The largest state east of the Mississippi River is 300 mi/480 km from top to bottom, and 230 mi/370 km at its greatest width. The 9 million citizens of "The Empire State" or "The Peach State" practice southern hospitality, follow the Atlanta Braves religiously, eat more pork barbecue than fried chicken, prefer Coca-Cola over morning coffee and drink iced sweet tea—lots of it—from noon to night.

Most Georgians live close to the major cities, so visitors passing through the wide open spaces between cities may wonder if the population number is a misprint. These rural areas offer a tremendous variety of outdoor activities for sports enthusiasts, nature lovers and sun worshippers.

In Georgia, the past seems to intersect with the present at every turn in the road: The profiles of Confederate leaders gaze stoically from Stone Mountain; turn-of-the-century homes still gleam on the Golden Isles; and every town between Atlanta and Savannah displays its mementos of General Sherman's 1864 invasion.

Even present-day events seem tied to tradition. We happened upon a wedding in a Savannah park where women in elaborate hats sipped champagne beneath the moss-draped trees and a horse and buggy stood waiting for the bride and groom. It was a scene that could have taken place a century earlier, except for the crowds of T-shirt-clad gawkers (like us) who stood around admiring the scene.

For travelers, Georgia's historic awareness presents an opportunity to glimpse the culture of the Old South. You can tour vintage mansions and plantations, visit forts and museums and witness battle reenactments. The state is not trapped in its past—witness the amenities of cosmopolitan Atlanta or the contemporary arts and music scene of Athens—but the state's reverence for earlier times is one of its most endearing qualities.

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