Georgia’s Lesser-Known Sports Teams

Georgia sports fans are incredibly supportive of the state’s big league baseball, football and basketball teams. But those are not the only teams to play on the Georgia stage. Georgia’s lesser-known professional and semi-professional sports teams thrill fans with exciting competition and winning records and provide high-caliber competition for very little money.

Ice Hockey

The Thrashers may have flown to Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean lovers of ice hockey can’t still enjoy the game here in Georgia. The Gwinnett Gladiators play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Since moving to Duluth for the 2003-04 season, the Gladiators have made the playoffs eight times. Each year the Gladiators thrill their fans at Gwinnett Arena with awesome promotions such as Star Wars night and a teddy bear toss.

Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths

In Columbus, the Cottonmouths are one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Since helping found the SPHL, the Cottonmouths have never missed the playoffs and have won the championship twice, including receiving the inaugural Presidents Cup. The Cottonmouths are great supporters of their local community and promote both youth and adult leagues, teaching everyone how to skate and play the most popular game on ice.

Having first played as the Augusta RiverHawks from 2010 to 2013, the Macon Mayhem will begin playing as a member of the SPHL in the 2015-16 season. Even prior to the start of the new season, the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths are preparing for the fiercest rivalry in the SPHL!

Soccer

People are going crazy over the Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Atlanta. They start play in 2017 and, though they have yet to be named, are already growing a following. But before soccer at the highest level comes to Georgia, you still have the opportunity to check out some fantastic soccer sides.

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

For many, the Atlanta Silverbacks will always be Atlanta’s team. Atlanta Silverbacks Park is home to not only the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, but also the Women’s and Reserves’ teams. And did you know Reggie Bush and David Beckham filmed an Adidas commercial at the park? The Terminus Legion supporters group (emphasis on the “support”) has been instrumental in making Atlanta a prime soccer location.

Based in Conyers, the Georgia Revolution play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Since their founding in 2010, they have twice made it to the later stages of the US Cup, each time losing by one goal to the in-state rival Silverbacks. The Revolution support a local chapter of the Super Y-League, giving local kids the chance to get out and play the game themselves.

Rugby

The Atlanta Rhinos also play at Silverbacks Park. They joined the USA Rugby League in 2014, forging a partnership with the Leeds Rhinos of Britain’s Super League.

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Rugby Union is also popular in Georgia, with an entire region of USA Ruby based in the state. Teams are spread throughout Georgia with teams in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blue Ridge, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Gwinnett, Macon and Savannah. The Georgia Rugby Union also features a women’s team based out of Atlanta.

And to forget mentioning collegiate rugby would be an outrageous mistake. Life University has been one of the premier teams in both professional and college-level rugby for men and women.

Lacrosse

Fans of box lacrosse can rejoice as the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League announced recently they will move to Georgia to become the Georgia Swarm and begin playing in Gwinnett starting with the 2016 season. Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the popular sport, creating a faster-paced, more intense game.

And for those fans of field lacrosse, Johns Creek plays host each year to the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championships, and Kennesaw State University will play host to the ACC Championships in 2016 and the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.

 

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with Kids

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with KidsOur family recently went on vacation in Augusta, and while we were there, we attended an Augusta GreenJackets game. It was my first minor league game and a first-ever baseball game for the boys. It was fabulous! Here are five reasons why a minor league baseball game is must-do experience with kids.

1. Close to the action. Georgia’s minor league stadiums offer close-to-the-action seating. When kids can see the players well and actually feel the power of the ball meeting the bat, they are hooked. If you ask me, this is the best reason to start them at a minor league game.

2. Affordability. Tickets to minor league games are extremely affordable, and in many places like Augusta, parking is also free. If you join the Kids’ Club (see below) there are often opportunities for kids to attend for free.

3. Kids Club. Kids Clubs vary in cost from free in Augusta to $30, and their benefits vary. The Sand Gnats Kids Club includes an autograph session with the players, The Rome Braves offer includes box-level tickets. Each team’s program is vastly different, so be sure to look at each one.

Augusta GreenJackets

4. Special Events. My boys loved meeting Auggie, the GreenJackets’ mascot. He was very accessible and easy to get a photo with. Besides mascot days, other special events around the state include Splash day, Fireworks, Boy and Girl Scout Days, Family Nights, Kids Eat Free nights and more. Check Explore Georgia’s blog post on 2015 Summer Baseball Promotions and each team’s programming for details.

5. Play Areas. If your little one gets ants in his pants then you can always head to the play area. We enjoyed watching the last inning of the GreenJackets game as the boys played on the playground. Other fields include inflatables, and other play areas. If you think the kids need a little more freedom than a stadium seat offers, several places like Gwinnett and Rome offer berms for picnic-style seating.

So, where are the minor league fields?? There are four in Georgia: Augusta, Rome, Lawrenceville and Savannah. You can read more about our Augusta experience at 365AtlantaFamily.

 

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.

Fantastic Fort Mountain

Fort Mountain ViewA scenic drive through Georgia’s Historic High Country leads us to a little slice of heaven on Fort Mountain. This state park, hidden in the hills of Chatsworth, is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaways. In addition to the incredible views from overlooks, Fort Mountain State Park boasts one of the most challenging Muddy Spokes mountain biking trails and the 8-mile Gahuti Trail connecting secluded backcountry campsites.CandyCook_ftMtnGahudiTrail

The hiking trails of Fort Mountain range from easy to strenuous. For really amazing views, take a stroll down the easy, paved Cool Springs Trail or hike to an overlook deck on a combination of the West Overlook-Stone Tower Trails. More experienced hikers will appreciate backpacking on the more difficult Gahuti Trail. Gahuti is a beautiful, yet strenuous hike often used by hikers preparing for the Appalachian Trail.

Mountain bikers of all ages and experience levels enjoy taking on 27 miles of thrill riding at the park. Multi-use Lake Loop Trail offers an easy warm-up shared with hikers, while the Gold Mine and Cool Springs Loops cater to more advanced riders looking for a fun roller coaster ride through the forest. Finally, one of the last Muddy Spokes trails a mountain biker completes, the East/West Loop offers a wild and rocky ride for the experts. CandyCook_FtMountainSwim

A Fort Mountain escape isn’t complete without a refreshing dip in the cool mountain lake, a round of mini golf, and perfecting s’mores as the moonlight shines through those magnificent Georgia pines. Pack up the tent and run away to Fort Mountain this weekend!

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.

AMP Up Your Summer Adventures

Banish summer boredom with thrilling adventures and new family experiences! Just 20 minutes east of Atlanta, AMP Adventures is celebrating the season with river exploration, free bike rentals, campfire folktales and “s’more!” You can see some highlights below and the full calendar of events here.

Arabia Mt APM

All of these activities are located in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). The 33+ mile paved trail is dedicated to hikers and cyclists and is quickly becoming known as Atlanta’s most scenic trail. Remember, while several events are free, many have a limited amount of space so participants should RSVP now to save their spot.

FREE Bike Rentals at Panola Mountain State Park (June 13th and June 14th) and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve (June 20th) For three amazing days you can feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you peddle past gorgeous forests and flower-filled meadows along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). Already have a bike? This is the perfect time to get your bike-less friends to finally take a ride with you!Roasting Marshmallow

Folktales by Firelight (June 27th) Hiking, a campfire, storytelling and s’mores; what a great combination! We have two event start times for a full evening of family fun. We’ll hear folktales from professional storyteller, Jonah McDonald, adventure guide and author of Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out. This is a rain or shine event, so bring your galoshes if we get a shower!

Georgia River Network: Hidden Gem Paddle (August 22nd) Join the South River Watershed Alliance and Georgia River Network (GRN) for a personal tour of the bends and gentle waters of the South River. This event will attract river enthusiasts from across the state and you can join the tour! The day will include a picnic lunch and presentations along the route, ranging from natural history and water quality testing to river clean-up training! Other floats are planned for June 13 and July 25. Canoe and kayak rentals can be waived for novice paddlers!Georgia River Network

AMP Adventures is presented by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of Coca-Cola and Subaru.

 

Kimberly EstepWhen not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs.  Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.

Receive 2 for 1 Admission During Atlanta Museum Week

There is no better time to visit one of the metro Atlanta area museums that during the first Atlanta Museum Week. Participating organizations are offering special admission deals for admission between April 25 and May 1st as a way to celebrate the city’s museums and cultural destinations.  The theme of the week is ‘Discover What’s New’ and is designed to invite people to explore the diverse cultural offerings in Atlanta. For a list of participating museums, visit the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. If you’re not sure where to visit, here are a few of our favorites.

Photo courtesy of College Football Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of College Football Hall of Fame

College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience. I’d consider the College Football Hall of Fame an interactive attraction more than a museum. As one of the newest venues in the Atlanta area, it’s a hot ticket. Guests enter through a tunnel into a three-story atrium with 760 football helmets from different schools; choose your favorite college team for a personalized experience. An afternoon here will make you long for a crisp fall tailgate.

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Booth Western Art Museum. There’s a lot more than paintings of cowboys and Indians at the Booth Western Museum, especially for the youngest guests. Sagebrush Ranch is an indoor western art themed playground on the bottom floor of the museum. Kids can ride in a stagecoach, climb a life-sized horse or play cook in the chuck wagon.

 

Photo courtesy of World of Coca-Cola

Photo courtesy of World of Coca-Cola

World of Coca-Cola. Atlanta is the world headquarters for this soft drink giant. Learn all about the pause that refreshes at the downtown Atlanta museum. Exhibits show the history of Coca-Cola advertising and packaging, how Coke is bottle, and the vault that holds the secret formula. At the end, enjoy tasting Coca-Cola products from around the world. Insider tip: Beware of the Beverly.

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.

Click here to follow Sue on Facebook.

Click here to follow Sue on Twitter.

Click here to follow Sue on Pinterest.

Click here to follow Sue on Google+

Click here to follow Sue on Instagram.