Exploring Helen, Georgia with Kids     

Helen with kids title

Stay

Did you know there are two state parks near Helen? Smithgall Woods State Park is my favorite!  It is a luxurious, fully equipped haven in the woods.  Creekside Cottage sits right on the water’s edge. When we stayed, the sound of the rushing stream eased our woes and brought a peaceful night’s rest.

Unicoi Barrel Cabins

Unicoi Barrel Cabins

Unicoi State Park is also in Helen, with traditional cottages, and lodge, and fun “barrel” cabins, so named because of the shape of the exterior. The barrel cabins were so much fun for the boys, and we enjoyed their charm and proximity to all the Helen activities.

Rooms at Hampton Inn Helen are spacious and clean; we adored the balcony from which we could hear the river. It’s within walking distance to a great number of attractions and eateries (even for the little legs that accompanied me.) The river was only steps from the back of the hotel, and we spent immeasurable time throwing pebbles and dipping our toes in the cool water.  It’s definitely THE hotel to stay in when visiting Helen!

Looking for more about our travels to Helen? Check out more details here: 365atlantafamily.com/helen

Hofers

Play

I recommend beginning your adventure with Alpine Carriage Company.  My boys loved riding the horse around the small town and feeding him a carrot afterward.  It’s a wonderful way to get your bearings, if you’ve never visited before.

Stop by Charlemagne’s Kingdom to see a model railway. Alpine Mini Golf is a unique way to enjoy the sunshine, and you can finish your game at Scoop de Scoop Ice Cream Parlor, which is adjacent to the mini golf.  Inside resembles an old-school soda shop, and outdoor seating is kid-friendly and fun for watching other golfers.

Did you know Sautee, neighbor to Helen, was named one the ‘100 Best Small Art Towns in America?” The Sautee Nacoochee Center includes a theatre, a history museum, dance and art studios, an art gallery, a folk art pottery museum, and an environmental educational resource center. The history museum was a win for my boys.

If you want to get some hiking in, try Dukes Creek Falls or Anna Ruby Falls. Anna Ruby is paved and short, good for strollers and young kiddos. Dukes Creek is less crowded and more rugged, but was still manageable by my young guys.

Old Sautee Market

Old Sautee Store

Eat

Here’s a secret…Old Sautee Market is my favorite lunch spot with the kids, and I stop every time we are in the area. Try the grilled cheese with farmer’s cheese, bacon, and tomato! The boys enjoy eating outside with the bubbles and space to run. Stop in the adjacent Old Sautee Store to look around, and be sure to ask the owner to play the antique music machine.

Stop by Hofer’s Bakery and Café for a great breakfast or lunch. Eat dinner near the water at Troll Tavern, or sample authentic German fare at Bodense.

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.

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.

hodgepodge4

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.