Adventure Dates for Active Couples

These days, active couples are looking for adventurous dates to cross items off their bucket lists as a team. These three experiences will help you do that.

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Photo courtesy Skydive Spaceland Atlanta

Skydive Spaceland Atlanta

Skydiving is found on nearly every adventurer’s bucket list. There’s no better place to make the jump than Skydive Spaceland Atlanta. A short drive from Atlanta, Skydive Spaceland Atlanta takes thrill-seekers away from the crowds for spectacular jumps with beautiful views of Georgia’s Appalachian foothills. One of the world’s biggest and most progressive skydive training centers, the state-of-the-art facilities are perfect for first-timers and veterans alike.

Photo courtesy Stone Summit

Photo courtesy Stone Summit

Stone Summit Rock Climbing Gym

Sometimes, summer’s outdoor adventures begin indoors. Stone Summit Rock Climbing Gym offers everything an adventurous couple needs to get climbing. Couples taking on this sport will be happy to know it’s a team effort with a climber and a belay. Two facilities in the Atlanta area feature colorful three-story climbing walls, bouldering rooms, technique instruction and belay lessons.

Photo courtesy Mill Pond Kayak

Photo courtesy Mill Pond Kayak

Mill Pond Kayak

Adventure isn’t always heart-pounding excitement, and Mill Pond Kayak proves it. Paddling among the cypress trees of Watson Mill Pond and George L Smith State Park is a relaxing way to stay active outdoors. Mill Pond Kayak supplies the gear and a tour guide for exploring miles of blackwater trails. Paddlers view wildlife on the water and see historic sites along tours lasting nearly three hours.

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.

5 Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Georgia

Cherry blossoms in Conyers, Georgia

Cherry blossoms in Conyers, Georgia

If you’re ready for an early spring, you’ll want to get your calendar in order for the middle of March because that’s when Georgia’s cherry blossoms are historically in their prime. Here’s where to find them.

Georgia Governors Mansion (Atlanta) – In March 2012, Gov. and Mrs. Deal hosted an official cherry tree planting ceremony on the grounds of the Georgia Governors Mansion in conjunction with the Consulate General of Japan. Visitors are welcome at the mansion each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Cherry Blossom Festival (Conyers) – It may not be the biggest cherry blossom-centric event in the state, but it is still filled with plenty of pink fun for everyone! Guests are invited to enjoy a multicultural experience at the festival, which features 300 art and craft booths, children’s activities and food courts. This year’s festival runs April 2-3 at the Georgia International Horse Park.

Gibbs Gardens (Ball Ground) – Sure, it’s off the beaten path, but a visit to Gibbs Gardens is worth the journey any time of the year, especially during their spring events. In mid-March their cherry blossoms are expected to be in full color. Admission to the gardens is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for children. Children five years old and younger receive complementary admission.

International Cherry Blossom Festival (Macon) – For two weeks each spring, Macon fills with the spirit of their annual festival. You won’t be able to turn a corner without seeing something pink. From a parade to the blossoming trees, there’s something for everyone. This year’s festival runs March 17-April 4. Admission to most events and the parade is free.

Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens (Macon) – After being completely devastated by storms in 2008, the grounds have come back to life. Among its thriving species are 10 varieties of weeping and upright cherry trees in their Cherry Grove. Admission to the gardens is free.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Three Free Things to Do with Kids Over Spring Break

A spring break vacation is a welcome retreat from the busy school year. However, a week entertaining kids can get expensive. To keep your budget from breaking, too, here are three fabulous and free things to do with kids this season.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta is one of 11 national parks in Georgia.

Every Kid in a Park Program: Let your fourth grader pick up the fees on your next visit to any national park through the Every Kid in a Park program. The program invites fourth graders to visit any national park for free. In addition, their pass is good for a limited number of travelers who accompany the fourth grader. Kids can get a pass by going to www.everykidinapark.gov, completing an online game, and downloading a paper voucher. These can be redeemed at any park for a durable plastic pass. Georgia has 11 National Parks throughout the state.

Learn to Fly: How cool would it be to come back from spring break to tell your friends you flew a plane? Children 8 – 17 can with the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) Young Eagles Program. Just make an appointment with your local chapter and schedule a flight. Kids learn about what a pilot has to do before the flight, a little about aeronautics, and then, of course, they get to go up in a plane for a ride, and just maybe take the controls for a minute or two. After the flight, students age 14 – 17 are eligible for a free online flight training course. Young Eagles also offers them a voucher for their first flight lesson with an instructor (after the first half of the online flight school training course is complete).

The Last 100 Yards exhibit at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia

The Last 100 Yards exhibit at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia

Fight the Last Hundred Yards: At the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, a life-sized, walk-through diorama depicts the fight for the last 100 yards of some of the toughest battles throughout U.S. history. If that’s a little bit much, take a walk outside and back in time to the 1940s, and a genuine World War II-era base. Visit the mess hall, pray in the chapel, visit the supply room, as well as the headquarters used by Gen. George S. Patton before his deployment to North Africa.

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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Still Shining A Light: Rutha Harris and the Freedom Singers

The Freedom Singers perform in Albany

The Freedom Singers perform in Albany every second Saturday of the month. Rutha Harris is the second from right.

The phrase “living history” is overused, but in this case it applies. The Freedom Singers emerged from Albany, Georgia, in 1962 with a goal of educating communities through song about civil rights. By 1963 they were performing at the March on Washington and the Newport Folk Festival.

Of the original quartet, alto Bernice Johnson Reagon became best known. She moved north, founded the gospel-inflected a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, earned a MacArthur Fellowship, then became an American University professor and a curator at the Smithsonian Institute.

Freedom Singers soprano Rutha Harris chose a more grassroots path. She returned to Albany and still lives with her siblings in the house built by their Baptist minister father. She also continues to educate communities, convening her current edition of the Freedom Singers for an informal program on the second Saturday of each month at the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

The event begins at 1 p.m. and is loosely scheduled for two hours. “If a lot of people come, sometimes we’ll go longer. If no one comes, we still stay and practice,” the 75-year-old Ms. Rutha tells me by phone from a car in Albany. Her niece Angela Gibson serves as the narrator for a program that connects the trail from slavery through the role of the church to the civil rights era and the present day. Ms. Rutha sounds particularly proud of extending this legacy through a Junior Freedom Singers troupe she helped form in late 2015. Comprised of students from elementary through high school, they join the Saturday festivities in alternate months (but will not be part of the February 13 program).

Guests will recognize several familiar tunes, like “This Little Light of Mine.” “Jesus gave it to me, the light, even in my jail cell,” Harris explains. “That one was to be shouted. We only had to add words to that one; we didn’t need to change any. That’s how freedom songs came about — changing a few words from gospel songs. ‘Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind On Freedom’ used to be ‘…with my mind on Jesus,’” for instance.

The program includes an interactive component. “I always teach the audience an old song called ‘Dogs.’ It’s about these two Southern families — one black, one white — in the country. The writer noticed that their dogs could play together but their kids couldn’t.”

Last week, Harris and her brother Emory drove to Georgia State in Atlanta to lend their voices to a coordinated multi-campus gathering in support of undocumented students. “It was my first protest since the ’60s,” the still energetic Ms. Rutha reports. “I told my brother, ‘I am not going to jail. I’ve done my jail time. If the police ask me to disperse, I will disperse.’” It’s perhaps the only concession Rutha Harris has made to age.

(The Freedom Singers perform at the Albany Civil Rights Institute at 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month, including February 13. It’s a great experience for Black History Month.)

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

Five Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ with Chocolate

This Valentine’s Day, get your loved one’s attention with chocolate from Georgia!

Photo courtesy Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Facebook

Photo courtesy Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Facebook

Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Atlanta

Nationally known for their creation of exquisite origin-driven chocolate and confections, Cacao Atlanta partners with scientists and local growers to achieve extraordinary quality and upholds hand production methods throughout the entire chocolate-making process. With several locations to choose from, you can enjoy your treats to go or relax and enjoy them at the Cacao Café.

ChocoLaté Coffee, Decatur

Looking for your chocolate fix in liquid form? This independently owned and operated coffee and dessert shop is for you! They expertly roast their beans on site, giving each cup of specialty chocolate drinks a robust, but smooth, finish. Free Wi-Fi, leather chairs, comfy couches and a LONG list of drinks, homemade desserts and pastries is a welcoming change from the usual grab-and-go coffee chains.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread by Xocolatl

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. Photo courtesy Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, Facebook.

Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate. Atlanta

Their small batch chocolate is made from cacao that is sustainably and ethically grown. Once imported to their Atlanta store, it is turned into beautiful chocolate liquor. Using only two ingredients — cacao and organic cane sugar — what you’re left with is the true flavor of the chocolate from the different regions. By sticking with just those two ingredients, the end result is delicious, vegan, soy AND gluten free.

Maison Robert Chocolates, Atlanta

As a third generation pâtissier-confiseur-glacier, Robert Reeb opened Maison Robert in Georgia in 1977. They have the reputation of using only the finest ingredients available, and all of their chocolates are still made by hand. You can choose to enjoy your confections there, have them beautifully packed to go, and even make your own in one of their custom classes!

Photo courtesy diAmano Chocolate, Facebook

Photo courtesy diAmano Chocolate, Facebook

diAmano Chocolate, Atlanta

Say, “I Love You,” and then eat it! This family-owned business specializes in 1,000+ different shapes, edible logos and pictures, and custom messages ALL written in chocolate. They also offer flavors and combinations — several of which change throughout the year — and the option of custom flavors. So, come in (or order online) and make your Valentine Day’s message extra sweet!

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.