The Crescent, a neoclassical mansion in Valdosta, Georgia, seems about as far from the wilderness of the Okefenokee Swamp as a traveler can get. But itís really just an hour from Stephen C. Foster State Park on the swampís western edge.

I spent a day exploring Valdosta, a city of about 54,000, on a recent visit to the Okefenokee, about 50 miles to the east. My only real disappointment is that I arrived at the wrong time to experience the blooms that give the town the nickname ďAzalea City.Ē

The gleaming white Crescent gets its name from the massive semi-circular front portico supported by 13 majestic Doric columns. In front of the mansion, huge live oaks drip Spanish moss, adding to the romance and grandeur of a scene thatís almost an Old South cliche, but a delightful one.

The Crescent was built as a home by prominent Valdosta citizen Col. William S. West in 1899, and it was saved from demolition in the 1950s by the ladies of the Garden Club of Valdosta. Today, the home is open for tours, and visitors are free to stroll the lovely grounds, including a formal garden still maintained by the club.

That was the high point of my visit, but I found plenty more to like in Valdosta, especially in the cute downtown, which boasts a number of historic buildings housing a satisfying collection of restaurants and shops.

At the center is the classical revival Lowndes County Courthouse, completed just after the Crescent.

Visitors will find plenty of free parking behind the buildings on Patterson Street, with a pretty brick walkway linking the parking with the central downtown district.

One of the most highly acclaimed downtown restaurants, Steel Magnolias, lived up to its reputation. There I enjoyed a truly magnificent rendition of shrimp and grits, the dish by which I often judge southern restaurants. (My side of fried okra was terrific, too.)

For those seeking liquid refreshment, or what some say is the best hamburger for miles, Bleu Pub offers a reasonable collection of craft beers in another attractive historic building.

My last stop in Valdosta was the old Carnegie Library, now home to the county historical society museum. Visitors can pick up a lot of local history here and learn about illustrious locals, including Doc Holiday, the peripatetic dentist and gunslinger who lived in Valdosta as a teenager.

For more information about Valdosta, call 229-245-0513 or visit VisitValdosta.com.