Whether you are long time Atlanta resident who hasn’t ventured south of the Atlanta airport, have business in Atlanta and are looking to add on a couple pleasure days, or are just looking for a fun getaway in our incredible city, here are some reasons to visit Henry County, Georgia.
My trip was compliments of the Henry County Convention and Visitors Bureau
1. Atlanta Motor Speedway
Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the biggest highlights of Henry County. Fans come from quite a distance to visit and tour the entertainment spot. Besides NASCAR races, they have tons of other activities that happen on other nights of the week. One of the most interesting being the Thursday night racing where you can see up-and-coming drivers. Cost is only five bucks.
Make sure that you sign up for a tour when you visit Atlanta Motor Speedway in Henry County and you will get an amazing experience for just ten bucks. This behind-the-scenes tour includes a few laps in a van along the track (sorry, you can’t drive it yourself), and a tour of the entire stadium including suites. Believe it or not, some people live in the condos full time. Inside you’ll see lots of artwork attributed to drivers and racing memorabilia.
2. Helicopter Tours with the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation acquires, restores and maintains historic vintage flying aircrafts from the Vietnam and the Cold War era. We flew in a Vietnam era Huey Helicopter. Huey helicopters weigh 5,000 pounds and can reach speeds of 127 miles per hour. With a flight crew of four, they can take nine additional passengers.If you don’t like the idea of being on a helicopter with wide open doors, don’t go on this ride. I found it thrilling but it could be a bit frightening for some. Once you arrive at the AAHF in Hampton, GA, you’ll have to fill out some waivers and you’ll have to wait about 3 rides before it’s your turn. It goes by rather fast, with rides being a short 6-8 minutes.
Here’s the view you can expect from a Huey helicopter:
These helicopter rides are extremely popular, so make sure to book in advance.
Another reason that you will love Henry County is Panola Mountain. What’s really cool about Panola Mountain is that it is a granite mountain and there are only a couple in the state of Georgia. A second is Arabia Mountain and a third is Stone Mountain. What sets Panola apart from the other two is that people have been allowed to walk on the others so much, the ecosystems of moss and lichen have not been preserved. Visitors to Panola are limited (You must have a guide take you hiking.) to keep these thriving.
We signed up for a moonlight hike which is offered monthly. It was a bit scary when we turned up for the hike to find out we would be hiking straight up a mountain in the dark. So that was a daunting start to our trek. In a zigzag fashion we were able to climb to the top but if you have any kind of health ailments or you’re not physically fit, it may be difficult.
But I’d recommend that you do this if you can for the spectacular views of the city. And we lucked out as it was a full moon when we hiked. Be aware, you’ll descend the same way you ascended, even more treacherous is heading down a mountain at nightfall! Also note that Panola mountain is popular for movie filming and if it is booked, you will not be able to go near some of the more popular spots on the trail like the lake. Moonlight hikes at Panola are limited to about 10 people per hike so it’s small and intimate.
4. Farm Visits (Gardner and Southern Belle Farm)
Southern Belle Farms and Gardner Farms are really great for if you have children but even as an adult I found them interesting. Southern Belle is relatively new – only several years old but it’s definitely worth exploring as they have done so much with their property it just seems to go on and on. On my visit, strawberries and blackberries were in season (peaches too).
When you’re done exploring the grounds, make sure you go in the store and get some of their ice cream or homemade cobbler. In addition, they’ve got lots of locally produced jams, jellies and condiments too. Plus, Southern Belle has a small petting zoo, bee hives and plenty of fun stuff to keep kids occupied.
Like craft beer? Then a visit to Jailhouse Brewing, named because the building was once a jail, is a must when you come to Henry County. Beers have fun names like Restraining Order Porter, Conjugal Visit, Dead Man Walking and Partners in Crime. Skip the tour and hang out on the patio, and make sure to get your mugshot. Take advantage of the limited release brews you can try which are only available on site. I loved the Pomegranate sour I sampled as well as the wheat beer brewed with mango.
The brewery gives a nod to the past, which is important to owner, Glenn Golden. Besides retro games like Twister (see above), Jailhouse also features classic vinyl nights on Fridays. Bring in your old records and sip some tasty suds while listening to your favorite retro tunes.
Miller’s General store is not a place that you would stumble upon by accident. Once a hardware store, it has now been transformed into a gathering place of sorts. On my visit I saw about half a dozen old men engrossed in their game of checkers. It was also featured in the 2006 film, We Are Marshall. But there’s another reason to visit – biscuits. The owner, Herman Miller, takes orders in advance and brings them to the store for loyal fans to pick up. I quite enjoyed my bacon, egg and cheese biscuit.
I was very fortunate to be able to see the old cotton mill that was once in operation (picture below). It’s off limits to visitors but you can still catch a glimpse from Miller’s General Store. The sad thing about it is, the mill had been restored to almost pristine condition when a homeless man started a fire and unfortunately burnt it down. It was still quite impressive to walk around the ruins and imagine what it was like when they used this mill.
7. The original Shane’s Rib Shack
You may be thinking why would I go to Shane’s Rib Shack when there are plenty all over the city? The difference about the Henry County location is that it is the original – and it literally is a shack. Some of the things that are different about this is the fact that there are certain items like the coleslaw that you cannot cannot find at other Shane’s. It’s worth stopping by to see a little bit of history. Tip: Make sure to go there before or after the lunch rush as it will be very crowded and hard to find a seat.
Open since 2010, they’ve collected about 5 million dollars worth of memorabilia. This non-profit museum is run by extremely knowledgeable veterans and is free to enter. There is a tribute to fallen soldiers who are from Georgia. It is a terrific experience, especially if you have children, for them to see and touch uniforms, helicopters, grenades, and other war memorabilia. There’s even a real bunker setup which kids can peek inside.
When you’re visiting Henry County, you owe it to yourself to have one upscale dinner during your trip. Right in the center of downtown is the French Market. What’s cool about this husband and wife owned restaurant / store, is that it’s decorated with products that you can buy in the store. It’s shopping and dining all in one spot.
Make sure you start your meal with the Cajun Scampi appetizer. Buttery and spicy, you’ll want to slurp the amazing sauce it comes with. I’d also recommend starting your meal with a Manhattan cocktail as well. The most unique item on the menu is the catfish roulades (see picture above). They take catfish and stuff it with Andouille Sausage and blue crab meat stuffing, deep fry it and top it with a tasso cream sauce. It is unlike anything I’ve ever had before. Definitely a ton of calories but worth them all and a large enough portion that you could share it with your dining partner if splitting an appetizer too.
Bonus: Film and tv sites galore in Henry County
Check out this map for lots of places where famous movies and television shows have been filmed including Anchorman 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead and We Are Mashall, mentioned above.
Stay at the Holiday Inn in Stockbridge
If staying overnight, I’d highly recommend the Holiday Inn and Suites. It is centrally located for all the various locations mentioned in this post. Plus, they’ve got a delicious restaurant called Burger Theory that serves, you guessed it, scrumptious burgers and desserts. And they’ve got several local brews on tap.