Updated Jan 20, 2023 - Things to Do

A visitor's guide to Warm Springs, 75 miles south of Downtown Atlanta

FDR arrives to a crowd in a car

President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt leaves the Warm Springs railroad station in Nov. 1932, as he arrived for the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife Eleanor Roosevelt and daughter Anna Roosevelt Dall. Photo: AP

After five years in Atlanta, this World War II-era history major finally made the pilgrimage to Warm Springs — a place about 75 minutes south of Downtown that's closely tied to former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Why it matters: Warm Springs was more than just a place with mineral springs that helped FDR’s polio. It was also where Roosevelt (a child of wealth from Hyde Park, New York) was first exposed to rural Southern poverty on his drives around the area.

  • That exposure, historians say, helped inspire his landmark New Deal programs.

Zoom in: I was fascinated to learn that it was the water's warmth and buoyancy from its high mineral content that allowed FDR and other polio victims relief. He said in 1924, the year he first visited, that the swims had allowed him to move his right leg for the first time in years.

  • He opened a polio therapeutic treatment center called the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in 1926 and celebrated Thanksgiving annually there with the staff and patients.

What to do: Warm Springs is a very doable day trip from Atlanta. You can easily spend a few hours at Roosevelt’s Little White House (the home he built and the place where he died), see the unfinished portrait he was sitting for when he died and learn a lot in the museum about our nation’s longest-serving president.

Yes, and: Downtown Warm Springs is well worth a visit on your way in or out. There are some charming shops to explore, and I personally loved Lightnin' Bugs Cafe & Bakery.

What we're watching: Sadly, the historic Warm Springs pools are closed and in disrepair. But a fundraising campaign and full restoration to re-open them are in the works.

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