Looking for a summer road trip that will appeal to your guy? The Booth Western Art Museum and Old Car City USA in north Georgia are the kinds of places where big boys can reminisce about their toys.
The last place I expected to find a world-class western art museum was Cartersville, Georgia, a small city about 45 miles north of Atlanta on Interstate 75.
The 120,000-square-foot Booth Western Art Museum contains the largest permanent exhibition space for western art in the world, surpassing even the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma and the Buffalo Bill Heritage Center in Cody, Wyoming.
“And no one in Texas wants to hear that Georgia has the largest,” adds Tom Shinall, the marketing director and “resident” cowboy who wears western attire pretty much every day. “We have more than 1,200 pieces of art on display at any given time between the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and artifacts.”
An anonymous donor from Cartersville who made his fortune in telecommunications built the contemporary museum as a gift to the people of Georgia. His desire to remain anonymous was so strong that he named the museum after his good friend and mentor, Sam Booth, an Atlanta businessman.
A massive bronze sculpture immediately grabs visitors’ attention in the two-story sculpture court near the museum entrance. “Eagle Catcher” by sculptor Vic Payne is a mesmerizing piece that explains why the eagle feathers were so valued—they supposedly contained wisdom. And visiting this museum is certainly a wise choice, because it’s a fun and educational venue for all ages—and genders.
Instead of going westward to see Frederick Remington’s detailed sculptures or artist Howard Terpning’s renowned paintings, head into the American West Gallery, possibly the most popular of the eight western galleries at the Booth Museum with more than 100 traditional paintings and sculptures. The other western galleries are just as interesting, with unexpected paintings by Andy Warhol, a neon cowboy, and large vintage movie posters.
It’s easy to lose track of time with so much to see at the Booth. In fact, the collections have tripled since the museum opened in 2003. And it’s not just western art that makes this Smithsonian affiliate museum so impressive. The Presidential Gallery is a “can’t miss” walk through history in the words of the presidents themselves. The collection contains personal one-page, signed letters from every U.S. president, showing their human side.
The new Picturing America Gallery is the Booth’s acknowledgement of the growth and importance of photography as a fine art medium. American landscapes, history, and culture through documentary and fine art photography are featured. The current exhibit, “Ansel Adams: The Masterworks,” showcases 30 photographs hand-selected, printed, and signed by Adams himself. The exhibit, which is on loan from Adams’ granddaughter, runs through Oct. 29.
Finally, no trip to the West is complete without a stagecoach ride. Climb aboard a 3/4-scale replica at Sagebrush Ranch, a fun hands-on gallery for children and parents.
Old Car City USA
Never in my wildest dreams would I think trekking through seven miles of trails lined with abandoned classic cars could be fun. However, Old Car City brought out the “American Picker” in me as I spotted some models that Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe of the hit History Channel television show apparently passed over on their visit to the world’s largest classic car junkyard.
In all seriousness, people either love or hate Old Car City. One visitor told me he was heartsick seeing the classics left to ruin; another who was a serious photographer loved the small details he was finding, like rare hood ornaments and long-ago logos.
Founded in 1931 as a car dealership and later used as an auto parts junkyard, Old Car City has attracted thousands of car enthusiasts, photographers, and curiosity seekers. Dean and Jeff Lewis, a father-son team from White, Georgia, welcome 6,000 visitors a year from all over the world.
The phenomenon started three years ago when Hot Rod Magazine used Old Car City for a photoshoot. So many people went to the website to take a look that it crashed.
Admission is $15 without a camera or $25 with one. Trust me, you’ll want to take photos because no one will ever believe your stories.
What’s a girl to do?
If mom is on this Cartersville, Georgia, road trip, she may want a more leisurely pace. Here are suggestions for her:
Rose Lawn House & Museum is a grand Victorian mansion completed in 1885 for Samuel Porter Jones, a famous evangelist in the late 1800s. The county bought and restored the home and the rose gardens to their original grandeur. One-hour tours are available Tuesday-Friday for $7, adults; $2, children.
The Spa at Barnsley Resort is a haven for relaxation and rejuvenation in a tranquil resort resembling an English village. Day guests are welcome for a variety of services, including massages, facials, and beauty treatments. Located in nearby Adairsville, the Barnsley Resort spa is open from 9am-5pm daily.
Tellus Science Museum is named for Terra, the Roman goddess of Earth, and Earth’s treasures are notably showcased in displays of precious gems, gold, and prized minerals. Open since 2009, this family-friendly Smithsonian affiliate museum also houses a planetarium and a transportation gallery.
Boutique shopping in historic downtown Cartersville offers unique stores for gifts, home goods, and apparel. Peruse boutiques like Write Downtown, a stationery and gift store, and c.a.n.o.p.y. for home décor. Stop by the Cartersville Welcome Center in the old train depot for a map and recommendations.