Weekend Itinerary: Callaway Gardens with Kids

callaway with kids

Spring and summer at Callaway Gardens are beautiful, with gorgeous flowers, beach fun, and plenty of indoor escapes to beat the heat. Here is where to stay, play, and eat at this Pine Mountain escape.


The Southern Pine Cottages perfectly adheres to family needs, with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a roomy living space. We especially love the screened in back patio and charcoal grill, and the fireplace is cozy in winter months.

Additional overnight options in Callaway Gardens include Mountain Creek Inn, Mountain Creek Villas, or The Lodge and Spa at Callaway. The cabins at nearby FDR State Park are spacious, as well. 2015-04-11 11.15.46


Rent bikes and ride (or hike) through the gardens. We were there recently, during peak azalea season, and the color danced from pink to white to red to orange as we walked along the trails. Don’t miss the hydrangea garden during summer, too.

Our recent visit introduced us to the Horticultural Center, where we spent several hours. We relaxed on the outdoor swings, followed the boys through the children’s trail, and walked over the waterfall. The boys saw bananas, orchids, cactus and more. And we picked up a few souvenirs at the plant sale.

We danced with the “flying colors” at the Cecil B Day Butterfly Center. Don’t miss the movie on butterflies, and the chrysalis on display, which are just as colorful as the butterflies themselves.

Don’t miss the falcon, hawk and owls at the Birds of Prey Show. The owl flew right over our heads!

This summer, head to Robin Lake Beach. The kids can swim or play on the playground. There are giant chess and checkers sets, mini golf, table tennis, and shuffleboard. Don’t miss the warm weather fun from, like Aqua Island, Flying High Circus, paddle boats, the waterslide, bouncy house, Trapeze Adventure, and so much more. 2015-04-11 11.18.28


We ate most of our meals in our Southern Pine Cottage. You don’t want to miss the treats around the gardens, but you can also save some dough by making your own meals.

The Country Kitchen offers three meals daily; it’s a favorite breakfast stop for our family. The pancakes are my favorite, topped with blueberries. The boys are huge fans of the French toast.

If you visit on a Friday evening, try the Classic Southern Buffet at The Plant Room Restaurant. Our family devoured the fried chicken! And the pecan pie! There is an Italian buffet on Saturdays and a breakfast buffet, as well.

Right down the road from our Southern Pine Cottage was the Rockin’ Robin Malt Shop. It’s a fun spot for the kids to grab a snack or some ice cream.

Other options include The Gardens Restaurant, The Vineyard Green, The Discovery Café, Champions Grille, and the Robin Lake Beach Pavilion & Beach Bar.

I have barely scratched the surface with all there is to do at Callaway Gardens! We recently visited with the grandparents, and it was the perfect multigenerational weekend escape. You can read about that here: 365atlantafamily/callaway

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.

Craft Beer-Flavored Cake in Cumming, Georgia

yoss collagecolor2

Have you cake and eat it too?

It’s a known fact that everything tastes better with beer, but how about infused in dessert?  With over 35 years of baking experience, Michael of Yoss Baking, has teamed together with local brewery Cherry Street Brewing to create one of a kind craft-beer flavored cakes for Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar in Cumming, GA. Proof is found here that when Georgia businesses collaborate together they create other world phenomena.

Yoss Bakery:

Yoss is a delicious wholesale bakery that services Atlanta’s own restaurants, country clubs, hotels and the well-known Delta Airlines with delicious treats for your international flights. Starting in the 1940’s, Yoss Brothers Baking Corporation and became one of New York City’s preeminent wholesale bakery later traveling south to become a multi-award winning bakery. Today Yoss has great clientele and growing in scale with the ability to service full chain restaurants and varieties of independent coffee shops. With his expansion he seeks to find national customers and expand distribution and has every intent to conquer.


Cherry Street Brewing Company and Rick Tanner’s Bar and Grill:

Rick Tanner’s Grill and Bar opened in 1986 spreading to 20 locations- the latest in Cumming, GA. Today, Rick gladly partners with his son, Nick who returned back to his roots to open a thriving brewpub known as Cherry Street Brewing. Their successful tag team opened doors on 12-12-2012, a date that marks history and their motto “know your brewer”, stemming from Nick and Rick’s strong belief in educating their customers about beer quality and sharing support with charity organizations.

The Collaborative:

With a passion for community and craft beer, Yoss Baking and Cherry Street Brewing have been collaborating decadent beer infused desserts for Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar since 2013. One of the full time cakes on the menu at Tanner’s Grille and Bar, the Coconut Porter Cake, is a personal favorite with decadent chocolate pudding separating triple layer chocolate cakes baked with the Chief Sawnee’s Stash Coconut Porter. As if that’s not drool worthy enough, it’s additionally coated in a chocolate butter cream frosting and toasted coconut flakes. Yoss shares how his magical creation sparked from the trial and error of many different ingredients, “We started with the New York Blackout Cake made with liquid coffee and exchanged it for Cherry Street’s Coconut Porter. Getting the correct measurements was trial and error until we found something praise worthy.” With great success, Yoss Baking, Rick Tanner’s and Cherry Street Brewing have created a variety of other seasonal flavored cakes such as their Pumpkin Pie Porter perfect for a fall cake and a Double Expresso Chocolate Oatmeal Stout fitting for winter cake.  Their creations don’t stop there; the team is currently scheming an upcoming seasonal spring cake featuring their unique Guava Ale releasing in May.

Beer and baked goods are rapidly becoming bedfellows- at least for the adult crowd.  Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar, located in Cumming, has a wise slogan “Life is short, eat dessert first” and we couldn’t agree more after personally tasting the Coconut Porter Cake! Want to try these craft beer cakes for yourself? Visit Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar located at 5810 Bond Street or on their website.  Click here to know more about the cake master himself.

marnie and ICo-authors Jen Schliestett and Marnie Williams work on behalf of Captivate Search Marketing, a Georgia based SEO Marketing Agency based in Decatur, GA who delivers quality consumer news to the businesses they love.



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The Perfect Foodie Weekend in Athens, Georgia

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of  Matt Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier

With nearly 200 bars and restaurants throughout the city, Athens’ is a food lover’s paradise. You can walk to most places, bar hop to your heart’s content and find everything from soul food to sushi. And despite the city’s small-town feel, there’s some culinary heavyweight names to be found, like Hugh Acheson of 5&10, the poster child for elevated Southern cuisine, responsible for putting Athens on the culinary map.

Perhaps the best way to explore the culinary mecca is on the Athens Food Tour, a delicious journey through Athens’ best establishments that allows guests to not only try the food, but meet the chefs and restaurateurs behind the plates. If you’d rather explore on your own—follow this weekend itinerary for the perfect foodie weekend in Athens.


Breakfast at Independent Baking Co.: Athens and European towns have many things in common (see above for proof!), but this teeny bakery in Five Points seals the deal. Made from scratch on premises and baked fresh daily, the counter service bakery offers up dozens of bread varieties (hearth-baked rolls, fruit-studded ryes and yeast-leavened breads) and pastries (I’m partial to the apple and cheese Danish), alongside espresso drinks. Word to the wise: Independent’s closed Sundays and Mondays.

Deviled Ham at Heirloom. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Deviled Ham at Heirloom. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Lunch at Heirloom Café & Fresh Market: There’s perhaps no other restaurant in town more dedicated to local sourcing and sustainable agriculture than Heirloom, a family-run, seemingly open all-day café serving up homestyle plates of Southern classics. Though the menu changes frequently, the mustard-heavy deviled ham and the carrot cake pancakes are must-tries if they’re listed.

Oysters at Seabar. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Oysters at Seabear. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Happy Hour at Seabear Oyster Bar: Chef Patrick Stubbers’ outstanding seafood-centric spot, the brainchild of the folks behind the National, excels in so many ways, from the impressive variety of sustainably-grown oysters to the often Asian-influenced small plates (don’t leave without trying the chicken tonkatsu steamed bun), the perfectly paired wine list and an addictive negroni slushy.

Dinner at The National: Though this decidedly casual neighborhood hotspot sources from local farmers and takes up residence in a restored 1950s Plymouth car dealership in downtown Athens, The National feels more like the kind of café you’d find in Spain. At once intimate and bustling, the restaurant, which is run by chef Peter Dale and bar master Chris Luken (Hugh Acheson is also a co-owner), shines with Mediterranean-inspired plates, like boquerones, where sharp anchovies comingle with pickled chiles and tangy caperberries atop tomato-garlic-rubbed toast, offering the perfect crunch.

Normaltown Bar Crawl: Downtown Athens is often filled with partying college kids—so when you’re looking for a proper cocktail, head to the nearby neighborhood of Normaltown, a one-block radius home to three of Athens’ best watering holes: Hi-Lo Lounge (where simple cocktails are simply done well), Normal Bar (don’t miss the outdoor patio) and The Old Pal (their namesake cocktail is not to be missed).


Farmcart at the Athens Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Farmcart at the Athens Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Breakfast at the Athens Farmer’s Market: When the sun is shining, there’s no better place to spend the morning than this warm and welcoming farmer’s market—expect a festive mix of growers offering up in-season produce (all of which is either Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown) alongside unique prepared foods, local artisans, live music, coffee from local roaster 1000 Faces and the Farm Cart food truck (don’t miss their buttermilk biscuits).

Beer Tasting & Tour at Creature Comforts: Terrapin has long had a stronghold on Athens’ beer scene, but there’s a new kid in town, and they’ve already taken Classic City by storm. Creature Comforts has four year-round beers (their fruit-forward American IPA, Tropicalia, has already won a slew of prestigious beer awards), plus a handful of seasonal and limited release brews. And their gorgeous downtown brewery (it’s in the former Snow Tire shop) is open for tours and tastings, often alongside events like the Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays) and flea markets.

Dinner at The Branded Butcher: Made-from-scratch cooking principles, a commitment to sustainable sourcing and deliciously playful twists on comfort food classics (think hotdog mac-and-cheese, made-in-house charcuterie and scotch-eggs wrapped in housemade sausage) make The Branded Butcher one of the most exciting dining experiences in town. Chef Trey Rayburn’s food can also be found next door, on the rooftop patio over Georgia Theater.

Steamed pork bun at The World Famous. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Steamed pork bun at The World Famous. Photo courtesy of Matt Kordsmeier.

Late Night at The World Famous: Being a college town, there’s no shortage of late night eats in Athens, but for something chef-driven and much more delicious than those stale hot dog stands, head to The World Famous, where a globally-inspired menu is made up exclusively of dishes meant to be eaten with your hands. Be sure to try the spicy fried chicken club sandwich (it’s served on a waffle bun!) and the flavor-packed steamed pork buns. Live music is the cherry on top.

Book a Room at Hotel Indigo: Despite a plethora of brand name hotel rooms located right downtown, there’s no better spot to stay in Athens than this boutique property. It’s centrally located, adorned with unique art, stocked with local coffee from Jittery Joe’s, pet-friendly and one of only 15 hotels awarded LEED Gold Certification by USGBC.

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

Discover Dahlonega, Georgia

Downtown Dahlonega

Downtown Dahlonega

Each spring, visitors from all over Georgia gather in Dahlonega to celebrate Southern Appalachian culture at the annual Bear on the Square Mountain Festival.

This year’s festival takes over downtown Dahlonega April 18th and 19th and will feature live bluegrass and heritage music performances, a juried Artists Marketplace featuring mountain crafts, free music workshops/demonstrations, storytelling; Master Classes for string musicians, Gospel Jam, an old-time mountain dance, kids activities, and more. Admission is free to all festival events, except the Master Classes.

While you’re discovering Dahlonega, be sure to save room for a nibble of fudge from The Fudge Factory and be sure to explore the Dahlonega General Store (bring a quarter for their player piano)- two of my favorite things to do with family in Dahlonega’s Downtown District.

Frogtown Cellars. Photo courtesy of Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Frogtown Cellars. Photo courtesy of Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Nestled into the foothills surrounding Dahlonega are several of North Georgia’s wineries. If you want to stay in the downtown area but still taste the local wine, visit one of the many tasting rooms. To save money, be sure to pick up your Downtown Dahlonega Wine Walk Passport at the Dahlonega Visitors Center, which, at $25 saves you $15 on four tastings per person at five local tasting rooms.

Many of the local wineries offer beautiful views of the rolling hills along with tastes of their growing offerings featuring a wide variety of whites, reds, rosés, and ice wine. Hours vary by winery so be sure to check them individually before you set off on your journey.

Consolidated Gold Mines. Photo courtesy of Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce

Consolidated Gold Mines. Photo courtesy of Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce

Expand your outdoor adventure learning about and seeing Dahlonega’s role in Georgia’s Gold Rush while visiting a mine,  hiking to one of the region’s many waterfalls, or getting up close to exotic animals at a wildlife preserve or petting zoo. 

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.

Bucket List Adventure: Okefenokee Swamp

Photo courtesy of S. Heisey/USFWS

Photo courtesy of S. Heisey/USFWS

Get ready for a bucket list adventure along the water trails of Okefenokee Swamp. The largest blackwater swamp in North America, Okefenokee has a lot to explore. Discover the secrets of the swamp paddling these waterways to remote campsites under the starry skies.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge offers seven platforms and three islands for wilderness camping. Campers pack a canoe or kayak and paddle up to 12 miles before setting up camp in the swamp. Wilderness camping gives us the opportunity to see the nocturnal swamp come to life and experience the mysteries of the trembling earth.

It’s easy to unplug and getaway from it all, surrounded by such a diverse natural community. Everything about the swamp is mesmerizing. I made my first sightings of wild alligators and Pileated woodpeckers in Okefenokee. I stood beneath a sky twinkling with stars I had never seen and watched my sons light up at the surprise of frogs galore.

Photo courtesy of S. Heisey/USFWS

Photo courtesy of S. Heisey/USFWS

Wilderness camping in Okefenokee can accommodate groups up to 20 and reservations are required. It’s easy to get a wilderness camping permit and make reservations by calling the Canoe Line. You can even rent canoes for your adventure!

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Canoe Line: 912-496-3331 Weekdays, between the hours of 7AM-10AM EST.

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.