Experiential Gifts for Georgia Dads

Family trip to Road Atlanta
It’s time to show a little love to our dads! Our favorite gifts are the ones where we make memorable moments together as a family. Whether for Father’s Day, a birthday, Christmas or just an “I love you,” here are several experiential gifts for dads in Georgia that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Road Atlanta. Does your dad feel the need? The need for speed? Then steer your crew to Road Atlanta. You can take in an event like the Petit Le Mans, or send dad to the Skip Barber Racing School. Unlike NASCAR, Road Atlanta is not just a sit-in-your-seat spectator sport. There are multiple vantage points from which to view the race, and plenty of off-track excitement. The best part? Kids are free! Our family recently visited during The Mitty, and we love it! Here are nine things about Road Atlanta that you probably didn’t know: 365atlantafamily.com/RoadAtlanta.

Topgolf. Treat dad to an afternoon of golf at Topgolf Alpharetta. There are multiple games including their signature Topgolf, where players score points by hitting balls with special microchip technology. You can also send dad for a golf lesson, or enter him in a tournament. The kids will love Kidzone, free for kids 12 and under, with pool tables, video games, giant Jenga and more.

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Swim with the sharks.
Spend 2.5 hours swimming with the largest sharks in the world: the whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium. You’ll stay at the surface with a snorkel or air cylinder; a diving certificate is not required. If this adventure is out of your price range, you can still enjoy these amazing fish by taking the family on a behind-the-scenes tour. My boys took their dad, and we all had a great time. You can see more details here: 365atlantafamily.com/BTS.

Additional Ideas:

Whitewater rafting in Columbus

Eco Adventure Cruise in Savannah

Fly fishing class in Blue Ridge

Cave exploring with Georgia Girl Guides

College Football Hall of Fame Museum

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.

Georgia Theatre for Kids

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Theatre and the arts offer wonderful opportunities for children. It influences them academically and creatively. Here are nine programs that can introduce your children to the theatre, from Atlanta, Roswell and Augusta.

The Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta.

Our family is very excited about the newest program offering, Create ATL, Family Fun at The Woodruff Arts Center. It begins June 7, 2015, and runs every Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.. It will feature various free activities starting at 1 p.m., including family festivals, art-making activities, interactive musical story times, composers-in-training sessions, instrument making, drop-in acting classes and more. See more details here: 365atlantafamily.com/CreateATL

In addition to producing Sunday family fun programming on a weekly basis, The Woodruff Arts Center will present four large-scale Sunday festivals, the first one taking place on June 14, 2015. On this date, the Arts Center’s campus will be activated with three performances by the Alliance Theatre (Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary MusicalBlub, Blub; and The Lizard & El Sol); free admission to the High Museum of Art, including access to the exhibition Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems and a meet-and-greet with the beloved characters Elephant and Piggie; free art-making activities on the Piazza inspired by the High’s interactive installation Los Trompos; an instrument petting zoo; interactive musical story time; music and movement workshops; and much more!

If you can’t make the Sunday festival, you can still take in the best of Mo Willems. Knuffle Bunny is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems, a retrospective of illustrations by the best-selling children’s book artist and author, which will be on display from May 23, 2015, through  Jan. 10, 2016. Seriously Silly features more than 100 works by the artist—from preliminary drawings to completed illustrations—that chronicle the past 12 years of Willems’ whimsical world, populated by his beloved characters Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, The Pigeon and many more.

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During its 2015-2016 season, the ASO will present Music for the Very Young performances, which will give children the chance to experience music by the ASO’s musicians in an intimate and accessible setting designed with children’s cognitive development in mind. What a great accompaniment to Theatre for the Very Young, which has been going strong for a few years.

Finally, don’t miss the annual Toddler Takeover. 2015’s action runs May 29 – May 31. This one-of-a-kind experience for children from 0–5 years old will feature performances of six original productions from Alliance Theatre for the Very Young, the return of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Music for the Very Young, stroller tours and art-making at the High Museum of Art. Kids are free; you just need to purchase an adult ticket.

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Center for Puppetry Arts

Atlanta is very lucky to have the nation’s largest organization dedicated to puppetry arts: Center for Puppetry Arts. Puppetry is a wonderful, creative, expansive art form.   It engages and entertains, bringing a sense of wonder and theatricality to a story. While there are adult and teen programs, and even film showings, the number of family-friendly programs is stupendous. The 2015-2016 schedule includes The Ugly Duckling, Peter Pan, The Sound of Music and the beloved Rudolph show. See the entire schedule here: 365atlantafamily.com/CPAschedule

Each show includes a puppet workshop and access to the puppetry museum. Strapped for cash? No worries. You can take advantage of the GA Public Libraries Passport Program, valid up to four admissions.

Bonus: If the kids love puppet shows, don’t miss the Roswell Summer Puppet Series. Each program is designed just for kiddos. Tickets are only $5, and kids under 2 are free. New this year are special puppet workshops. Details here: 365atlantafamily.com/2015roswellpuppets

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Springer Opera House

The Springer Opera House Children’s Theatre Series produces theatre for families and young audiences. You can see shows at daytime school performances and general public performances. Upcoming shows include Charlotte’s Web, Mary Poppins, Beauty and The Beast and more.

If your young person delights in theatre, don’t miss a tour of this historical space. It has been the State Theatre of Georgia and a leading Southern cultural institution for 141 years! With a colorful history behind it, today it is one of America’s most vibrant professional theatre companies with a popular Mainstage Series, an innovative second-space series called Studio II, a Theatre for Young Audience Series featuring some of this region’s most talented student actors and a national touring program called Springer Theatricals.

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.

 

All Aboard These Georgia Train Rides

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Do you have a little train lover in your family, too? You’re in luck! Georgia is rich with railroad history. Here are nine train excursions around Georgia for your future engineer.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Blue Ridge. By no means have we made our rounds to every train adventure in Georgia, but of those we have visited, BRSR is our family favorite. Our kids prefer the open-air car for the ride to McCaysville where we straddle the Ga/Tn line for a photo op, and enjoy lunch by the river. This train ride made our list of 52 Georgia Adventures Every Kid Must Experience.

Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain. Catch a ride on the 1940s open-air train for a ride around the base of Stone Mountain. Your ride is free with an Adventure Pass into the park.

The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw. You’ll find a plethora of artifacts here from the Civil War, including much about the use of railroads during that time period. The best part? This is home to The General made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

Locust Grove Train Watching Platform in Locust Grove. Pack a picnic and spread out on this safe and comfy platform to watch more than 40 trains pass through each day.

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Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. Visitors are free to roam the museum grounds, closely examining over 90 pieces of transit equipment. Several cars beckon to be explored from inside. Be sure to see the website for multiple family-friendly events throughout the year. My toddler loves the Mommy and Me program.

SAM Shortline in Cordele. Ride a vintage train from Cordele to one of several stops, including Leslie, Ga, home of the Rural Telephone Museum and Plains, Ga, made famous by Jimmy Carter. An overnight at Lake Blackshear will make it a weekend to remember.

 

St Mary’s Railroad in St Mary’s. While adults are welcome welcome, St Mary’s sets their sites on introducing kids to railway adventure. Try the Wild West Steam Express excursion or the Pirates Express through woodlands and marsh.

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Thronateeska Heritage Center in Albany. Walk through Albany’s historic Union Station and view a steam locomotive. Don’t miss the Model Railroad Exhibit inside one of the train cars. If you are looking for a family adventure in Albany, here are a few other optimal stops.

Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah. This National Historic Landmark includes an operational turntable. Visitors can explore railcars and take guided tours. Rides are also available on steam or diesel trains.

Can you think of any other places to see or ride a train?

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.

6 Georgia Beaches for Family Fun

Golden Isles Beaches

St Simon’s Island. St. Simon’s Island (and nearby Jekyll) are filled with family entertainment options. Ride the historic trolley, climb the lighthouse, visit the Sea Turtle Center and much more. I highly recommend a stop at 4th of May for mimosas and pimento cheese. They also have books and coloring paraphernalia for the kiddos. See more info about our St. Simon’s adventure here: 365atlantafamily.com/stsimons

Cumberland Island. With no cars and few homes on this secluded beach, it is the perfect escape. Hike to the ruins, search for sea shells and catch a glimpse of the wild horses.  Families with older kiddos can stay at the luxurious and historic Greyfield Inn. The only other option includes camping on the beach or riding the ferry back to St Mary’s for the evening. Either choice is wonderful.

Acworth Beach. Acworth Bach at Cauble Park is a public lake-beach with a roped-off area for swimming. It sits on the north shore of Lake Acworth and also houses restrooms, a playground and picnic tables. Swimming runs Memorial Day through Labor Day, but there is no lifeguard on duty.

Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area. Lake Rabun’s swim area includes a roped-off section for swimmers, restrooms and picnic tables. If you need a break from swimming, try the Beach Trail hike or dipping your pole to catch bass, trout and more. Camping sites are available here for a full weekend of beachtime fun.

TybeeTybee Island. Tybee Island beaches are quiet and peaceful, with wide sandy beaches for plenty of play time. Visit the lighthouse and museum, stop in at Fort Pulaski or enjoy a Dolphin Tour.  A bike tour and stop by the Tybee Marine Science Center are not to be missed. If you have time, try the Tybee Beach Ecology Trip, as well. My family and I attended the 4H program at Tybee last year. You can find a few photos here: 365atlantafamily.com/tybee

Robins Lake Beach at Callaway. This is the world’s largest manmade, white sand beach! Besides swimming and lounging, there is a playground, giant chess set, miniature golf, table tennis and shuffleboard. All of this is included with entry into Callaway. For an additional fee, try Aqua Island, paddle boats, the rock climbing wall, a bounce house and more. We visited with the grandparents and had a great time. See more about that here: 365atlantafamily.com/callaway

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.

Tent Camping in North Georgia

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We’re gearing up for our first camping trip of the season. Our family heads into the North Georgia mountains, where the temps are still cool and the bugs have yet to show themselves. When we pick a family campsite, we require three things: Water in which to play; toilets, no matter how primitive; and drinking water.  With that in mind, here are five North Georgia campgrounds that work well for families.

Enota Mountain Retreat in Hiawassee. Trout fishing, waterfall hikes and seasonal activities such as animal feedings, hayrides and organic garden tours ensure the family is never bored. Tent sites are available along the stream, with a fire ring, water and electricity. A playground, trampoline and bathhouse with hot water and laundry facilities are close by. Primitive sites, RV sites and cabins are also options for the family here. Click here to see more photos of our Enota adventure: 365atlantafamily.com/enota

Lake Conasauga in Chatsworth. Camp near this beautiful spring-fed lake, the highest in Georgia. The area is remote, and campers enjoy fishing, swimming and hiking. Flush toilets are centrally located, and drinking water hydrants are situated around the grounds.

Doll Mountain in Ellijay. Hailed by amateur astronomers as a dark-sky observation point, you’re sure to love the immense night sky here. This full service campground includes electrical hookups, restrooms, showers, vending machines and a playground. Enjoy boating, stargazing, relaxing at camp, hiking or mountain biking at the nearby Rec Area.

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Allatoona Landing Marine & Resort in Cartersville. Here you will find perfect beginners-camping for water sports lovers.  Playgrounds, a pool and fishing keep the kids busy.  Enjoy a bathhouse with showers, boat launch, a laundry room and free Wi-Fi. Each site includes electricity and water. Camper sites, RV hook up, and cabins are available too.

Long Ridge Campground in Hiawassee. Pick tent camping or full service hookups at this campground on almost 10 beautiful wooded acres with two lovely creeks. There is also a bath house with hot showers and flush toilets, a catch and release pond on site, a camp store and free Wi-Fi. 24-hour on site managers help you feel at ease.

Looking for additional camping options? I teamed up with the Georgia Outdoor Explorer and created a list of 52 Campgrounds in the North Georgia Mountains.

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.