiful moss covered trees everywhere. One of the town’s main tourist draws is actually an old oak tree that’s at least 340 years old. It’s one of the oldest live oak trees in the country and great care has been taken to preserve it. At any time you’re likely to find a wedding or a gathering of people just hanging out underneath it’s mammoth branches.
Pebble Hill Plantation is another big attraction a few miles south of town. The property was bought by Thomas Jefferson Johnson about 200 years ago and each owner has added their decorative touches and buildings to the property. Visitors can park and stroll through the grounds for a small $5 parking fee. There’s some beautiful scenery, interesting historic buildings and a nice collection of horse carriages. The plantation offers escorted tours ($18) into the main home that showcase the rooms with their original furnishings and an interesting art collection upstairs. The former owners were hunting enthusiasts, so nearly every room has pictures, carvings and decor with that would even impress Charles Orvis. Pebble Hill is also a popular venue for weddings and outdoor functions. There’s not a traditional hotel on property, but there are two unique types of lodging available. There’s a “firehouse apartment” that “in-the-know-guests” can rent through the website with full kitchen and living room . Guests who know about this “secret spot” can stay in this restored suite above the old fire carriage storage room and nurse’s station. For wedding parties, there’s an overflow building that offers sleeping quarters for small parties of up to 10.
South Eden Plantation is literally next door to Pebble Hill and has over 2 dozen uniquely decorated rooms and cottages as well as its main building for receptions and other events. My room was rocking with it’s scarlet painted walls and crystal chandelier over the white poster bed. The bed was so tall there was foot stool to navigate to the top of the mattress.There’s a small restaurant and wine bar on the property that features live music on the weekends. The pond is crystal clear and filled with friendly fish and ducks waiting patiently for errant bread crumbs to come their way. The property is gorgeous and looks like a filming location for Gone with the Wind. Coincidentally enough, the Showboat theater on the property was the first venue that screened the film before it was released to theaters. Stepping into the Showboat is a nostalgic moment in itself.
Thomasville is also famous for it’s rose show and festival which takes place the weekend of the last Friday in April. This hundred year old tradition features parades, fireworks, street dancing, family events and lots and lots of flowers. Most of the festival events are free to the public.
Thomasville has more than it’s share of great restaurants. Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop is much more than it sounds, offering full service dining. The pimento cheese and curds are considered to be some of the best in the country. Jona’s Fish and Grits has a constant line of wannabe diners that have heard the legends of it’s dishes. Farmer’s Daughter (every establishment has a long story of how they got their names) has wine tasting with the affable co-owner Renee. She not only makes the wine, but designs the fun labels and uses the used corks to decorate the place.
If you’d like to know the origin of where most bakery items come from, look no further than the Flower’s Food Company Heritage Center. This establishment is the second largest bakery company in the US and owns everything from Roman Meal to Wonder products and Dave’s Killer Bread. Right on the Broad street, there’s several nice displays with vintage memorabilia, a restored bread truck and lots of information about a game-changing company that you’ve probably never heard of. There’s no manufacturing at this location (or samples), but there’s a good chance you’ve probably tried everything they make at some point in your life. If you haven’t, it’s not hard to find the rolls, snack cakes, tortillas, or buns just about anywhere.
Thomasville is less than an hour from Tallahassee, Florida and is a great escape for a few days. Not only can you turn back the clock a few decades, but you’ll have no problem getting your southern fix of Brunswick stew, grits and fried green tomatoes with no questions asked.