Brunswick Gets All Shook Up 

By Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Photo Courtesy of  Georgia Elvis Festival

Photo Courtesy of Georgia Elvis Festival

Brunswick is about to be all shook up by the annual Georgia Elvis Festival, coming to town March 12-15, 2015.

Locals and visitors are invited to put on their blue suede shoes and stroll along downtown Brunswick where shop windows will be decorated featuring the King of Rock and Roll and stop to listen to live performances in Brunswick’s town squares and Mary Ross Park for ol’ times sake. Additionally there will be two Vegas-style Elvis shows.

While you’re in town for the festival, you’ll be sure to be shoppin’ around at the locally owned stores in the Brunswick Old Town Historic District and on Mallory Street in St. Simons Island or going beyond the reef dining at one of the local seafood restaurants. My favorite laid-back restaurant in the area, Half Shell, is just across the causeway on St. Simons Island.

Heading to Brunswick with your sweetheart? Be sure to snap a selfie at Lover’s Oak (at Prince and Albany Streets), a 900-year old tree said to be the place where Native Americans would meet their romantic partners before England’s colonization of the land.

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.

5 Spring Break Destinations that Won’t Break the Bank

By Susan Rodman

Spring Break. The perfect time for parents and kids to recharge before the crazy, jam packed, marathon that is the end-of-school. Planning a spring break vacation on a budget can be daunting, but it’s perfectly doable, if you know where to look. Here are five spring break destinations in Georgia that won’t break the bank.

Panola Mountain State Park

Panola Mountain State Park

Georgia State Parks: There is no better value than a Georgia State Parks vacation. I like to call them my ‘yes’ vacations. Whatever anyone wants to do, the answer is yes, because everything is so affordable. We’ve canoed at George T. Bagby State Park, learned archery at Panola Mountain State Park, rode horses at FDR, and studied the water at Amicalola State Park. With the first time camper program, you can get everything you need for your trip, and get help setting it up.

Photo courtesy of The King & Prince Resort

The King & Prince Resort

Golden Isles, GA Between Jekyll Island and St. Simon’s Island, there is lots of free and inexpensive fun, besides just playing on the beach. Our favorites, the Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll and searching for tree spirits on St. Simons Island. With so many free and inexpensive activities in the Golden Isles, there may be room to splurge on accommodations. The Golden Isles offers vacationers a plethora of lodging options, from the luxurious Cloister at Sea Island, to the beachside King and Prince Hotel on St. Simons Island or the historic Jekyll Island Club. Explore Georgia has a great deal at the King and Prince or Days Inn Jekyll Island for those with an early spring break.

The Rock Ranch

The Rock Ranch

The Rock, Ga. For something a little unique, plan a camping trip in a Conestoga Wagon at the Rock Ranch near Barnesville, Ga. These authentic wagons include bunk beds, wood for the fire, clean port-a potties and a folding table stocked with essentials. In-expensive add-ons like as a hot dog dinner, storyteller or astronomer are available, but frankly, we had a wonderful time just enjoying roasting marshmallows and running around the pasture. During special events like Spring at the Ranch, campers receive a discount on the added entertainment.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Stone Mountain, GA Part theme park, part natural park, Stone Mountain is a fun escape just outside of Atlanta. The Crossroads section offers a 4D theatre, SkyHike, mini-golf, train rides and more. Be sure to see the special offers available on their website for discounts to Stone Mountain attractions. The outdoor granite museum, and the hike to the top of the Stone Mountain is a must and free. The Marriott Evergreen Resort is perfect for families. A recreation area off the main hotel allows kids to swim inside or out, as well as play with giant chess or checker sets while Mom and Dad relax with a cocktail on the porch or by the outdoor fire pits.

World of Coca Cola

World of Coca Cola

Atlanta, GA – There are so many different things to do in Atlanta, it’s hard to choose a few for this article. For those looking to keep the costs of visiting multiple attractions down, consider an Atlanta City Pass. You can visit some of Atlanta’s most popular attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tours and either Zoo Atlanta or the Atlanta History Center and either Fernbank Museum of Natural History or the High Museum of Art. The passes are good for nine days after the first use and allow you to save time by bypassing the ticket lines.  If museums aren’t your thing, check out Goldstar for discounts on shows or Atlanta on the Cheap for deals and discounts around the city.

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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Camping at Little Ocmulgee State Park

By Candy Cook 

CandyCook-LittleOcmulgee2

February proves to be a perfect time to camp Little Ocmulgee State Park. Made magic by towering trees, veiled in spanish moss, this Georgia campground welcomes tent and RV campers. We parked our car-camping gear and set off to explore. What we found was a classic getaway for anglers, golf enthusiasts and families.

As my sons darted, between the two lakeside playgrounds, I took a walk to investigate the park’s connection with Little Ocmulgee River. A dam creates a 256-acre lake and marsh for fishing, swimming, and canoeing. Springtime anglers will reel in bass, bream and crappie from the scenic dock where I watch the warm sun setting over the lake. I imagine families fill the swimming area and enjoy water fun at the splash pad to escape the summer heat.

My favorite part of our winter camp, at Little Ocmulgee, is the 2.3 mile Oak Ridge Trail that leads us through four ecosystems found in South Georgia. Winter and early spring are a prime time to explore the dramatic transitions between the natural communities of river bottomland, sand hill, oak and bay forests. Highlights of this hike are stunning oaks with their shrouds of spanish moss and a boardwalk leading hikers into a mesmerizing swamp. I could have spent hours watching for wildlife on that boardwalk. Keep your eyes peeled for two protected species that call Little Ocmulgee home: the Eastern Indigo Snake and Georgia’s State reptile, the Gopher Tortoise.

Known for the Wallace Adams Golf Course, Little Ocmulgee is a state park that offers something for everyone. Tranquil camping, hiking and fishing give us the nature connection we need with rounds of golf, fun water play, and lodge restaurant to keep us comfortable.

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.

 

Make a Splash at These Indoor Pools

By Lesli Peterson

atlanta hotels with indoor pool

What makes a hotel family-friendly? It could be the in-room amenities, like refrigerator or bathtub. It could be special touches, like children’s programming or a babysitting service.  For this family, the number one rule of thumb is a pool.  Our city-exploring happens during the day, but pools provide entertainment for my kiddos in early morning and late evening, when we would otherwise be stuck in the room.  It helps to start the day by getting the wiggles out, and it relaxes and calms them before bed…also ensuring they sleep through the night.  You’ll find numerous hotels around Atlanta with pools, but the number dwindles a bit for winter guests looking for an escape from the cold. Here are details about our favorite family-friendly Buckhead hotels with indoor pools, and a list of additional hotels as well.

RC Buckhead

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

Ritz Carlton Buckhead’s pool is one of my family’s favorites.  It is a saline pool, heated to perfection.  The ceiling is glass, and while the cold outside weather created a dew on the ceiling that prevented us from star-gazing, we did enjoy the open feeling that came from a view of the sky.  You’ll find boogie boards and noodles strategically placed around the pool deck, which our boys enjoyed.  Guest services even provided the kids with rubber ducks, as swim partners.

The pool is attached to the fitness center, so we were able to leverage the locker rooms.  There were lockers, showers, plastic bags for holding our wet suits, extra towels, and fruit for the boys to munch on.  I must also admit that hubby and I tried out the sauna and hot tub, as well. Heaven!

See more photos of our pool adventures here.

MO Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental is one of Atlanta’s most beloved hotels, with inescapable opulence and grandeur. Don’t let this fool you, though; they love children.  Strollers, cribs, and even baby monitors are available on request. Be sure to inquire about the Little Fan’s Passport program, also. But the real fun is at the pool.  Through a beautiful hallway, and down an elevator, kid’s will love the secret entrance to the swimming area.  The heated pool is only steps away from an extra restroom, perfect for little one’s “emergencies.” In warmer months the doors open to a view of the sunken courtyard and garden, as well as the views of Buckhead.

Learn more about our stay at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta here.

JW Marriott Buckhead

There are many things to love about JW Marriott Buckhead and its conveniences. One of my favorite: it is adjacent to Lenox Mall.  That small detail opens a world of family-friendly options for shopping and dining.  Until September 1, 2015 Marriott is offering complimentary valet parking to ease your unloading, and a free kids’ meal at the onsite restaurant with the purchase of an adult meal. Kids will also enjoy the heated pool and whirlpool for exerting the leftover energy that kid’s pack during vacation. You’ll also enjoy the glass ceiling, allowing in ample light for your swim.

See their site for more details about this Kids Eat Free package.

Additional Atlanta hotels with indoor pools:

Atlanta Airport Marriott

Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Comfort Inn & Suites Galleria

Embassy Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Hampton Inn & Suites Galleria

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Airport

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown

Renaissance Atlanta Waverly

Sheraton Atlanta Downtown

Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta             

Springhill Suites by Marriott Atlanta Buckhead

Staybridge Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

The Westin Peachtree Plaza

Wingate Inn & Suites Atlanta Galleria

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.

Guide to Alpharetta Restaurant Week

Perhaps you have heard of the Southeast’s new culinary hot spot known as Alpharetta, Georgia. Yes, it is true- Alpharetta is the place to go if you are looking for the ultimate chef-driven or locally owned dining experience. It has over 175 dining options just within the city limits and there are new restaurants by well-known chefs and local restauranteurs popping up all around town.

Every year, Flavors Magazine hosts an Alpharetta Restaurant Week to highlight the city’s foodie scene. This year the event runs from February 21-28 and features over 10 trendy eateries so epicureans can try out new spots and revisit old favorites that are serving cheap eats.

Menu prices this year are set at $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner and like other restaurant weeks, the prix fixe menus offer a variety of options that chefs are excited to show off. With so many tasty choices, it will be hard to choose. We’ve highlighted five restaurants to give you an idea of what to expect.

Alpine Bakery and Trattoria- $25 dinner menu

Serving Italian favorites, but best known for its bakery filled with the award-winning Red Velvet Cake and delectable seasonal treats. I have even known Floridians who make the six hour drive to Alpharetta every year around the holidays just to pick up a Yule Log.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Calamari OR Mozzarella Sticks OR Rice Balls with Italian Sausage
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Parmigiana (Chicken or Eggplant) with Angel hair Pasta OR

House-made Lasagna OR Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Peanut Butter Bar OR Key Lime Bar OR Rocky Road Bar
Bantam + Biddy’s Quarter Rotisserie Chicken with piri piri, pickled beets and goat cheese, broccoli and faro salad with Vidalia onion dressing

Bantam + Biddy’s Quarter Rotisserie Chicken with piri piri, pickled beets and goat cheese, broccoli and faro salad with Vidalia onion dressing

Bantam + Biddy- $15 lunch menu

Bantam + Biddy has been serving Atlantans with a casual family-friendly dining experience since 2012. The eatery, which prides itself with serving regional, all-natural and pastured poultry, has been in Alpharetta since the opening of Avalon in October 2014. Executive Chef and Co-owner, Shaun Doty, has a passion for creating simply prepared contemporary fare and his extensive culinary experience is the driving force behind this casually creative eatery.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Pimento Cheese OR Chopped Pastured Chicken Liver OR Jb Farm Deviled Eggs
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Chicken with two Sides OR Meatloaf with two Sides OR Pork Schnitzel with one side
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Dessert of your choice
The MADE Kitchen and Cocktails bar

The MADE Kitchen and Cocktails bar

MADE Kitchen and Cocktails- $15 lunch menu and a $25 dinner menu

Chic and comfortable, MADE Kitchen and Cocktails has been on every Alpharetta foodie’s radar since the restaurant concept was announced by local restauranteur, Chris Sedgwick. The menu features savory Spanish-inspired tapas with a “Made” twist. The bocadillos, or Spanish sandwiches, accompany the menu along with craft cocktails, wines and beer.

What’s on the Lunch Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Made Salad (mixed greens, radish, manchego, sherry vinaigrette) OR Stewed Lentils with house- made chorizo
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Braised Short Rib Croquettes with romesco OR Pei Mussels with saffron, garlic, white wine and grilled bread
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Seasonal Tapas Tart with vanilla-mascarpone ice cream OR a Shattered Chocolate Bar with Marcona almonds and candied orange peels

What’s on the Dinner Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Coal Roasted Beets with goat cheese and mint and sherry vinaigrette OR Boquerones with anchovies, parsley, garlic and olive oil OR Pimientos Asados with blistered shishito peppers and sea salt
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Crispy Duck Leg with pear mustarda and raddichio OR Camarones a la Plancha with prawns and lemon-butter OR Grilled Skirt steak with twice fried fingerling potatoes and chimichurri
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Seasonal Tapas Tart with vanilla-mascarpone ice cream OR Manchego Cheese with apple-bourbon butter OR a Shattered Chocolate Bar with marcona almonds and candied orange peels
Ray's at Killer Creek

Ray’s at Killer Creek

Ray’s at Killer Creek- $25 Dinner Menu

Ray’s at Killer Creek features a coastal inspired casual dining experience that is complete with fresh seafood and hospitable staff.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Field Green Salad with sundried cranberries, candied pecans and Maytag blue cheese OR Caesar salad with herb croutons and shaved pecorino OR Cup of crab bisque soup laced with sherry and chive crema
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Cedar Plank Salmon with grilled asparagus, whipped potatoes and Chile-blue crab butter OR Grilled Beef Brochettes with Moroccan cous cous, wild mushroom jus and warm arugula OR Pan Roasted Airline Chicken breast with lemon gnocchi, sugar snaps and baby carrots
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Chocolate Mousse Cake with a raspberry purée and fresh berries OR Crème brûlée with seasonal fruit compote and fresh whipped cream
Miss Emily’s Chicken Salad from Mittie’s Tea Room

Miss Emily’s Chicken Salad from Mittie’s Tea Room

Mittie’s Tea Room Café- $15 lunch Menu

Set in an adorable tea room atmosphere, Mittie’s serves traditional “tea time” menu options such as scones, sandwiches and salads. The chicken salad croissant is perhaps the most praised sandwich with almonds, sliced grapes, and a special blend of spices served on a buttery melt-in-your-mouth croissant.

What’s on the Menu:

Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Soup of the Day OR Lobster Bisque and a beverage of your choice

Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Quiche OR Crepes OR Salmon filet and a salad OR fruit

Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Teacakes OR Scones and Chantilly Cream

Other participating restaurants include: Firefly Kitchen & Bar, Haiku, La Casa Italian Grill, PURE taqueria., Sage Woodfire Tavern, Salt, Spice Brick Oven Kitchen and Vinny’s on Windward. For a list of all the participating restaurant menus click here. Happy dining!

CaitlynFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard is the Director of Communications at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all things fun and unique in Awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time outside with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.