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.

Helen, Georgia on a Budget

Photo Credit: Sussman Imaging

Photo Credit: Sussman Imaging

Travel to Germany without leaving Georgia with a visit to Helen, White County and the Sautee and Nacoochee areas. Located about 90 minutes north of Atlanta – these areas are rich with history, culture, entertainment, food and blessed by Mother Nature. Here are the top budget-friendly must-do’s when visiting this North Georgia gem:

  1. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Helen’s downtown; then, 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.
  2. Pick up sweet treats at an authentic German bakery or candy shop.
  3. Tour the world’s largest Alpine model railroad museum at Charlemagne’s Kingdom.
  4. Come face to face with giant bears at Black Forest Bear Park; watch glass blowing at The Glassblowing Shop.
  5. Paint your own “green theme” child-safe toy at Elfmade Toys.
  6. Gain perspective as you soar to new heights with seasonal hot air balloon or helicopter rides that give a new vantage point of the surrounding beauty.
  7. Hop in the saddle with horseback riding, or take it to two wheels as you zoom up and down tree-lined paths while mountain biking.
  8. Outdoor enthusiasts can find adventures like zip lining at Nacoochee Outdoor Adventures or Sunburst Stables, just nine miles from the city center.
  9. Follow a round of adventure golf with a scoop or two of ice cream at an old-fashioned parlor.
  10. Continue family time during your mountain getaway in the foothills of the Appalachians by teaching kids about the great outdoors with seasonal programs at Unicoi State Park.

    unicoi

    Unicoi Lake. Photo Credit: Sussman Imaging

  11. Grab a snack at Fred’s Famous Peanuts, which began nearly 30 years ago as a roadside stand.
  12. Stop by the Old Sautee Store, in existence since 1872 and famous for the combination of old store museum, gourmet foods and fine jewelry.
  13. Don’t miss Loganberry Heritage Farm, an Appalachian Heritage Farm growing healthy, farm-to-table foods naturally, biologically, ecologically and sustainably on land that once provided home to the Cherokee Indians. Watch cooking demonstrations during Market Days, and sample the harvest in quick and easy recipes.
  14. 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. Another can’t-miss bonding opportunity: children and their “big person” can fish in a stocked lake during Youth Fishing Days at Buck Shoals.
  15. Make your way to BabyLand General Hospital, home of the “hand-stitched to birth” soft-sculpture Original Cabbage Patch Kids, 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.
  16. Make mountain vacation memories while rafting, tubing and fishing the Chattahoochee River.
  17. Kayak and canoe Unicoi Lake.
  18. Bring a fly rod to reel in good times at Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, where you can fly fish on the legendary Dukes Creek trophy trout stream, or let Unicoi Outfitters guide you to prized trophy trout streams on private land.
  19. See who can slip and slide the fastest while sloshing down the slides at Helen Water Park.
  20. Recharge batteries with restorative treatments at nearby spas.
  21. Sip vino at local wineries and tasting rooms.
  22. Check out the Sautee Nacoochee Center: Visual and Performing Arts where you can take in a gallery show or live theatre performance, or the Helen Arts and Heritage Center and Unicoi State Park, with gallery showings, theatre, art and history exhibits, and Saturday evening concerts.
  23. Nearby, the only known slave cabin still existing in the Northeast Georgia mountains has recently been renovated and now joins the heritage landscape in Sautee.
  24. Explore age-old folk pottery traditions at the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, housed in a post-and-beam building. This is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to folk pottery and showcasing a 200-year tradition of men and women who shaped the earth and water of the Georgia mountains into once-essential household items now valued and collected as distinctive folk art.

    Photo Credit: Sussman Imaging

    Photo Credit: Sussman Imaging

  25. Drive Georgia’s Folk Pottery Trail for an added dose of cultural and mountain heritage.
  26. Following a day of kid-friendly fun, share a meal and memories at multi-generation-pleasing Nacoochee Grill, Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria, Old Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Unicoi Restaurant.

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

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.