Your Reynolds Plantation Family Bucket List

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is an elegant getaway just east of Atlanta. If you are familiar with the Ritz-Carlton brand then you already know the incredible family–friendly atmosphere of their properties. From the rooms to the activities, kids are not an afterthought. Reynolds Plantation is must-do escape for every family. Here is your bucket list of adventure at this Greensboro escape.

Reynolds Plantation

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation

 

Celebrate with fireworks! There is still enough time to enjoy the final Lake Summer Concert Series. AiA, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, will play on the lakeside lawn Sept. 6 from 7:45 p.m. – 9:45 p.m. Fireworks immediately follow the concert. If you miss this one, be sure to watch their Facebook page for upcoming events, including extraordinary fall and winter celebrations for the kids.

Ride the train. My little guy loved riding the Linger Longer Express around the Reynolds Plantation property. The 10-minute ride is complimentary for hotel guests, and leaves the lobby at 3 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Nosh on s’mores by the lake. Ask my kiddos about their favorite event of our stay and they will both tell you, “S’mores!” Every evening the Ritz-Carlton team lights the cozy lakeside bonfire and offers gigantic sticks with marshmallows for kids (and parents!) to roast. You’ll also find graham crackers, chocolate and plenty of lemonade. The celebration is complimentary for guests and begins at 8 p.m. each evening, running until 10 p.m. (and later on weekends).smores-by-the-lake-reynolds-plantation

Play at the lake. With Lake Oconee as the beautiful backdrop to this Ritz resort, you can’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the water. Play at the beach with plenty of sand for the kids, jumping mats and more. Venture further with Yolo boards, pedal boats, kayaks or canoes for rent (or opt for the Resort Activity Package for unlimited access.) Jet skis and boats are also available for rental.

Relax at the outdoor pool. The infinity pool overlooking Lake Oconee is breathtaking. The deck was recently renovated with additional seating and restrooms, also. Don’t miss the small kiddo-pool. It’s perfect for toddlers under the shade of an umbrella, but I could not keep my guys out of the big pool. With wait staff on hand from Gaby’s By The Lake, you can order lunch or drinks while you swim.

Sip on an (Un)Buzzed Lightyear. Speaking of drinks by the pool, ordering your kids an Unbuzzed Lightyear is a must! This mocktail is a blue lemonade filled with gummy bears. While hubby and I enjoyed piña coladas, the boys felt special with their “fancy drinks.” Another Ritz-Carlton touch that makes staying here special for kiddos.

Ritz Kids Camp. This is the only bucket list item we didn’t check off; kiddos must be 5 years old to participate so we have a few years to go. Mom and Dad can take a short respite at the spa or on the golf course while the kids enjoy a structured program with activities that are both physical and creative.

This is just the tip of the iceberg at Reynolds Plantation. It’s more than a resort…it’s an oasis for the entire family. Read more about why we named it The Best Family Resort in Georgia.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

Find Your Park at Georgia’s National Parks

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CELEBRATES 99TH BIRTHDAY WITH FIND YOUR PARK EVENTS

Find Your Park at Florence Marina SP

Florence Marina State Park | Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 99th birthday. Since its start in 1916, the Service has grown to include 403 parks across the 50 states. Georgia is home to 14 of those properties and many of them are celebrating the anniversary with Find Your Park events including:

Butterfly Bio Blitz (August 22) – From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests are invited to Ocmulgee National Monument help count as many butterflies as possible with their camera/smartphone. Participants will receive a free t-shirt, backpack, water bottle and much more. In addition to the hunt, children can paint a butterfly jewelry box or sun catcher to take home with them.

While you’re in town, be sure to visit The Allman Brothers Band Museum, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Hay House.

“Find Your Park” Centennial Bike Ride (August 28-30) – Grab your bike and get ready to ride… or not. It’s totally up to you and there are options for everyone during this family-friendly Find Your Park experience. Registration, route maps and the itinerary for the ride are available online at findyourparkride.org. Activities are also offered for non-cycling family and friends of participating cyclists who would like to visit the parks, camp overnight at Florence Marina State Park or Lake Blackshear Resort and ride the SAM Shortline train.

If you’re heading to the event through Columbus, look into their whitewater rafting experiences. If you’re driving through Albany, take your family to see visit the Flint RiverQuarium

Fort Pulaski Candlelantern Tours (December 18 & 29) – At six times each evening, Fort Pulaski National Monument will commemorate the 154th anniversary of the Confederate Nog Party of 1861 with the family-friendly candlelantern tours. The event includes hot cider, cookies, music, caroling and historic weapons firings.

Want to experience more Savannah history? Take a Savannah Haunted History Tour, visit the Savannah History Museum and stay in a historic hotel like the River Street Inn.

Stay tuned to FindYourPark.org and ExploreGeorgia.org for additional Find Your Park activities throughout the autumn and winter.

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.

Biking & Hiking Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking the Aska Trails | Photo courtesy of Joseph Cattoni, Regular Joe Photography

A favorite destination among many Georgia hikers and mountain bikers, Aska Adventure Trail Area offers 17 miles of interconnected trails winding through Chattahoochee National Forest. This Blue Ridge trail system boasts a range of difficulty levels from easy-moderate to very strenuous along trails that vary in distance from one to six miles.

Hitting Aska Adventure Trails in August is a cool summertime treat beneath the shade of mature hardwoods. Right around the seasonal corner, fall paints this landscape with colorful leaves that open up beautiful mountain vistas to enjoy during winter and early spring. A good starting point is riding the hills of the easy-intermediate Long Branch Loop. Riding the trail counter-clockwise gives riders many heart-pumping uphill climbs with a few fun downhills, while riding clockwise offers more gradual uphills and lots of fun downhill riding. A creek crossing marks the lowest point of the trail. Long Branch Loop isn’t challenging as far as technical features, making it fun for riders who are stepping up from easier trails. Other trails in the system ascend to over 3,000 ft, some offering creek crossings and a portion of trail on the shores of Lake Blue Ridge.

Long Branch Loop at Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking Long Branch Loop

Trails to hike and ride in Aska Adventure Trail Area:

  • Stanley Gap Trail is a single track trail that clocks in at 5.5 miles of moderate intensity.
  • Flat Creek Loop offers another 5.7 miles of moderate intensity mountain biking.
  • Long Branch Loop is 2 miles of easy-moderate climbs and  sweet descents for a fun, quick ride. Note: The elevation changes going counter-clockwise may be considered more difficult than going clockwise on the trail.
  • Lower Green Mountain is an intermediate 1.5 miles that connects with the more strenuous Upper Green Mountain Trail. Note: A portion of the Upper Green Mountain Trail is closed.
  • The 300-mile Benton McKaye Trail also winds through Aska Adventure Trail Area.
  • Several connector trails make easy transition to other trails in the system.

There are four parking areas to access trailheads at Aska Adventure Trail Area. These parking areas are located at Deep Gap, Stanley Gap, Forest Road 711, and Shady Falls. Driving directions to all four parking areas, as well as a list of the trails, are available on the Blue Ridge Mountains website.

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.

Cumberland Island National Seashore Trails Project

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore | Photo courtesy of Andre Turner, Georgia Conservancy

Cumberland Island is one of Georgia’s most iconic precious places and its protection as a National Seashore in 1972 is a shining achievement of the Georgia Conservancy, which was then a five-year old conservation organization. As historic and current advocates for Cumberland Island, we are excited to share that REI, is supporting the stewardship of Cumberland Island National Seashore by allowing YOU the chance to vote on the funding of a Georgia Conservancy-led backcountry trail restoration project.

Here’s the catch, each Every Trail Connects dollar is allocated though a public voting contest! REI will give away $500,000 total, $5 per vote, up to $75,000 per trail. One vote per person per day per device, no purchase necessary, no email required.

By voting every day for Cumberland Island on all of your connected devices, you are telling REI and the world that our state’s only National Seashore is worthy of a world-class trail system.

Vote today and every day at www.rei.com/trails!

Every Trail Connects is a funding campaign hosted by REI in support of 10 iconic trail systems across the county. We’re honored that the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project was the only southeast trail project selected by our friends at REI.

The Georgia Conservancy and REI chose the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project due to its critical ecological importance as both designated wilderness and a biosphere to a plethora of species which are also in dire need of attention. Many visitors have found it difficult to navigate the backcountry trails and report getting lost, thus necessitating a large scale restoration projects to improve access for the general public.

Through the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project 100% of Cumberland Island National Seashore’s trail system will be open, clear and easily navigable by October 2016. This will be done by improving trail access and creating maps, signage and kiosks for Georgia’s pristine barrier island.

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island | Photo courtesy of Phuc Dao, Georgia Conservancy

Over the last 8 years, the Georgia Conservancy has worked with the NPS to host multiple service weekends, and more recently, the Cumberland Island Alternative Spring Break program.

In 2014, Georgia Conservancy led more than 250 volunteers on the island for its Alternative Spring Break Program. The Georgia Conservancy also hosts service trips to Cumberland Island of approximately 75 people during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Participants clear debris from forest trails, pick up trash that washed onto the island’s beaches and help maintain the historic structures that are managed by the National Park Service.

The Georgia Conservancy has long been at the forefront of the effort to protect Cumberland Island and these projects are just a continuation of our historic support of the island. In the early 1970s, we lobbied in support of the creation of Cumberland Island National Seashore – the largest National Seashore in the United States, and in the early 1980s advocated for a majority of the island to be designated as Federal Wilderness.

Today marks a huge day in that long and storied history of Georgia’s only National Seashore. And today, you can help write the next chapter in its history. By becoming an active internet advocate for Cumberland’s stewardship, you can ensure that generations of adventure seekers (you included) can experience the harrowing and hallowed trails that crisscross this island.

How can you support Cumberland Island?

Vote!
Bookmark the link to our Every Trail Connects HQ: www.gaconservancy.org/etc and on August 14 vote to support a restored backcountry trail system on

Cumberland Island! We’re counting on our supporters to vote as soon as the campaign begins. Vote daily. Vote on every device.

Share!
Please share “Every Trail Connects” with your friends, family and coworkers through social media, email or more! Our Every Trail Connects HQ has great photos, sample text and stories about people’s experiences on Cumberland Island.

We’re aiming to take advantage of all platforms available to encourage everyone to #VoteCumberland.

Connect!
We are launching a storytelling project called “Cumberland Connects” and inviting the public to share a personal story with us about Cumberland Island. We know that “every trail connects” so how has Cumberland connected with to you? Please share with us your most vivid and inspiring Cumberland stories. To complement your story, we’re also asking if you’d share your favorite picture of Cumberland and also a picture of yourself on Cumberland. If we all vote and advocate for Cumberland Island, we can ensure restoration projects that will make one of Georgia’s most beautiful trail systems accessible to all!

Brian Foster

Brian Foster is the Communications Director for the Georgia Conservancy, a citizen of Atlanta and a proud native of Rome, Georgia. (Bio photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge.)

Cheers to Alpharetta, Georgia

JEKYLL BREWING COMPANY CELEBRATES TWO YEARS THIS AUGUST

Jekyll Brewing line

With names like “Hop Dan Diggity,” the brews at Jekyll showcase the laidback company’s culture where beer reigns supreme. | Photo courtesy of Jekyll Brewing Company

Just north of Atlanta and easily accessed from Georgia 400, the State’s Hospitality Highway, lies a destination worth toasting: Alpharetta. This Southern city is home to the popular Jekyll Brewing Company, established in August 2013, through a Kickstarter campaign where tours, special events and, of course, production of sudsy sips, keep visitors and residents alike returning for a refill.

Historically, the purpose of a local brewery was to provide quality beer and a gathering location for community members. Founder Mike Lundmark, and co-owner, Josh Rachel, heard the community loud and clear: residents and visitors to Alpharetta represented craft beer drinkers and overwhelmingly supported local, quality beer. So, the home brewers got to work and Jekyll opened its tap room to the public in August 2013.

“The community’s response to having its own craft brewery outside the perimeter was overwhelmingly positive,” said Lacey Pyle, whose official title at Jekyll Brewing Company is “Head Cheerleader,” which means she manages all tap room team members and operations, coordinates private events, manages social media and more, including building boxes or mopping the floors, if needed.

Jekyll Brewing process

Brewer Bryan Johnson lifts the lid of Jekyll Brewing’s mash tun to show Cooter Brown American Brown Ale’s grain during the mashing process. | Photo courtesy of Lacey Pyle

Jekyll produces five year-round brews and several seasonal brews. The Tap Room is open to the public (21 and over, even for special events) Tuesday-Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., Friday 4-9 p.m. and Saturdays 1-9 p.m. Tour packages start at $12 per person and include six sample tickets. Each ticket can be used for a six-ounce pour of one of the beers featured in the Tap Room. Tours through the facility are given about once per hour depending on the number of participants and how long the previous tour lasted. The atmosphere at Jekyll Brewing Company is decidedly casual, so no tour reservations are necessary.

Thanks to the recent passage of Georgia’s SB 63, if a guest likes a certain style, he or she can take home a souvenir from the tap room: beer straight from the source. Guests can choose between one six-pack or up to two crowlers of beer.

Don’t miss
Jekyll throws a party just about every quarter—you know how social Southerners are. Coming up: The brewing company celebrates their two-year anniversary party on August 15. Guests may choose among 15 beers to sample, live music, food trucks, cake and all the Jekyll games like corn hole and giant Jenga. In addition to regular parties, the first Wednesday of each month is First Responders night, where the Brewery honors those who serve the community, offering $2 off to police, fire, EMS, military and veterans.

T-Bone & Earl toast Jekyll Brewing

Musician duo “T-Bone & Earl” (Phil Frontal, left, “T-Bone”; Rich Lebo, right, “Earl”) pause from their rocking and rolling to toast Jekyll Brewing. | Photo courtesy of Lacey Pyle

If you go
Plan to visit during one of Alpharetta Don’t Miss Special Events and add a tour of Jekyll Brewing Company to the experience. Find Jekyll at 2855 Marconi Drive, STE 350, Alpharetta, GA  30005 and check them out socially on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and Untappd.

Take home a souvenir: Jekyll fans can purchase beer on draft at many local restaurants, including Taco Mac, Mellow Mushroom and Rosati’s. Guests can also buy Jekyll brews in area big box stores like Kroger, Publix, Costco, Wal-Mart on Windward, and any bottle shop.

For more about Alpharetta click here, visit the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.AwesomeAlpharetta.com or call  678-297-2811.

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.