Three Gardens for Mother’s Day with the Kids

Looking for beautiful blooms and a world of color for Mother’s Day? We’re sharing three of our favorite Georgia gardens that are brimming with color. Take a break and visit on your own, or bring the entire family for a day of exploring these magnificent marvels.

Dunaway Gardens in Newnan, Ga.

Dunaway Gardens in Newnan, Ga.

Dunaway Gardens

This haven in Newnan was once a large theatrical training ground for producers, directors and performers. It’s the South’s largest natural rock and floral garden, with 12 scenic spots, three waterfalls and several ponds. Check the website before you go; it is not open to the public everyday. I must say, it is one of my favorites in the state — pure heaven. Bring your camera! Meat ‘N Greet on the nearby square is a great stop for lunch. See this post of my visit to Dunaway Garden with the kids.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Ga.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, Ga.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Tucked away in Kennesaw is a hidden gem with flowers, trails, sculptures and more. My family loves the waterfall, children’s garden and koi pond. We recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy under the shade trees. If you can’t make it for Mother’s Day, then consider visiting during one of their programs for children: young chefs, garden stories or the young explorer’s lineup. See this post of my visit to Smith-Gilbert Gardens with the kids.

Photo courtesy Gibbs Gardens, Facebook.

Photo courtesy Gibbs Gardens, Facebook.

Gibbs Gardens

220 acres in Ball Ground include 24 ponds, 32 bridges and 19 waterfalls. You’ll spy blooming annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees all year round, plus enjoy educational events, musicians, festivals and more throughout the year. We have a season pass here and enjoy every season with anticipation for the next. Mother’s Day features strolling musicians and Brunch in a Box for an affordable $15.

For many more trip ideas to beautiful Georgia gardens, visit ExploreGeorgia.org.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

16 Things to See and Do at the Thomasville Rose Show and Festival

Thomasville-Rose-Garden-web

Thomasville Rose Garden

A tradition since the 1920s, the Thomasville Rose Show and Festival will celebrate its 95th birthday, April 21–23, 2016. More than a rose competition and parade, there are festival activities galore, and many of them are FREE. Here are 16 of our favorite family-friendly events, but this is only the tip of the iceberg!! Can’t wait to see you there.

  1. The festival kicks off Thursday night with the Children’s Rose Bud Parade, which is full of the sweetest and littlest rose fans. These tiny tots and their floats glide through the middle of downtown for their very own one-of-a-kind parade.
  1. Visit the Power of the Past Airport Museum, home to a personal collection of the oldest and rarest aircraft engines and memorabilia.
  1. Stroll though a self-guided tour of six historic buildings that display Thomasville’s Victorian past and Rose Show traditions.
  1. Thomasville Rose Show

    Thomasville Rose Show

    Taking center stage on Friday are the competitively grown petals of the Rose Show. The Heirloom rose category honors the elders, showing varieties that have been in existence since 1867.

  1. Join the THS Marching Band, the Rose Queen and Miss Georgia as they cut the ribbon and officially open the Rose Show on Friday at 1 p.m.
  1. Orchids on Parade (housed in the Municipal Auditorium building at 144 East Jackson Street) features dozens of carefully grown orchids of many different breeds. 
  1. Enjoy the Annual Rose Parade, taking place at 7 p.m. on Friday. Thomasville will roll out the “rose carpet” for floats studded with live roses, marching bands, wandering entertainers and more! This year’s parade will feature the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Marching Band, as well as gigantic helium balloons to delight adults and children alike.
  1. Following the parade, you are invited to take to the streets for unabashed boogying during the Street Dance, featuring live music by community favorites, the Swingin’ Medallions.
  1. On Saturday in Paradise Park, Art in the Park bursts to life with a fine arts and crafts show, a wide selection of food, children’s activities and more. New to Art in the Park this year will be a full-sized Ferris wheel (FREE to ride), a giant bubble station and life-sized outdoor games.
  1. Food trucks with offerings from Buffalo wings and funnel cakes to egg rolls and BBQ and everything in between will also be in attendance. Free face painting and stilt walkers will be onsite to entertain.
  1. Don’t miss Bark in the Park, a pet costume contest hosted by the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society.
  1. In Downtown Thomasville, the Annual Car and Truck Show on North Broad Street (near the Courthouse) will showcase dozens of classic and vintage cars of all shapes and sizes.
  1. The City trolley will be running FREE of charge to transport guests throughout the festival events, including the downtown area.
  1. Bring your little princesses to have a Royal Tea with the Thomasville Rose Queen and her Court on Saturday. Bring your camera!
  1. Tee off at the Rose City Golf Classic, a 36-hole, two-person, best ball tournament on Saturday and Sunday.
  1. The Rose Show and Festival will also feature the Rose City 10K Run and 1 Mile Fun Run.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

5 Things to Know about the New Shows at Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium is located at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Aquarium.

The Georgia Aquarium is located at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Aquarium.

1. The new Under the Boardwalk sea lion experience AND the all-new Dolphin Celebration program are FREE with your general admission ticket to Georgia Aquarium. No need to pay extra for loads of animal antics!

2. EVERYONE is excited to see the new sea lion show, so you’ll want to get in line early. I recommend finding your place in line no less than 45 minutes before the start of the show.

You’ll find a “sea lion selfie” station near the line and the sea lion exhibit, where you’ll see these beauties splish and splash. Need something more to do? Download the Georgia Aquarium App to learn more about the animals onsite, or try your hand at this Georgia Aquarium Scavenger Hunt.

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3. Think you’ve already seen the dolphin show? Think again. Dolphin Celebration just started this month, and it is an entirely NEW show. This show is less “Broadway” and more of a fun educational experience.

The first half of the show features a dolphin trainer that talks about dolphins while they strut their stuff — dolphin anatomy, the training program and more. The second half of the show is ALL DOLPHINS! The lights dim and the music bellows as these graceful, smart mammals dive, dance and jump into your heart.

4. The first 10 rows of Dolphin Celebration are the “wet zone,” and they seem to be even more of a “damp” experience than they were in the previous show. For me and my boys, that is a TON OF FUN, but if you have a small baby or you just got your hair done, you might want to head back beyond Row 10.

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5. The sea lions and dolphins are WORLD OF FUN, but there is much much more to do at the the world’s largest aquarium. We’ve listed 52 things to do at Georgia Aquarium; the perfect way to fill your adventuring day!

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

12 Things Your Kids Will Love in Downtown Atlanta

Whether you are visiting Atlanta for the first time or you call the metro area home, downtown Atlanta is a must-visit location for the entire family. Here are 12 things your kids are sure to enjoy in downtown Atlanta (and I promise you’ll have fun, too!)

Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park

Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park

  1. Throw a field goal at the College Football Hall of Fame.
  2. Take the Zombie Tour with Atlanta Movie Tours. Up for a bus ride from Atlanta? Take the new Zombie Tour Part 3 in Haralson, Ga.
  3. Fly high in the SkyView Ferris wheel.
  4. Laugh at the antics of the new sea lions at Georgia Aquarium.
  5. Tour the Braves Hall of Fame at Turner Field – this is the last year the Braves play downtown.
  6. Pedal to Midtown and back with a Bicycle Tour of Atlanta.
  7. Taste more than 100 flavors of Coke at the World of Coca-Cola Museum.
  8. Dance in the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park.
  9. Listen to live music on Monday nights while eating a delicious burger at Hard Rock Café Atlanta.
  10. See the sights in an open-air smart car from ATL-Cruzers.
  11. Learn while you play at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta.
  12. Cool off with a milkshake at Downtown’s outdoor dining attraction, Googie Burger.

Click here to find more ideas about how to do Downtown Atlanta as a family.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

New Parks Program Connects Kids with the Outdoors

Friends of Georgia State Parks partners with and supports the state park system. They recently joined forces with NatureExplore, a national leader in bringing certified outdoor classrooms to public spaces to bring a series of family-fun spaces within the parks called DigIn! Other partners include Keep Georgia Beautiful, Lowes and Georgia State Parks.

An innovative play area at Red Top Mountain State Park. Photo courtesy Friends of Georgia State Parks.

An innovative play area at Red Top Mountain State Park. Photo courtesy Friends of Georgia State Parks.

Each space features specialized stations to encourage interactive play while children simultaneously discover the natural world through sensory experiences. The spaces are sometimes referred to as outdoor classrooms, but they are so much more. Think of DigIn as nature-based learning spaces designed for free play. While a class or groups are welcome to play, the spaces are also designed so that individuals and families can walk in and start exploring.

Damon Kirkpatrick from Friends of Georgia State Parks has worked closely with Friends partners and has done extensive work toward its success. “We feel that creating safe, natural environments for kids is essential for their development! What better place than our own state parks?!”

The first classroom began at Red Top Mountain State Park. Panola Mountain is in the middle of its building project and is expected to officially open this summer, but a date has not been set. Don Carter State Park will follow.

Friends raised approximately $30,000 for the Red Top Mountain play space through grants, partners and donors. Thus far, they have used volunteers almost exclusively to help build it. Volunteers are the driving force of Friends of Georgia State Parks, and their efforts have reduced the total cost dramatically.

Red Top’s DigIn space is expected to officially open in April, though it will never be “complete.” “We plan to always be improving and changing the classroom to keep it interesting for repeat guests. It, along with the other sites, will likely never be truly “finished!” says Amy Toft, communications manager at Friends of Georgia State Parks.

Xylophone at Red Top Mountain State Park. Photo courtesy Friends of Georgia State Parks

Xylophone at Red Top Mountain State Park. Photo courtesy Friends of Georgia State Parks

Here is one mom’s thoughts from a recent visit to Red Top’s DigIn play space: My family has enjoyed the space at Red Top several times. My two-year-old runs from station to station not even realizing of course that this is an outdoor classroom. To him, it’s natural messy materials that provide for climbing and building opportunities where he’s safe. It’s fun to watch his imagination at work. His favorite area is the music area. He could play the xylophone all day. It was fun to come back home and see xylophones in his alphabet book, which he responded very animated “Just like Red Top Mountain!”

Maria Montessori says “Play is the work of a child.” I think that these outdoor learning spaces really capture the spirit behind that statement. We’ve also been there as other families have enjoyed the space. I love watching the grandparents gravitate to the building area and create sculptures of their own! It’s really a fun spot for the whole family, not just the kids. 

Click here for 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Friends Of Georgia State Parks.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.