12 Budget-Friendly Attractions in Helen, Georgia

Chattahoochee River flowing behind Nora Mill-lr

Chattahoochee River flowing behind Nora Mill [Photo Credit: Alpine Helen-White County CVB]

No matter the age, everyone is a kid at heart when it comes to Helen, White County and the Sautee and Nacoochee areas in North Georgia, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta. And fun here is affordable for any budget.

  1. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Helen’s downtown.
  2. Seek out the perfect souvenirs and gifts in the hustle and bustle of Helen’s shopping street while German music adds oom pah pah from outdoor speakers.
  3. Pastries at Hofers German Bakery in downtown Helen

    Pastries at Hofers German Bakery in downtown Helen [Photo Credit: Alpine Helen-White County CVB]

    Pick up sweet treats at the authentic German bakery or candy shop.
  4. Tour the world’s largest Alpine model railroad museum at Charlemagne’s Kingdom.
  5. Watch glass blowing at The Glassblowing Shop.
  6. Paint your own “green theme” child-safe toy at Elfmade Toys.
  7. Follow a round of adventure golf with a scoop or two of ice cream at an old-fashioned parlor.
  8. Continue family time during your mountain getaway in the foothills of the Appalachians by teaching kids about the great outdoors at Unicoi State Park with seasonal programs.
  9. Smithgall Woods State Park  [Photo Credit: 365 Atlanta Family]

    Smithgall Woods State Park
    [Photo Credit: 365 Atlanta Family]

    At Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, where there are more than 5,500 acres of land, learning is fun for the whole family with special events like Kids Day at the Park and Junior Ranger Camp.
  10. Another can’t-miss bonding opportunity? Children and their “big person” can fish in a stocked lake during Youth Fishing Days at Buck Shoals.
  11. Make your way to BabyLand General Hospital and be there when a baby arrives at this Southern-style mansion in Cleveland that sits majestically on a 100-acre spread in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. Be sure to check the calendar for a full list of their spectacular seasonal events.
  12. Following a day of kid-friendly fun, share a meal and memories at multi-generation-pleasing Mully’s Nacoochee Grill, Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria, Old Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Unicoi Restaurant.

When you are ready to hit the hay, Helen has hotels with swimming pools and lodge rooms at Unicoi State Park.

Learn more about Helen, Georgia here.

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.

13 Budget-Friendly Things to do in Augusta, Georgia

Riverwalk

Georgia’s second oldest and second largest city, Augusta, has been welcoming guests with Southern hospitality for decades and continues to with its charm and easily accessible location along Interstate 20, 150 miles southeast of Atlanta. Steeped in history, culture, art, music and more, this is the place for nonstop fun that doesn’t break the bank.

Did you say “free?!”

1. Plan to visit Augusta during a free First Friday event, a family-friendly celebration in downtown Augusta held on the First Friday of each month from 5 until 9 p.m. Watch as local artists create masterpieces on the sidewalk, browse art galleries and watch live musical performances.

2. During the week Tuesday’s Music Live is America’s largest luncheon concert series. Held in the nave of Saint Paul’s Church, the concerts include musical styles ranging from classical to jazz. After the concert, eat a catered lunch in the River Room. The concert is free, but lunch is $10 and served at noon.

3. Take a hike! Well, maybe just a stroll. Walk along the Augusta Riverwalk, Augusta’s top attraction, featuring a children’s playground and various gardens. Two museums are located off the walkway along with the Jessye Norman Amphitheater and several restaurants. Great for families out for some fresh air along the Savannah River. This two-tiered park runs for three blocks.

4. Did you know? Sundays are free at the Morris Museum of Art. See the work of Southern artists and art of the South at the Morris Museum of Art. Look for Artrageous! Sunday activities for children are also free.

5. Have your picture taken anytime with the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown. His life-size statue is located in downtown Augusta across from Augusta Common Park.

6. Do you dare? Tempt your fate at the Haunted Pillar, at the corner of 5th and Broad Streets. According to legend, an attempt to move or even touch it could result in death.

7. Visit the oldest independently formed black Christian church, Springfield Baptist Church, and then see the sculptures next door at the Springfield Village Park.

8. Sacred Heart Cultural Center, c. 1897, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features towering twin spires, graceful arches, 15 distinctive styles of brickwork, ninety-four stained glass windows, a barrel vaulted ceiling and intricately carved Italian marble altars. Free tours are available as well as a gift shop showcasing local artists, gifts and accessories.

Hungry for more? Try these almost free options:

Enjoy regular admission into any of the following Augusta museums and historic homes for less than $5: Augusta Museum of History, Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and the Morris Museum of Art.

Nacho Mamas BurritoGet your fill-up at Nacho Mama’s in downtown Augusta where they “roll’em fat.” Enjoy unusually large portion sizes for unusually low prices. Don’t believe us? How about grubbing out on The Godfather – loaded with pulled pork, guacamole, black beans, their house-made spicy mango habanera salsa, piled high with cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream. Served with Spanish rice and pinto beans all for $8. We recommend grabbing a to-go box in advance.

Free fall fun! 

Ferris WheelAugusta is the destination for fall fun…sample these options without touching your savings during the annual Westobou festival, October 1-5.

1. Wander and wonder at art exhibits by Savannah College of Art and Design Alumni.

2.Take a ride on the Westobou Wheel, a Ferris wheel, set up on the Parade Grounds of the Old Richmond Academy, offiering a bird’s-eye view of Westobou, October 1-5.

3.Catch a screening of “The Goonies,” 6 p.m., October 4, at the Historic Parade Grounds at the Old Academy of Richmond County. Check out all of Westobou’s offerings.

Where to Stay?
With a convenient location just off Interstate-20, Augusta is just a short drive from many southeastern cities. Budget-friendly hotels and packages are available with rates ranging from $40-$139 a night. For more information about Augusta, please contact the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.726.0243 or find them online at VisitAugusta.com.

13 Great Places to Eat & Drink in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Blue-Ridge-GA-Cabin-Rentals_9900

Situated about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge, Georgia, satisfies the soul with a growing menu of options when it comes to dining. A closer look reveals a common ingredient shared by local business owners – a passion for the outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, fresh, historical town – a mixing bowl of opposing flavors that meld just right to create the place these establishments are proud to call home. It’s an ambiance set forth by nature and enhanced by the local people that lures proprietors here; some are retired execs from the ATL beginning a second career and others are establishing roots and raising a family in a simple yet sophisticated community. It’s that kind of opposition – yin and yang – that Blue Ridge embodies, converting visitors to locals again and again as the story goes. If you’re lucky enough to experience Blue Ridge, indulge in these top 13 picks to satisfy the taste buds and soothe the soul.

  1. Harvest on Main uses seasonal products whenever possible to support the local economy, farmer and artisan. Harvest was listed as one of 11 best restaurants outside Atlanta recently and was also featured in the August issue of “Blue Ridge
    Harvest on Main

    Harvest on Main

    Country.”

  2. At Farm to Table Camp for Kids, the dynamic duo from Harvest on Main builds on community efforts by teaching local children and visiting kids where their food comes from. The farm is open to the public, but there are no set hours; call (706) 946-3276 for more information.
  3. So successful, Harvest on Main expanded their offerings in 2013 with the addition of Harvest’s Blue Ridge Grocery offering a from-scratch bakery, deli and café, coffee bar and menu for take-away meals. Again the restaurateurs will soon expand their portfolio with a Mediterranean-style restaurant.
  4. Cucina Rustica, a local favorite that’s rustic, casual, yet elegant, puts the utmost importance on preserving the traditions of Northern Italian cuisine and delights guests with Osso Buco, shrimp scampi and stuffed veal loin, to name only a few of the must-try temptations. The popular Italian locale also features Cucina Pizzeria for those in search of the perfect pie.
  5. With thousands of vacation rental cabins in and around Blue Ridge, it’s no surprise Chef Douglas Olsen of Cabin Cuisine has found popularity in his services, creating meals in the comfort of a serene mountain setting.
  6. Relax, unwind and prepare for one of Blue Ridge’s newest restaurants, Black Sheep, serving Southern comfort food in a historic residence once visited by Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind.”
  7. Christy Lee’s Courtyard Grille welcomes guests with outdoor fire pits, live entertainment and a menu with temptations like bacon wrapped scallops and cedar plank salmon.
  8. Top off your feast with confectionaries from The Sweet Shoppe where owners Nikki Gribble and Susan Catron can boast of their win on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”
  9. For unbeatable hickory smoked meats, including fall-off-the-bone ribs, seek out Joe’s BBQ, featured on TripAdvisor’s list of Top BBQ Joints in the USA.
  10. Apples at Mercier Orchards

    Apples at Mercier Orchards

    New to Mercier Orchards, the popular U-Pick produce destination now features a tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Sit for a spell on the deck while enjoying sips and live entertainment on the weekend. Stay for lunch – or, come early for a breakfast fit for a king, complete with local sausage, grits, apple fritters and more.

  11. Try the Blue Ridge Blood, at Blue Ridge Brewery, along with other handcrafted suds – the Hiawassee Golden Ale, Sandy Bottom and Toccoa Brown. Seasonal beers are featured on a regular basis. Pair sips with upscale eats like shrimp mac and cheese and catch live entertainment on the weekends without ever worrying about a cover charge.
  12. At Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge’s premier nanobrewery, co-owners Jim McKnight and Steve Weber – fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech in the 70s, embody their business name and tout the motto, “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.” Signature brews include: Aska Pale Ale, Moon over Blue Ridge Wheat Ale, and the soon to be released Hell’s Holler Porter.
  13. Fannin Brewing Company

    Fannin Brewing Company

    Fannin Brewing Company’s motto sums up just about all you need to know: Fresh Air, Fresh Water, Fresh Beer. Started in association with the Blue Ridge Brewery, here you’ll find some of the same sought-after sips like Hiawassee Golden Ale and Toccoa Brown Ale. Fannin Brewing Company’s owner, Tom Fennell, spent a good bit of time in Germany where many of his trips involved a visit to a biergarten or two, sampling a host of German beer styles. He was bitten by the craft beer bug in 2012, when he partnered with Pat Walker at the Blue Ridge Brewery, and by December, the first beer was on tap at the Brewery where the brews,  crafted with fresh Blue Ridge water, have been top sellers ever since.

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.

Albany, Georgia on a Budget

 

Ray Charles Piano StatueLocated in southwest Georgia off of I-75, Albany has lots of fun places to visit that won’t break the bank or, in some cases, even crack the wallet. Stroll the six-acre RiverFront Park anchored by Ray Charles seated at his baby Grand and grab a piano key bench for an evening “concert.” As the sun goes down, the lights go up on this one-of-a-kind sculpture. Take a nature walk along the three-mile Riverfront Greenway Trail System that follows the scenic Flint River or at Radium Springs, one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, with crystal clear waters, historic courtyard, indigenous and exotic flora and casino garden. Turn the kids loose at the fountain and at Turtle Grove Play Park or shout “fore” with a round of disc golf at Chehaw. Free Albany attractions include the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center, which is tucked inside the Historic Bridge House/Welcome Center – a great place to pick up a souvenir bargain, like a stuffed turtle. Also free: the Albany Museum of Art and its growing permanent collection comprised of African, European and American art, including one of the most impressive collections of sub-Saharan African art to be found in the Southeastern United States; and Thronateeska Heritage Center (NOTE: there is a charge for the planetarium show).

While in Albany, try these budget-friendly boredom busters:

  1. Picnic at Albany RiverFront Park.
  2. Explore Ray Charles Plaza and walk along the Greenway.
  3. Paint the town at Albany’s Art Park on Pine. Bring your own paint; rules of “open” walls are posted. Musicians and other artists are welcome, too. Open Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  4. Stroll through Radium Springs Gardens.
  5. Take it to two wheels. Rent a bicycle at the Albany Welcome Center.
  6. See the wild animals at Chehaw animal and adventure park, providing nearly 800 acres of fun, including a 100-acre, AZA-accredited zoo. Noted naturalist and Albany native Jim Fowler of TV’s “Wild Kingdom,” originally designed the park and is still involved with updates and expansions. The park features BMX bike racing, disc golf, campgrounds, nature trails, petting zoo, a miniature train and one of the state’s largest play parks for kids.
  7. Stargaze at Wetherbee Planetarium. Regularly scheduled shows plus fun evening special showings.
  8. The Albany Museum of Art serves as Southwest Georgia’s only fully accredited art museum. Six galleries offer a wide array of styles, artists and themes. Collections from across the country combine with showings by local artists, and exhibitions from AMA’s extensive permanent collection offer visitors an entertaining and educational museum experience. Free admission.
  9. Tour the historic Carnegie Library, which houses the Albany Area Arts Council. While there, view art work exhibitions of regional artists.
  10. Step back in time at the Albany Civil Rights Institute – where the Freedom Singers perform the second Saturday of every month.

Albany meerkats low resKids can romp to their heart’s content at RiverFront Park with Turtle Grove Play Park and its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain; at Legacy Park (fishing pond – with poles available, soccer, baseball and softball fields, 8 tennis courts, sand volleyball, a mile and a half walking track, recreational facilities and more); and at the All American Fun Park with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.

Fun family eateries include The Cookie Shoppe and Harvest Moon for pizza, among other kid-friendly places. Young shoppers will want to spend their mad money at the gift shops at the Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw animal and adventure park. Albany has more than two dozen hotels – and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities.

FREE attractions:  Turtle Grove Play Park and fountain at RiverFront Park; Thronateeska (NOTE: there is a charge for the show); the Albany Museum of Art; Legacy Park; and the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center.

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.

Come Home to Macon’s College Hill Corridor

Credit: College Hill Alliance

Credit: College Hill Alliance

With more than $90 million invested in Macon’s College Hill Corridor, a two square mile area between Mercer University and Historic Macon’s downtown business district about an hour south of Atlanta, through private and public investments, Knight Foundation Investments and Mercer University as well as investments by Macon-Bibb County, it’s no wonder this community is a hot bed for entrepreneurship and innovation while serving as the breeding ground for a hip hometown vibe. Thanks to the Corridor initiative, more than 100 jobs have been created within the area’s borders and Macon’s two largest employers in Macon are located here – the Medical Center of Central Georgia and Mercer University, home of the 2014 March Madness miracle Mercer Bears. It’s time to discover the magic that’s brewing in the Corridor.

Easily accessible from Atlanta, the Corridor greets visitors with a vibe as unique as the community’s concept. Sit for a spell at a neighborhood coffee shop and mingle with strangers who fast become friends. Shop locally at boutiques and meander through park after park of undulating green space throughout four long-ago planned communities, each complete with their own architectural style and story. Delve into history at Macon’s three historic house museum attractions: Hay House, Cannonball House and Sidney Lanier Cottage – each located in the Corridor. Take an urban hike with Rock Candy Tours, and gain a glimpse into the heritage of Macon’s music scene. Cheer on the 2014 March Madness miracle Mercer Bears during a home game. Stay on-campus at Mercer University’s Hilton Garden Inn, offering guests a fitness center and pool, or try The 1842 Inn for a luxurious getaway in an antebellum mansion. Plan to visit during one of the Corridor’s signature events, like April’s Magnolia Street Soapbox Derby or Second Sunday concerts, the second Sunday of every month, April through October.

Mark your calendar for these can’t-miss annual College Hill Corridor community events:

Second Sunday Concerts

Every second Sunday of the month, from April through October, expect one of the best community picnics in Macon featuring live music in beautiful Washington Park. The concerts are free to attend and feature a cash bar and food available for purchase. Picnics, lawn chairs and pets are welcome. Please refrain from bringing tents and grills though.

Second Sunday Concerts take place from 6-8 p.m.

July 13: The Grapevine

August 10: Same As It Ever Was

September 14: TBA

October 12: Clarence Carter

Sundown Screen Series

The Sundown Screen Series is hosted by Macon-Bibb Parks & Recreation and brings the big silver screen to the great outdoors. These free, outdoor movie events take place in spring, summer and fall at various locations in the Corridor. Movies are often shown in Tattnall Square Park but have also been shown in Riverside Cemetery, Coleman Hill and the Beall’s Hill Community Garden. Movie-goers are encouraged to bring snacks, blankets and lawn chairs.  

Mercer Village Block Parties

The Mercer Village merchants are starting new traditions in the Corridor with their regular block parties. These events are tied to holidays like Christmas and Mardi Gras as well as Mercer University sporting events like football tailgating, pep rallies and cheering on the Bears during tournament season with outdoor watch parties. The regular events invite the entire Macon and Mercer University community to join in the free activities that take place outdoors. The portion of Montpelier Avenue that runs through Mercer Village is closed for these events, which often feature inflatables, outdoor vendors and live music. www.MercerVillage.com

Stay connected: Find College Hill Corridor on Facebook.