radium springs is located about three miles south of downtown albany. in the 1920's radium springs had a hotel and spa that was visited by northern visitors. radium springs is the largest spring in the state of georgia and 70,000 gallons of water per minute flow from the spring. radium springs has a unique sapphire blue color and is named after the trace elements of radium that flow from the spring. in 2003 a flood destroyed the 1920's hotel and today the springs are closed to the public. there are plans to build a botanical garden at the springs and the spring will be reopened to the public in the near future. today there is a viewing platform near the springs were you can see the spring run.
the famous soul and blues singer ray charles was born in albany in 1930. at riverfront park there is a statue of charles playing the piano. since ray charles was blind the text on the monument is also written in braille. the monument also has speakers so you can hear his music. an interesting monument to visit in riverfront park.
in recent years the city of albany has made a number of improvements to the downtown area. one of these improvements is the riverfront park. the park has a walking/jogging path along the flint river and a very nice childrens play area. a good place to take in the sights of the scenic flint river.
the riverquarium is a very interesting aquarium to visit when in albany. the riverquarium has exhibits on the fish and wildlife of the flint river area as well as salt water aquariums with aquatic life from the gulf of mexico. a good place to visit when traveling with children.
the bridge house is a good first stop on a visit to albany. this historic building now houses a tourist information center. in 1857 nelson tift built the bridge house to collect tolls from boats traveling on the flint river. tift hired horace king, a freed slave to build the bridge house. on the second floor of the bridge house tift built a beautiful theatre. during the civil war the bridge house was used as a meat packing plant. the bridge house is listed on the national register of historic places.
Also in 1857, Colonel Tift had this Bridge House built. One side of the house was occupied by the bridge keeper and the other by Tift. The second floor was made into a theater known as "Tift Hall". The theater was decorated by New York artists and was the most beautiful theater in the state. Many famous performers came here. During the civil war the backyard was used for the slaughter of animals for meat and the house was used as a packing plant. Today the site has been renovated for use as a visitor's center. The Bridge House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Colonel Nelson Tift is identified by many historians as the founder of Albany, although some other historians say Albany was founded by a group of Mormon settlers from Ohio who later sold the land to Tift.
In 1857, Colonel Nelson Tift commissioned a well-known bridge builder and freed slave called Horace of Columbus to build a toll bridge across the Flint River to Albany. The Albany end of the bridge had an archway to welcome visitors to the town. In 2007 a new arch was constructed at the same location across the new bridge. Some people hail it as the symbol of a new revitalized town and some deride it as the symbol of waste and abuse.
The city of Albany continues to try and improve the downtown area especially the area around Riverfront Park. One of the additions since I visited in June 2007 is Ray Charles Plaza. Ray Charles was born in Albany but his family moved to Greenville, Florida when he was an infant. Albany made a nice fountain and statue of Ray Charles, seating areas that look like piano keys, and even have a nice plaque in English and in braille for the blind. They used to also have a minature of the statue next to the plaque so blind people could touch it and experience the statue but they had to remove it because it kept getting vandalized.
Just South of Albany you can find Radium Springs. Radium Springs has about 70,00 gallons of water per minute coming out of the earth and has a consistant water temperature of 68 degrees. Radium Springs is the largest natural springs in Georgia and are considered one of the seven natural wonders of Georgia. The name comes from the fact that the waters in the springs contain traces of radium.
Chehaw Animal Park is just North of Albany on Highway 91. It has a number of wild animals and displays them in their natural habitat as opposed to cramped cages. It was designed by Jim Fowler of TVs Wild Kingdom. Take a walk down the boardwalks and see the Cypress Swamps and see the Elephants, Black Rhinos, Bald Eagles, Cheetaha, Zebras, etc. There is also a Children's Farm and an Ampitheater. There is a Concession Stand with snacks and drinks and a gift shop on site. Chehaw Animal Park is part or a larger park which also offers camping and other facilities. Definitely worth a visit.
Albany is trying to improve the quality of life in, and the reputation of, the downtown area. One of the things they did was to make Riverfront Park. Riverfront Park has a water spray area and a playground for the kids. A number of the turtle sculptures and an open grassy area by the river. They also sponsored a contest where compamies and individuals decorated turtles to be placed in the park and various parts of town. They are also renovating several buildings in the area. Albany appears to be trying hard, and I wish them luck!
Albany has also developed a fairly impressive RiverQuariam to highlight the plants and animals native to the Flint River and the nearby (relatively) Gulf of Mexico. Entrance is $9.00 for an adult; $8.00 Senior; $6.50 for kids 4 to 12; and kids 3 and under are free. They also offer a ticket for $7.00 to the military but you have to ask. There are also special rates for large groups and for schools.
There is also a theatre across the sidewalk. You can buy a combo ticket allowing you access to both and save money.
Hours of operation are 9 AM yo 5 PM Monday through Friday; 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday; and 1 PM to 5 PM Sunday. The Riverquarium is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Albany has a large new library on the Northwest side of town. Lots of room for books, and a number of computers for Internet access. It even has a coffeeshop.