When outsiders think of Georgia, Atlanta or Savannah might immediately come to mind. But I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful town just one hour southwest of the Atlanta airport. Lagrange sits right along the border between Alabama and Georgia, also less than an hour’s drive from Auburn, AL or Columbus, GA. The population is only about 30,000 people, but LaGrange is filled with wonderful ways to spend time eating, shopping, learning and being entertained.
SCRUMPTIOUS DINING OPTIONS
It always helps to know that there will be plenty of great food when you visit a new town. Let me assure you that LaGrange fills that requirement very well.
Taste of Lemon is a couple of blocks off the town square at 200 Morgan Street and is a popular choice for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:00-2:00. You will look twice when you reach the address because the restaurant is actually in a building which formerly housed a Methodist church built in 1892. It has been a restaurant since 1982 and is owned by Betty Daniel. Artwork on the walls was created by Betty’s son-in-law Steve Close.
This is Southern comfort food as its finest, a real “meat and three” kind of place. Or, according to the menu, you can choose to have a meat and two vegetables along with a serving of pineapple casserole, which is their signature dish. By ordering the pineapple casserole, you won’t need dessert, but of course, there are several homemade sweets made fresh daily.
Charles Hudson, Jr and his son Chase own two upscale restaurants near the square and right next door to each other: Mare Sol and C’sons. Both have highly-skilled chefs working to create an impressive number of tempting dishes from shrimp and grits to fried quail and everything in between. Save room for dessert, because both places have temptations you won’t want to miss. The Strawberry Swiss Roll and German Chocolate Cake are likely to become your new favorites.
If you are craving Italian cuisine, then head to Venucci at 129 Main Street. The aroma when you walk in the door will validate your choice. The fresh-baked bread will stimulate your appetite for the variety of pastas and pizzas served for dinner, or go for lunch and try one of their great burgers or wraps.
Locals also frequently recommend the casual dining lunch options of 505 Eats and Charlie Joseph’s and for lunch or dinner, you might head to The Cart Barn or Country’s BBQ. In Lagrange, you will NOT go hungry. . . or thirsty. If you like craft beer, there is a booming new business in town, Wild Leap Brew Company, bringing imaginative flavors and live musicians to 308 Main Street where Westbrook Tire and Service Company served customers for many years.
DOWNTOWN SHOPS AND LODGING
If you enjoy perusing aisles of antiques and vintage furniture and décor, then LaGrange will keep you occupied for hours. Other shops that are favorites of the locals are Stephens Exclusives and Tournesol for gifts, Elliebelle’s Boutique for women’s clothing, and Plum Southern for home décor, jewelry and bridal registries. Be sure to allow plenty of time for wandering the many stores around the square and down some of the side streets to find new treasures.
Courtyard by Marriott opened a new location on the square in LaGrange in mid-December of 2017. Meeting facilities and guestrooms feature the latest and greatest in state-of-the-art amenities, and the location is perfect for taking advantage of events in downtown LaGrange as well as serving as a launching pad to attractions within a nearby radius.
SURPRISING CULTURAL OPPORTUNITIES
When you remember that the population is only 30,000, it will likely surprise you to learn that LaGrange has its own Symphony Orchestra and Art Museum. The LaGrange Art Museum is located at 112 LaFayette Parkway and opens Tuesdays through Saturdays. The building which houses the museum was built in 1892 to be the Troup County Jail. A strong community support aids this endeavor to bring renowned art to the people of LaGrange, as well as to provide a showcase for local talent and the encouragement of artistic development of its young people.
In addition to presenting five or six concerts throughout the year, the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra provides training for high school students through the LaGrange Youth Orchestra and the Strings Attached program for younger children. The Lafayette Society of Performing Arts holds yearly events for dance, vocal and theater students, so residents and visitors to LaGrange have many live performances to anticipate and put on their calendars.
ATTRACTIONS WITH HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Those who love touring grand old homes and wandering through lush gardens and greenhouses will want to make their way to Hills and Dales Estate, originally built for Fuller E. and Ida Cason Callaway. Fuller’s success began with the purchase of three spools of thread for a nickel and eventually became a multi-million-dollar textile mill providing jobs for thousands. Fuller and Ida Callaway on down to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are still living in LaGrange were and are generous benefactors and contributors to causes and organizations benefiting the lives of residents and visitors to LaGrange, Troup County and its surroundings.
Legacy Museum on Main is filled with artifacts and displays providing a glimpse of typical life in LaGrange from antebellum days until now. Take time to hear the compelling story of Horace King, slave turned bridge builder, and the women whose efforts spared the homes of LaGrange from being burned by Yankee soldiers.
The Biblical History Center might be the biggest surprise of your weekend. Valuable ancient archaeological finds from Israel are carefully preserved here, and structures have been built to reveal life as it was during the time of the Bible. With advance reservations, you can take part in a Sabbath meal, yet another way for the Bible to “jump off the page,” according to a tour guide.
If you are merely looking for great entertainment, seek out the Sweetland Amphitheater at Boyd Park. During the winter, it becomes the town’s ice skating rink, but during warm weather, big name musicians perform before packed audiences of up to 2500.
Entering the final phases of construction and due to open in the summer of 2018 is Great Wolf Lodge Georgia. The lodge will be equipped with 500 guest rooms, and the squeals of kids and grandkids will fill the 93,000-square-foot indoor water park. If it suits your travel style, you can park once and find all you need at Great Wolf Lodge – plenty of dining options, a ropes course and bowling lanes. No doubt visitors will flock to LaGrange from miles around. I hope they will enjoy the lodge AND seek out some of the other surprising attractions and eateries in town while they are there.
Just another quick suggestion would be to drive a few miles down the road to Hogansville. Head to the train depot, have coffee, tea or hot chocolate at the Station Coffeehouse, then start following the Hummingbird Trail. You’ll be enchanted by the beautiful, fiberglass, hand-painted symbols of the town.
I hope I have convinced you to give LaGrange a try. I absolutely loved my time in this thriving city.
All photos by Connie Pearson