All Day (And All Night) at The Rock Ranch

The Rock RanchThe Rock Ranch is amazing farm fun for the entire family! We visited in late spring, and I was mesmerized by how much there was to do!

SUMMER – Pick raspberries or blackberries and enjoy homemade strawberry ice cream from the Farm Market. Try your hand at Cane Pole Fishing or take a Paddle Boat on the lake. And don’t miss the Celebrate America fireworks celebration.

FALL – Watch cowboy stunt performers, relax under the giants of a hot air balloon rally, or explore first-responder vehicles like firetrucks, police cars and more. Don’t miss the fun on National Pumpkin Destruction Day where you can demolish your pumpkins with monster trucks or canons.

WINTER – Enjoy a special dinner and shopping event with a Santa workshop, tour the country Christmas lights (FREE!) or ride The Rock Ranch Christmas Express. Don’t miss the popular breakfast or lunch with Santa, or stretch your legs during the Country Christmas in Lights 5K and Fun Run.

SPRING – Celebrate at the annual Strawberry Festival, and don’t miss berry-picking Saturdays. Enjoy a free Easter Egg Hunt, or have your little one bring their favorite doll for the Dolly & Me Party.

fishing

CONESTOGA WAGONS – Camp in an unforgettable way – in a Conestoga wagon! With eight bunks, there is plenty of room to bring your friends. Sit around the fire roasting marshmallows and commiserating with the nearby cows.

FARM STAY – Looking to explore The Rock Ranch in something a little more modern? Try a stay at one of four “Southern Living” quality homes. Enjoy a private pool, linens, a modern kitchen with appliances, washer and dryer and much more.

Read more about all we did when visiting The Rock Ranch at 365atlantafamily.com/TheRockRanch and about our Conestoga wagon stay at 365atlantafamily.com/ConestogaWagonCamping.

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.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

When you head to Georgia’s Coast this Independence Day holiday, there’s much more to do than just see fireworks. The state’s coastal towns have their own annual Fourth of July celebrations in addition to other family-friendly festivals and events planned.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, Inc.

Brunswick
Summer Classic Movies at the Ritz (July 2, 2015) – Get into the patriotic spirit by stopping by The Ritz Theatre to see a showing of the classic James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Brunswick’s Old Fashioned 4th of July (July 4, 2015) – Mary Ross Waterfront Park is home to an evening filled with family-friendly fun. There will be free watermelon slices, live musical entertainment, games and a fireworks display set to patriotic music to wrap up the evening.

Darien
Red, White & Blues on the Bluff (July 3, 2015) – Hosted by the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce, this festival invites residents and visitors to the shores of the river to listen to live bands and chow down on food from vendors while they wait for the fireworks display to start.

Canons Across the Marsh at Fort King George Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Artillery drills, musket firing and activities to get you better acquainted with a soldier’s life are on the schedule for this Independence Day at the Site. Also, free watermelon and lemonade will be served.

Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island Independence Day Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Jekyll Island will be celebrating the holiday all day on July 4th with beaches open and historical grounds begging for exploration. In the evening, gather near the Jekyll Island Convention Center to see the fireworks display.

Sunday Funday on Jekyll Island (July 5, 2015) – Bring a picnic from a local restaurant or snack shop and spend the afternoon on the Village Green where there will be a magician and face painter ready to entertain the kids.

Midway
Independence Day Colonial Faire at For Morris Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Offering period appropriate games of skill, colonial music, musket firings, cannon firings and the usual park recreation opportunities, you family’s day at the park also comes with free admission in honor of the holiday.

Richmond Hill
Independence Day Celebration at Fort McAllister State Park (July 4, 2015) – Bring your family to the park to celebrate Independence Day like it’s 1864. There will be games, food, living history demonstrations, canon firing and musket demonstrations throughout the day in addition to the park’s other recreational activities.

Savannah
River Street Fourth of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Starting at 4 p.m. town visitors and residents are invited to River Street to celebrate Independence Day, Savannah style. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at dark.

Starland District’s First Friday Art March (July 3, 2015) – Explore local art and culture by experiencing the monthly art walk. July’s March will include an indie market, kids art activities and free trolley service.

Sea Island
The resort community has family-friendly fun planned from July 1-5, 2015 including the Family Olympics, the Ice Cream Sundae Challenge, a fun run, barbecue, luau, parade, fireworks and much more! The entire schedule of events is available as a PDF here.

St. Marys
4th of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Family-friendly fun lasts all day long on Independence Day in the quaint Georgia town of St. Marys. From a parade to arts and crafts to food vendors to rides for kids to a street dance, there’s something for everyone. At night, there will be one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southeastern United States lighting up the sky.

St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival (July 3-5, 2015) – Pier Village is home to the festival that highlights the region’s best art including painting, pottery, jewelry, woodcraft, photography and garden art in addition to the annual 1 mile fun run, 5K race and July 4th fireworks display.

A Little Light Music Concert featuring Mason Waters and the Groove Allstars (July 5, 2015) – Locals and visitors are invited to gather on the grounds of the historic St. Simons Lighthouse for an evening concert before heading to face the workweek.

Tybee Island
Fourth of July Fireworks on the Pier (July 3, 2015) – You can spend your day on the beach, visiting friends, and taking advantage of local dining but be sure to leave enough time to head to the Pier on Tybee Island where they’ll shoot off fireworks around 9:00 p.m. on Independence Day.

Market at the Light House (July 5, 2015) – Shake off the Saturday revelry for a relaxing morning browsing the food, goods and more at the market.


Eileen
Eileen 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.

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.

Family Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Chattahoochee Bend Observation Tower

Chattahoochee Bend Observation Tower

When this outdoor family celebrates a birthday, we invite our friends to a campout. Our most recent family camping party took place at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan. The park’s camping options meet a wide variety of adventure needs, including separate campgrounds for RVs and tent campers. I also love the seclusion of the paddle-in primitive sites on the Chattahoochee River and the hike-in platform sites. But, for this party, we chose to make camp at a shady tent site in Campground 2.

Chattahoochee River

Chattahoochee River

The park offers canoe rentals and several miles of hiking trails that meander along the river. We spotted many deer, turtles, frogs, and lizards while exploring the trails. Our hike of the Riverside Trail led us through a chorus of frogs to an observation tower overlooking the river. But, the one-mile Flat Rock Trail is the must-see hike of Chattahoochee Bend. Winding through the pines, this easy trail lets hikers explore the rock outcrops and colorful wildflowers of the region.

Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Tent Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Chattahoochee Bend is prepared for families with unique playgrounds, picnic areas, and a collection of fun things for guests to borrow. When checking in at the visitor center, make sure you check out some of these items to liven up your camp, for free.

Board and card games – We snagged the Apples to Apples card game for a roaring good time around the campfire. Other selections include UNO, playing cards, Candyland, and more.

Binoculars – Chattahoochee Bend is a birdwatcher’s paradise! Get started by borrowing a pair of binoculars and talking to the friendly staff about which birds are currently flying around the park.

Telescope – The darker skies, away from city lights, make Chattahoochee Bend the perfect place to set up a telescope. You can even borrow one for your campout!

Fishing gear – The park offers fishing rods and tackle boxes to help families give fishing a chance. My boys borrowed the gear and headed to the riverbank to catch catfish. Guests can also rent a kayak or canoe to get out on the water.

DVDs – A newer addition to the park, RVers can choose from some popular movies for evening entertainment.

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.

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.