Exploring Henry County with Kids

Henry County sits just south of Atlanta and holds a world of fun, adventure and excitement for families. Here’s how to make a weekend of family fun in McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton and Locust Grove.

Top Stops with Kids

Tree Climbing with Field Trips with Sue in Panola Mountain State Park

Tree Climbing with Field Trips with Sue in Panola Mountain State Park. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

Panola Mountain State Park. Take a hike on the never-before-quarried granite outcrop, or try your hand at archery. (So fun!!) Tackle boating, fishing, biking or hiking, too. A must-try Georgia adventure is the monthly tree climbing class. It’s a great family experience you’ll remember for years.

Southern Belle Farm. This 330-acre farm beckons families. Pick strawberries or peaches, try their delectable homemade ice cream or take in a pig race. Snort snort. This time of year, kids will love picking a pumpkin, running through the corn maze or picking out a Christmas tree.

Heritage Veterans Park Museum. Explore hundreds of military artifacts from WWI to the present. The best part, though? The stories of those artifacts shared by the volunteers of this museum! Don’t miss the chance to tour the museum with a docent; I promise it will touch your heart.

Atlanta Motor Speedway. On Friday and Saturday, kids 17 and under can sit in the grandstands free with a paying adult. Additionally, there are other family packages like discounted seats for the Sprint Cup and more. This Christmas, families can ride through the arena to see Christmas lights, ending with a festive drive-in holiday movie.

The Original Shane's Rib Shack

The Original Shane’s Rib Shack. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

The Original Shane’s Rib Shack. You probably know Shane’s from one of their 70+ stores across the state (and beyond!) but did you know the original was in McDonough? Come see the “shack” for yourself, enjoy the fenced in playground out back and don’t skip the peach cobbler!

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. See exotic animals like cougars, parrots, monkeys and more at this not-for-profit sanctuary. Many animals here are rehabilitated and sent back to the wild, when they can be. Others are here to stay like the famous BLT – the bear, lion and tiger – that live together as best friends.

Where to Stay

Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites. With so much to do in Henry County, staying the weekend is a must! Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Stockbridge provides easy access to attractions, comfy beds and spacious suites. You won’t want to miss dinner at the hotel’s Burger Theory restaurant, with craft brews and house-made burgers.

Henry County Fun: There’s an App for That

If you’re looking to add a little fun to your family adventure, download the new Henry County Treasure App. The interactive phone app let the kids “check in” at each destination. Answering questions about your visit adds coins to your treasure chest for entry into a twice-yearly grand prize. You could win a ride in a real Cobra helicopter, a VIP Race Weekend package and more!

Head to 365AtlantaFamily.com for more Georgia family travel adventures.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

Columbus, Ga is the Ultimate Educational Adventure

Whether you homeschool your kiddos like we do, or you want to turn a fun weekend adventure into an educational opportunity, Columbus, Ga is a great destination. We enjoyed multiple attractions that offered incredible insight into science, nature and history (Shhhh! The kids were having too much fun to realize how much they were learning!) Here is a small sample of the excitement we enjoyed while in Columbus.

Science – Coca Cola Science Center. You’ll find several interactive galleries, the Challenger Learning Center mission simulator, an observatory and Omnisphere Planetarium Theater. It also houses Georgia’s most extensive Space Shuttle artifact collection.Oxbow Meadows in Columbus, Ga

Nature – Oxbow Meadows. This environmental learning center offers opportunities to see turtles, snakes (including a python!) alligators, tortoises and more. Don’t forget to check out the Discovery Trail Guide at the front desk; it’s a great way to extend the learning opportunities of your visit. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

History – National Infantry Museum. This museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to the American Infantryman, and it holds one of the greatest collections of military artifacts. Infantry history is traced from colonial times to the present via a series of galleries. This large facility is filled with amazing artifacts, but if you only have a moment, the Last 100 Yards Ramp is a heart-wrenching overview of our Army’s history. For a hands-on experience visit the kid-sized room where little ones can try on Soldier uniforms and learn about humanitarian missions Soldiers carry out.National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga

There are a series of free events for the whole family available year ‘round at the Infantry Museum so be sure to visit their website. Upcoming events include The Battle of Yorktown (1791) Living History event on Oct 17 and Kelly’s Zeroes World War II reenactment “You’re in the Army Now!” on Dec 5, where living historians Ernie and Linda Stewart will open their Traveling Trunk of toys, clothing, tools, etc from the Revolutionary War era for kids to touch and learn from.

Phys Ed – WhiteWater Express. In its third year, but attracting accolades from all over the world, your kids will not want to miss a white water rafting experience down the Chattahoochee. WhiteWater Express also offers bike rentals and other ways to explore the city. Read more about our WhiteWater Express adventure (including a video) here: 365atlantafamily.com/whitewaterexpress

Read more about Columbus, Ga on 365AtlantaFamily, including where to stay, free things to do, kid-friendly restaurants and more.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

Can’t-Miss Fall Events for Family Fun

Fall beckons the family outdoors to enjoy festivals, fairs and crisp weather. From Ellijay’s Apple Festival in the mountains to Tybee Island’s Pirate Fest on the coast, fall events await families around the state.

Georgia Apple Festival, Oct. 10-18, 2015, Ellijay

Georgia Apple Festival, Oct. 10-18, 2015, Ellijay

Historic High Country

2015 Wings Over North Georgia Airshow (Oct. 3-4, Rome) – Rated North Georgia’s #1 family weekend event, this world-class air show festival features the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, GEICO Skytypers and USMC MV-22 Osprey demo teams.

Georgia Apple Festival (Oct. 10-18, Ellijay) – Over 300 vendors peddle handmade, hand-crafted items. Enjoy many on-site demonstrations of how selected types of crafts are made. This year promises many new crafts as well as favorites from past festivals.

Presidential Pathways

Fall Family Fun Days at The Rock Ranch (Sept. 26-Nov. 7, The Rock) – Every Saturday in fall brings a series of special events to The Rock Ranch beginning Sept. 26 with Hats off to Heroes Day. Other special Saturdays include Georgia’s Official Day of the Cowboy, a Hot Air Balloon Rally and a “Not So Spooky” Halloween Festival. The festivities come to a close on Nov. 7 with National Pumpkin Destruction Day.

Day Out with Thomas on the SAM Shortline (Oct. 16-18, 24 & 25, Cordele) – Thomas will visit the SAM Shortline Excursion Train at Georgia Veterans State Park in southwest Georgia. You can spend a whole day with the beloved storybook engine, Sir Topham Hatt and other friends.

The Coast

CoastFest 2015 (Oct. 3, Brunswick) – The 20th annual CoastFest highlights Georgia’s unique coastal environment in a family-friendly day of fun and education. Activities range from recycling to coastal weather … native plants to sea turtles … water conservation to archeology… herpetology to geology … sharks to shrimp!

Tybee Pirate Fest, Oct. 8-11, 2015

Tybee Pirate Fest, Oct. 8-11, 2015

Tybee Pirate Fest (Oct. 8-11, Tybee Island) – There will be fun for pirates of all ages; the littlest pirates can enjoy an entire area devoted to quality family entertainment, while adults can grab a drink, partake in pirate-themed carnival games and shop for fun souvenirs.

Plantation Trace

Berrien County Harvest Festival (Sept. 26, Nashville) – The Berrien County Harvest Festival features arts, crafts, food and entertainment. Roll up your pant legs and give grape stomping a try — just one of the many family-friendly activities available. Admission to the downtown festival is free to the public.

Spooktacular at Chehaw (Oct. 31, Albany) – Spend your Halloween with Chehaw from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Zoo plaza with Halloween themed fun for all ages! Come in costume for a chance to win prizes! Games, prizes, candy and animal encounters are all free with zoo admission.

Atlanta Metro

Halloween Hayrides at Red Top Mountain State Park (Oct. 9-24, Acworth) – The hayride loops through the Iron Hill area of Red Top Mountain State Park, providing riders with a trip through the mythical town of Ravenwood. Plenty of treats and cider are available following the stories for you to enjoy prior to the short walk back to your car.

Play the Play with Cat the Cat at Theatre for the Very Young, Alliance Theatre (Oct. 21-Nov. 15, Atlanta) – Based on Mo Willems’s beloved CAT the CAT series, this play explores the often terrifying experience of making a new friend. Using the rhyming and simple language of the books, this theatrical experience will invite our young audience to identify Cat the Cat’s parade of animal friends, mimic their animal sounds, and even learn a new language!

Historic Heartland

Deep Roots Festival (Oct. 24, Milledgeville) – As the official host for the Georgia Barbecue Association State Championship, this festival features delicious BBQ, over 100 vendors with handmade arts & crafts, Old Capital Car Club’s showcase of the best in all motorized transport and the KidZone — complete with the best collection of rides and inflatables.

Washington Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch (Sept. 26-Nov. 1, Athens) – Pick larger-than-life sunflowers, explore the corn maze and pick the perfect pumpkin. Other fall farm activities include a petting zoo, pig races and s’mores around the campfire.

Northeast Georgia Mountains

Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, Oct. 9-17, 2015, Hiawassee

Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, Oct. 9-17, 2015, Hiawassee

Georgia Mountain Fall Festival (Oct. 9-17, Hiawassee) – Each October, the 9-day event features exciting musical performances, arts & craft vendors, educational demonstrations, a flower show and the ever-popular Georgia’s Official State Fiddlers’ Convention.

Gold Rush Days Festival (Oct. 17-18, Dahlonega) – Over 300 art and craft exhibitors and food vendors gather around the Public Square and Historic District in support of this annual event. It is estimated that a crowd of over 200,000 visit over the weekend to join in the fun and excitement!

Classic South

Family Fall Fest at Mistletoe State Park (Oct. 10, Appling) – Welcome fall with a pumpkin scavenger hunt, face painting, children’s games, marshmallow roasting, hayrides, cake walk, a snake program, nocturnal animals program and more.

A Haunted Evening at A.H. Stephens (Oct. 31, Crawfordville) – Activities include a haunted hayride, treats, a movie on the lawn, Wii dance, campfire, costume contest and a campsite decorating contest for both RV and equestrian campers. Judging for the costume contest will be done by rangers, and the campsite contest will be judged by the public.

Magnolia Midlands

TroupCorn Maze & Halloween Fun (Oct. 3-24, Dublin) – With a huge corn maze and more than 20 additional attractions, TroupCorn Maze offers a fresh take on family fun and education in a rural farm setting. Certified Georgia Grown, TroupCorn Maze grows bushels of smiles for the whole family during October and November with acres of fun! Cheer on your team during College Football Saturdays with a huge outdoor movie screen, snacks from Mazey’s Restaurant, and a fire crackling!

Dublin Fall Fair (Oct. 7-10, Dublin) – Stroll under the bright lights of the carnival midway with fun games and exciting rides like Viper, Wipe Out, Drop Tower, Fireball, and lots of kiddie rides. Sample carnival food favorites like funnel cakes, corn dogs, and fried candy bars! Put a smile on their face with an unlimited ride pass and unlimited fun!

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

Stay, Play and Eat at Historic Banning Mills

Snake Creek Gorge at Historic Banning Mills

Snake Creek Gorge at Historic Banning Mills

Historic Banning Mills is home to Screaming Eagle, the world’s best and largest zip line, according to Guinness. It’s tucked along Snake Creek Gorge, with plenty for the entire family.

Rooms, cottages and tree houses

Historic Banning Mills includes overnight accommodations for every budget. Economy rooms and Inn Side Cottages are the most affordable option. With a family, you’ll want to try a Cabin or Creekside Room, or the Full Size Cabin. We stayed in the Full Size Cabin on our visit, which included three bedrooms (four beds), two full bathrooms and a full kitchen. For something unique, try the new Tree House Rooms high above the ground.

A million ways to play

OK. Maybe not a million, but there is more to do than you can accomplish on one visit! You don’t want to miss zip lining, of course! There is even a great zip lining option for kids 4 years old and older called Crazy Squirrel Village. It was one of our favorite parts of the trip!

Zip lining at Historic Banning Mills

Zip lining at Historic Banning Mills

The kids will also love swimming in the (seasonal) pool, playing mini-golf or hiking over the suspension bridge. Our family really enjoyed hiking along Snake River, seeing the historic mill ruins and splashing in the water. Enjoy regular birds-of-prey shows, horseback riding or kayaking.

Dining at the resort

All overnight guests who stay on the Inn side of Historic Banning Mills will receive a full country breakfast each morning of their stay. Country breakfasts include fresh fruit, coffee, juice and tea. They also serve hickory-smoked bacon, ham or sausage, homemade biscuits and eggs. Yogurt and cereal are available, as well.

There is not a walk-in restaurant on the grounds, so be sure to order a picnic-style lunch from the Inn before your stay. For dinner, you can “tag on” to a group dinner buffet if you inquire about it ahead of time. We enjoyed delicious BBQ chicken from the on-site chef. If you are looking for a sit-down restaurant, take a short trip to Carrollton. Plates on the Square was especially delicious, great with kids and very charming.

See more photos and read more about our stay at Historic Banning Mills and why it’s a great family retreat, even with young children.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

American Girl Doll is a Spectacular Alpharetta Vacation

American Girl Doll Check-in

Photo courtesy of Marriott.

American Girl Doll has taken the nation by storm, with a series of toys that marry fun with education and strength. If your kids have fallen in love with these creations, then you’ll want to make your way to Alpharetta for a spectacular vacation.

Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta sweeps visitors off their feet with a “pink carpet” welcome when they select the American Doll Package. In your room, enjoy pink sheets and other pink touches such as a beanbag, trashcan, alarm clock and towels. Your doll is not forgotten…she receives a bed that you get to take home.

After a fun-filled day exploring Georgia’s only American Girl Doll store, enjoy cookies and milk delivered to your room (for your doll, too!) Parents will also appreciate that the Marriott package includes breakfast at the hotel, free Wi-Fi and free parking. Don’t forget your swimsuit- there are both indoor and outdoor pools for play!

American Girl Doll Room

Photo courtesy of Marriott.

The American Girl Package is only available on weekends. Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta regularly hosts 50+ experiences each weekend, so make a reservation early.

Looking for more ideas? Here are Five Magical American Girl Doll Experiences in Alpharetta, Ga.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.