Deck the Halls in LaGrange

LaGrange Christmas credit Explorations in Antiquity

Caption: Discover the meaning of the season at Explorations in Antiquity in LaGrange, Georgia. Credit: LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce

Walk to Bethlehem with this line-up of festivities

Located just an hour south of Atlanta and less than an hour north of Columbus, LaGrange is a hub for holiday family and group travel, providing myriad activities as well as a family-friendly and affordable resting spot to fall asleep dreaming of sugarplums.

Follow the Shepherds Walk, daily through December 24th (Tuesday through Saturday), at Explorations in Antiquity, where visitors are immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of life long ago. The spirit of Christmas is captured in every experience at Explorations in Antiquity, giving inspiration and a unique, personal connection to those who explore this ancient story. 

“Under the Bethlehem Star” Sound and Light Show, select dates in December; see photos from the original Christmas sites, hear traditional Christmas music and learn from insightful narration, all in a setting recreated using authentic materials from the Holy Land.

Star light, Star Bright

A short 20-minute drive south of LaGrange in Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens lures holiday visitors with visions of sugarplums – er, rather – visions of Fantasy in Lights, selected as one of the “Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights” by National Geographic Traveler. This spectacular Christmas lights show originated with Virginia Hand Callaway, drawn from her fond childhood memories of the holiday light displays seen in her hometown of Pelham, Georgia.

When the doors opened in 1992, Fantasy in Lights became the first major holiday lights show in Georgia. This Christmas extravaganza has grown from a mere five scenes to more than a dozen lighted scenes made up of 8 million sparkling lights. Take a trip through Christmas Tree Lane, enjoy the whimsy of the Enchanted Rainbow Forest, and embrace the enchanting Snowflake Village as you savor the show. The magic continues as visitors treat themselves to steaming cups of hot chocolate in The Christmas Village or try the unique drinks created in Jacob Marley’s Christmas Spirits.

A charming holiday destination, Fantasy in Lights creates treasured memories. Join in this beloved tradition and plan to stay in one of LaGrange’s upscale, yet affordable, lodging options, allowing guests to relish the ultimate holiday experience at a fraction of the price.

Deck the halls at Hills and Dales Estate

Beautifully decorated at Christmas, Hills and Dales Estate is the 1916 Italian-inspired 30-room, 13,000-square-foot home of the Fuller E. Callaway family. The abode, which was built by the parents of Callaway Gardens’ founder Cason Callaway and designed by famed architect Neel Reid, opens all three floors to the public for festive events throughout the season.

Christmas tours of the Callaway home mark a special time of year when friends gather for holiday celebrations and families take a break from their hectic lives and enjoy spending time together. The 1940s-style, tinsel-laden tree, brilliant poinsettias and fresh holiday decorations throughout the home are a holiday feast for the senses. Holiday tours of Hills and Dales are offered throughout December. Sign up for festive activities like Christmas wreath making or join in the free annual Children’s Christmas Celebration.

Tours of the home, spectacularly decorated for the season, are available at regular price. For more information, call 706-882-3242 or email info@hillsanddales.org.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Christmas in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Snowy Blue Ridge credit Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Situated about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge, Georgia is all at once outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, fresh, historical –  a collision of opposites resulting in a picture-perfect getaway for crafting memories, whether seeking solitude, uniting family, gathering friends or igniting romance. Upscale cabins dot the landscape offering time in nature and sweeping visitors a million miles away from the fa-la-la-la of “real life” while keeping within close proximity the upscale shops, restaurants and multi-generational activities that inspire cheery holiday memories.

Bring your Christmas shopping list to the Holiday Art Show and Sale, going on through January 10th, at The Art Center, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association.  Hand turned wooden carvings, hand-crafted items, jewelry, holiday ornaments and homemade soaps are only a few of the things that will be available.

Watch a family comedy destined to become a theatrical holiday favorite, A Christmas Story, play at the Blue Ridge Community Theater through December 15th. 

All aboard the Santa Express train excursion where you will hear a Christmas story, sing Christmas Carols, meet Christmas characters and, of course, visit with Santa. Each child receives a traditional Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad memento, BRSR Christmas Activity Book and a candy cane.  The Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad runs through Christmas Eve.

Take a spin on the outdoor ice skating rink located in downtown Blue Ridge City Park. The ice rink will be open until February 16, 2014.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Christmas in Helen, Georgia

Christmas Helen

Ho! Ho! Ho! From Alpine to Appalachian, get ready to celebrate the holidays with these events in Alpine Helen, a Bavarian beauty set in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta.

December 7-8, 2013: Fill up your shopping bags at Helen’s 6th annual Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths offering specialty gift items, decorations, assorted savory food, drinks and candied treats at Helen Market Platz.

December 7, 2013: The Helen Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Helen-White County Convention and Visitors Bureau, winds through Downtown Helen at 2 p.m.

Festival of Trees will sparkle at Unicoi State Park and Lodge until December 14, 2013.

December 7, 2013: Deck the Halls with a festive event at Unicoi State Park and Lodge.

December 7, 2013: Don’t miss the Annual Christmas in the Mountains Lighted Parade at 7 p.m. in Downtown Cleveland.

December 7, 14 and 21, 2013: Enjoy Kinderfest, a German tradition for children offering games, face painting and balloon tying in Downtown Helen.

December 13-15, 2013: Savor the sounds of the season with the Community Chorale Holiday Concert at Sautee Nacoochee Community Center.

Find one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts with German flair, sample pastries and raise a pint to the most wonderful time of the year all while making your holidays brighter with a weekend or week-long getaway. Spend time in the village of Sautee where authentic Appalachian artwork, pottery and hand-made toys make it easy to find something for everyone on the Christmas list. After shopping, relax at one of the area wineries, complete with breath-taking views: Habersham Winery showcases 150 medals awarded in both national and international competitions; Serenity Cellars offers a Tuscan-style tasting room that seems to spring from the ground, even as the vines sleep; The Cottage Vineyard and Winery has a vineyard wedding setting and 360 degree mountain views; Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards is a family farm winery creating hand-crafted wines; Frogtown Cellars now has a tasting room in Helen, and Yonah Mountain Vineyards is home to Georgia’s only wine cave.

Don’t miss a thing: stay in downtown Helen or immerse yourself in a true mountain experience by renting a nearby cabin. Visit www.HelenGA.org for accommodation details and complimentary assistance planning your getaway.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

11 Must-Dos in Albany, Georgia

Ray Charles Plaza

Ray Charles Plaza

We didn’t know what we were in for when we packed our bags and headed down I-75 to Albany, Ga., but we were pretty sure that adventure loomed ahead. From paddling the waterways of the Flint River to donning a zookeeper’s hat at Chehaw Wild Animal and Adventure Park, our expectations were exceeded during an autumn visit to Ray Charles’ hometown. Don’t miss these Albany, Ga., must-sees!

  1. Go wild at Chehaw. Get up close with a baby wildebeest; say “hi” to Charlotte and Chloe, the zoo’s two new pygmy goats; and spend the day roaming Chehaw’s 700 acres of pristine, conservation land. Stay overnight at one of 44 RV sites.
  2. At the Thronateeska Heritage Center with Wetherbee Planetarium, walk through Albany’s historic Union Station complete with a steam locomotive and model railroad exhibit. Then, watch a live presentation beneath the brilliant stars of the Wetherbee Planetarium.
  3. Flint RiverQuariumGo down to the depths at the Flint RiverQuarium and Imagination Theatre, featuring a unique blue hole spring with more than 120 mysterious creatures. Don’t miss Moonshine the Albino alligator!
  4. Radium Springs Gardens, one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, pours 70,000 gallons of water a minute into the nearby Flint River and wows with clear waters and a breathtaking landscape.
  5. At the newly renovated Albany Museum of Art, the AMAzing Space Gallery provides interactive learning through hands-on experiences for children of all ages, while the galleries showcase more than 2,100 original works of African, European and American art.
  6. Get a hands-on history lesson at the Albany Civil Rights Institute, which provides an interactive window into Albany, Ga.’s history of leadership in the fight for equality. Tip: Hear the Freedom Singers perform the second Saturday of every month.
  7. Walk the Greenways system and then picnic at Riverfront Park, featuring Turtle Grove Play Park and its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain.
  8. Settle a bet on the 18-hole disc golf course at Albany’s Legacy Park.
  9. Bikers on RiverFront WalkStop by the Historic Bridge House/Albany Welcome Center and rent bikes to explore the area on two wheels.
  10. Hear Ray Charles play in the Plaza.
  11. Spend hours at the All American Fun Park with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.

Albany satisfies with Southern dining at its best. Feast on local barbecue, have dinner and listen to music in one of Albany’s trendy downtown restaurants, dine elegantly in town or at a traditional quail hunting plantation. The icing on the cake: Albany has more than two dozen hotels, and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities. www.VisitAlbanyGA.com

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Georgia’s “Gone With the Wind” Trail

Credit: Road to Tara Museum

Credit: Road to Tara Museum

“Frankly, my dear…” Who doesn’t know the ending to this infamous phrase? It was time for this Georgia girl to unite with fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to discover the history and legacy behind one of the world’s most beloved books with the variety of hands-on experiences along the state’s first and only designated Gone With the Wind Trail.

Stop one brought me back in time through the sights and sounds of the Civil War and Reconstruction, narrated by Scarlett O’Hara and her dashing romancer, Rhett Butler, at Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square, a mainstay since April 2003. Courtesy of Dr. Sullivan, on display is an extensive collection of memorabilia sure to delight and intrigue any Gone With the Wind fan, from novice to aficionado.

Margaret Mitchell House; credit: Atlanta History Center

Margaret Mitchell House; credit: Atlanta History Center

Next on the agenda: touring the Margaret Mitchell House (a small apartment Margaret called “the dump”) where I traced the footsteps of the talented author and delved deeper into the birthplace of Gone With the Wind. Also at “the dump,” I watched a Gone With the Wind movie exhibition and display showcasing the life and times of one of Atlanta’s most famous authors.

After the Mitchell House, the Trail directed me to The Atlanta- Fulton Public Library. With one of the most extensive collections of Margaret Mitchell’s photographs, books and personal items, the Central Library’s Special Collection Department is a must-see destination for all lovers of literature and Margaret Mitchell. The collection includes Mitchell’s personal books used for her research, more than 400 personal photographs, motion picture stills of the film, her 1937 Pulitzer Prize, her Remington typewriter and more.

oakland

Historic Oakland Cemetery Bell Tower; credit: Dinny Addison

Next, I headed to Mitchell’s final resting place, Oakland Cemetery. Historic Oakland, a Victorian garden cemetery, is also a magnificent sculpture garden, botanical garden, flourishing wildlife habitat, public park and picturesque setting for quiet reflection. Amidst the beauty of a blue-skied Atlanta autumn day, visit the gravesites of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and roam thoughtfully among thousands of other Atlanta notables and pioneers.

My final stop on the Trail landed me in Jonesboro, the official home of Gone With the Wind just 15 miles south of Atlanta, at the Road to Tara Museum, where visitors can relive Rhett and Scarlett’s sweeping romance by enjoying original movie props and wardrobe items, a foreign edition library, original manuscripts, costume reproductions, an extensive photo gallery, and a collectible plate and doll collection. The antebellum years and the Civil War make their presence felt through such exhibits as an authentic “Sherman’s necktie” (a section of rail twisted into a loop so as to be useless to a railroad company); and the depot’s original Fairbank Scale, used to weigh cargo, specifically cotton.

And because “tomorrow is another day,” the journey into Gone With the Wind and the Civil War can continue by exploring the Trail’s “Rhett Also Recommends” stops, including the: Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Cyclorama, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield and Stately Oaks Plantation.

If you go:

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square – Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors and students, $5 groups of 15 or more. 18 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta, GA 30064; 770-794-5576; www.GWTWMarietta.com. Group Tour Contact: Connie Sutherland; 770-794-5145; CSutherland@MariettaGA.gov

Margaret Mitchell House – Admission: $13 adults, $10 seniors and students, $8.50 youth 4-12. 990 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309; 404-249-7015; www.MargaretMitchellHouse.com. Group Tour Contact: 404-814-4031 ; MMHGroupTours@AtlantaHistoryCenter.com

Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System – Admission: Free. One Margaret Mitchell Square, Atlanta, GA 30303; 404-730-1700; www.AFPLS.org. Group Tour Contact: Kelly Robinson Vann; 404-730-1865;

Kelly.Robinson@FultonCountyGA.gov

Oakland Cemetery – Admission: free. Guided walking tours: $10 adults, $5 students and seniors 65 and older. 248 Oakland Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30312; 404-688-2107; www.OaklandCemetery.com

Road to Tara Museum – Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors and children. 104 North Main Street, Jonesboro, GA 30236; 770-478-4800; VisitScarlett.com/RoadToTaraMuseum.html. Group Tour Contact: Beth Bailey;

678-610-4242; Beth@VisitScarlett.com

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.