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Rural Retreat: Warm Springs, Georgia

Paralyzed from the waist down by the polio virus, Franklin Delano Roosevelt first arrived in the quiet community of Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1924. He was eager to swim in the spring-fed pools of the famous Meriwether Inn, but Roosevelt quickly acquired an appreciation for more than the warm water. The man who would one day lead the nation through the Great Depression and World War II delighted in the warmth of the rural people and the welcome they gave him. Roosevelt soon decided to purchase property and build a home and polio rehabilitation center in Warm Springs. He visited his Little White House frequently throughout the remainder of his life, and it was at his tiny home-away-from-home that he passed away in 1945.

The time he spent in Warm Springs shaped not only Roosevelt, but the nation as a whole; his relationships and experiences in rural Georgia led to the enactment of the Rural Electrification Act and creation of the Rural Electrification Administration and the electric cooperatives through which electricity was brought to rural homes and farms throughout the United States.

Dowdell’s Knob was one of FDR’s favorite spots in the Warm Springs area.

The same location that enchanted and inspired FDR is still a draw today. Located along the fall line that separates Georgia’s Piedmont region from the Coastal Plain, the Warm Springs area is home to a number of natural springs and waterfalls. Additionally, the breathtaking vistas from atop the Pine Mountain Range, especially from FDR’s favorite picnic spot on Dowdell’s Knob in F.D. Roosevelt State Park are arguably some of the best in Georgia. The 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail can be accessed from Dowdell’s Knob and offers hikers an opportunity to take in these views, while Meriwether County’s eight Gravel Travel routes give off-road cyclists all the info they need to enjoy an off-the-beaten-path excursion. Those who feel more at home on the water will want to check out the Flint River Water Trail.

For those who prefer to explore the built environment, historic downtown Warm Springs is a rare gem worth discovering. Just be sure to plan your downtown excursion Tuesday through Saturday, as most downtown businesses are closed Sundays and Mondays. In addition to a number of unique shops and boutiques, hungry visitors can choose from a variety of dining options without leaving the “main drag”, all of which are highly recommended by locals. Dinner’s Ready by Chad, Bulloch House and Lightning Bug’s Cafe and Bakery anchor either end of Broad Street, while Franklin’s, Mac’s BBQ and the food truck at Xtreme Rider are located within walking distance of Broad.

A bit further afield—but worth the detour—are Warm Springs Winery and the Historic Pools Museum. Taste muscadine and fruit wines made from locally grown produce at the former or tour the very pools where FDR once swam at the latter. Each promises a unique and memorable addition to your Warm Springs experience, as does the National Fish Hatchery.

Locals and travelers agree that the views from the Aiden are some of the best in the Warm Springs area.

While outdoor enthusiasts often opt to overnight at one of FDR State Park’s cottages or campsites, the Warm Springs area has a n umber of other lodging options. Hotel Warm Springs Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located on Broad Street within walking distance of downtown shops and restaurants. Aiden by Best Western and Meriwether Country Inn are just off Broad, while Mountain Top Inn and Resort offers a more secluded short-term stay.

A number of events throughout the year are worth the drive or an overnight visit in Warm Springs. The second Saturday of October brings Harvest Hoedown, and the second Saturday in April is Spring Fling. The Friday before Thanksgiving is the kickoff of Candlelight Weekends, with extended shopping hours at downtown businesses, Victorian carollers, Christmas decorations, visits with Santa and more.

The annual Christmas Parade takes place during one of Warm Springs’ Candlelight Weekends.

Even if you can’t make it to town during these celebrations or are just driving through, Warm Springs and Meriwether County have created opportunities for those who can’t slow down for a day or a stay! Check

out the Meriwether Murals Trail driving tour or cruise the Meriwether-Pike Scenic Byway.

Just compiling all of this has those of us at the Rural Center ready to retreat to Warm Springs, and we hope you will too! Whether it’s a girls’ getaway, camping trip, destination wedding or weekend away, remember that your dollars spent in Georgia’s small towns and rural communities help keep wonderful places like Warm Springs alive and well for all of us to enjoy. So, hit the road to less-populated places, and let us know what you discover on your next rural retreat.

Photo credits from top:

Roosevelt’s Little White House, M.C. Gaston Dowdell’s Knob Panorama, M.C. Gaston View from Aiden,

Downtown Warm Springs, Warm Springs Merchants Association via Facebook


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