Celebrity cook and Georgia native Paula Deen is known nationwide for her amazing down-home cooking and her warm, welcoming approach to food. She’s the author of several successful cookbooks; the host of three Food Network television shows, including Paula’s Home Cooking; and the editor of her own magazine.
What some might not know about is Paula’s deep connection to Georgia tourism. She grew up playing at River Bend, the “mini resort” her maternal grandparents operated in Albany. The property was a favorite stop for snowbirds heading south, and her parents ran a gas station and souvenir shop across the street. In 1996, Paula and her sons Jamie and Bobby opened The Lady & Sons in Savannah’s historic district. The restaurant, featuring the family’s now-famous Southern fare, quickly became a Savannah fixture and continues to welcome thousands of hungry visitors. There’s also a Paula Deen Trolley Tour, which takes visitors on a tour of Savannah sites that figure prominently in Paula’s rags-to-riches story and includes a delicious lunch at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, the seafood restaurant Paula owns with her brother.
Paula’s love of the state, its people, and its food comes through in all she does, and she’s played a major role in bringing visitors to Georgia for years. All of this—combined with the fact that she’s the very embodiment of Southern hospitality—makes her Georgia’s ideal ambassador.
What would be the first thing you would tell a visitor to do when they arrive in Georgia?
I would tell every visitor to take a trolley tour in Savannah’s historic district. You learn so much about the city and get to see the beauty Savannah has to offer up close.
What is your favorite thing about Georgia?
I absolutely love the hospitality of Southerners—and our food is a very close second!
Georgia is a very popular destination for families. What is your favorite family vacation spot in Georgia?
We have a beach house at Tybee Island, Y’all Come Eat Inn, and we love when we get a chance to all be together there.
What were Bobby and Jamie’s favorite things to see and do while growing up in Georgia?
They loved anything outside—whether it was fishing, sports, or camping. Luckily, the weather in Georgia is perfect for those kinds of activities, which my boys still like to do.
Where are you most looking forward to taking your grandson when he gets older?
I would love to take Jack back to my hometown of Albany, Georgia, and show him where I came from! I have so many wonderful memories from my childhood. I definitely want to share that with my grandbaby.
Georgia attracts millions of international visitors each year to Savannah. Why do you think they pick Savannah over other U.S. cities?
Savannah is of great value because it has everything: history, culture, great people, delicious food, and amazing weather!
As you’ve pointed out, we’re known for our Southern hospitality. What do you think makes Georgia so hospitable?
I think it is just how we were raised. We all remember how our mothers and fathers treated people, and that respect should be a common courtesy extended to everyone.
We are also known for our peaches, pecans, and Vidalia onions. What is your favorite Georgia ingredient and why?
I just love a fresh peach! I like to make my Grandmother Paul’s pound cake and smother it with cut-up peaches. Delicious!
Why should travelers vacation in Georgia?
It is such an easy destination for everyone. The weather is beautiful, and there is so much to see and do. Like one of my aprons says, “Put Some South in Your Mouth,” and try out all the wonderful foods Georgia has to offer!