The Best Things To Do In Cartersville, Georgia
World-class museums, unspoiled nature, and crave-worthy restaurants steal the show in this classic small town.
Whether you’re looking for an easy day trip from Atlanta or Chattanooga, a quick stop off of an I-75 roadtrip, or a longer stay, Cartersville has something for everyone.
The town was incorporated in 1854 and thrived thanks to its key position along the railway, but the history of the surrounding land dates back much farther. Creek, Cherokee, and prehistoric Native Mississippian cultures all called it home. Now with a population of fewer than 25,000 residents, Cartersville exudes small town charm along with sophisticated attractions. Whether you’re looking for world-class museums and dining or a chance to just get away from it all, you’ll find it here.
What To Do
Cartersville’s unofficial nickname is “Georgia’s Museum City,” and it’s easy to see why, with not one, but two Smithsonian-affiliated locations. The first, Tellus Science Museum, is a sprawling 120,000-square-foot wonder designed to inspire guests of all ages to fall in love with the wonders of science. It features four main permanent galleries—dedicated to minerals, fossils, science in motion, and interactive experiments for kids—as well as a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory with a high-tech, 20-inch telescope to see the heavens in greater detail. The second Smithsonian affiliate, also clocking in at 120,000 square feet, The Booth Museum, is a tribute to America's founding. It tells the story through more than 150 Native American artifacts and art, Civil War art, large-scale sculptures, a gallery dedicated to the cowboys and cowgirls who made their mark, and more. Don’t miss the Presidential Gallery, featuring a portrait and a one-page letter from every U.S. President.
Be sure to carve out time for a visit to the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, where you’ll explore six earthen mounds, a village site, plaza and other significant spots to the Mississippian tribe that built the political and religious center between 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D. Only approximately nine percent of the 54-acre site has been excavated and an on-property museum filled with archaeologically significant artifacts showcases the sophistication of this ancient community. Take time to walk the picturesque nature trail along the Etowah River and appreciate the views from the 63-foot-tall knoll that was once home of the tribe’s chief-priest.
Where To Eat
Downtown Cartersville has plenty to tempt foodies in the quartet of blocks surrounding the courthouse square. Just park your car (it’s free) and see what strikes your fancy. You can’t go wrong with the neighborhood bistro Table 20, voted the “People’s Choice” favorite in the town’s 2022 poll. Their hyper-seasonal menu, based on local ingredients and global influences, gets a daily update, but perennial favorites include the maple-brined heritage pork chop with bacon-braised beans, sweet potato linguine, baby kale caesar salad, and truffle fries.
Another favorite, Appalachian Grill, has been delighting taste buds since 2001. There, you can sample pecan- and sage-crusted chicken over chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, fried green tomatoes with barbecue ranch, and house-made smoked salmon spread. They don’t take reservations, so on popular nights, put your name in and then wander over to Drowned Valley Brewing, Cartersville’s first craft brewery. Sip on signatures such as Long Gone Blonde ale, OS Express oatmeal stout and Ahhhroma Hazy IPA at the dog- and family-friendly tasting room, complete with firepits, darts, and other games.
Where To Shop
Don’t let downtown’s diminutive size fool you: There are plenty of treasures to be found. It's About Time Boutique is a must-visit for gifts, from jewelry to baby gifts and wedding registry items to fragrant candles. Women’s fashion and accessories are curated at Periwinkle, it’s Christmas all year ‘round at Tis the Season, and JZ’s Taste of Georgia stocks Peach State-grown treats such as honey-roasted pecans, wine, beer, and candy that would make an ideal souvenir.
Where To Stay
If the idea of parking your car and staying right downtown appeals, you can’t do better than Main Street Lofts, rentals built into the restored 1940 Stein Building. Oversize windows, original hardwoods, luxe bedding, a spacious living area, spa bathrooms, and a fully outfitted kitchen make this central location an ideal home-away-from-home. For a more rustic experience, book one of 18 cottages at Red Top Mountain State Park, where you can explore glittering Lake Allatoona, more than a dozen miles of hiking trails, a mountain biking trail, tennis courts, and more. Each cottage comes with its own fire ring, perfect for making memories under the stars.
If full-on luxury appeals, book a room at Barnsley Resort in nearby Adairsville. Just a 20-minute drive from Cartersville, the 3,000-acre former private estate offers a 55-room inn and a selection of private cottages. Ranging from one to seven bedrooms the cottages are surrounded by heirloom gardens, complete with claw-foot soaking tubs and generous front porches. It’s easy to stay awhile and let whatever stress you may be carrying melt away.
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