Georgia National Fair Food is the Best Food

Georgia National Fair Cotton Candy

Photo by GDEcD Photography

The Georgia National Fair is just around the corner, and my girls and I are so excited to attend. From October 8 -18, the Georgia National Fairgrounds will be transformed into a family fun zone-jammed packed with street entertainers, live shows, nightly fireworks and, of course, lots and lots of food. Although I do enjoy the rides and exhibits, I’m really looking forward to walking through the midway and smelling all of that delicious fair food. There will be so many to choose from, like hot and crispy funnel cakes, savory corn dogs, light-as-air cotton candy and those giant smoked turkey legs.

Georgia Grown logoBut remember, the highlight of the Georgia National Fair: visiting the Georgia Grown building and Country Store. Because the fair was originally created to promote Georgia farmers, it’s no surprise that each year many of our Georgia family farmers showcase their products in the Georgia Grown building. While you’re there, check the schedule for educational seminars about agriculture and interactive cooking demonstrations by top Georgia chefs.

You won’t be able to resist picking up your authentic Georgia Grown commodity. Home to Georgia Grown products like jelly and preserves from Destiny Organics, spiced pecans from Cindy Lutini’s, and cookbooks by Georgia authors, the Country Store should be a definite stop for samples and holiday gifts. Look for the orange and green Georgia Grown sticker to know that you’re buying Georgia Grown.

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. Stop by the Georgia Grown Building Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. to see her lead a cooking demonstration at the Georgia National Fair. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

4 Must-Have Outdoor Adventures in Augusta

Mix outdoor adventure with Southern hospitality, sprinkle with a vibrant art scene and warm it up with sunshine. That’s the recipe for Augusta! Georgia’s second-oldest city aged gracefully, treasuring historic landmarks and a hometown feel, while embracing the youthful energy of nature and the arts. Add these must-have outdoor adventures to your Georgia bucket list.

Biking Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

biking in Phinizy Swamp

Photo by Candy Cook

Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a fun way to experience Augusta’s natural beauty. The park offers 14 miles of trails weaving through 1,000 acres of beautiful wetlands. The trail network includes tree-shaded creekside paths, winding boardwalks with overlooks, and loops featuring wide-open vistas. We met a group of cyclists for a guided bike tour. The leisurely bike ride is a unique addition to exploring the park. Our guide led us along scenic trails and over bridges, stopping to point out wildlife at observation decks along the way.

Urban hiking the riverwalk & exploring downtown

Augusta Riverwalk

Photo by Candy Cook

Augusta is such a unique blend of historic Southern charm and eclectic modern artistry that exploring downtown is a must. Classic storefronts, outdoor dining, and a gorgeous riverwalk lend a friendly, hometown feel to the city. The riverwalk follows along the Savannah River, linking gardens and playgrounds for six blocks. Art is everywhere in this city. In fact, artists have transformed over 20 of Augusta’s boring traffic signal boxes into colorful masterpieces. View the, “Art The Box,” map to add them all to your urban hike.

Kayaking Augusta Canal

Augusta Canal kayak

Photo by Candy Cook

Perfect for paddlers of all ages and skill, Augusta Canal flows at a gentle pace past historic landmarks and wildlife refuge. Float along lazily for nearly seven miles, sighting turtles, otters, and blue heron among wetlands and veils of Spanish moss. Drop in at Savannah Rapids Park with an affordable kayak rental for the paddle to Lake Olmstead. A shuttle conveniently carries paddlers back to the park after their journey down Augusta Canal.

Playing a round at the International Disc Golf Center

International Disc Golf Center

Photo by Candy Cook

In addition to being well-known for its historic ties to the Masters Golf Tournament, Augusta is home to the International Disc Golf Center. Disc golf is similar to traditional golf, except disc golf players play by throwing frisbee-like discs into baskets. It’s a fun game for the whole family that adds a cool twist to a walk in the woods. The International Disc Golf Center is located in Wildwood Park, where players camp out and enjoy playing rounds on several unique courses. There’s also a museum showcasing the history of frisbees and disc golf, as well as a store full of high-quality discs to collect.

Where to Stay & Eat

The Partridge Inn

The Partridge Inn

Photo by Candy Cook

Since 1910, five generations of travelers have been greeted with the best of Southern hospitality at The Partridge Inn. The iconic hotel offers a rich history, great service, and the best view overlooking beautiful Augusta. In true southern style, the hotel features large balconies, outdoor gatherings, and comfortable rooms.


Luigi’s is the oldest family-owned restaurant in Augusta, serving up authentic Italian and Greek meals since 1949. This local favorite is a can’t-miss dining experience with delicious food and relaxed, small town atmosphere.

The Pizza Joint

Make sure to grab a custom slice at The Pizza Joint for an inexpensive lunch. The laid-back Pizza Joint features a large outdoor eating area that makes a perfect addition to an urban hike of downtown Augusta.

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.

15 Georgia State Parks for Autumn Color

Rich reds, vibrant oranges and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful. This fall, be sure to visit Georgia’s top 15 state parks for leaf watching. For quieter getaways, visitors can explore parks further south, which can offer pretty autumn color as well.

Amicalola Falls State Park – Dawsonville
Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall.  The falls can be enjoyed from both easy and difficult trails. A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views. There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top. For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase. Amicalola Falls gets very busy on pretty October weekends. Pumpkin farms and apple orchards are nearby.

Autumn Color at Amicalola Fall State Park

West Ridge Trail, Amicalola Falls | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton
At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. If driving Hwy. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Near Chattanooga
One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails. A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.

Don Carter State Park – Lake Lanier
Georgia’s newest state park opened in 2013 on Lake Lanier, protecting a beautiful hardwood forest and many miles of shoreline. If you have a boat, this would be a great park to enjoy fall color from the water. A short, paved (and quite hilly) trail is open to bikes and foot traffic. Another trail is open to hikers only.

Autumn Color at Black Rock Mountain State Park

Black Rock Mountain | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

F. D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain
Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley. Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth
This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty, green lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail.  Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.

Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge
Kayak tours of this park’s lake let you enjoy autumn color from a different perspective. Sign up for a ranger-led paddle or rent a canoe to explore on your own. Mountain bikers can explore 10 miles of trails ranging from beginner to experienced. This park is easily reached from I-20 exit 105.

Autumn Color at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park – Summerville
This park near Rome is a good choice for families with young children. An easy walk circles a fishing lake, and kids enjoy feeding fish from the boardwalk. Older children will like the Marble Mine Trail which leads to a small waterfall with a pretty blue-green tint. Serious hikers can explore the nearby 330-mile Pinhoti Trail.

Moccasin Creek State Park – Lake Burton
Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake.  Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower. Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.

Red Top Mountain State Park – Lake Allatoona
Just 40 minutes north of Atlanta you’ll find a variety of trails with nice fall color. The easy, flat 4-mile Iron Hill Loop is open to bikes and foot traffic, offering great views of the lake and forest. Another good choice for lake views is the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail. Families with young children will like the paved walking path behind the park office. Be sure to explore the log cabin and blacksmith shed.

Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen
Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color. Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls. A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees. This park is near many wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs
Just west of Atlanta you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful creek and small lake. For an easy walk, take the popular 1-mile Red Trail which follows the creek to the ruins of an old mill. For more of a workout, continue past the mill to the Blue Trail, where you’ll climb steep bluffs for outstanding creek views. Sign up for a guided hike to learn more about this park’s Civil War history. A new yurt village opens September 2015.

Autumn Color at Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Near Clayton
Tallulah is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom.  During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.” Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.

Unicoi State Park – Helen
Avoid Oktoberfest crowds in Helen by hiking a pretty 3-mile trail which leads from the park into town. You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead. Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)

Vogel State Park – Blairsville
The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake. For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall. The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.

Kim Hatcher

Kim Hatcher has handled media relations for Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites since 1993. She grew up in Smyrna, Ga., and earned her journalism degree from the University of Georgia. She and her husband enjoy camping, hiking, paddling and exploring the great outdoors. Kim works with reporters and travel writers, manages the park system’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and serves as a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

3 Reasons to Visit Georgia’s Farms in October

Conestoga wagons at The Rock Ranch

Conestoga wagons at The Rock Ranch

Want to get out of the city for a day or a weekend? Georgia’s farms provide the perfect excuse to have an in-state staycation this autumn.

The weather is cooler and so are the overnight accommodations. Book a late autumn stay at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton and enjoy a country retreat surrounded by sheep, chickens, cows and geese. Their cabin and guesthouse retreats give you the perfect base to explore Georgia Grown Trail 37, the state’s premier agritourism path that includes farms, dairies, vineyards, wineries and farm tours.

Everyone loves picking apples. Even if you say you don’t, you probably are a fan of their end products like cider, pies and caramel apples. The Apple Festival in Ellijay is the perfect excuse to head up to the hills and indulge in apple picking, apple tasting, cider swilling and pie eating. Click here to find apple picking destination recommendations from Smart Travel Explorer Sue Rodman.

They have more than just food and animals. In addition to being a working farmThe Rock Ranch in The Rock is also a family-friendly attraction featuring zip lines, a rock climbing wall, petting zoo, carousel and much more. Plus, each autumn weekend they host themed festival-like events, including Lumberjack Day and the Hot Air Balloon Rally. Add to your experience by spending the night in one of The Rock Ranch’s Farm Stays or camping in a Conestoga Wagon.

Crane Creek Vineyard

Crane Creek Vineyard. Photo courtesy of

Need another excuse to visit a Georgia farm? It’s harvest time at local wineries! Enjoy the sweet smell of the grape harvest season while tasting your way from winery to winery this autumn.

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.

Exploring ABC’s Nashville in Georgia

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the air is getting cooler, and our favorite shows are back on the air. Watching ABC’s Nashville makes me yearn for a trip to Music City. But why go so far when you can visit Nashville right here in Georgia.

The city of Nashville, Georgia is located in Berrien County just a short drive off I-75 in South Georgia. It’s a picture perfect quaint Southern town with a 100- year-old courthouse surrounded by brick sidewalks, boutiques, and a park that is a gathering place for locals. It’s the kind of place that might be the impetus for a good country song or two.

Old Berrien County Jail in Nashville, Georgia

Old Berrien County Jail | Photo courtesy of the Berrien County Historical Foundation

Johnny Cash sang about the Folsom Prison Blues, but in Nashville, Georgia, the jail included gallows. The Old Berrien County Jail was built in 1903 and now is on the National Register of Historic Places. The infamous gallows, was the site of the last hanging in Berrien County. Make a reservation for a weekday tour of the Old Berrien County Jail at the Historical Foundation office in the old courthouse. It’s free.

Horse Creek Winery in Nashville, Georgia

Photo courtesy of Horse Creek Winery

Every good country song has a bit of drinking involved. In Nashville, Georgia, visit the original location for Horse Creek Winery, which also has a second location in nearby Sparks. Come sit a spell on the rocking chair porch, or visit Wed. – Sat. for the wine tasting and tour. Take your time as you enter the lodge to admire the French mural, or sit at the handcrafted bar and look out over the 40 acres of muscadine vines. Ed and Andrea Perry make gracious hosts.

The best place near Nashville, Georgia to jot down your latest lyrics on a napkin is Rays Mill Pond. Rays is famous for fish dinners with all the trimmings. If you like to walk the line a bit, try the Gator dinner topped off with some homemade banana pudding.

To learn more about what to do in Southwest Georgia, visit Field Trips with Sue.

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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