With a population of only 22,000, you might be surprised to hear Cartersville referred to as Georgia’s Museum City. The forward-thinking townspeople have committed themselves to transform what was once a hidden gem into a growing tourist destination in North Georgia with easy access to Atlanta. Not only is Cartersville blessed with the natural beauty of the woods and foothills of the Appalachians, but it also encompasses the largest portion of Lake Allatoona; the possibilities for outdoor recreation here are never-ending.
Cartersville was established in 1850, but was spared the heavy damage inflicted on surrounding areas by General Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War. Cartersville and Bartow County have significant Native American history, as well as religious history through the lives and contributions of Sam P. Jones and Lottie Moon.
Ask David Archer, Cartersville’s long-time city attorney and noted historian, and he’ll be happy to share the fascinating stories and juicy details. There are many reasons you will enjoy visiting Cartersville and Bartow County, but here are my top 14.
- Tellus Science Museum
- Booth Western Art Museum
- Old Car City U.S.A.
- George Washington Carver Park and Pine Acres Retreat
- Barnsley Resort
- Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
- Bartow History Museum
- Vintage Diners
- Rose Lawn Museum
- Boutiques and Shops in the Historic District
- Coca-Cola Mural
- Historic Covered Bridge and Euharlee
- Red Top Mountain State Park
Tellus Science Museum
Tellus Science Museum comprises four galleries and a digital planetarium in its 125,000 square feet and a solar house in an adjacent building. The Weinman Mineral Gallery houses 50 cases of precious Georgia minerals and the surprising treasure of the only meteorite to hit a house in the state of Georgia. The Fossil Gallery will be intriguing to young visitors as they view the size and variety of prehistoric animals through the reconstructed skeletons. The Millar Science in Motion Gallery covers a hundred years of transportation from early automobiles to replicas of space capsules. My Big Backyard is a delightful hands-on discovery section for young children.
Live shows in the Bentley Planetarium are presented every hour from 10:15 a.m. to 3:15 a.m., seven days a week. The Solar House was built by university students from around the world and is open for tours Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Booth Western Art Museum
You will be convinced you’re in Wyoming or Montana strolling through the galleries of the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville. It is, after all, the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the entire United States and totals 120,000 square feet.
The paintings and sculptures transport you through scenes of Native Americans, the Old West, the Contemporary West, and the Civil War. An especially popular feature at Booth Museum is the Presidential Gallery which displays signed letters from every American President from Washington to Biden.
Booth Museum is closed on Monday, but is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Advance tickets are required and can be purchased through the website. These tickets help to ensure social distancing and maximum capacity policies.
Old Car City U.S.A.
The 34-acre Old Car City U.S.A. is thought to be the largest classic car junkyard in the world. Visitors are invited to walk the six miles of trails past 4000 rusty cars. In the entrance building, you’ll enjoy seeing Elvis Presley’s last automobile and a very quirky collection of Styrofoam cup folk art.
Old Car City U.S.A. started as a small general store and grew larger and larger as more cars were acquired. It is now owned and operated by Dean Lewis, affectionately referred to as the “mayor”, and his family.
Admission is cash only, and the price is higher if you want to walk through with your camera. It is, of course, a photographer’s dream location.
George Washington Carver Park and Pine Acres Retreat
In 1950, this park was established as Georgia’s First State Park for African Americans. Situated near Red Top Mountain State Park and with a long stretch of Lake Allatoona shoreline leading to an area known as “the beach”, this became the weekend retreat for notable black families from Atlanta, with Mrs. Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young among them.
Summer often meant musical entertainment, and famous stars such as Little Richard and Ray Charles played for the crowds. The Atlanta Girl Scouts loved using the park for camping and retreats, and a portion of the property became Camp Pine Acres in 1956.
In the summer of 2018, both the park and the camp, now known as Pine Acres Retreat, were taken over by the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Cabins, large dining areas, fixed platform campsites, a swimming pool, covered pavilions, an archery range, and endless fishing opportunities make them both wonderful as day-use areas and perfect for family reunions or church youth retreats.
The woodsy, off-the-beaten-trail terrain and location attracted Netflix, and two movies have been filmed on the property.
This Southern Living Collection resort is situated perfectly on pristine acres near the ruins of the 1840s Barnsley family manor house and stunning antebellum gardens. Guests who stay at Barnsley can enjoy sumptuous dining, championship golf, sporting clays (in partnership with Beretta shotguns), luxurious spa treatments, swimming, biking, fishing, and nightly gatherings around the resort’s signature firepits.
Accommodations are available in the 55 rooms or suites of the inn or in the beautiful cottages, each one unique, that dot the grounds. Estate cottages are designed for large families or groups traveling together and feature wood-burning fireplaces, clawfoot tubs, and homey porches.
Barnsley Resort is considered one of the top wedding venues in the Southeast U.S.
Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
The Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is a great place to enjoy the outdoors learning about the Native Americans who lived in the area from 1000 A.D. to 1550 A.D. Six earthen mounds, borrow pits, a defensive ditch, and a nature trail leading to the Etowah River are found on the 54-acre site. The artifacts on display at the adjacent museum reveal many insights into the way of life of the people from that period.
The Etowah Indian Mounds are open seven days a week, but be aware that the museum is closed on Mondays.
Bartow History Museum
Bartow History Museum is located in the Old Bartow County Courthouse, built in 1869. It is a proud, prominent building in downtown Cartersville near the railroad tracks and the depot. The museum chronicles 200 years of area history from the Cherokee Indians and their removal from the land through the Civil War and the lifestyles of Bartow County citizens over the years.
The museum has reopened, but timed, reserved, and purchased tickets are required to comply with the capacity guidelines. Normal hours of operation are being observed: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are strongly encouraged.
4 Way Lunch has been open since 1931 and is still Georgia’s Oldest Restaurant without a telephone. Fred Garrison started cooking burgers and continued until his son Ernest took over in 1972. The diner serves breakfast and lunch and has survived tensions of the civil rights era, a fire, and the changes brought on by the innovations of the 21st century.
Ross’ Diner, a couple of blocks from 4 Way, has a U-shaped counter that stays filled from 6:30 a.m. until closing at 2:30 p.m. Hours are extended until 8 p.m. on Friday, but the diner is closed on Sunday. Ross’ started serving customers in 1945. The menu has changed very little since then, but the prices are noticeably different. From cooked-to-order breakfasts to vegetable plates, this is good southern comfort food without regard for cholesterol or calorie restrictions. A scene from the movie The Best of Enemies was filmed at Ross’ in 2017.
Rose Lawn Museum
The beautiful Victorian mansion on West Cherokee Avenue is a pleasure to tour on its architectural merits alone, but when you add the inspiring stories of Samuel Porter Jones and Rebecca Latimer Felton to the equation, it is a must-visit when you’re in Cartersville. Museum Director Jane Drew has a wealth of knowledge to share and a passion for the home and for the people whose lives are represented there.
Sam Jones was a fervent evangelist of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Rebecca Felton was his tutor for the Georgia bar exam who later became the first female United States Senator.
The home was used frequently for entertaining guests in its heyday and is a popular event venue today.
When you visit Old Car City U.S.A., Wes-Man’s Restaurant, across the street, is the logical choice. Barbecue is popular, along with fried everything. The décor is rustic and comfortable with dozens of license plates lining the walls.
Doug’s Place in nearby Emerson, Georgia, is another comfort food diner, known for its hearty breakfasts and meat-and-threes.
The only Bartow County restaurant on Lake Allatoona is Allatoona Grill. The exterior is very unassuming, but the food inside is outstanding.
Downtown or within a few blocks of downtown, you won’t go wrong with Table 20, Appalachian Grill, Maine Street Coastal Cuisine, Bridge House Café, the City Cellar & Loft, or Moore’s Gourmet Market.
Boutiques and Shops in the Historic District
Cartersville has a large parking area near the railroad tracks making it possible to park once and be within easy walking distance of most of the town’s specialty shops.
Check out Write! Downtown for printing needs, monogramming, or embroidery items. Olive Branch is a great gift shop. Lulu Boutique carries women’s clothing and accessories. Copperwood on Main offers custom furnishings and hand-crafted items, while Hay Parker Boutique carries both women’s apparel and gift items.
Perhaps my favorite is Olive Tree and Vine, which is a combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop, a wine shop, a coffee shop, and a smoothie bar. It seems to be a gathering spot for Cartersville’s millennials, and it smells incredible.
While you are in Cartersville’s historic district, be sure to see the Coca-Cola mural painted on the brick side of Young Brothers Pharmacy. It was created in 1894 and was Coca-Cola’s first outdoor advertisement painted on a wall. In 1990, twenty-five layers of paint were painstakingly removed to reveal the sign as it was originally painted.
This is a great place for a selfie or an Instagram photo. Be sure to look for the misspelled word which was surreptitiously corrected.
Historic Covered Bridge and Euharlee
A few minutes’ drive from Cartersville, but still in Bartow County, you’ll find the remnants of a community dating back to the late 1800s. The Euharlee Covered Bridge was built in 1886 by Washington W. King, the son of Horace King, a freed slave, and well-known bridge builder.
Nearby are the remnants of Lowry Grist Mill, the town’s granary and commissary, mercantile, and blacksmith shop. The mercantile is now known as Covered Bridge Store and Mercantile and Nanny G’s baked goods are sold inside. The Euharlee Welcome Center and History Museum is a modern facility that can provide you with plenty of interesting information.
Red Top Mountain State Park
If you bring your RV to Cartersville, you’ll be happy to find Red Top Mountain State Park. It has 93 campsites and 20 cottages for overnight visitors. For a fun day of outdoor recreation, this state park offers swimming, hiking, fishing, picnicking, geocaching, tennis, archery, and boating.
Within the bounds of the park, you’ll find the Allatoona Pass Battlefield, the site of significant action during the Civil War.
For those who aren’t staying overnight, the park hours are 7 a.m. until dark.
Last Updated on February 24, 2023