24 Hours in Serenbe

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Inn at Serenbe

Photo courtesy of Inn at Serenbe

Serenbe is a place I’d heard a lot about—but no words could prepare me for the whimsy and wonder I found on my recent trip to the extraordinary community. Serenbe was created in 2004 by husband-and-wife team Steve and Marie Nygren (both of whom come from foodie backgrounds—Steve started the Pleasant Peasant restaurant chain in Atlanta, while Marie’s mother was the former owner of Mary Mac’s Tea Room), in an effort to protect the land known as Chattahoochee Hill Country. While Serenbe is home to an inn, you’ll also find an artsy community development modeled after small European towns (think dense living towns surrounded by greenspace).

To get the full picture, follow along on my 24 hours in Serenbe to see all it has to offer:

3 p.m. Check-In to the Inn at Serenbe // Explore: Tourists from around the world come to stay at this quaint farmhouse—after all, it’s only 25 minutes south of the airport—which boasts 19 guest rooms, two pools and hot tubs, a croquet lawn, ropes course and infinite nature exploration. Here, you’ll find 900 acres of preserved forestland, wildflower meadows and 15 miles of trails (which can be explored on foot, by bike or horse) complete with two waterfalls and a large granite outcropping. Rooms start around $200 per night.

Insider Tip: Request a golf cart to help you explore the area more quickly, and stop into the Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop for a coffee to sip while you see.

Photo courtesy of Serenbe Farms

Photo courtesy of Serenbe Farms

4 p.m. Tour Serenbe Farms: Food is a major focus at Serenbe, where farm-to-table takes on a whole new meaning. Though you’re sure to eat the delicious fruits and veggies from the community’s 25-acre organic farm at one of Serenbe’s three restaurants, you can also take an hour-long tour for just $15 per person. If tours aren’t your thing, don’t miss their seasonal Saturday Farmer’s Market—local Georgians can even pick up produce as part of their CSA program.

6 p.m. Dinner at The Hil: The Hil is the perfect combo of fine dining and neighborhood restaurant. Be sure to start with a cocktail—you can’t go wrong with a classic Manhattan—and don’t miss chef Hilary White’s famed antipasti and French fries. The menu changes seasonally, but we loved the fried endive and grilled lamb.

8 p.m. Get Artsy: We were lucky enough to catch a screening from the Atlanta Film Festival during our visit—the Serenbe Film Society frequently hosts film events—but if there’s not one happening during your stay, there’s likely another outdoor theater event at Serenbe Playhouse, or cooking classes, musical performances and talks via the Artist in Residence program.

10 a.m. Feed the Animals at Animal Village: After complimentary breakfast at the Farmhouse, stop in at Guest Services for a bag of feed and walk over to the adorable Animal Village, where you’ll find pigs, goats, donkeys, chickens, sheep and llamas (and plenty of baby animals to ooh and ahh over).

Photo courtesy of The Farmhouse at Serenbe

Photo courtesy of The Farmhouse at Serenbe

11:30 a.m. Lunch at The Farmhouse: There’s no shortage of amazing fried chicken in Georgia, but the flavor-packed bird they serve for lunch at the Inn’s restaurant, The Farmhouse, may be one of the very best. It’s ultra-crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and served with habit-forming sour cream and chive biscuits.

1 p.m. Massage at The Spa at Serenbe: It wouldn’t be a weekend escape without a trip to the spa—this holistic, natural remedy retreat is one of my favorites in the state. My massage with Diane was restorative and relaxing, her technique varied and customized just to your liking.

3 p.m. Wine Tasting at The General Store: With no big box grocery store in Serenbe, this charming shop offers up all the essentials, from unique grocery products to artisanal food items, beer, wine and a grab-and-go station with soups and sandwiches. Don’t miss their frequent events—the wine tastings are dangerously delicious.

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

Explore Georgia’s Federalist and Colonial Era History

Fort Yargo Yurt

Discussion of Georgia’s historical past usually centers around the Civil War, Trail of Tears, and founding of coastal Georgia. Many residents and visitors forget the rich history of the state’s Federalist and Colonial Era history. This year’s 18th Century Colonial Market Faire at Fort Yargo State Park March 27-29 once again celebrates that period in time.

The family-friendly atmosphere is filled with living historians demonstrating life in Georgia when the frontier was filled with new settlers mixing with Native Americans and militias worked to keep citizens safe.

This year’s festival promises to showcase 18th Century craftsmen and women demonstrating their trades, frontier camps, Native American warriors, militia drills, children’s activities, a trading post, weapons, Federalist era music performances. New this year is an 18th Century style tavern.

During your visit to the park, be sure to plan time to check out the 1792 log fort built by settlers for protection against Creek and Cherokee Indians and, if the weather is warm enough, spend some time at the 260-acre lake.

If you fancy staying overnight to take advantage of all the part has to offer, I recommend staying in one of the park’s yurts or cottages, some of which are pet-friendly and all of which include access to bathrooms and showers.

Want to visit more sites featuring Georgia’s pre-1800s history? Check out:

EileenEileen 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.

Atlanta’s Most Amazing Hike

By Candy Cook

MM 2015-01

During the month of March, Monadnock Madness takes over. Hikers earn free souvenirs for participating in naturalist-led hikes, field photography, mountaintop picnics and other events. You’ll hike about six miles, to the tops of three Atlanta mountains: Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain, and Panola Mountain.

Monadnock Madness is a thoughtfully-crafted annual event that combines one of Georgia’s most popular trails with one of the most pristine. This hike tells a story that will enrich your view of our relationship with planet Earth. It’s truly an unforgettable experience and, in my opinion, it’s Atlanta’s most amazing hike.

Learn more & Register for one of the Triple Hike Challenges to experience all three trails the same day, or pick and choose from events scheduled throughout the month. However you decide do it, Monadnock Madness is a hike you don’t want to miss!

The journey begins hiking two miles on the Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail. Of the three mountains, this trail includes the most obstacles like boulders and exposed roots. It’s also where hikers will experience the most challenging elevation change of the three monadnocks.

The second leg, of Monadnock Madness, takes hikers on an easier one-mile hike on Arabia Mountain, the oldest of the three. This more relaxed trail has the least elevation change or obstacles.

Finally, hikers are treated to the pristine beauty of hiking a protected trail to the top of Panola Mountain. The longest leg of the hike, at three miles, winds through the forest as it climbs the hidden mountain. This summit offers a unique look at the monadnock environment that will surprise you!

Don’t miss out on this amazing annual event!

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.

Bring Your Whole Family to This Atlanta Coffeehouse

By Lesli Peterson

Hodgepodge Coffeehouse

I almost didn’t go. It had been a long and difficult morning, but I needed caffeine. Once Imumbled my intention aloud, my girlfriend was game. “I love that place. We’ll come with you.”

And that, my friends, is how I first met the love of my life…er, I mean, Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Let me introduce you to my new favorite hangout. It’s perfect year-round, but especially wonderful in winter. Here are four reasons I love Hodgepodge; I want you to visit, too.

AWESOME COFFEE. So let’s be real. You can’t have fall in love with a coffeeshop that has bad coffee. Here you’ll find Batdorf and Bronson beans, roasted locally. Delish! I’m a fan of the Oh Honey! – Espresso, steamed milk, honey, and a hint of vanilla.

hodgepodge3

ART ATTACK KIDS. Every Monday, Art Attack helps kids create and art project. Pair this with story time, and you have the recipe for an awesome start to the week.

PLAY SPACE. There’s a corner defined by a rug against huge windows. There are toys – worn and loved, but still awesome. Books…rocking chairs…an old-school rocking horse. This is where the children gather to play. I’ve cried big tears and laughed a million laughs all with my girlfriends, while my littles played beside me.

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PALEO BROWNIES. There is great food here. Love the chicken salad on spinach. Kudos. But there are also sweets for everyone, including Paleo brownies! And they are so yummy! I recommend a stop for lunch, and don’t skip dessert.

Don’t miss another day. Delicious coffee to warm your bones, and family-friendly to arm your heart. Bring the kids, invite your bestie, and have a great time.

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.

Weekend Itinerary: Albany with kids

By Lesli Peterson

Merry Acres Inn Pool Title

Albany, Georgia is filled with adventure for kids of all ages. Wild animals…an aquarium…historical exploration…art opportunities…and plenty of wonderful places to eat! Here is what to do with kids in Albany!

Stay

We gladly called Merry Acres Inn our home while visiting Albany last summer.  Our experience included resting in a spacious suite with hardwood floors, swimming for hours in a mineral-water pool, and dining outdoors on a true southern porch complete with ceiling fans and sweet tea.

Play

We stopped at Albany Welcome Center to learn about the best places for us to visit on our three-day adventure this summer, but found so much more.  We were richly rewarded with a powerful history lesson; learning about Horace King, freed slave and bridge builder, was a highlight for me.  The boys also enjoyed Turtle Grove Play Park, the community-built playground out back.

We walked to Flint River for breathtaking views of the powerful waterway that wreaked havoc on Albany not too long ago.  The city is recovering beautifully, though, and leveraging the river by creating kayak and canoe launch sites right out the back door of the Welcome Center.

Just beside the Welcome Center is RiverFront Park, where my kids splish-splashed the heat away in the Festival Spring Fountain.

Chehaw Park

Chehaw Park

There is a ton of fun and adventure for the entire family at Chehaw Park – more than we were able to do in our short visit. We played on a huge playground, petted a snake, fed a camel, rode through the safari with wild animals, and gazed at an abundance of alligators.  We didn’t even make it to the campsite, nature trails, disc golf, BMX track, bald eagle aviary, or the banks of Lake Chehaw. Whew! This “zoo” is like no other, commissioned by Jim Fowler of Wild Kingdom fame. Don’t miss it.

Flint Riverquarium was borne from the devastation of the 1994 Albany flood.  It is an opportunity for children (and adults) to discern the importance of the natural resources in the area, and the uniqueness of the Flint River watershed. We learned about Blue Holes, watched alligator feedings, peered at shark eggs, and walked with birds through the aviary. It gave our family a great appreciation for the diversity of the Flint River, on which this aquarium resides. Don’t ask the boys if it was educational, though…they only know they had a great time!

ArtPark on Pine

ArtPark on Pine

Artpark on Pine is the only open-air art community in Georgia, and one of only a few in the US.  The building was previously an old auto parts store, but stood empty for a long while.  The city turned it into a venue for local and visiting artists. My boys had a blast watching artists paint and exploring the “graffiti” on the walls and floor. I can only imagine how much more they would have liked it if I had come prepared.  Don’t forget to BYOP – Bring Your Own Paint!

Thronateeska Heritage Center is a science museum, train car display museum, and a planetarium all in one. It teaches visitors about history and exploration in the Albany area, as well as around the south. We were lucky enough to receive a guided tour through the Center. This option is available for anyone for only a nominal fee, and I highly recommend it. Without the tour, we would have enjoyed ourselves, but certainly not as much as we did.  I’m always leery about history centers with my young boys…scared that they are not yet old enough to appreciate the exhibits.  Lisa, our guide, clued right into their ages and took us on a tour that captivated the whole family.

Eat

The following restaurants were kid-friendly, with delicious eats!

Blackbeards. Seafood and BBQ, with a cornucopia of options, and large servings.

Manor House Pub. Located at Merry Acres Inn. Outdoor dining options make this fun for the family.

Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking. Perfect for breakfast. Kids will love the French toast sticks.

Cookie Shoppe. The pimento cheese is perfect, and the fresh-from-the-oven cookies will make a sweet-tooth out of anyone.

Harvest Moon. The pizza sounded amazing, but the His and Her Salads with blackened grouper will bogle your taste-buds. Heaven.

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.