Dekalb County, Georgia
Creating the Park
Antebellum Plantation and Antique Car Museum
A recreation of an antebellum plantation by antiques authority Mrs. Charles McWhorter opened on April_6, 1963. McWhoter, whose husband was on the Board of Directors, had a contract with the park to pay a portion of the Antebellum Plantation admission to the park. Centered on the Dickey house, which was moved from Dickey, Georgia (40 miles southwest of Albany, Georgia), in 1961, the Antebellum Plantation features various structures from Georgia laid out to be interpreted as a plantation home and outbuildings. In 1963 the Antique Car Museum opened.
Carillon Bells and National Recreation Trail
Carillon Bells, courtesy of Coca-Cola and the Stone Mountain National Recreation Trail (now called the Cherokee Trail or the Stone Mountain Loop) followed. The Carillon was made by George J. Schulmerich who created the first electromagnetic carillon in 1930. Coke vice-president J.E. Duffield asked if Schulmerich could create a Carillon for the Coca-Cola pavilion at the New York World's Fair (1964-1965). When the fair was over in October, 1965, the bells were moved to Stone Mountain Park.
Georgia wanted a direct access, high-speed road from the Downtown Connector to Stone Mountain. They proposed Interstate 485, which would run from I-75 (between mile marker 248 and 249) to I-285 (between mile marker 39 and 40), connecting to U. S. 78 north of Stone Mountain. Local opposition delayed these plans long enough to protect the neighborhood by adding it to the National Register, essentially derailing plans for the Interstate. However, part of the right-of-way purchased by the state east of Inman Park was used to build the Stone Mountain Freeway in the late 1970's. The state upgraded portions of U. S. 78 and added the East Gate, where most of the people enter the park today.
Crossroads, the re-creation of an Antebellum Georgia town, is a good example of the family-oriented fun at Stone Mountain Park. Mom and Dad can browse up-scale shopping while boys and girls can do gender-based battle at the Treehouse. Join up for the 4-D Theater, also in Crossroads, then get some grub at Miss Kitty's Sideboard, Home of the Hand-Tossed Biscuits. Note to Mom and Dad: the kids will want to join you for the glass-blowing exhibit and the blacksmith exhibit, so visit them first and get the times for the shows. Crossroads was the name of an antebellum Georgia village south of Stone Mountain, today known as Lithonia (Latin for "place of stone").
Ride the Ducks, which was added in 2004, takes visitors on a land and lake excursion visiting some of Stone Mountain Park's sites from, you guessed it, the water. Ducks was military slang for the DUKWs, a 1940's era amphibious truck that could take men or material across water. Ducks were used extensively in Western Theater of Operation, including the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. They have been extensively reconditioned and retro-fitted with safety equipment for the ride. From the lake it is possible to get an excellent view of the covered bridge, and carillon. Pilots are licensed by the U. S. Coast Guard and we can recommend the ride from personal experience.
Eco-tourism attractions abound at the park. In addition to the 5-mile loop trail there is a second 2.4 mile trail that climbs the Stone Mountain from Confederate Hall. The 2.4 mile Stone Mountain Mountaintop Trail is difficult and requires rock-hopping in places, but the 360 degree view from top is simply astounding. The Stone Mountain Railroad makes its only stop in front of Confederate Hall, so you can ride the train then climb the mountain, or take the skylift to the top and walk down the mountain. Inside Confederate Hall is information on the creation and natural history of Stone Mountain and the Civil War in Georgia. The Stone Mountain Covered Bridge was moved from Athens, Georgia to the park in 1965 at a cost of $18,000. Near the bridge is a grist mill that was a common site in the area until the 1940's (the advent of electrical power). Across the street from the parking lot for the bridge is "Raising a Ledge," an outdoor museum on the granite industry that thrived on Stone Mountain from 1845 until the late 1950's.
Stone Mountain Park today
Georgia's Stone Mountain Park is a combination of indoor and outside attractions. At the heart of the attraction is the Confederate Memorial, the massive granite carving completed in 1972. During the summer nightly laser shows paint a picture across the face of the mountain. At more than 1,000,000 square feet the steep north face of Stone Mountain is the world's largest projection screen. The brilliant spectacle has been drawing both locals and visitors since 1983.
Events throughout the year are also designed to attract folks from the Southeast. Most popular of these events is the Yellow Daisy Festival, an exhibition of world-class folk art. Other popular events include the Chili Cook-off and Scottish Highland Games. Events are held in the 100,000 square foot event meadow on Old Hugh Howell Road, not the Memorial Lawn (where the laser shows are held).
Out of town guests come to the park for a variety of reasons. The Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort is a business-oriented conference center with meeting rooms, dining rooms and in-hotel bars. The food is excellent and the accommodations are upscale, but the resort is very large so the trip to the room can be a hike. Stone Mountain Inn, also run by Marriott, is a smaller facility close to the laser show, Antebellum Plantation and Crossroads, that is more family oriented.
Golf also is a major attraction, with two world-class golf courses, Stonemont and Lakemont. The original course, Stonemont, is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed course, the only one open to the public in the state of Georgia. The 6845 yard par 70 course was restored to its original layout in 1999. Featuring long fairways and nearby stands of tall pines, the course is made more challenging by the way Jones used the natural lay of the land to reward accurate golfers. Miss your target and your ball may roll a hundred feet to the rough. Lakemont, which was added in two phases beginning in 1988, requires a 200 yd. drive from the first tee across Stone Mountain lake, but the lake also creates a water hazard on the green. Five of the next six holes have water hazards and there is more water throughout.
Seeing the Park
If you stay at one of the hotels inside Stone Mountain Park, entrance to the park is included in the room rate. If not, a moderate fee is charged at the entrance for each car, good for the entire day. Once inside, there's plenty of free stuff to do including the hiking, the quarry museum, covered bridge, grist mill and the Confederate Memorial/Laser Show. To visit the attractions, the best thing to do is to buy an "all-attraction pass" that gets you into each attraction except "Ride the Ducks," which is a separate admission. You can pay ala carte, but that quickly becomes more expensive than the all-in-one ticket.
Stone Mountain Natural History
Stone Mountain Park
Stone Mountain Carving
Stone Mountain Mountaintop Trail
Stone Mountain Loop
County: Dekalb County
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