5 Things You Didn’t Know About Lavender

Red Oak Lavender Farm in Dahlonega, Ga. Photo courtesy Facebook.

Red Oak Lavender Farm in Dahlonega, Ga. Photo courtesy Facebook.

It’s purple and pretty and plays a big part in Georgia’s economy as a crop, natural remedy and ingredient. Here’s what you didn’t know about lavender:

The scent deters pests. As a natural way to keep mice, mosquitos and flies away, plant it in your garden or harvest the flowers for in-home decorations.

It can help you get a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re at home or staying in one of Georgia’s beautiful historic hotels, bed and breakfasts, or resorts, having the scent of lavender in your room can help you rest more peacefully.

There’s a lavender farm in Georgia. The first and only North Georgia lavender farm is located in the heart of the state’s wine country and features over 850 plants. Red Oak Lavender Farm is open year-round for tours but recommends visitors come in June when the harvest is at its peak.

For added fun, save the date to attend the second annual Lavender Festival at Red Oak Lavender Farm on June 4.

It’s in the same plant family as mint. Though it’s not the same type of mint, it is worth noting that the Dahlonega Mint was a branch of the United States Mint established in north Georgia during the Georgia Gold Rush. Coins made in the Dahlonega Mint were produced from 1838–1861. 

You can cook with it! Use the plant to spice your cookies, pork or custard. In the past, Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah has made its frozen treat featuring lavender, and just down the street, Back in the Day Bakery has featured lavender shortbread cookies.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen Falkenberg-Hull is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Atlanta in 50 Objects – and Its Music in Two

The Atlanta History Center recently extended its “Atlanta in 50 Objects” exhibit through year-end. Its concept is self-explanatory, and the display offers a great snapshot of the city’s history. But naturally, my curiosity immediately gravitated toward which musical icons made the cut.

Exhibit Co-Curator Don Rooney explained that the selections were based entirely on community submissions, which amounted to over 300 nominations. Of those, the Fabulous Fox Theatre ranked near the top of the list. The Egyptian architecture-inspired showpiece is represented by a “Save the Fox” t-shirt from its 1975 preservation campaign. Last fall, the Fox celebrated its 50 millionth attendee. Marketing Director Jamie Vosmeier estimates more than half of those have come since that campaign.

A "Save the Fox" t-shirt from 1975 is included in the Atlanta History Center's "50 Objects" exhibit.

A “Save the Fox” t-shirt from 1975 is included in the Atlanta History Center’s “50 Objects” exhibit. Photo courtesy: Atlanta History Center.

It’s hard to fathom how this landmark came so perilously close to a date with the wrecking ball, but Vosmeier confirms it was spared only by “the largest grassroots effort to that date to save a theater.” Originally designed as a Shriner’s temple, by its Christmas 1929 opening, The Fox was repurposed as a grand movie palace. Eventually, live performances entered the picture. “Elvis played two shows there back in 1956. You can’t get more rock & roll than that,” Vosmeier laughs.

The Fox Theatre. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

The Fox Theatre. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Vosmeier credits recently departed rock promoter Alex Cooley with fueling the Fox’s 1970s revitalization. “Alex was the mastermind; he saw its value as a rock & roll space and made people care about it again. Everyone has a Fox story — ‘I came here to see x,’ whether it was a Disney movie, Aerosmith, James Taylor. That’s when you see the passion come out. It’s an 87-year-old building that’s still relevant to rock & roll.” This theme was reinforced after our conversation, when tragedy left the Fox as the venue that hosted Prince’s final two performances.

Three days each week, the Fox conducts hour-long theater tours with backstage access and plenty of anecdotes — no doubt including Phantom of the Fox” Joe Patten, who restored its renowned “Mighty Mo” pipe organ and lived in the theater for 40 years until his recent death.

The exhibit’s other musical entry is less straightforward. Rooney acknowledges votes for the Allman Brothers, the fondly remembered Great Southeast Music Hall, and the billboard for Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def record label that for years graced the I-85 landscape. The History Center aggregated several nominations spanning Atlanta’s influential and burgeoning hip-hop scene and chose Outkast as its standard-bearer.

Atlanta native Andre 3000 represents the city's hip-hop scene in the Atlanta History Center's "50 Objects" exhibit.

Atlanta native Andre 3000 represents the city’s hip-hop scene in the Atlanta History Center’s “50 Objects” exhibit. Photo courtesy: Atlanta History Center.

The display includes a spectacular photo by Zach Wolfe of Andre 3000 reclining on the floor of Little 5 Points’ legendary Wax n’ Facts Records, as well as a framed copy of Outkast’s eleven-times platinum “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” It’s a fine symbol of the duo’s world domination. (I’d make a strong argument for “Hey Ya” as THE signature song of the new millennium to date, but the purist in me thinks the more city-specific “ATLiens” or the wildly inventive “Aquemini” would have made for a better representation.)

“Atlanta in 50 Objects” is a quite entertaining speed tour through local history, even if I can’t shake the feeling that music deserved more than two nods out of fifty. I’m sure every subject matter zealot has their quibbles; however, I’ll be looking to place my own stake in the ground in coming weeks….

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

3 Awesome Affordable Adventures in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Pine Mountain is best known as the home of Callaway Gardens, a soothing retreat that caters to families, couples and friends, as easily as it does conference attendees. There is a ton to do at the resort no matter what time of year. Spring is especially beautiful with azaleas in bloom. Cool off during the summer in Robin Lake. Fall is the perfect time to get your adrenaline flowing at Treetop Adventure, and winter is magical with the annual Fantasy in Lights. Although Callaway Gardens may be the most well-known attraction in Pine Mountain, it’s not the only one. Here are three other reasons to visit Pine Mountain.

Stone cottage at FDR State Park

Historic stone cottages are some of the accommodations available at FDR State Park.

FDR State Park: Named for the only four-term president in U.S. history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR State Park offers lessons in history, nature and fun. My boys loved riding at Roosevelt Stables and just hanging out at the campfire. This Georgia State Park also has lots of unique in-park programming like picnic supper hikes, American Frontier Days and Full Moon paddles on Lake Delanor.

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Wild Animal Safari: The giraffe’s long black tongue was stretched out in front of me, obviously searching for a tasty treat. My toddler was almost on the floor of the zebra truck, wrinkled brow trying to figure out what this strange creature was doing. While this scene was going on in my lap, behind me were squeals of “ewww” and “yuk” as various animals came looking for the food my children were tossing out. My sight was blurred with tears of laughter. Needless to say, I highly recommend Wild Animal Safari. Visit them online to purchase discount tickets before you go.

Learn about FDR at his home in Pine Mountain.

Learn about FDR at his home in Pine Mountain.

The Little White House: Technically, this is in Warm Springs, but it’s worth the slight detour. The Little White House was the only home that Franklin Delano Roosevelt ever owned. He came here to relieve the pain associated with his polio by bathing in the warm springs. Guests can tour the house, as well as listen to FDR’s famous fireside chats in the museum. Tip: If you have a Georgia library card, you can see any of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites for free by checking out a Georgia State Parks Pass from the library.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

Click here to order Sue’s book, 100+ Things to Do in Atlanta.

Click here to follow Sue on Facebook.

Click here to follow Sue on Twitter.

Click here to follow Sue on Pinterest.

Click here to follow Sue on Google+

Click here to follow Sue on Instagram.

Four Botanical Gardens You Can’t Miss this Spring

Springtime is warming up nicely at botanical gardens all over Georgia. Now is the time to enjoy that special sweetness in the air as nature awakens with colorful displays.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens. Photo from Facebook.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens. Photo from Facebook.

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is composed of serene woodland paths that showcase more than 3,000 species just minutes from Kennesaw Mountain. Unique plantings and fascinating elements such as The Rose Garden, Bonsai Exhibit and waterfall area delight the senses in this designated wildlife habitat. Smith-Gilbert Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday.

Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens

Celebrate spring with amazing, world-renowned displays of azaleas, dogwoods, tulips and more. The whole family can find countless ways to explore spring at Callaway Gardens. Miles of scenic bike trails wind through the gardens and woodlands, exciting ziplines crisscross the trees, and the butterfly center makes magic. Callaway also offers overnight accommodations and packages, featuring a spring wine tasting, full moon adventures and an Easter special.

Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo from Facebook.

Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo from Facebook.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Spring comes alive in Atlanta with thousands of tulips, daffodils, crocus and more. Take a stroll along the canopy walk, explore beautiful blossoms during Orchid Daze, and enjoy meadows of vibrant colors during “Atlanta Blooms.”

Savannah Botanical Gardens

Savannah Botanical Gardens

Savannah Botanical Gardens

Savannah Botanical Gardens include nature trails, a picturesque pond, and an archaeological exhibit among the formal and natural displays. Enjoy the Southern charm of the historic Reinhard House, the sweet sounds of songbirds, and wander along a path that explores camellias, ferns and a children’s garden. Admission is free.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Three Historical Legends in LaGrange, Ga.

We love to make history part of our travel adventures; it is an easy and wonderful way to make the past come alive for kids. Recently we visited LaGrange, Ga., where, as a family, we learned about a man who cherished civil nationalism, a man who overcame incredible adversity to make unprecedented strides in engineering, and a family whose generosity and kindness still endure in Georgia today.

A bronze statue of General Lafayette stands in the center of the downtown LaGrange.

A bronze statue of General Lafayette stands in the center of the downtown LaGrange.

Marquis de Lafayette

General Lafayette was a French aristocrat who fought for the U.S. during the Revolutionary War. LaGrange is named after his estate near Paris, probably because of a trip through the area in 1824 when he remarked that the land reminded him of his home.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the LaGrange College and the Callaway Foundation commissioned a full-sized bronze statue of Lafayette similar to one in France. As part of the 1976 bicentennial celebration, the statue was given on permanent loan to the city for placement in the center of the downtown square.

Horace King, a master bridge builder and architect, is buried in LaGrange.

Horace King, a master bridge builder and architect, is buried in LaGrange.

Horace King

Born in the early 1800s, Horace King learned bridge-building as a slave, and quickly rose as a master bridge builder and architect. How great was he? White men would often change their construction plans entirely to accommodate the availability of this slave – something unheard of at the time.

In 1846 King’s freedom was granted by his master, and King went on to serve two years in the Alabama Legislature while continuing to work in towns along the border. King received laudatory obituaries in each of Georgia’s major newspapers, a rarity for African-Americans in the 1880s South. He was inducted into the Alabama Engineers Hall of Fame at the University of Alabama after his death. King and his sons are buried in the lower section of the Miller Street Confederate Cemetery in LaGrange. We were honored to visit his grave while visiting LaGrange recently.

Hills and Dales Estate, the Callaway family home and gardens

Visit LaGrange to tour Hills and Dales Estate, the Callaway family home and gardens.

Fuller Callaway Sr.

Callaway, born in LaGrange, modeled successful businesses at an early age, pinched pennies and persevered to become a textile manufacturer and leading industrial magnate in the South. His textile mills, and garden, cultural, humanitarian and religious projects made strides for Troup County and its residents.

He purchased gardens from a family friend, building the Callaway home among the breathtaking grounds, which he named Hills and Dales. He lived there with his wife Ida and two sons, Cason Jewell Callaway and Fuller Earle Callaway Jr.

You might be familiar with one of his sons, Cason Callaway, who opened the nearby Callaway Gardens. Fuller’s younger son, Fuller Jr., purchased Hills and Dales. His wife Alice managed and grew the gardens. When Alice passed, the gardens and home were bequeathed to the Callaway Foundation and are now available for touring.

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.