Top Five Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Chase waterfalls with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for easy access to some of nature’s finest accomplishments.

1. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

2. Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, downhill on the way out.

Benton MacKaye Trail

Discover the beauty of Blue Ridge’s Long Creek Falls. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

3. Sea Creek Falls – Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.

4. Amicalola Falls – About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.

5. Helton Creek Falls – There are two falls on Helton Creek near Blairsville. A short trail descends to the first waterfall then climbs to the second larger waterfall. Beware – the rocks are slippery. From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 north to Blairsville. In Blairsville, take US 19/129 south about 11 miles. Turn left onto Helton Creek Road, the first road past the entrance to Vogel State Park. Go 2.2 miles; the road turns to gravel. There will be a small parking lot on the right in a curve, and the trail is marked.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

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.

Women’s Sports in Georgia

Women’s sports teams often focus on providing to those communities that they call home, and empowering women and girls through the power of athletics. Fans so often go out and support their local school or college or little league teams, but don’t always realize Georgia has leagues and teams for adults. Here are some of the professional and semi-professional women’s sports teams that call Georgia home:

Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream

Basketball
When the Atlanta Dream made it to the WNBA Finals in 2013 for the third time in four years, the team’s fans were ecstatic. While they have yet to claim that elusive title, the Dream are still one of the most successful teams in the Eastern Conference, reaching the playoffs every season since 2009. The Dream play at the top level and thrill fans with season promotions ranging from their Heritage Series to Kids Day, from Dream Pink to Faith & Family Night.

And in Augusta, the semi-professional Georgia-Lina Lady Hurricanes compete in the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL). Many of the players originally played school ball in the Augusta area and played college hoops in the South, competing with and against each other. The team hosted their first annual Season Kick-Off Tournament this year, featuring teams from the community.

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

Soccer
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup currently occuring in Canada, women’s sports are on the world’s biggest stage. And while none of the Atlanta Silverbacks Women were called up to their national sides for this tournament, they are still providing quality entertainment for fans here in Georgia. The Silverbacks play in the highly competitive W-League, which they most recently won in 2011.

Georgia also has a presence in W-20, which is the adult-amateur under-20 women’s league associated with W-League. The Georgia Revolution in Conyers have increased their program to include a W-20 team this year, and the Atlanta Metros FC regularly field a side, though are focusing on local leagues for the 2015 season. Both programs offer extensive opportunities for player development in youth local and travel leagues.

Savannah Sabers

Savannah Sabers

Football
Georgia hosts several women’s football teams across three different leagues. The North Atlantic Division of the Women’s Football Allliance (WFA) features the Atlanta Phoenix and Savannah Sabers. The Phoenix have experienced great success in the North Atlantic Division and enjoy a dedicated fangroup known as the Phoenatics. The Sabers were unable to field a team this season, but look forward to returning to competitive play in 2016. The Sabers say their “vision is a community of strong, independent, confident women and girls where the game of football with empower females.”

Focused on a drive to “empwer women through athletics and serve the greater Atlanta community,” the Atlanta Heartbreakers compete in the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). Between playing in the WSFL, and having orginally played in the WFA, the Heartbreakers have won three division titles.

The 2014 Legends Football League (LFL) Eastern Conference Champions also play in metro Atlanta. The Atlanta Steam began playing in 2013 and within two seasons were already playing in the title game. They join several other Georgia sports teams playing out of the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Soul City Sirens

Soul City Sirens

Roller Derby
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a leading organization for roller derby in the US and abroad, has a heavy presence in Georgia. The Atlanta Rollergirls were one of the founding leagues of the WFTDA and hosted the Champioinship in 2012. The league fields four home teams as well as three travel teams. The Classic City Rollergirls field two travel teams out of Athens and host biannual boot camps for anyone interested in learning to derby. In Augusta, the Soul City Sirens have partnered with local partners to benefit the community, all the while throwing down on the rink of the Columbia County Exhibition Center. And the Savannah Derby Devils feature two travel teams, as well as a junior team for theose female skaters aged 10-17 who are intersted in trying out the sport.

Outside of the ‘big-league’ derby teams, the WFTDA sponsors an apprenticeship program for aspiring member leagues. Here in Georgia, the Marietta Derby Darlins in Cobb County and the Muscogee Roller Girls in Columbus compete as apprentice leagues. Additionally, teams such as the Middle Georgia Derby Demons in Macon, Rome Rollergirls and War Town Bombshells in Warner Robins compete individually according to WFTDA rules.

Atlanta Harlequins

Atlanta Harlequins

Rugby
The sport of rugby is quickly growing in popularity, and Georgia is no exception to the craze. Several mixed teams and an all-female team are members of the Georgia Rugby Union (GRU), the local branch of USA Rugby. Teams compete in tournaments here in Georgia – from Atlanta to Augusta, from LaFayette to Savannah – as well as all over the country. The Atlanta Harlequins, a member club of GRU, compete in the Women’s Premier League and hosted the 2014 Nations at Life University.

Top Five Hikes in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

A hiker’s paradise, Blue Ridge offers several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail which extends for more than 2,000 miles to Maine through many of the states on the Eastern Seaboard. Pursue these paths for outdoor explorations on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles, including short trails suitable for beginning hikers.

Aska Trails

Hike Blue Ridge’s Aska Trail System. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

1. Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.

2. Swinging Bridge Trail – Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy 60 for three miles to be rewarded with sweeping views of the pristine Toccoa River flowing beneath a structure known simply as the “Swinging Bridge.” The longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, the passage was built by the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in the mid-1970s.

3. Hike to the Appalachian Trail terminus – One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain.

4. Aska Trails – This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from one- to 5.5-miles.

5. Benton MacKaye Trail to Fall Branch Falls – A short distance away and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, Fall Branch Falls is a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

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.

Save Money at Georgia’s Theme Parks

Nothing says ‘summer’ like a visit to a theme park, and Georgia has quite a few. Whether you want to scream through a loop-de-loop on a roller coaster, spin around and around or just ride up and down on a merry-go-round, there’s a place for you and it’s closer than you might think. Here is what’s new this summer at three theme parks in Georgia, as well as a tip for how to save money on a visit.

Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta:Six Flags Over Georgia

This is probably the largest of Georgia’s theme parks and perhaps the most well known. New this year is The JOKER Chaos Coaster which rockets seven stories in the air, soaring through a bedlam of loops, suspending riders upside-down for a ravaging thrill; and Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a spinning, twisting and rolling ride through a cycle of classic family fun. Don’t forget your bathing suit for Hurricane Harbor, which was introduced in 2014.
Money Saving Tip: Do as much as you can in advance. Go to www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia and purchase your tickets, parking pass, Flash Passes, meal plans and/or season passes. You’ll save the most money for your visit by purchasing in advance. Also, plan your trip using suggestions from this post Tips for a Great Day. The advice is valid for any theme park visit, not just Six Flags Over Georgia.

Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta:Stone Mountain Park

The fun at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t need to end when the park closes. All new this year, stay in one of three Stone Mountain Park yurts, nestled lakeside in the park’s popular campground. This is glamping at it’s finest with yurts made of wood and canvas, featuring outside decks, picnic tables, charcoal grills, a fire pit and large water spigots for camping convenience. Inside each smoke-free yurt, are all the comforts of home with log furniture, heat and A/C, electric outlets, large windows, skylights, ceiling fans, lockable doors and sleep space for up to five guests. Just bring a sleeping bags and personal items.
Money Saving Tip: Visit Stone Mountain’s free attractions early in the day, like the covered bridge, outdoor granite museum, and the hike up the stone mountain. Plan to visit the paid attractions after 4 pm when prices go down with the sun. A Sunset Adventure Pass includes all your favorite attractions like the 4-D Experience, SkyHike, Geyser Towers, and the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, as well as terrace seating for the Laser Light show and unlimited popcorn until the start of the show, and an ice cold Coca-Cola beverage.

Wild Adventures, Valdosta:Wild AdventuresWild Adventures’ new ride, Jungle Rumble, takes guests swinging, swooping, climbing and dropping. Like a monkey swinging through the trees, the ride has no shortage of screeching and screaming. Riders swing back and forth before reaching four-stories high then plunge back down to the ground to do it all over again in reverse. The ride is designed for families to enjoy together with thrills for adults and kids. Once you’ve gotten your thrills on the roller coaster, head over to see the new squirrel monkey exhibit in a rejuvenated area of the theme park.
Money Saving Tip: Purchase your tickets at least 7 days in advance online and save $10. If you don’t have that much time, you can still save $8 by purchasing at least two days in advance. For those that can’t plan that far ahead, grab lunch at a nearby Subway in Valdosta, Albany or Columbus and pick up an $8 off coupon.

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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Edible Entertainment

You’ve just snagged a prime seat at the movie theater for this summer’s biggest blockbuster, but your excitement quickly turns to nausea. You’ve already had one too many handfuls of greasy popcorn—it’s coated with so much fake butter you can literally feel your arteries clogging as you chew. Not exactly the ideal date night. Thankfully, Atlanta’s top culinary talent has taken notice of this dilemma and a slew of talented gourmands are upping the date night ante and opening one-of-a-kind, chef-driven venues where the eats (think locally-sourced, seasonal dishes that wouldn’t be out of place at a James Beard winning restaurant) are equally as noteworthy as the entertainment. Tonight, make a beeline to one of these surprisingly scrumptious venues.

The Painted Pin

Photo Credit: The Painted Pin

Dinner and Bowling at The Painted Pin
Out: greasy, gristly chicken wings and stale beer. In: wood-fired pepperoni pizza laced with truffle oil, hand-cut fries loaded with cheddar, chiles, bacon, scallions and crema and uber-crispy fried chicken sliders with spicy mayo and housemade pickles. You’d never guess you were eating at a bowling alley, but Justin Amick, you may recognize him as the former sommelier at The Spence, has knocked down all 10 pins with his latest venture, The Painted Pin. The 23,000-square-foot gaming mecca is home to 20 vintage bowling lanes equipped with upscale service (personalized staff deliver balls and shoes laneside), incredible small plates—don’t miss the In-and-Out-inspired burger (we think theirs blows the original out of the water!)—craft cocktails and a wine list rivaling those in the city’s top restaurants. Be forewarned, there’s often a wait for bowling, but a indoor gaming courtyard chockfull of complimentary games (bocce courts, 10-foot Pop-a-Shots, shuffleboard, ping pong, Skee-Ball and Northamptonshire hood skittles) and live music will console you while you wait.

TopGolf Alpharetta

Photo Credit: TopGolf Alpharetta

Dinner and Golf at TopGolf
A day at the driving range hasn’t always been an activity to please the masses… until TopGolf opened in Alpharetta. Of course, TopGolf isn’t your average driving range. Not only does the 65,000-square-foot, three-story, dog-friendly facility boast more than 100 hitting bays (each with their own state-of-the-art digital scorecard and game center with HDTVs, not to mention covered seating with plush couches, fans and a dedicated server), but there’s something for every personality type—video games, pool tables, indoor lounges, rooftop fire pits and live music, to name a few. As if that weren’t enough reason to go, the food is so good you’ll quickly start reconsidering your country club membership. We recommend starting with an order of the wings—insanely crispy skin surrounds juicy, tender meat bathed in fun sauces like Asian Sesame—before moving onto their elevated plays on comfort food classics, like fried chicken and waffle sliders with spicy jalapeno gravy, a pulled pork sandwich a la Vietnamese banh mi’s, and a dangerously delicious burger topped with green chili mac ‘n cheese, all washed down with local beer from Jekyll Brewery, of course. For a sweet finish, go with the cinnamon-sugar-dusted donut holes, which are injected tableside with fillings like chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. And, coming soon: TopGolf Midtown!

Stationside

Photo Credit: Stationside

Dinner and a Concert at Stationside
Atlantans have been flocking to Terminal West for killer live music since 2012, but the addition of Stationside, the adjoining restaurant serving up sandwiches and snacks (think chicken enchiladas with salsa verde and chipotle-lime aioli, mac-and-cheese made with aged white cheddar and pimento béchamel breadcrumbs and Korean fried chicken with Simply Seoul kimchi), in 2013 pushed the King Plow Arts Center venue over the top. Chef Dan Brown’s, who hails from the legendary Porter Beer Bar, counter-service spot is a modern take on the traditional soup and sandwich joint offering up food so unheard of at a music venue (don’t miss the adobo roasted pork Cubans, chickpea burgers and San Marzano tomato soup), you’ll be hard-pressed to leave your trendy red oak table and make your way to the stage—though, you won’t have to miss a beat as TVs screen the live show next door while you nosh.

CinéBistro

Photo Credit: CinéBistro

Dinner and a Movie at Cinebistro
Forget about the aforementioned movie nightmare. No longer are you resigned to stale nachos with fake cheese and cheap candy, thanks to CinéBistro at Town Brookhaven, where each ultra plush, high back leather rocking chair is equipped with a dedicated server so you can nosh on uber crispy buttermilk fried chicken with loaded mashed potatoes, bacon and cheddar waffles and honeyed Tabasco while you watch. (Did we mention there’s complimentary popcorn and a full beer, wine and cocktail list, too?). Discuss the plot over a Peachtree Street cocktail (Maker’s Mark, peach purée and fresh lemon juice) afterward in the swanky lounge.

Jeju Sauna

Photo Credit: Jeju Sauna

Dinner and a Spa Visit at Jeju Sauna
It’s not often a relaxing visit to the spa comes hand in hand with exotic ethnic eats, but thanks to Duluth’s Jeju Sauna, one of the largest, most authentic Korean spas in the country, spagoers can finish their detox with refreshing fruit smoothies and juices, mandu (Korean dumplings), ddukbokgi (rice cakes stir-fried with sliced fish cake in a chile sauce) and traditional soups, like kimchi jjigae. Even better? You get to eat barefoot on the floor in an ensemble so comfy you may just want to curl up in one of the saunas afterward for a nap. In fact, Jeju provides each guest with this t-shirt and shorts outfit to wear as they journey through seven dry mineral saunas, each of which offers unique mind-body benefits. There’s also a junior Olympic size salt water pool, separate wet rooms for men and women (note: these are nude) complete with whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas, and it’s all just $25 per person, though add-on treatments (think foot detox, traditional body scrub or acupressure) are available for an additional fee.

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate