Atlantans may be surprised to find a spectacular sight off I-85 exit 99, but Lilburn’s BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, which debuted in 2007, is the largest and most elaborate Hindu temple outside India. The intricate carvings are worth admiring up close—in guided tour groups of ten or more, or simply via portable audio player. After scaling its marvelous marble steps, gazing up at the seven-story gilded spires, and walking clockwise (circumambulating) around its awe-inspiring shrines, visit the vegetarian cafe for traditional treats such as Samosa Chaat.
Free admission. Open daily, but closed 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. and 12 to 4 p.m.
Occupying a full block beside Oglethorpe Square, the circa-1819 Owens-Thomas House was the nation’s first residence with indoor plumbing—beating even the White House. Today, it’s considered the finest example of English Regency architecture in the country and a must-see Telfair Museum for 18th- and 19th-century decorative arts. Begin your explorations at the sobering slave quarters, saunter through the main residence, stroll the English parterre gardens and finish at the gift shop, ensconced in the former stables.
Adult admission is $15 plus $1 preservation fee; tours held 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 12 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Monday. Closed on major holidays.
A stone’s throw from the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus, the late-Victorian Springer Opera House is Georgia’s official state theater. Dubbed the finest opera house between New York and New Orleans on its 1871 opening, its main stage showcased the premier talents of the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the renovated and expanded venue still hosts approximately a dozen plays, musicals, and Broadway-style performances per year.
Tours, $5, are available Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. Contact Aileen Fowles at (706) 256-3490 to arrange.