About 40 miles north of Columbus, an hour southwest of Atlanta, the rising, forested flanks of Pine Mountain attract flatlanders in search of cooler temperatures and an overlook of the surrounding countryside. In 1924, the therapeutic natural hot springs here also drew the future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, in between losing the election for vice president in 1920 and winning the governorship of New York in 1928, was struck with polio and left unable to walk. Roosevelt loved the area so much he built a wooded three-bedroom retreat here later called the Little White House (706/655-5870, daily, $12). He established a treatment center nearby for himself and fellow polio sufferers, funded a charity that grew into today’s March of Dimes, and returned regularly over the next two decades. After being elected president in 1932 he formulated much of the “New Deal” and managed the conduct of World War II while staying here. And on the afternoon of April 12, 1945, FDR collapsed suddenly and died at Warm Springs, leaving an unfinished portrait propped on an easel.
The surprisingly small and unpretentious house is as it was when Roosevelt died. The recent addition of an excellent 11,000-square-foot museum tells all about Roosevelt’s life and times. Many of the displays concentrate on his political career, but many of the objects are personal and vividly moving, such as the heavy leg braces FDR wore during public appearances, the wall full of walking canes crafted for FDR by disabled people all over the world, and the dark-blue Ford V-8 convertible (with hand controls) that he drove around the Warm Springs countryside.
At nearby 9,049-acre F. D. Roosevelt State Park, on land donated by Roosevelt, you can take in the terrific views, swim at the pool, hike a portion of the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail, or stay the night in one of the many rustic cottages (reservations 800/864-7275). In the small town of Warm Springs (pop. 401), a half mile north of the Little White House park, Mac’s Barbeque (5711 Spring St., 706/655-2472, daily), at Main Street a block east of Hwy-41, has hickory-smoked ribs and chicken. Home-style comfort food is on the menu at warm and friendly Bulloch House Restaurant (70 Broad St., 706/655-9068), in a gorgeous old Victorian home a short walk down Spring Street. Right in the heart of Warm Springs, the historic Hotel Warm Springs Bed and Breakfast Inn (47 Broad St., 800/366-7616 or 706/655-2114, $85-195) offers B&B accommodations (with 12-foot ceilings!). There are also plenty of craft, gift, and antiques stores to browse through.
One last area attraction, west of Warm Springs off US-27, is perhaps the biggest draw in north Georgia: Callaway Gardens (800/852-3810, daily, $20 adults), which has 14,000 lushly landscaped acres covered in topiary gardens, a lakeside swimming beach, and dazzling displays of colorful flowers. The Day Butterfly Center, a 7,000-square-foot atrium with more than 50 exotic species of free-flying butterflies, is surrounded by 1.5 acres of butterfly-friendly gardens. Restaurants, a golf course, and overnight accommodations are also available.