3 Low Cost and Free Things to do on Jekyll Island

By Sue Rodman

Driftwood Beach

Jekyll Island was once the winter escape for some of America’s richest families. Now the island is a playground for the public, and winter is a perfect time to see it all at a discount. Explore Georgia has some hotel deals for a special getaway, and here are three low cost or free things to do on Jekyll Island so you can spend a little more on your hotel package.

  1. The Tidelands Nature Center is a little more rustic than its neighbor the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. In addition to a small collection of sea animals in the center, they offer kayak tours, nature walks and special hands-on programs for kids. We participated in an identifying fish program, and my kids are still singing the parts of a fish song to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
  2. Driftwood Beach, also known as Boneyard Beach, is a hidden gem along the northern end of Jekyll Island. The name comes from the remains of weathered grey trees that have been preserved by the salt air and water from the ocean. It’s a beautifully eerie place and a perfect backdrop for photographs.
  3. The Jekyll Island Museum is free and located within the Jekyll Island Historic District. It has a small museum that showcases photographs and objects from the island’s colorful past. Bet you didn’t know that in addition to being the winter retreat for some of America’s most elite families, Jekyll Island also played a significant part in America’s history. In 1910, Senator William Alrich convened a secret meeting of financiers on Jekyll Island to create a proposal for banking reform that was the forerunner of today’s Federal Reserve. Today, the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District is a 240-acre, riverfront compound and one of the largest, ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States.


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5 Must-See Civil Rights Landmarks in Atlanta

MLK Birth Home - ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

MLK Birth Home – ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

Atlanta is known as the cradle of the civil rights movement, and as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Walk in King’s footsteps along Auburn Avenue, reflect on the Dream at The King Center and relive the movement at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. There’s no better time than MLK weekend to explore Atlanta’s most inspiring civil rights landmarks.

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site: Start your journey at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, a 35-acre area encompassing historic landmarks including King’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. Start at the birth home and take in family stories of young King while imagining life in Atlanta’s bustling Sweet Auburn neighborhood during King’s day. Visit the church where Dr. King served as minister, Ebenezer Baptist Church. Hear audio of King’s sermons on love and nonviolence in the very pews frequented by the King family. Finish your visit by reflecting on the Dream at the tomb of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The couple’s massive final resting place is etched with the words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”
  2. APEX Museum - ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

    APEX Museum – ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

    The APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience) Museum
    Atlanta’s APEX Museum traces history from prominent African civilizations to the period of slavery in America, and onto the civil rights movement. Much of the Museum is dedicated to the history of Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, the main thoroughfare for African-American business and civil life from the mid-1900s to the 1960s. Step inside the Museum’s replica of Yates and Milton Drug Store, one of Atlanta’s first black-owned businesses. After, step aboard the museum’s Trolley Theatre, a historic reproduction of the streetcar that ran up Auburn Avenue during the 1900s.

  3. Sweet Auburn Curb Market - ©2015, Jay Jordan/AtlantaPhotos.com

    Sweet Auburn Curb Market – ©2015, Jay Jordan/AtlantaPhotos.com

    Sweet Auburn Curb Market
    Sweet Auburn Curb Market is situated in the heart of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, King’s boyhood neighborhood and the hub of African American life in Atlanta during ‘40s and ‘50s. Established in 1924, the Market was segregated at its start with white patrons browsing inside and black patrons shopping at curbside stalls; a phenomenon that dubbed it the “Curb Market.” The surrounding Sweet Auburn neighborhood was so influential in subsequent years that it was named a National Historic Landmark. Today, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a downtown hotspot frequented by local business people, students, creatives and foodies. Grab a bite from popular stalls like Bell Street Burritos and Grindhouse Killer Burgers. Take home an edible souvenir from Sweet Auburn Bakery.

  4. Paschal’s - ©2015, Paschal’s Restaurant

    Paschal’s – ©2015, Paschal’s Restaurant

    Paschal’s Restaurant: Brothers James and Robert Paschal opened Paschal’s Restaurant in 1947 on Atlanta’s Westside. At the time, it was a small, 30-seat diner. The restaurant grew to be Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant, a 120-room hotel, restaurant and lounge –a venue that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used as a home base for the movement. Paschal’s quickly became the place for leaders of the civil rights movement to eat, meet and strategize – the brother’s secret recipe fried chicken served as fuel for the activists’ bodies and souls. Today, Paschal’s has a new location in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill neighborhood and remains a mainstay for the city’s movers and shakers. Take a seat and feast on the famous fried chicken enjoyed by the likes of John Lewis, Dr. King and Jesse Jackson, to name just a few.

  5. Center for Civil and Human Rights - ©2015, J Glenn Photography

    Center for Civil and Human Rights – ©2015, J Glenn Photography

    Center for Civil and Human Rights
    The Center for Civil and Human Rights is the newest civil rights destination in Atlanta. The Center utilizes compelling exhibits paired with audio and motion to immerse guests in the journey of the civil rights movement. Sit in protest at a simulated lunch counter, or join in the march on Washington. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection gallery which features a rotating selection of King’s artifacts, papers and hand-written notes. Complete your visit by learning about today’s movements from global human rights activists and challenge yourself to get involved.

Guide to Dining in Alpharetta

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Shocking to my fellow friends – mostly the ones who are living up the singles scene in the city or maintaining their hipster vibe sans minivan, the suburbs are happening, too, when it comes to the foodie scene. Nearby, Alpharetta, easily accessible, just north of Atlanta and in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, along Georgia 400, the state’s “Hospitality Highway,” is undeniably suburban, but with 175 dining options, this locale makes for one mean menu.

Pared down, here are five picks for a palate pleasing meal, whether the suburbs scare you – or a Suburban is the only way to lug your crew around.

  1. For local flavor, South Main Kitchen, located in the heart of Alpharetta’s Historic Downtown District, offers a fresh and unique kitchen-inspired dining experience that is distinctly ingredient driven. The restaurant, housed in a historic building built in 1902, features an open kitchen, inviting dining room, communal seating and rooftop bar and, under the direction of executive chef Christy Stone, focuses on the social aspect of dining and the true artistry of food with farm-to-table flair and a frequently changing menu. An extensive beer menu complements taste bud ticklers like edamame with mint fleur de sel and unique twists on classic southern ingredients like boiled peanut hummus with blackberry jam, fig compote, brie and goat cheese. It’s even rumored the Brussels sprouts here are above all else.
  2. Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Another locally-owned and operated Alpharetta restaurant to add to the tasting menu: Smokejack Southern Grill and BBQ, serving smoked, hand-pulled pork, moist tender ribs, signature beef burnt ends…is your mouth watering yet?

  3. Whipping up winning eateries, the Sedgwick Restaurant Group has several players on the Alpharetta scene including the escape-from-the-normal Vinny’s on Windward where menu highlights include risotto, gnocchi and tiramisu, transporting guests straight to Italy.
  4. Another Sedgwick spawn, Pure taqueria, offers authentic Mexican cuisine – think corn, seafood and slaw – as well as killer margaritas. Chris Sedgwick, long time Alpharetta resident and successful Atlanta restaurateur, was looking for a new way to express his style and his love of food when he opened the original PURE taqueria at the site of an abandoned 1920’s era Pure Fuel Oil station. The small stone building on the corner (now used for storage) was part of the original gas station, but the main restaurant was built from scratch, with Chris designing, decorating and doing much of the construction himself. Since 2005, PURE taqueria has grown into a local institution, and a successful franchise company with five locations in the ATL.
  5. New to the culinary scene, Oak Steakhouse at Avalon is reserved for occasions as special as the food. From grilled swordfish to cornmeal crusted grouper to melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, along with sides like bone marrow bread pudding and truffle frites, coupled with exceptional service and a sophisticated ambiance, this is the place where memories are made.

Can’t get enough? Add these foodie events to your calendar and fill up on good times:

Concerts at Matilda's. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Concerts at Matilda’s. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Taste of Alpharetta – May 7; Join the Southeast’s premier dining festival attracting over 50,000 festival-goers each year. Satisfy taste buds with specialties from more than 60 restaurants. Expect cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, three entertainment stages, art exhibits and a Kids Korner. A Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event for 2015.

Alpharetta Summer Brew Moon Fest – June 6; Gather your friends and celebrate summer with beer, wine and delicious food from some of Alpharetta’s best restaurants.

Craft Beer Festival & 5k Road Race – June 20; Run the 5K and then stick around for the party. Over 100 beer vendors from around the U.S. will set up in Downtown Alpharetta for an awesome street party filled with live music and awesome food.

Farmers Market – Seasonal, April through October; Shop local at the Alpharetta Farmers Market featuring food vendors including produce, grass-fed meats, cheese baked goods and more.

Food Truck Alley – Seasonal, April through October; Feast on the street every Thursday evening at Alpharetta Food Truck Alley. This weekly gathering will have a variety of 6-8 rotating food trucks and music each week. Stroll the streets, eat delicious food, listen to some great music and kick off the weekend a little early.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Where to Drink Beer in North Georgia


Braselton Fillin’ Station

Beer has been around for a long time, and generally brewing beer was just a hobby for those passionate about the past time. It’s only recently that locally crafted beer has become a popular reason to travel.  The same can be said for moonshine and other distilled spirits.  So if you are looking for something fun and interesting to do on your day off, head to the Northeast Georgia Mountains and sample some of Georgia’s locally crafted beer or distilled spirits.


Tap It Growlers

In the last six months, Northeast Georgia has seen the growth of growler tasting rooms and filling stations, highlighting a number of well-known and popular Craft Brews made in Georgia.  Located in the most interesting places including an old filling station, a lawn care store and an old appliance store, they reflect the character of the owners. The variety of brews are fun to sample, so plan a growler tour of Northeast Georgia and include the following stops:

The region currently boasts only one brewery, the Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative at Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar based in Cumming’s Vickery Village. Left Nut Brewing in downtown Gainesville, the vision of several brew buddies, is set to open in late spring/early summer.  They plan on having tours and tastings.

Not to be ignored are the distilleries that are now showcasing the craftsmanship and heritage of the region.

Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery in Dawsonville is a fun tour and a visit with Dwight, the master distiller, is not to be missed.  Old photos of moonshiners and stills dot the shop along with souvenirs.


Granddaddy Mimms

Granddaddy Mimm’s Museum, Distillery and Gift Shop south of Blairsville will be in full operation this spring.  Owner Tommy Townsend and his band provide the opening act for a number of Nashville superstars but he is also passionate about his granddaddy’s moonshine recipe and the moonshine history of the area.

When heading up I-985/U.S. 441, Ivy Mountain Distillery is quick side trip to old U.S. 441 to Habersham County’s little town of Mt. Airy.  Further north in Clayton is Moonrise Distillery.

Stillhouse Creek Craft Distillery in Dahlonega plans to open soon and will have Brandy, Whiskey and Grappa.

Sometime in the next few months the region’s only cidery, Sautee Hard Cider featuring Bulldog Cider will open.  They will have samples and are talking about selling growlers. It will be conveniently located on GA Hwy 75 between Cleveland and Helen.

Be sure to visit the craft breweries, craft distilleries and growler tasting rooms on your next visit to the Northeast Georgia Mountains.  Let them know you discovered them on www.ExploreGeorgia.org!

3283c42Cheryl Smith is the Northeast Georgia Mountains regional travel expert. She’s worked in the region for the past 26 years and like to say that if she doesn’t know what you are looking for, she knows someone who does!  Cheryl spends her time paddling and riding her Harley 1200 Sportser.

3 Ways to Accomplish New Year’s Resolutions in Georgia

It’s the New Year – the time for setting goals goals and priorities for 2015. We wanted to share a few of our goals and how we plan to accomplish them within the state borderlines of Georgia.

  • 2Get Active: Over a year and a half ago we made the decision to transform our lives from non-active to a healthier lifestyle. After losing 180 pounds combined, we have found that one of our biggest goals is to continue being active and find ways to explore new activities in our area. If you find yourself with a similar resolution to get healthy, try visiting one of Georgia’s State Parks for a hike, a jog, a kayak trip…the possibilities are endless! If the thought of going outside in the winter has you laying on the couch in sweatpants, try an indoor rock-climbing wall to accomplish your get-active goal. In Suwanee, Georgia you have Adrenaline Climbing which offers belay training sessions so that you can walk-in and climb without any prior practice.
  • 1More Date Nights: Make an investment in your relationship by resolving to have more date nights! The City of Sugar Hill just opened a skating rink for the first time this year. Take a few spins around the outdoor ice skating platform and then walk over to the local coffee shop for a cup of hot chocolate. Visit http://www.exploregeorgia.org/ to find an ice rink near you.
  • Eat Healthy: There are quite a few farm-to-table locations popping up around Georgia. A few of our favorites outside the perimeter that offer local range chicken, grass fed beef, and a unique experience include Georgia Pine and Local Republic, both located in Lawrenceville.

Click here for more information on Georgia’s State Parks.

Click here for more information on dining in Georgia.

Mandy VolpeMandy Volpe is a Marketing Professional for Unique Venues. She lives in Suwanee, Georgia and frequently blogs about life in the suburbs at www.mandyandconner.com.