Day One: Macon to Milledgeville
Distance: 34 miles
Although Union general William Sherman burned Atlanta during the Civil War, he left many of Georgia's small towns and cities alone. And each spring, Georgia's Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage (April 19-22; antebellumtrail.org) shows off several of those communities. Start at Macon's Hay House (934 Georgia Avenue; hayhouse.org or 478/742-8155). Finished in 1859, the Italian Renaissance Revival mansion served as a private residence for 102 years.
From Macon, follow State 49 to Milledgeville. Before exploring the small town, head south for 2 miles to the Lockerly Arboretum (lockerly.org or 478/452-2112) and its 1852 Lockerly Hall, one of the state's finest examples of antebellum architecture. Back in Milledgeville, check in to the Antebellum Inn Bed & Breakfast (200 North Columbia Street; antebelluminn.com or 478/453-3993), a Victorian-era B&B (rooms from $109).
Day Two: Milledgeville to Athens
Distance: 80 miles
After breakfast at the inn, head to Madison and In High Cotton (158 West Jefferson Street; 706/342-7777), a restored cotton warehouse that's now a shop filled with jewelry, artwork, and home decor. Then continue along State 441 to Athens and the Georgia Museum of Art (90 Carlton Street; georgiamuseum.org or 706/542-4662). Located on the University of Georgia campus, the state's official art museum boasts some 8,000 items.
About 4 miles south of campus, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia (2450 South Milledgeville Avenue; botgarden.uga.edu or 706/542-1244) covers more than 300 acres and is about the prettiest place on the Antebellum Trail to take a walk on a spring day.
End your day in Athens at The National restaurant (232 West Hancock Avenue; thenationalrestaurant.com or 706/549-3450). Chef Peter Dale suggests the pasture-raised roasted chicken served with a kale salad teeming with big shavings of Parmesan, sliced spring radishes, chopped toasted pecans, and a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette ($22). After your meal, relax with a glass of Chablis and you'll soon understand why General Sherman left this lovely stretch of Georgia alone.