Find Your Chi at Georgia Nature Preserves

Photo courtesy of Autrey Mill Nature Preserve

Photo courtesy of Autrey Mill Nature Preserve

There’s nothing like a walk in the woods to melt away the stress of everyday life. And when that stress is gone, the world becomes a little kinder too; at least that’s what I find with my family.  In addition to numerous state parks, Georgia has several woodland nature preserves, perfect for getting in touch with your inner calm.  As an added bonus, these preserves also have more than just woods to mosey around.

Dauset Trails Nature Preserve – Bring your bike or your horse to this nature preserve. There are 20 plus miles of bike and hiking trails, as well as 10 miles of horse trails. There is also a barnyard where you can explore a 19th century working farm, and Wildlife trail where you’ll see animals that cannot be released back into the wild. Although Dauset Trails offers free admission, bring some change to feed the fish off the boardwalk.

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve & Heritage Center – Autrey Mill sits on 46 acres in a bustling northern Atlanta suburb. In addition to trails, there is a Heritage Village showcasing the area’s rural past. Buildings date from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s. In addition, there are several Indian dwellings, including a full-sized tepee that my boys love playing in and around. Autrey Mill also has an animal exhibit with dioramas, as well as real native animals.

Photo courtesy of Reynolds Nature Preserve

Photo courtesy of Reynolds Nature Preserve

Reynolds Nature Preserve – Located in Clayton County, just south of Atlanta, this 146-acre woodland habitat has three miles of hiking trails, as well as a nature center with live animals.  The hiking trails wind from high ridge to wetlands. You might also spot old farm equipment, a springhouse, and a barn dating back to 1867.

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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Become a Park Paddler at Sweetwater Creek State Park

CandyCook_SweetwaterPaddler2titleGet off the beaten path and onto the water trails of Georgia State Parks! The Park Paddlers Club offers visitors 24 miles of scenic water trails, at six diverse waterways. Plus, you’ll earn a commemorative t-shirt.

Nestled in the forest of Sweetwater Creek State Park, is a serene water trail just a short drive from Atlanta.The gentle water of George Sparks Reservoir is where I first learned to paddle a kayak. This is our first time rowing as Park Paddlers. The club encourages paddlers to follow the perimeter of the reservoir on a 3-mile water trail.  We take two tandem kayaks to ensure both children have an adult by their side. I enjoy paddling as a bonding experience with my kids. We glide along the reservoir bank, noticing the first signs of spring.

CandyCook_SweetwaterPaddler

A visit to the bait shop allows paddlers to pick their paddle and lifejacket. Choose between kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboards. Ask about the Park Paddlers Club to pick up your membership card. You’ll need it to receive your reward for paddling at all six parks.

Sweetwater Creek State Park also schedules ranger-led paddles. These group events help uneasy paddlers build confidence in a supportive setting.

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

Top FREE Things to Do in Alpharetta

1With options such as exploring the city’s parks and trails to browsing the downtown shops, you don’t have to break the budget to have an awesome time in Alpharetta, Georgia!

  1. Pack a picnic and walk the Big Creek Greenway. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure, look no further than Alpharetta’s 12 foot wide paved path for biking, walking or roller blading. There are five access points to the trail and after you have conquered the Greenway, Alpharetta has 12 other trails to explore.2
  2. Attend one of Alpharetta’s countless free events. Alpharetta may be known for its new foodie game but the events in the city are what give it the hometown feel that visitors keep coming back for. The Awesome Alpharetta calendar of events stays full of festivals, races and other happenings throughout the year. Almost every event has free admission and entertainment. 
  3. Visit the Walk of Memories. The only one of its kind in Georgia, this memorial pays tribute to U.S. veterans, family and friends through a walkway of nearly 8,000 bricks inscribed with the names of Georgians who have served our country. Monuments along the walkway spotlight several conflicts, including WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
  4. Arboretums and parks. Alpharetta’s three arboretums at Cogburn Road Park, Webb Bridge Park and Wills Park are living museums of trees that can be used for education, research and enjoyment. 3
  5. Browse the downtown Alpharetta shops. Great for window shopping or purchasing gifts, downtown Alpharetta offers a variety of funky retailers, antique stores and art galleries that you’ll only find in Alpharetta. If you are an art lover, you will want to visit the area the last full weekend of every month from May-September for Art in the Park. Local artists set up shop along the street and create custom art pieces for browsers and shoppers to enjoy.
  6. Play Disc Golf at Wills Park. Grab friends and participate in an 18-hole course that is set up all throughout the park. The park also features baseball fields, picnic pavilions, walking trails and Wacky World playground.4
  7. Take a history walk. Alpharetta’s extensive history can be discovered by picking up a complimentary history walk brochure at the Alpharetta Welcome Center. The self-guided tour gives you details on 17 historical markers that are located throughout the downtown Alpharetta area.
  8. Geocaching in Alpharetta will help you find treasures in and around our city. Visit geocaching.com and search Alpharetta zip codes (30004, 30005, 30009, 30002) to find a complete list of all the caches around town. Plug in the coordinates into your GPS device and start hunting!

 

CaitlynFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard is the Director of Communications at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all things fun and unique in Awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time outside with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.

 

Love Stories of Oakland Cemetery

LSInstagram

It’s well known that love can be found in the most unlikeliest of places, and Oakland Cemetery is no exception! This Valentine’s Day weekend, bring your loved ones along for an afternoon among the gardens and mausoleums of Atlanta’s oldest burial ground at the Love Stories of Oakland Tours.

On Feb. 14-15, Oakland Cemetery invites lovers, families and friends to learn more about the stories of devotion and symbolism found within its hallowed grounds. A costumed guide will tell the stories of a few of the 70,000 people who lie in rest at Oakland, including famous Atlantans and ordinary citizens alike. Read on to get a snippet of a few of the stories you can expect:

Rawson Mausoleum

Rawson Mausoleum

Two residents of the Rawson mausoleum, Julia Collier and Julian Harris, had a “storybook marriage” that spanned more than 60 years — and the nickname is especially fitting, as Harris was the son of Tales of Uncle Remus author Joel Chandler Harris.

Margaret_Mitchell_NYWTS

Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell drew on family lore to develop the characters from her iconic novel, but some of the most touching love stories can be drawn from real people buried in her family plot.

Marsh Urn

Marsh Urn

Oakland’s iconic urns outside the Marsh mausoleum are tributes to the Marsh family children, one bearing the inscription: “When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.”

Tours will be offered at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., and spaces for this limited-time engagement must be reserved in advance. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors 65+ (with valid ID); $26 for families of two adults and two children; and free for Oakland Cemetery Members and children under 3. Order tickets online at www.ticketalternative.com.

For more details, visit www.oaklandcemetery.com or call 4040-688-2107.

Indoor Play Options in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

NatureQuest

NatureQuest

I am a huge advocate for outside play. Rain, sleet, snow, or mosquitos…we are out there.  I’m also a realist. When you experience day after day after day of wet, freezing, or muggy weather, the kids need a break. Here are a few of our favorite places to play indoors.

In the City

High Museum The Greene Family Learning Gallery is a hands-on education center. It provides a building area, storytelling space, and three other kid-friendly areas. I love it as a tool for connecting my boys to the art in the museum.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History My boys love to explore at NatureQuest, where they learn about forests, swamps, and more. If I can drag them away, we also play scientist at Sensing Nature. Their favorite stations are the bubble maker and the green-screen meteorologist camera.

North of Atlanta

INK

INK

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Plan to spend an entire day at this “kid-sized” town. Climb in a plane, play musical instruments, or play veterinarian. You can also climb aboard a firetruck, “milk” a cow, or play judge and jury. Bring a picnic, as there are not lunch options in the building.

Tellus Science Museum Head straight to the back, and busy the kids with gem mining.  My boys look forward to getting a little wet and finding a golden nugget. In the next room, ancient dinosaur bones hide under rubble, waiting for little hands to discover them.

South of Atlanta       

Thronateeska

Thronateeska

Museum of Aviation Explore four hangers of equipment, uniforms, and other military flying gear. Most are “for eyes only,” but there are a handful of places where children can climb, touch, push, steer, and more. Stop for lunch at the cafeteria, with large windows for viewing more airplanes outdoors.

Thronateeska Heritage Center This kid-friendly museum is a science center, train exhibit, and planetarium – all under one roof. Our favorite areas are the archaeology exhibit, the “skeleton” piano, and the HO-scale model 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.