Top Five Family Attractions in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Make memories with these unique Blue Ridge attractions, catering to multi-generational fun.

1. Mercier Orchards – A family-owned and -operated primarily apple orchard, the must-see attraction will reward senses with bushels of apples, strawberries and other produce, fresh pressed cider, warm fried pies – but, most importantly, memories. Started back in 1943 by Bill & Adele Mercier, Mercier Orchards is now celebrating more than 70 years of fruitful harvests. Beyond fruit, the onsite store serves up a variety of farm toys, pet items, kitchen paraphernalia, home decor and a meat and cheese shop. Visit the tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Gather the family for a u-pick experience and fill baskets with fresh-from-the-tree apples or other seasonal produce.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

It’s all about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

2. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – Chugga-chug down the 13-miles of rails comprising the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 45-minute (each way) excursion is a generation-bonding adventure that starts at the historic 1905 depot in Downtown. Vintage climate controlled rail cars or open air rail cars host more than 70,000 passengers each year for a ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River, with a stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill/McCaysville is one town with two names because it is split by the GA/TN state line, where visitors have a two hour layover (one & half layover on Sunday); plenty of time to eat lunch, shop for unique crafts and antiques, snack on ice cream, or walk around.

3. Swan Drive-in – Catch a movie the old-fashioned way at one of Georgia’s four remaining drive-in theaters. Established in 1955, the Swan Drive-in also features a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

4. The Lilly Pad – Mine for gems, go fishing, take a hike or play a round of mini-golf, all at Blue Ridge’s destination for family fun. Pets are welcome, too.

5. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.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.

Top Five Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Chase waterfalls with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for easy access to some of nature’s finest accomplishments.

1. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

2. Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, downhill on the way out.

Benton MacKaye Trail

Discover the beauty of Blue Ridge’s Long Creek Falls. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

3. Sea Creek Falls – Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.

4. Amicalola Falls – About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.

5. Helton Creek Falls – There are two falls on Helton Creek near Blairsville. A short trail descends to the first waterfall then climbs to the second larger waterfall. Beware – the rocks are slippery. From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 north to Blairsville. In Blairsville, take US 19/129 south about 11 miles. Turn left onto Helton Creek Road, the first road past the entrance to Vogel State Park. Go 2.2 miles; the road turns to gravel. There will be a small parking lot on the right in a curve, and the trail is marked.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.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.

Top Five Hikes in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

A hiker’s paradise, Blue Ridge offers several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail which extends for more than 2,000 miles to Maine through many of the states on the Eastern Seaboard. Pursue these paths for outdoor explorations on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles, including short trails suitable for beginning hikers.

Aska Trails

Hike Blue Ridge’s Aska Trail System. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

1. Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.

2. Swinging Bridge Trail – Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy 60 for three miles to be rewarded with sweeping views of the pristine Toccoa River flowing beneath a structure known simply as the “Swinging Bridge.” The longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, the passage was built by the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in the mid-1970s.

3. Hike to the Appalachian Trail terminus – One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain.

4. Aska Trails – This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from one- to 5.5-miles.

5. Benton MacKaye Trail to Fall Branch Falls – A short distance away and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, Fall Branch Falls is a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.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.

A Night on the Town in Augusta

In need of a night out or simply in need of a cocktail (or two – we won’t tell!)? Less than two hours from Atlanta, Augusta, Georgia, quenches the thirst for a good time with these must-visit watering holes.

Craft and Vine

The house rules at Craft and Vine brings an old-school Southern vibe to one of Augusta’s hottest nighttime spots.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Craft and Vine offers an upscale vibe and is tucked away on Broad Street. It’s the newest addition to Augusta’s Frog Hollow Hospitality Group, which also founded the city’s popular Farmhaus Burger and Frog Hollow Tavern. Expect dinner and a show – albeit not the typical performance. Bartenders evoke a “wow” factor while stirring old-timey drinks and shaking cocktails. Dishes meet big-city expectations without the associated metropolitan hassles. Plus, it’s one of the only places in Augusta featuring enomatic machines, or wine on drip, making it possible to savor sips of finer wines by the glass for tastings. There are no reservations, and, preserving the sometimes overlooked art of etiquette, house rules apply here: no cell phone usage inside, but texting is fine; please be patient (craft drinks are an art and take time to create – but are totally worth it); and, proper attire is required.

Hive Growler Bar

A mind-boggling number of taps at Hive Growler Bar will quench thirst no matter what you crave.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Think outside the pub with the Hive Growler Bar, Augusta’s newest night spot and an authentic tap house. Featuring locally- and regionally-sourced food like the city’s beloved The Bee’s Knees (same owners), it’s the bar’s beer, wine and craft cocktail selection that set it apart. Take a gander and you might think you’re seeing double before the first sip: 73 taps featuring more than 50 beer taps, 10 wine taps, five craft soda taps and five custom-made cocktail taps adorn the walls. You won’t find bottled or canned beer here. It’s all fresh and flowing. Taps change so often and the owners are so into sustainability that you will not find a printed tap list. But do not fear, big screen TVs display the most current tap lists, as does the bar’s website.

Experience Augusta like a local. Surrey Tavern is the neighborhood bar. Located in Surrey Center, this haunt is Augusta’s best kept secret – where the locals go. They’re famous for their laid-back atmosphere; an outdoor patio and live music set the tone for a great night for you and your friends.

Le Chat Noir is an intimate 100-seat black box theatre and lounge that is host to a variety of shows and events. Performances include classics like Les Miserables or Sweeney Todd. Night owls might enjoy Schrodinger’s Cat, Augusta’s premiere comedy improv troupe, during their eXtreme Theatre Games every First Friday.  Watch comedy performed on the spot as two teams of crack improvisers battle it out in the continuing quest for comedic domination. If you love Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Improvaganza, or other improv comedy shows, this is your spot.

Augusta

From bachelorettes to bachelors, couples to singles, Augusta’s variety of night spots makes it easy for everyone to enjoy a night on the town.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Feel the beat at Sky City, Augusta’s 500-capacity live music venue located in downtown. With an eclectic line-up each month there’s something on the set to satisfy every musical taste. Sky City also features themed nights like 80s Night during the first Friday of each month. What’s better than pulling out the leggings, oversized shirts with shirt clips, teasing your hair and listening to a little Duran Duran or Journey?

The Soul Bar features live music and is named appropriately for The Godfather of Soul and Augusta native, Mr. James Brown. Hang out, have a drink, or stop by and see a local band bring down the house. The Soul Bar is also famous for its theme nights. Favorites include 80s Night, 90s Night, Pop Life or Disc Hell. The theme nights will take you back, way back – and have you coming back to Augusta.

 

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.

Fired Works Spotlights Folk Potters and Their Traditions

Fired Works Show-lr

Get your hands dirty with pottery classes at the event. Credit: Macon Arts Alliance

Featuring nine days of special events such as free Clay Workshops for Children & Teens, Corks & Clay workshops for adults, Pottery Roadshow appraisals, artist talks and demonstrations, the 10th Annual Fired Works Regional Ceramics Exhibition and Sale, April 11-19, 2015, in Macon’s Central City Park, about 90 miles south of Atlanta, is a celebration of the rich history of ceramics-making in Georgia and the Southeast. What began as a local pottery show and celebration of the area’s Ocmulgee River region heritage now features more than 6,000 pieces of pottery by 65 ceramic artists– the state’s largest annual show and sale of functional and sculptural pottery.

Each year, Fired Works celebrates a special theme, artist or technique. The 10th Anniversary exhibition highlights the genuinely Southern tradition of Folk Pottery with works by five artists continuing the time-honored tradition of regional ceramics.

Shelia Chrzan bowl: Caption: Artists like Sheila Chrzan present their works for sale at the Fired Works Regional Ceramics Exhibition and Sale. Credit: Macon Arts Alliance

Shelia Chrzan bowl: Caption: Artists like Sheila Chrzan present their works for sale at the Fired Works Regional Ceramics Exhibition and Sale. Credit: Macon Arts Alliance

Bruce Bley, who lives in Monroe, describes himself as a “mountain person,” drawing inspiration from the North Georgia Mountains and their history of craftsmanship. Considered a rising star of the ceramic arts, Clint Alderman, from Habersham County, has been creating works of art by coil-building and pit-firing since 1995. His work is found in exhibits across the state, including the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia and the Atlanta History Center.

Both Roger Corn, of Lula, and Steve Turpin, of Homer, are decades-long potters and their work is well known. Corn has been dubbed the best potter to use the technique of pulling up his clay, creating light-as-a-feather works of art out of only small bits of clay. Turpin, a potter for more than 30 years, considers each piece he makes a tangible aspect of his personality. He says establishing the personal link created when a person feels connected enough to his works to want to purchase one is what being an artist is all about.

pottery - Caption: Wood-fired clay bowls crafted by potter Tammy Beane are reminiscent of Mississippian stamped pottery discovered at Macon’s Ocmulgee National Monument. Credit: The Macon Arts Alliance

pottery – Caption: Wood-fired clay bowls crafted by potter Tammy Beane are reminiscent of Mississippian stamped pottery discovered at Macon’s Ocmulgee National Monument.
Credit: The Macon Arts Alliance

Wayne Hewell is a fifth generation potter, a recognizable descendant of a folk potter family. He continues his father’s and grandfather’s tradition by by hand-firing all of his pottery in an old-fashioned wood-burning kiln.

Each featured folk potter will contribute between one and five pieces to the central exhibit at Fired Works, including traditional-style creations such as face jugs, snake jars and ash glazes – quintessential styles that continue to be produced by folk potters in the South.

If you go: Complete 10th Anniversary Fired Works event details; biographies of featured folk potters and the other 60-plus potters exhibiting and selling; Earth, Wine, and Fire special opening weekend packaged getaway, and schedule of talks and workshops is available at www.FiredWorksMacon.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.