The first time I ever went to Valdosta, Ga., was for my undergraduate orientation at Valdosta State University in 2003. Though not a beach town, I instantly felt as if I had been transported to a Spanish sea village with the school’s architecture and the city’s abundance of palm trees. Winnersville, as it is known due to the many sports titles VSU and the local high schools have won, is a small city “without limits.”
Valdosta State University
Founded in 1913 as a women’s college, Valdosta State University now offers co-eds associate, bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in a variety of studies. I earned my bachelor’s degree here studying under Public Relations professors who left a distinct impression on my career today.
Known for its Spanish Mission architecture, the university has one of the most unique campuses in the South intermingled within the heart of the city. West Hall serves as the picturesque center of campus, epitomizing the university’s Spanish Mission architecture with its massive rotunda. With the school’s crest emblazoned into the sidewalk in front of it, the line of palm trees leading to it, and the front lawn spreading out from it, this building is a sight to behold, especially during the holidays when the palms are wrapped in white lights.
The Official Musical Theater of the State of Georgia, Peach State Summer Theater, is performed each summer in the Sawyer Theater of the VSU Fine Arts Building. This nationally-recognized performance includes three shows each season with Tony-Award winning acts.
A theme park plus a great concert venue, Wild Adventures offers the thrills of a major amusement park with a down-to-Earth price. The park showcases extreme rides and water fun combined with safari-animal viewing all while bringing in big-name stars. While summer is the main ticket for amusement parks, Wild Adventures hosts special events throughout the year, such as Terror in the Wild at Halloween.
Home to the Valdosta Garden Center, The Crescent is a historic home from the late 1800s. Used most often for weddings and other special occasions, the original home of Col. William S. West is open to the public for tours.
A town within a city, Remerton is a fully-incorporated town within the Valdosta city limits. Most of Valdosta’s night life can be found at the bars lining the front of the town off Baytree Road. Within the landlocked town, you can also found art boutiques and pottery shops.
There is a variety of local and chain restaurants in Valdosta to satisfy any palate. One of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever tried and where I discovered Moscato d’Asti wine, Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant has been a staple in Valdosta since the 1980s. Moving to the downtown area, a more recent but nonetheless favorite, Steel Magnolias has brought a sophisticated Southern dining experience to Valdosta. The last time I was in town, I had drinks with a former professor on the restaurant’s rooftop bar that had a spectacular view of downtown overlooking the dome of City Hall. If sandwich and soup in an artistic venue is more your style, try the nearby Hildegard’s. Owned by the church next door, this cozy café offers live music, tasty artisan sandwiches and delicious coffee drinks. For the best coffee in town, though, take the drive-thru of Elliano’s and order my favorite, a Freezer Café Dolce.
Working in Valdosta
Valdosta is a thriving economic hub, with major employment coming from Moody Air Force Base, South Georgia Medical Center and the various educational systems. Micha Hogan, public relations manager for Wild Adventures Theme Park and my former college roommate, attributes a strong business community in the city to its prosperous market.
“The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce does a great job of creating programs for small businesses to grow and events where we all can network and meet,” says Micha. “Everyone in the business community is supportive of one another and you always see familiar faces at business events in the community. There is an abundance of committees for young professionals and the entire business community to become involved in, whatever their interest.”
Micha enjoys Valdosta for its many amenities while keeping in the spirit of a smaller city. Her typical weekend includes a visit to “the Valdosta Farm Days farmers market downtown during the warmer months, strolling the shops and boutiques downtown, challenging friends to a round of bowling at Jac’s Lanes, sipping a glass of wine on the rooftop of Steel Magnolias or even painting a piece of pottery in Remerton.”
Valdosta holds a distinct place in my heart with many wonderful memories. I give it a 7 on my favorite places to be. What city do you have the most memories in?