5 Family-Fun Eccentric Excursions in Georgia

This isn’t a complete list of the bit of eccentric excursions we have in Georgia, but it is a compilation of our favorites! What did we miss that you love? Let us know your favorite Georgia travel finds using #ExploreGeorgia on social media!

Old Car City USA (White)

Old Car City USA in White, Ga., is a haven for photographers.

Old Car City USA in White, Ga., is a haven for photographers.

If your kids love old cars and running in the woods, then Old Car City USA works well! It’s also a haven for photographers. You can meander 6 miles of trails or stick to the section near the entrance, which is where the oldest automobiles sit among 4,000 in this classic car junkyard. Don’t skip the second-story museum of “cup art.” See photos from our Old Car City USA visit here.

Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden (Summerville)

Explore Howard Finster's inspiring collection of folk art at Paradise Garden in Summerville.

Explore Howard Finster’s inspiring collection of folk art at Paradise Garden in Summerville.

One of Georgia’s noted art attractions, Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden has acres of folk-art sculptures and paintings to inspire your kiddos. We spent an entire afternoon examining each piece, then stayed the night at nearby Sloppy Floyd State Park, where fishing is a must. See pictures from my boys’ adventure at Howard Finster’s.

Smallest Church in America (South Newport)

The smallest church in America welcomes all visitors!

The smallest church in America welcomes all visitors!

Just off Hwy 95 between St. Simons Island and Savannah is the small town of South Newport. Don’t blink when you drive through or you’ll miss Memory Park Christ Chapel, the Smallest Church in America. It experienced a fire late last year but has since been restored and is even hosting weddings. Kids will adore the 10-foot-by-15-foot church, which is open to all denominations.

BabyLand General Hospital (Cleveland)

See vintage and new Cabbage Patch Kids at BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland.

See vintage and new Cabbage Patch Kids at BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland.

Kids can pick out their favorite Cabbage Patch doll straight from the source at BabyLand General Hospital. Licensed Patch Nurses (LPNs) are available for an adoption consultation. A fathers’ waiting room is available, as well as rocking chairs on expansive Southern porches looking out on the Georgia mountains.

Peanut of Peace (Plains)

Plains on your way to the Peanut of Peace and Jimmy Carter's Boyhood Farm.

Explore Downtown Plains on your way to the Peanut of Peace and Jimmy Carter’s Boyhood Farm.

The world’s second largest peanut stands at 13 feet tall in Plains. It was originally made for display in a 1976 political parade with Jimmy Carter and has stood the test of time. Davis E-Z Shop, on whose property is sits, dubs it the Peanut of Peace. You can visit Jimmy Carter’s Boyhood Home during your visit of the peanut! It’s a special way to sneak some educational travel into a fun adventure.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

Come for UGA Football, Stay for an Athens Weekend

Sanford Stadium in Athens. Photo by Broad Collective

Sanford Stadium in Athens. Photo by Broad Collective

Recently named the “Best Town in College Football” by Athlon Sports, it’s no surprise that visitors can expect much more from Athens than just a Saturday football game. With award-winning food, some of the most sought-after craft beer in the country, a world-renowned music hub, and an eclectic downtown scene, Athens is a city that will require an extended stay. So, come for the UGA football game on Saturday, but arrive early on Friday and stay until Sunday afternoon to experience all Athens has to offer during an ideal fall football weekend.

Friday

UGA's mascot Hairy Dawg. Photo by Mark Smith, visitathensga.com

UGA’s mascot Hairy Dawg. Photo by Mark Smith, visitathensga.com

The game day energy circulating through fans crowded into Sanford Stadium starts long before the first whistle is blown. Start your Friday in Athens by touring the Special Collections Libraries annual exhibit from the UGA Athletic Association archives, this year focusing on the Redcoat Band. This tour is offered on Friday afternoon before each home football game.

The UGA Redcoat Band performs at halftime.

The UGA Redcoat Band performs at halftime.

Move onto downtown Athens that is bursting at its seams with stylish and quirky shops, a variety of bars and music venues, unbeatable dining, and more. The Victorian-era architecture creates an inviting atmosphere for visitors and locals to take a leisurely stroll and explore the local shops.

Grab a bite to eat in downtown Athens.

Grab a bite to eat in downtown Athens.

Grab a bite to eat downtown, as there is no shortage of the traditional “tailgating” delicacies in the area. Visit Amici for wings, Clocked for a great burger or Ted’s Most Best for a yummy slice of artisan pizza. Head up to the rooftop of the Georgia Theatre for unbeatable views, elevated pub fare and a full bar. Venture outside of downtown to Butt Hutt for delicious BBQ, Cali N’ Titos for a Cuban sandwich that will change your life or George’s Lowcountry Table for New Orleans-style dishes. Take a trip to Athens’ award-winning breweries, Terrapin, Creature Comforts, and Southern Brewing, for tours, complete with tastings of their house-crafted brews.

gatheatre

Georgia Theatre

More than two decades since Athens burst on the music scene as the home of the legendary B-52’s, R.E.M. and Widespread Panic, the vibe is as energetic as ever. Downtown’s world-famous musical venues, the heart of this historic college town’s live music scene, will guarantee a one-of-a-kind night out with friends. Weekend evenings are particularly exciting, as clubs like The 40 Watt, The Foundry at Graduate Athens and the Georgia Theatre play host to various musical performances.

Saturday

The University of Georgia campus teems with football fans on game days.

The University of Georgia campus teems with football fans on game days.

The city starts tailgating at the crack of dawn, regardless of kickoff time. Athens will teem with red and black as fans rush to the downtown streets and favorite tailgate spots to get pumped for the game. Just a short walk from downtown, watch thousands of people line the main entrance to Sanford Stadium for the Dawg Walk, right outside of the Tate Plaza, to welcome the players and coaches before warm ups accompanied by the tunes of the Georgia Redcoat Band. While you’re in Tate Plaza, stop by the UGA Bookstore that has everything a Dawg fan could dream of. Then follow as everyone heads to cheer on the boys of fall between the hedges.

Dining options abound in Athens.

Dining options abound in Athens.

Win or lose, everyone needs to eat after the game. Relax in ambient settings from sidewalk and courtyard cafés to dining rooms overlooking the University of Georgia’s historic North Campus, with menus that feature exceptional wines and Italian, sushi, steak, Cajun, and farm-fresh offerings from local Athens growers. For a full list of Athens restaurants, visit http://www.visitathensga.com/restaurants/.

Sunday

Fuel up for the trip home at Mama's Boy in Athens. Photo courtesy Mama's Boy, Facebook.

Fuel up for the trip home at Mama’s Boy in Athens. Photo courtesy Mama’s Boy, Facebook.

Wake up, go out and you’ll realize that Athenians take Sunday brunch seriously. Mama’s Boy is the epitome of “Southern Fun Dining,” complete with Southern breakfast and lunch staples and relaxing digs. Mama’s Boy has been voted Athens’ Favorite Brunch by Flagpole Magazine for the past four years and named one of “The South’s Best Biscuit Joints” by Southern Living magazine, so you can imagine how popular it is — arrive early. Last Resort Grill’s brunch is also a favorite among visitors and normally has a line out the door for their stuffed French toast, shrimp & grits, crab benedict and breakfast enchiladas. Other popular breakfast and brunch options include Donderos’ Kitchen, Preserve, and Heirloom Café.

Extend your visit after brunch and peruse two official state attractions, as Athens is home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Georgia Museum of Art. The Georgia Museum of Art, located on UGA’s East Campus, has a permanent collection of more than 9,000 works of art as well as a variety of traveling exhibitions. The 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia is the perfect place to have a picnic and take a walk on miles of nature trails in cool fall air.

Stroll through the State Botanical Garden for beautiful fall scenery. Photo credit: visitathens.com.

Stroll through the State Botanical Garden for beautiful fall scenery. Photo credit: visitathens.com.

As you can see, your fall football weekend will be packed in Athens. So, it’s only right to spend a little more time in Athens by venturing from your tailgate sport. For information on last-minute hotel availability, parking, tailgating, weekend events and special deals, go to VisitAthensGA.com/football or call the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau at (706) 357-4430. To stay up to date on travel, visitor and event information, follow VisitAthensGA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

khyra-walker-webA devoted Georgia Southern Eagle in Dawg Nation, Khyra Walker took a job as the public relations coordinator for the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau and has fallen in love. The craft beer scene, variety of food options and creative energy are among her favorite things that Athens has to offer.

Where to “Talk to the Animals” in Georgia

If your family is looking to explore their wild side, Georgia is filled with opportunity. From the city to the mountains to the coast, there are a number of places to talk to the animals!

Zoo Atlanta (Atlanta)

Feed the giraffes, go behind the scenes with African elephants, and watch giant pandas in all their cuteness. Zoo Atlanta holds the nation’s largest collection of gorillas, the largest zoological collection of orangutans in the U.S., and many vanishing reptiles and amphibians.

Chehaw (Albany)

Bogart and Audrey at Chehaw Park. Photo from Facebook.

Bogart and Audrey at Chehaw Park. Photo from Facebook.

Pet a python, take the Veldt ride, feed Bogart the Bactrian (two-hump) camel who loves people. Chehaw is a special animal sanctuary that obviously takes pleasure in learning about and growing with their animals. If you can stay longer, then camp or sleep in a cabin in the park for an even more enjoyable adventure. See more photos here.

Yellow River Game Ranch (Lilburn)

25 acres in a rustic setting allow you to pet deer, see black bears, and visit a petting zoo at the Yellow River Game Ranch. I love this location for kids of all ages, but especially smaller kiddos. It isn’t too large or too busy, and keeps the sensory experience in check. Don’t miss Beau, Georgia’s Official Weather Forecaster.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary (Locust Grove)

BLT at Noah's Ark. Photo from Facebook.

BLT at Noah’s Ark. Photo from Facebook.

This animal rehabilitation center south of the city offers FREE admission (donations appreciated.) At Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, you’ll see roaming bison, feisty emu, tons of monkeys and parrots, and the famed trio BLT — the bear, lion and tiger — that live harmoniously together.

North Georgia Zoo (Cleveland)

Lemur at the North Georgia Zoo. Photo from Facebook.

Lemur at the North Georgia Zoo. Photo from Facebook.

400 animals and Georgia’s largest petting zoo make the North Georgia Zoo a fun family daytrip to accompany your mountain adventures.

Wild Animal Safari (Pine Mountain)

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Kids will ADORE this drive-thru animal park. My son said, “I love this more than the zoo because the animals can roam around, but WE are in the cage.” You’ll follow a 3.5-mile paved road through the 220-acre Wild Animal Safari park. You can even purchase food to give the animals as you drive through. You’ll see buffalo, pigs, zebra, emu, deer, giraffe and more. Read more about this fun other and nearby attractions here.

Oatland Island Wildlife Center (Savannah)

At Oatland Island Wildlife Center, animals are exhibited in large natural habitats along a rustic trail through forest and marsh lands. The “Wolf Wilderness” exhibit features gray wolves, armadillos, flying squirrels, screech owls and a selection of reptiles. Along the trail are cougars, bobcats, bison, alligators, red fox and birds of prey. Cows, sheep, goats and rabbits can be viewed in the “Georgia Farm” area.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

Three Awesome Hotel Packages Kids will Love

Just staying in a hotel can be a treat for a child. A TV right across from the bed, a pool to swim in, and perhaps even early evening cookies or a fun waffle machine to make a quick, sweet, delicious breakfast. But these Georgia hotels go above and beyond the simple kid-friendly amenities to offer packages truly unique and special that even parents can enjoy.

Celebrate American Girl-style at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta

American Girl Doll Room

Treat your princess to a stay in an American Girl-themed hotel room in Alpharetta. Photo courtesy of Marriott

A trip to the American Girl Store is a rite of passage for many little girls. To make it even more exciting, book an American Girl room at the Marriott in Alpharetta. Girls have their own check in, with a special welcome packet. Rooms are decorated for both girl and doll and offer a few surprises, too.

Sensational Kids at the Omni Hotel Atlanta

Kids receive cookies and milk on their first night at the Omni Hotel Atlanta.

Kids receive cookies and milk on their first night at the Omni Hotel Atlanta.

The Omni Hotel is located in CNN Center across from Centennial Olympic Park and within easy walking distance to Atlanta’s Downtown attractions like the World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, Center for Civil and Human Rights, College Football Hall of Fame, Children’s Museum of Atlanta, and the Inside CNN Studio Tour. When kids check in to any room type, they receive their very own backpack that includes games and treats. In addition, they’ll receive milk and cookies, delivered to the room on the first night of their stay.

Say Good Knight at the Hampton Inn, Lawrenceville

The breakfast buffet at the Hampton Inn Lawrenceville. Photo from Facebook.

The breakfast buffet at the Hampton Inn Lawrenceville. Photo from Facebook.

After visiting the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament at Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Gwinnett County, junior knights can retire to The Hampton Inn castle across the street. The hotel’s Good Knight Package includes a fully themed hotel room, which includes goodies the kids get to keep, as well as toy knights on horseback and a castle to play with during their stay. All that sword fighting can make you hungry, and the Hampton Inn has an impressive morning breakfast buffet that is included with the room.

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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Daylilies: Stars of Summer Gardens

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga.

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga.

When it comes to summer color in Georgia gardens, daylilies are hard to beat. They are easy to grow, prolific, offer brilliant blooms over a long period of time, tolerate some drought, are mostly free of pest and disease problems, and look great in all types of gardens. These hardy perennials persist in the landscape for years with a minimum of care.

At Gibbs Gardens, there are 300,000 daylily blooms of more than 500 varieties. The early blooming selections begin flowering in June, and the latest flower in August. By planting early, mid and late blooming types, you will have color for months.

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens. Photo by Rick Cannon.

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens. Photo by Rick Cannon.

It’s interesting to note that the scientific name for daylily, Hemerocallis, comes from two Greek words meaning “beauty” and “day.” This aptly describes daylily blooms, which last for one day. The good news is most daylily plants produce a multitude of flowers (from a single plant) over a period of weeks. Some varieties are repeat bloomers, while others flower once in a season.

A Rainbow of Colors

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens. Photo by Rick Cannon.

Daylilies at Gibbs Gardens. Photo by Rick Cannon.

Beyond yellow and orange, which many people associate with daylilies, these beauties come in a rainbow of colors. From the palest (almost white) to the most vibrant, blossoms may be pink, red, crimson, purple, almost true-blue or a blend of colors. There are both single and double flowering types. Both the plants and blooms may be dwarf, tall, large or small.

Daylily-with-dark-center-and-lavender-petals--June-24-web

Companions

vertical-dayliliesDaylilies are effective in groups or as companions with shrubs, perennials and annuals. If planted under trees, make sure they receive adequate moisture (due to root competition from trees). Daylilies provide an effective groundcover for a sunny slope.

In the summer garden, combine them with roses, butterfly bush, Chaste tree or perennials like Asteromea mongolica, the Mongolian aster, garden phox, Phlox paniculata, lambs ears, salvias or wormwood, Artemesia ‘Powis Castle.’ Add them as a complement for annuals including spider flower, Cleome, Pentas, also known as star flower, Scaevola, called fan flower,  and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost.’

Care and Feeding

  1. Choose a site that receives a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of direct sun per day.
  2. Plant them in soil that is moist but well drained. Avoid soggy soils.
  3. Space individual plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
  4. Plant early, mid and late blooming types for a long season of flowers.
  5. Add compost if the soil is too sandy or has a high percentage of clay (does not hold water or holds too much water).
  6. Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch to help control weeds.
  7. Take a soil test. This will help you decide which fertilizer to use.
  8. Apply a granular 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring. Apply another application in late summer or fall if needed.
  9. Water plants deeply (8 to 10 inches) in the early morning. Avoid overhead watering, especially late in the day. This reduces spots on flowers and potential problems.
  10. Daylilies will grow happily in pots; just make sure to give them plenty of space and water on a regular basis.
  11. Divide clumps every three to five years. This keeps plants vigorous and productive. The best time to divide mature clumps is in late summer after they finish blooming.

Daylilies-July-6-2014-web

Visit Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga., June 15 through December 11, Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check the website at www.gibbsgardens.com for a full schedule of events.

ericaErica Glasener is the marketing manager for Gibbs Gardens. A horticulturist, author and lecturer, Erica was the award-winning host of HGTV’s “A Gardener’s Diary” for 14 years. Erica is the author of “Proven Plants: Southern Gardens.” She is also the co-author with Walter Reeves of “Getting Started with Gardening in Georgia,” and “Month-by-Month Gardening in Georgia,” revised edition.