Less than 20 minutes north of Lake Park, Georgia, is Valdosta — with a population of approximately 140,000 — the county seat of Lowndes County. It is also home to the 11,000-student Valdosta State University, giving it some of the feel of a classic college town.
There is a wealth of activities to be had in Valdosta. The 170-acre Wild Adventures theme park is located here, which includes everything from wild rides to exotic animals to a full slate of concerts from March to December every year. The park hosts not only one of the largest collections of rides in the South — including more than one major roller coaster — but also one of its largest water parks.
A more sedate and contemplative experience can be had at the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area, which encompasses over 8,000 acres of both hardwood forest and wetlands owned by the State of Georgia and U.S. Air Force. There are no ATVs or motorcycles allowed in the area and a number of hiking trails are available, so it’s a great place to unwind. Be advised that there are some hiking restrictions during portions of the hunting season.
The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts is the major arts center of the region. It’s known for its East African and antique European Fine Porcelain collections. The Center hosts 30 exhibitions a year of both national and regional artists in its four galleries, with two additional galleries dedicated to its permanent collection.
The history of the area can be explored at the Lowndes County Historical Society. Its 10,000 square foot building hosts not only a vast archive of historical records but also exhibitions of uniforms and clothing from various periods in the history of the region.
The Crescent is a mansion and surrounding gardens that is open for tours most afternoons. A 23-room building in the “Southern mansion” style, it is on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally built by U.S. Senator William S. West. The gardens regularly play host to weddings and other functions, including flower shows and antique sales.
Finally, the South Georgia Pecan Company has operated in Valdosta for over a century. It operates four pecan-processing plants in the area. The gift shop sells not only pecans, but also almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and peanuts, along with local BBQ sauces, hot sauces, chutneys, jams, jellies, and relishes.