Georgia Lighthouses

Traditionally lighthouses have served as beacons for ships sailing in the night – today these popular structures serve as beacons for beach-goers and sight-seers. And Georgia’s historic lighthouses are no exception: these gorgeous structures all have unique stories and make for fantastic photo ops!

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Meredith112 via Flickr

Standing tall at the entrance to the Savannah River, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of only seven surviving colonial era lighthouses. James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founding father, ordered the construction of the light station that would survive hurricanes, earthquakes and being burned by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Today the tower continues to serve as a guide for ships, in addition to housing a museum of Tybee Island’s history. Visitors can also climb to the top for a gorgeous view.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesdy of Joe Szalay via Flickr

Commissioned by the federal government, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse still serves as a warning for ships entering the St. Simons Sound. Though the tower no longer requires a keeper to greet guests, the panoramic view of the Golden Isles from the top provides visitors an unforgettable experience. The Keeper’s Dwelling and Museum illustrate the life of a lighthouse keeper and the history of the Golden Isles.

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Evangelio Gonzalez via Flickr

Sitting on the island that serves as a modern epicenter of Gullah culture, the Sapelo Island Lighthouse is the nation’s second-oldest brick lighthouse. Originally built in 1820, the tower was replaced in 1905 and later reconstructed to its original structure in the 1930s. The lighthouse is no longer active, but visitors can visit the lighthouse on a tour of Sapelo Island led by Georgia State Parks.

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of paulbr1 via Flickr

Located at the South Channel of the Savannah River, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse is considered part of Fort Pulaski. Situated in the direct line of fire of Union and Confederate troops during the defeat of Fort Pulaski, the lighthouse miraculously suffered minimal damage. Instead the structure would fall victim to flooding and today is only accessible via kayak or small boat. Along with the rest of the Fort, the lighthouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

The only one of Georgia’s five surviving historic lighthouses not open to the public, the light station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two towers were built on Little Cumberland Island: the one to the south with a revolving light and the one to the north, which remains, with a fixed light to mark the Satilla River and St. Andrew Sound. The lighthouse is no longer active, but has been well preserved by the Little Cumberland Island Association.

In addition to the five surviving historic lighthouses, Georgia boasts several other nautical lighting fixtures:

Sapelo Island Range Front

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon | Photo courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology via Flickr

While on a tour of Sapelo Island, visitors can also view the front beacon situated at the southern tip of the island. Though inactive now, the beacon historically helped guide mariners within the range of the island’s lighthouse.

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light | Photo courtesy of Phil Houck via Flickr

This cast iron light was erected as the rear range light to guide vessels from Fig Island Lighthouse into Savannah. Six ships had been sunk during the Revolutionary War to provide a naval buffer, and the Old Harbor Light was utilized to avoid these wrecks. After renovations in the early 21st century, the light was re-erected in Emmet Park on Bay Street.

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Sussman Imaging via Flickr

Situated right on the Georgia-Alabama line on West Point Lake, this ornamental tower provides beautiful ‘Kodak moments’ from the middle of the lake or for visitors to Maple Creek Park in LaGrange.

Things to Do on Labor Day Weekend in Georgia

Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens

Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens, Labor Day Weekend

As the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day signals the upcoming season of fall festivals, football, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, apple picking and brilliantly colored scenery. Don’t miss the chance to squeeze in one more summer blast at these Georgia Labor Day events! Find more information about these and many more things to do in Georgia on ExploreGeorgia.org.

Food & Drink

Sept. 4: Food Truck Friday, Duluth

Sept. 4-5: Bacon Fest, Savannah

Sept. 4-5: 33rd Annual Kingsland Catfish Festival, Kingsland

Sept. 5: Grape Stomping Festival, Blairsville

Sept. 5: Boos and Brews Pub Crawl, Dahlonega

Sept. 6: August Wine Cruise Series, Lake Lanier

Follow Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer Jennifer Hill Booker for fall recipes and culinary trip ideas, and follow Georgia’s official Festival Explorer Eileen Falkenberg-Hull for more fall festival trip ideas!

At the State Parks

Sept. 4: Labor Day Twilight Paddle, Fort Yargo State Park, Winder

Sept. 4-6: Laborless Day, Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge, Helena

Sept. 5: Red Fox Fun Run, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain

Sept. 5: Labor Day at Jarrell Plantation, Juliette

Sept. 5: Labor Day Face Painting, Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth

Sept. 5: Labor Day Celebration, Fort McAllister State Park, Richmond Hill

Sept. 5: Dirty Spokes Trail Run, Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Sept. 5-6: Wild Cave Tours, Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn

Sept. 5-6: Labor Day Weekend Night Kayak, Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Sept. 5-6: Tightrope Lessons, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5-6: Twilight Night Paddle, High Falls State Park, Jackson

Sept. 5-7: Holiday Gorge Floor Hike, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5-7: Tools and Skills That Built a Colony, Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah

Sept. 5-7: Labor Day on the Lake, Florence Marina State Park, Omaha

Sept. 7: Labor Day at Fort King George, Darien

Sept. 7: Labor Day Commemoration, Fort Morris Historic Site, Midway

Follow Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer Candy Cook for more outdoor trip ideas this fall!

Family Fun

Sept. 4: Hot Rods on Main Cruise-In, Douglasville

Sept. 4: Dive In Movie, Atlantis, Lake Lanier

Sept. 4-5: Fiddlin’ Flea Market & Family Festival, Newnan

Sept. 4-6: Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

Sept. 4-6: Stone Mountain Park’s Labor Day Weekend Celebration, Stone Mountain

Sept. 5: Dive In Movie, Finding Nemo, Lake Lanier

Sept. 5-6: St. Simons Island Antique Show, St. Simons Island

Sept. 5-7: Labor Day Weekend at the Zoo, Cleveland

Sept. 6: Tybee Island Labor Day Beach Bash, Tybee Island

Follow Georgia’s official Family Explorer Lesli Peterson for more family-friendly fall trip ideas!

Free Things to Do

Sept. 4: 1st Friday Concert, Rome

Sept. 4: Friday Night Live: The Great Downtown Tailgate, Woodstock

Sept. 4: First Friday Fireworks, Savannah

Sept. 4: First Friday: The Benders, Thomasville

Sept. 4: First Friday Concert Series, The Swingin’ Medallions, Monroe

Sept. 4: First Friday Concert Series, Top 40 Pop Night, Dublin

Sept. 4: First Fridays, Historic Downtown Brunswick

Sept. 4: First Friday, Valdosta

Sept. 4: First Friday Fest in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, Clayton

Sept. 5: Good Life Drum Circle, Albany

Sept. 5: Buchanan Cruise Night, Buchanan

Sept. 5: Bluegrass on the Square, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5: First Saturday Programs, Andersonville

Sept. 5-6: Perspectives 2015 – Georgia Pottery Invitational demonstrations and gallery talks, Watkinsville

Follow Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer Sue Rodman for more inexpensive fall trip ideas!

Sports & Racing

Sept. 4-6: IPRA World Championship Fall Rodeo, Cumming

Sept. 5: South Hall Rotary 5K, Gainesville

Sept. 5: 21st Annual Duck Race, Glenwood

Sept. 6: Callaway Gardens Family Fitness Series Triathlon, Pine Mountain

Last Chance! Events Ending Labor Day Weekend

Through Sept. 7: Summer Music Weekends, Lookout Mountain

Through Sept. 7: Blue Star Museums, Albany

Through Sept. 8: Festival Springs Fountain, Albany

Opening Labor Day Weekend

Sept. 1-Sept. 30: Blue Morpho Butterfly Month at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

Sept. 4-Oct. 30: Augusta Canal Moonlight Music Cruise, Augusta

Sept. 5-Oct. 11: Blue Ridge Mountains Photographers National Juried Show, Blue Ridge

Find special offers and discounts on great places to stay in Georgia on the ExploreGeorgia.org Deals page.

Preschool Fun in Georgia When Big Kids Go Back-to-School

Geyser Tower at Stone Mountain

Geyser Tower at Stone Mountain

It’s back-to-school time, which means most kids from 5 to 17 are headed back to the classroom. But what about those kids who aren’t old enough for regular school yet? Most preschools don’t start until later in the summer or after Labor Day, which makes August a perfect time to take little ones on an outing without all the crowds or the rowdy older kids. Here are three ways to keep preschoolers busy when the big kids go back to school.

Start learning early at a museum. You may not think that museums and preschoolers go together, but many museums have special programs for young children. At the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville, kids can cook a meal in a chuck wagon or ride in a stagecoach. At the Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island preschoolers can meet a sea turtle, and explore touch tanks. Parents and young kids can visit the RiverQuarium in Albany the third Wednesday of each month for special programming geared toward them.

Flint RiverQuarium

Flint RiverQuarium

Cool off in a splash fountain. For little ones that don’t swim, a splash fountain is the perfect way to cool off. You can visit a splash attraction like Geyser Tower at Stone Mountain, or Splash Island at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, but if you need a less expensive option try a local splash pad. There are splash pads in Columbus, Athens, Roswell, Hampton, Little Ocmulgee State Park and Dublin, to name a few.

Go play outside. Young children are wonderful explorers. Bring along a magnifying glass, a container to put treasures in, and visit a local nature center. The Okefenokee Swamp Park has boat tours through the swamp. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see some alligators. Reynolds Nature Preserve in Clayton County has nature trails, but also old farm equipment, and a barn dating back to 1867. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park near Augusta has Puddle Ducks, a program for the under-five set the second Tuesday of each month. Kids hear stories, do crafts and get hands-on with nature.

Looking for more ideas of things to do with preschoolers when the big kids go back to school? Check out our post on Field Trips with Sue.

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.

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Georgia Planetariums: Exploring Space with Kids

Mark Smith Planetarium

Mark Smith Planetarium

Did you see the Blue Moon in July? It’s the last one we’ll see until 2018, which fascinated my kiddos. They have been talking “Outer Space” non-stop since that encounter. What better place to learn more about the moon, stars and other planets than a planetarium. Here are three planetariums we’ve enjoyed, and several others on our bucket list.

Wetherbee Planetarium at Thronateeska Heritage Center (Albany): Thronateeska is a wonderful science center in Albany. Enjoy trains, a green screen theater for kids, dinosaur bones and more. The Planetarium is full-dome with as many as five shows a day.

Coca Cola Space Science Center (Columbus): While it is billed as an Omnisphere Theatre rather than a planetarium, the concept is the same. Enjoy theatre seating while watching space and science movies on a full dome screen. The Columbus location even has several children’s selections available like One World, One Sky from Sesame Street.

Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium at Fernbank Science Center (Atlanta): Don’t confuse this with the Natural History Museum which is down the block. The Science Center offers numerous planetarium shows on its 70-ft diameter dome- one of the largest in the US.

More planetariums near you:

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 Historical Adventures in Georgia That Kids Will Love

Everyone I know is in “Back to School” mode right now. Classes have started, but don’t let that hinder your explorations around the state. History comes alive when you experience it with all senses. Here are six of our family’s favorite ways to learn about the past while we travel the Peach State.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Tour the Visitor’s Center and Civil Rights Walk of Fame, see Ebenezer Baptist Church, the King Center and Dr. King’s birth home. See more photos of our tour here: 365atlantafamily.com/MLKNationalHistoricSite

Andersonville. During the Civil War, Andersonville was home to Camp Sumter, which housed Union POW troops during the Civil War. Tour the museums, farm and more. Magnolia Springs is also another, lesser known but equally as important POW site in Georgia.

Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Tour the Western & Atlantic Railroad tunnel, the Clisby House, which was a hospital during the Battle of Chickamauga and the old General Store. See more about our railroad adventure here: 365atlantafamily.com/TunnelHillTunnel Hill

Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center. Students used anthologies from the Foxfire Magazine to replicate a Southern Appalachia town. See more photos of our adventure here: 365atlantafamily.com/FoxfireMuseum

Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Tour the Discovery Center, then take a Heritage Boat Tour along the canal to learn about the mills along the banks and how the water source came to be. Learn more about our adventure here: 365atlantafamily.com/AugustaCanal

Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site. The bricks of the courthouse-turned-museum contain specks of gold! Learn how to determine fool’s gold from real gold, and more. It’s the perfect place to start your Dahlonega gold adventure. See more Georgia-gold history ideas here: 365atlantafamily.com/DahlonegaGold

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.