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.

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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.

Secrets of Sweetwater Creek State Park

There is more than meets the eye at Sweetwater Creek State Park! In celebration of the 85th anniversary of Georgia State Parks, this popular metro Atlanta destination invites visitors to explore the hidden gems of nature and history that shape the area.

remote areas of Sweetwater Creek State Park

Hike to remote areas of Sweetwater Creek State Park for unique views. Photo by Candy Cook.

New Perspectives

Hike to the rarely visited and more remote areas of the park to enjoy spectacular views of rapids, secluded lakes, and rugged terrain. Bring along your binoculars for spotting bald eagles, osprey, and great blue herons along the way.

More than New Manchester

The impressive New Manchester Mill Ruins usually take the spotlight in the park’s history. But, the park’s historic landmarks don’t end there. Get a behind-the-scenes look at daily life for residents in the 1850s, hike to the park’s other ruins, and top it off with a tour of one of the “greenest” buildings in the country!

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

Kayak

Exploring by kayak offers unique views of the park’s beauty and wildlife, as well as access to interesting, often overlooked areas of the park. Guided kayak tours include trips to beautiful, remote areas, paddling Sparks Reservoir, and bird watching. Tandem kayaks are available, and all gear is included with reservation. (Read more about kayaking and how you can become a park paddler at Sweetwater Creek State Park.)

Join these guided tours on foot or by kayak to discover seldom seen natural wonders and get the scoop on Sweetwater Creek’s rich history throughout the year. All of Sweetwater Creek’s Hidden Gem events are listed on the park’s website.

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.

Free and Cheap Science-themed Fun in Georgia

Investigate a crime scene. Learn the science of chocolate making. Compete in a sci-cycle scavenger hunt on two wheels. These aren’t the activities you normally associate with a science fair, but these are all part of the 100 events during the Atlanta Science Festival March 19 – 26. The festival culminates in a free, family-friendly Exploration Expo at Centennial Olympic Park. Attendees enjoy a day of demos, hands-on activities and stage shows.

For the science enthusiast, there are several places in Georgia to explore the fun side of science. Here are four museums in different parts of the state to bring out your inner science geek.

Apollo 6 Command Module at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta

See the Apollo 6 Command Module at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta.

Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta: Oscar-nominated movies like “The Martian” and “Star Wars, The Force Awakens” have renewed interest in space exploration. At Fernbank Science Center, guests can see the actual Apollo 6 Command Module, which was the last unmanned flight of Project Apollo. For a few dollars, guests can even take a tour of the stars in Fernbank’s planetarium. The museum itself is free.

Tellus Science Museum, Cartersville: Cars, space, dinosaurs, and jewels; there’s something for everyone at Tellus. This museum also has a planetarium, and lots of hands-on fun, including gem panning and a dinosaur dig for the little ones. Even grown ups will have fun trying the experiments in the Collins Family Big Backyard. Bonus: Tellus offers free admission for Bank of America cardholders on the first full weekend of the month.

Tellus Science Museum's Fossil Gallery in Cartersville

Discover how life on Earth began in the Tellus Science Museum’s Fossil Gallery in Cartersville.

Tidelands Nature Center, Jekyll Island: The Tidelands Nature Center has a small but interesting museum with live animals from the area that serves as a front for some fantastic programming. In addition to information-rich classes like the one that uses play dough and songs to learn about fish, they also offer guided kayak tours and canoe and paddleboat rentals. There’s no better way to learn about the ecosystem of Georgia’s coast, and because this is a 4-H facility, fees are modest.

Museum of Arts and Science's Mark Smith Planetarium in Macon

Learn about the solar system at the Museum of Arts and Science’s Mark Smith Planetarium in Macon.

Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon: What does art, a zoo and a planetarium all have in common? It’s all at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon. To make it more affordable, visit on the first Saturday of the month, when admission is free.

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.

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