For a trip full of adventure and fun learning opportunities, Cartersville, Georgia, about three hours from Greenville, SC, is where you need to go. Kristina visited Cartersville with her kids and has all the details on how to plan a great family trip there!
Thank you to Visit Cartersville-Bartow for inviting us to experience Cartersville, GA!
Cartersville, Georgia is only about a three-hour drive from Greenville, SC and has a multitude of options for indoor and outdoor fun plus unique experiences like a museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Western Art. It’s amazing, I promise.
Whether you like to explore nature, swim in mountain lakes, dig for fossils, go gem panning, or be mesmerized by Civil War history and Native American sculptures, you’ll find something you will love in Cartersville, Georgia.
What to do in Cartersville, GA
I was blown away by all the things to do in Cartersville, Georgia. I’ll tell you what we did plus give you other places to go that we weren’t able to get to (but wish we could have).
Red Top Mountain Park
Red Top Mountain Park is situated on the banks of the 12,000-acre Allatoona Lake and has hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, lodging, and camping available. We hiked part of the Homestead Trail, which was blessedly in the shade and had beautiful views of the lake. Our hike was cut short because it was hot and wanted to get swimming!
We checked out the sandy beach, which is pretty big for a mountain beach on a lake. We got there around 11 am on a Sunday and didn’t leave until 2 pm, when the parking lot was nearly full. There are bathrooms, changing areas, and a shower to rinse off the sand afterward plus lots of space to hang hammocks, grill out, and just chill on the beach.
I was regretting the fact that I didn’t bring my paddleboards! I had to be happy with the tubes we brought and just hung out in the lake, read a book, and enjoyed the Georgia sun. It was pretty awesome.
There are places to rent a kayak on the lake and lots of good spots I saw where you can fish or swim. If I had more time in Cartersville, I’d make a day trip out of exploring this park. Admission is just $5 per car (bring cash) or free if you have a Georgia State Parks Pass.
50 Lodge Road SE, Acworth, GA
Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
The Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is part of Georgia State Parks and is the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast. There are six earthen mounds here, the highest more than 60 feet (you can climb it), a replica home used by the Native Americans who once lived there, borrow pits, and a defensive ditch (like a moat).
The site dates back to around 1000 to 1550 A.D. when thousands of Native Americans made their homes here along the banks of the Etowah River. You can even walk down to the river to see the unique fish trap they used.
I thought the site was very peaceful. It was quiet and the exhibits really invite you to think about what it was like living there. We did the Jr. Ranger program, which I think is a great way to really dig deeper into the history and learn about it. This would be a great field trip for a homeschooling family.
You can walk to three of the earthen mounds and climb up them via a staircase. There is no shade once you get outside and while the path is wide and not too long to the mounds or the river, it is natural ground so it would be hard for a wheelchair or regular stroller (a jogging stroller would be fine). Admission is $6/adults, $4/kids ages 6-17, and $2/age 6 and under.
813 Indian Mounds Rd, Cartersville, GA
Booth Western Art Museum
I didn’t know what to expect when I checked out the Booth Western Art Museum. I was totally blown away by this place. A Smithsonian-affiliated institution, the 120,000-square-foot Booth Western Art Museum houses the world’s largest permanent exhibition space of Western Art. But what is Western Art?
We found out that it is art depicting Native Americans and places out West like the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains and art that showcases the struggles, dreams, and legends of people who lived in those lands. It has intricate sculptures of Native American chiefs, an outdoor sculpture garden of cowboys, and even a collection of signed letters from every U.S. President. It was just amazing. My kids were enamored as well.
The “War is Hell” exhibit was remarkable. It depicts the story of the Civil War through beautiful – and realistic – paintings. It was like walking through a history lesson and because of the visible paintings, it captured and held our attention. They also had some Civil War artifacts in the exhibit hall and some of the paintings depicted battles that happened near present-day Cartersville, GA.
The kid’s play area, Sagebrush Ranch, was also amazing. It’s an entire, interactive Western town. Kids can jump up on a horse, ride in a bumpy stagecoach, listen to storytime, play games in a saloon, and put together puzzles in the tackhouse. My kids didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave but the museum was closing and we had to go. I’d love to go back here!
They are open every day except Monday. Adult tickets are $13 and children 12 and under are free. Expect to spend at least 1.5 hours here, maybe more.
501 N Museum Dr, Cartersville, GA
Tellus Science Museum
Another Smithsonian museum, the Tellus Science Museum is a wonder. When we arrived, four summer camps with a lot of kids also arrived, yet once we got inside and started exploring, the place didn’t feel crowded at all. It’s huge!
They have multiple permanent exhibits: an enormous mineral gallery with gems, jeweled objects, stones, exhibits on volcanos and earthquakes, and a lifesize Periodic Table (I loved this); another large gallery devoted to science and motion, which has a replica of the Wright Brothers plane, vintage motorcycles, model trains, a fighter jet cockpit, and space capsules; and Discovery Garden, which is a huge backyard-themed kids area with brainteasers, puzzles, simple machines, and rotating exhibits.
One of the biggest exhibits is on dinosaurs. You can’t miss it – they have a huge dinosaur skeleton in the lobby plus multiple skeletons, including a T-Rex, an enormous turtle, sharks, and a strange prehistoric fish creature. They also have gem panning and fossil digs, which are included in your admission. My kids loved digging in the “dirt” for shark teeth and other fossils and gem panning for small gems.
They also have a planetarium and observatory. Planetarium shows are daily and can be added to the cost of your admission. If you have a Roper Mountain Science Center membership for your family, you get in free (yet another reason to have this membership). Otherwise, adult admission is $17 and child (ages 3-17) admission is $13. Expect to spend at least 2.5 hours here. They have a cafe if you’d like to get lunch.
100 Tellus Drive, Cartersville, GA
The arcade at LakePoint Station is just one part of the big entertainment complex. They have a huge arcade, bowling, mini-golf, gem mining, indoor climbing walls, an ice cream and treats shop, and a pizza restaurant. My kids and I love arcades so that’s where we headed.
We threw balls at clowns trying to knock them down in our favorite arcade game for at least 15 minutes and then tried a few others that my kids loved. Prices vary according to activity. They are open daily and have specials so be sure to follow them on social media and check their website before you go.
77 Old Allatoona Road, Cartersville, GA
Terminus Wake Park
If my kids and I have a summer weakness, it’s floating aqua parks. We’ve tried most of these within a three-hour driving distance to Greenville and absolutely love sliding around on the inflatable courses, jumping in the water, and trying our best not to wipe out. When I saw Terminus Wake Park across the street from LakePoint Station, I went in to check it out and ultimately booked a session for later that day. Kids have to be ages 5 or older to participate.
It was such a blast! The weather had cleared earlier and it was really hot and humid so the water felt awesome. The course looks relatively new and is in great shape. The life jackets are clean and comfortable as well. If you have younger kids, you may want to go on with them if there are older kids that are on the course with you. They do have lifeguards but some of the rules aren’t enforced and younger kids may get accidentally pushed in by the older ones.
Your best bet is to book your spot online and sign your waiver so you can save time when you get there. They start every hour on the hour. You get 50 minutes on the course and prices are $24-$28 a person depending on if it’s a weekday or weekend/holiday that you choose. They also have a huge wakeboarding park but I’m not brave enough to do that.
171 LakePoint Pkwy, Cartersville, GA
Downtown Cartersville & African American History
Downtown Cartersville is home to lots of cute shops, small businesses, and restaurants. There are clothing shops, handmade items, coffee, olive oil, outdoor stores, and an old school pharmacy. In fact, just outside the doors of the pharmacy is the world’s first outdoor painted wall sign for Coca-Cola.
Additionally, the history of African American entrepreneurship runs deep in Cartersville. There is a powerful sculpture near the town center called “Pathways to Freedom” that depicts the signs and symbols used by escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. You can also take the walkable trail to learn more about the history of Black residents in Cartersville-Bartow County.
Cars & Camels
We didn’t get to these places but think our readers may enjoy them:
- Old Car City USA – In the small town of White, Georgia lies the world’s largest known classic car junkyard. This forest of forgotten cars is a dreamland for car enthusiasts and photographers alike, with more than 4,000 classic cars and six miles of walking trails over 34 acres of land. Fun fact: Old Car City USA is also home to the last car Elvis Presley owned. Admission is cash only.
- Pettit Creek Farms – Just one mile from Downtown Cartersville’s Historic Square lies the largest camel herd in Georgia. But it’s not just camels; this farm is home to many exotic animals such as giraffes, zebras, capybaras, lemurs, llamas, and even reindeer when they’re not pulling Santa’s sleigh.
- The 4 Way Lunch – This classic American diner is Georgia’s oldest restaurant without a telephone, staying true to its 1930s roots with a 14-seat counter. In addition to Southern staples like grits and biscuits, locals love to order burgers and hot dogs “All the Way,” topped with mustard, onions, and chili.
- Savoy Auto Museum: This museum connects people to the cultural diversity of the automobile. Through changing exhibits, educational programs, and engaging experiences individuals have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and history of automobiles.
Where to Eat
Main Street Coastal Cuisine
Right on Main Street in downtown Cartersville, Maine Street Coastal Cuisine is a casual dining place but definitely make reservations before you go. We went on a Sunday evening and even though we didn’t have reservations, they had some space for us at the large bar so that’s what where we sat. The staff was really great in accommodating us and the food was awesome.
They have several seafood-based dishes as well as burgers, tacos, and a good kids menu. My youngest got Mac & Cheese and it had Old Bay Seasoning. It was so good! What a game-changer. I got steak tip tacos and my other daughter had a burger with fries. Everything was excellent.
24 West Main Street, Cartersville, GA
Put a bagel shop in front of me and I’ll race you to the door. Nagel’s Bagels was our choice of breakfast one morning and they didn’t disappoint. An artisan bagel shop, they specialize in unique bagel flavors that are pretty incredible. My daughters got egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches. One of the bagels we ordered was a Maple Bacon bagel and I got a Cranberry bagel – both were fantastic. The shop is really cute, too, with lots of space to sit and relax and enjoy your bagels.
125 W Main St, Cartersville, GA
Noble & Main Coffee Co.
A specialty coffee shop, Noble & Main Coffee Co. is a couple of doors down from Nagel’s Bagels so you could get your coffee and then eat some bagels (which is what we did). I had a rosemary cardamom latte and it was quite flavorful. I’d certainly go back here to try other coffees.
145 W Main St, Cartersville, GA
This cafe is a healthier option for dining with smoothies, salads, and air-fried foods. We went for breakfast and I got a Toasted Coconut coffee that was amazing. My kids got bacon, egg, and cheese croissants that were huge. The owners are the sweetest couple you’ll probably meet and asked my name and my kids’ names and were just so welcoming. Give them a follow on Facebook for updated specials.
650 Henderson Dr Ste 501, Cartersville, GA
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, only a ten-minute drive from downtown Cartersville. The rooms are really nice and spacious with a microwave and a small refrigerator. The beds are comfortable and they have a big lobby and outdoor area to hang out, catch up on some work, or just relax and play games.
My kids loved the outdoor pool and the staff was so helpful in bringing us extra towels. While the hotel does not have a free breakfast, they do offer breakfast and Starbucks coffee as an add-on if you want to eat there.
I really liked this hotel as the location was convenient and the place was very clean.
5460 Highway 20, Cartersville, GA
Fall Events in Cartersville-Bartow
If you’re headed to North Georgia around this area, there are some pretty fantastic events happening.
- Swine & Wine: Barnsley Resort, located in the small town of Adairsville, is gearing up for a delightful fall celebration with Swine & Wine Weekend October 27 & 28. Throughout the entire weekend, visitors can celebrate pork and cork with award-winning barbeque pitmaster Carey Bringle of Nashville’s Peg Leg Porker and wine enthusiast personality Heath Porter, a five-star international sommelier of Heathen Wines + Wine Tours. Guests are in for a treat with an interactive signature wine tasting during the Swine & Wine Supper Club Dinner at the stunning Manor House Ruins Pavilion. The event promises to be an enchanting experience, celebrating the finest flavors of fall.
- West Fest at Booth Western Art Museum: Booth Western Art Museum is hosting the newly revamped West Fest from Thursday, October 26 through Saturday October 28. Visitors can grab their cowboy hats and experience exciting re-enactments of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, vendors, lively music performances, food trucks, children’s train and hayrides, chuck wagons, a petting zoo, mechanical calf roping and so much more. Kids can enjoy complimentary art projects and activities along with their admission. Once visitors have enjoyed the daytime West Fest, they can head to Museum South Lawn from 5-7:30 pm for the first-ever “West Fest After-Party”. Tickets are available for individuals and whole tables offering beer, wine, signature drinks, food trucks and live acoustic music, creating a vibrant atmosphere for those 21 and older.
Overall Review of Cartersville-Bartow
I love being pleasantly surprised during a trip with my kids and that was certainly the feeling while exploring Cartersville. The Booth Western Art Museum and the Tellus Museum were both outstanding and I really wish I had more time to stay at both of them. The art at the Booth Museum was astounding and my kids were just as amazed as I was, which I think shows that they can really span generations of interest.
Being an outdoor lover, Red Top Mountain Park was a favorite. I’d go back there just to paddleboard and swim. They offer a yurt and cabins to stay in and I’d totally be up for doing that for a weekend and seeing the museums again for indoor activities. My kids would tell you that they would happily sit in the car for the three-hour drive if they could do the aqua park at Terminus again! I do agree that it was awesome.
For an affordable family trip that has elements to suit pretty much any interest and is within easy driving distance of the Upstate, Cartersville certainly is a fantastic option.
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