Save Money at Georgia’s Theme Parks

Nothing says ‘summer’ like a visit to a theme park, and Georgia has quite a few. Whether you want to scream through a loop-de-loop on a roller coaster, spin around and around or just ride up and down on a merry-go-round, there’s a place for you and it’s closer than you might think. Here is what’s new this summer at three theme parks in Georgia, as well as a tip for how to save money on a visit.

Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta:Six Flags Over Georgia

This is probably the largest of Georgia’s theme parks and perhaps the most well known. New this year is The JOKER Chaos Coaster which rockets seven stories in the air, soaring through a bedlam of loops, suspending riders upside-down for a ravaging thrill; and Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a spinning, twisting and rolling ride through a cycle of classic family fun. Don’t forget your bathing suit for Hurricane Harbor, which was introduced in 2014.
Money Saving Tip: Do as much as you can in advance. Go to www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia and purchase your tickets, parking pass, Flash Passes, meal plans and/or season passes. You’ll save the most money for your visit by purchasing in advance. Also, plan your trip using suggestions from this post Tips for a Great Day. The advice is valid for any theme park visit, not just Six Flags Over Georgia.

Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta:Stone Mountain Park

The fun at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t need to end when the park closes. All new this year, stay in one of three Stone Mountain Park yurts, nestled lakeside in the park’s popular campground. This is glamping at it’s finest with yurts made of wood and canvas, featuring outside decks, picnic tables, charcoal grills, a fire pit and large water spigots for camping convenience. Inside each smoke-free yurt, are all the comforts of home with log furniture, heat and A/C, electric outlets, large windows, skylights, ceiling fans, lockable doors and sleep space for up to five guests. Just bring a sleeping bags and personal items.
Money Saving Tip: Visit Stone Mountain’s free attractions early in the day, like the covered bridge, outdoor granite museum, and the hike up the stone mountain. Plan to visit the paid attractions after 4 pm when prices go down with the sun. A Sunset Adventure Pass includes all your favorite attractions like the 4-D Experience, SkyHike, Geyser Towers, and the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, as well as terrace seating for the Laser Light show and unlimited popcorn until the start of the show, and an ice cold Coca-Cola beverage.

Wild Adventures, Valdosta:Wild AdventuresWild Adventures’ new ride, Jungle Rumble, takes guests swinging, swooping, climbing and dropping. Like a monkey swinging through the trees, the ride has no shortage of screeching and screaming. Riders swing back and forth before reaching four-stories high then plunge back down to the ground to do it all over again in reverse. The ride is designed for families to enjoy together with thrills for adults and kids. Once you’ve gotten your thrills on the roller coaster, head over to see the new squirrel monkey exhibit in a rejuvenated area of the theme park.
Money Saving Tip: Purchase your tickets at least 7 days in advance online and save $10. If you don’t have that much time, you can still save $8 by purchasing at least two days in advance. For those that can’t plan that far ahead, grab lunch at a nearby Subway in Valdosta, Albany or Columbus and pick up an $8 off coupon.

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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Edible Entertainment

You’ve just snagged a prime seat at the movie theater for this summer’s biggest blockbuster, but your excitement quickly turns to nausea. You’ve already had one too many handfuls of greasy popcorn—it’s coated with so much fake butter you can literally feel your arteries clogging as you chew. Not exactly the ideal date night. Thankfully, Atlanta’s top culinary talent has taken notice of this dilemma and a slew of talented gourmands are upping the date night ante and opening one-of-a-kind, chef-driven venues where the eats (think locally-sourced, seasonal dishes that wouldn’t be out of place at a James Beard winning restaurant) are equally as noteworthy as the entertainment. Tonight, make a beeline to one of these surprisingly scrumptious venues.

The Painted Pin

Photo Credit: The Painted Pin

Dinner and Bowling at The Painted Pin
Out: greasy, gristly chicken wings and stale beer. In: wood-fired pepperoni pizza laced with truffle oil, hand-cut fries loaded with cheddar, chiles, bacon, scallions and crema and uber-crispy fried chicken sliders with spicy mayo and housemade pickles. You’d never guess you were eating at a bowling alley, but Justin Amick, you may recognize him as the former sommelier at The Spence, has knocked down all 10 pins with his latest venture, The Painted Pin. The 23,000-square-foot gaming mecca is home to 20 vintage bowling lanes equipped with upscale service (personalized staff deliver balls and shoes laneside), incredible small plates—don’t miss the In-and-Out-inspired burger (we think theirs blows the original out of the water!)—craft cocktails and a wine list rivaling those in the city’s top restaurants. Be forewarned, there’s often a wait for bowling, but a indoor gaming courtyard chockfull of complimentary games (bocce courts, 10-foot Pop-a-Shots, shuffleboard, ping pong, Skee-Ball and Northamptonshire hood skittles) and live music will console you while you wait.

TopGolf Alpharetta

Photo Credit: TopGolf Alpharetta

Dinner and Golf at TopGolf
A day at the driving range hasn’t always been an activity to please the masses… until TopGolf opened in Alpharetta. Of course, TopGolf isn’t your average driving range. Not only does the 65,000-square-foot, three-story, dog-friendly facility boast more than 100 hitting bays (each with their own state-of-the-art digital scorecard and game center with HDTVs, not to mention covered seating with plush couches, fans and a dedicated server), but there’s something for every personality type—video games, pool tables, indoor lounges, rooftop fire pits and live music, to name a few. As if that weren’t enough reason to go, the food is so good you’ll quickly start reconsidering your country club membership. We recommend starting with an order of the wings—insanely crispy skin surrounds juicy, tender meat bathed in fun sauces like Asian Sesame—before moving onto their elevated plays on comfort food classics, like fried chicken and waffle sliders with spicy jalapeno gravy, a pulled pork sandwich a la Vietnamese banh mi’s, and a dangerously delicious burger topped with green chili mac ‘n cheese, all washed down with local beer from Jekyll Brewery, of course. For a sweet finish, go with the cinnamon-sugar-dusted donut holes, which are injected tableside with fillings like chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. And, coming soon: TopGolf Midtown!

Stationside

Photo Credit: Stationside

Dinner and a Concert at Stationside
Atlantans have been flocking to Terminal West for killer live music since 2012, but the addition of Stationside, the adjoining restaurant serving up sandwiches and snacks (think chicken enchiladas with salsa verde and chipotle-lime aioli, mac-and-cheese made with aged white cheddar and pimento béchamel breadcrumbs and Korean fried chicken with Simply Seoul kimchi), in 2013 pushed the King Plow Arts Center venue over the top. Chef Dan Brown’s, who hails from the legendary Porter Beer Bar, counter-service spot is a modern take on the traditional soup and sandwich joint offering up food so unheard of at a music venue (don’t miss the adobo roasted pork Cubans, chickpea burgers and San Marzano tomato soup), you’ll be hard-pressed to leave your trendy red oak table and make your way to the stage—though, you won’t have to miss a beat as TVs screen the live show next door while you nosh.

CinéBistro

Photo Credit: CinéBistro

Dinner and a Movie at Cinebistro
Forget about the aforementioned movie nightmare. No longer are you resigned to stale nachos with fake cheese and cheap candy, thanks to CinéBistro at Town Brookhaven, where each ultra plush, high back leather rocking chair is equipped with a dedicated server so you can nosh on uber crispy buttermilk fried chicken with loaded mashed potatoes, bacon and cheddar waffles and honeyed Tabasco while you watch. (Did we mention there’s complimentary popcorn and a full beer, wine and cocktail list, too?). Discuss the plot over a Peachtree Street cocktail (Maker’s Mark, peach purée and fresh lemon juice) afterward in the swanky lounge.

Jeju Sauna

Photo Credit: Jeju Sauna

Dinner and a Spa Visit at Jeju Sauna
It’s not often a relaxing visit to the spa comes hand in hand with exotic ethnic eats, but thanks to Duluth’s Jeju Sauna, one of the largest, most authentic Korean spas in the country, spagoers can finish their detox with refreshing fruit smoothies and juices, mandu (Korean dumplings), ddukbokgi (rice cakes stir-fried with sliced fish cake in a chile sauce) and traditional soups, like kimchi jjigae. Even better? You get to eat barefoot on the floor in an ensemble so comfy you may just want to curl up in one of the saunas afterward for a nap. In fact, Jeju provides each guest with this t-shirt and shorts outfit to wear as they journey through seven dry mineral saunas, each of which offers unique mind-body benefits. There’s also a junior Olympic size salt water pool, separate wet rooms for men and women (note: these are nude) complete with whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas, and it’s all just $25 per person, though add-on treatments (think foot detox, traditional body scrub or acupressure) are available for an additional fee.

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

A Night on the Town in Augusta

In need of a night out or simply in need of a cocktail (or two – we won’t tell!)? Less than two hours from Atlanta, Augusta, Georgia, quenches the thirst for a good time with these must-visit watering holes.

Craft and Vine

The house rules at Craft and Vine brings an old-school Southern vibe to one of Augusta’s hottest nighttime spots.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Craft and Vine offers an upscale vibe and is tucked away on Broad Street. It’s the newest addition to Augusta’s Frog Hollow Hospitality Group, which also founded the city’s popular Farmhaus Burger and Frog Hollow Tavern. Expect dinner and a show – albeit not the typical performance. Bartenders evoke a “wow” factor while stirring old-timey drinks and shaking cocktails. Dishes meet big-city expectations without the associated metropolitan hassles. Plus, it’s one of the only places in Augusta featuring enomatic machines, or wine on drip, making it possible to savor sips of finer wines by the glass for tastings. There are no reservations, and, preserving the sometimes overlooked art of etiquette, house rules apply here: no cell phone usage inside, but texting is fine; please be patient (craft drinks are an art and take time to create – but are totally worth it); and, proper attire is required.

Hive Growler Bar

A mind-boggling number of taps at Hive Growler Bar will quench thirst no matter what you crave.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Think outside the pub with the Hive Growler Bar, Augusta’s newest night spot and an authentic tap house. Featuring locally- and regionally-sourced food like the city’s beloved The Bee’s Knees (same owners), it’s the bar’s beer, wine and craft cocktail selection that set it apart. Take a gander and you might think you’re seeing double before the first sip: 73 taps featuring more than 50 beer taps, 10 wine taps, five craft soda taps and five custom-made cocktail taps adorn the walls. You won’t find bottled or canned beer here. It’s all fresh and flowing. Taps change so often and the owners are so into sustainability that you will not find a printed tap list. But do not fear, big screen TVs display the most current tap lists, as does the bar’s website.

Experience Augusta like a local. Surrey Tavern is the neighborhood bar. Located in Surrey Center, this haunt is Augusta’s best kept secret – where the locals go. They’re famous for their laid-back atmosphere; an outdoor patio and live music set the tone for a great night for you and your friends.

Le Chat Noir is an intimate 100-seat black box theatre and lounge that is host to a variety of shows and events. Performances include classics like Les Miserables or Sweeney Todd. Night owls might enjoy Schrodinger’s Cat, Augusta’s premiere comedy improv troupe, during their eXtreme Theatre Games every First Friday.  Watch comedy performed on the spot as two teams of crack improvisers battle it out in the continuing quest for comedic domination. If you love Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Improvaganza, or other improv comedy shows, this is your spot.

Augusta

From bachelorettes to bachelors, couples to singles, Augusta’s variety of night spots makes it easy for everyone to enjoy a night on the town.
Credit: Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Feel the beat at Sky City, Augusta’s 500-capacity live music venue located in downtown. With an eclectic line-up each month there’s something on the set to satisfy every musical taste. Sky City also features themed nights like 80s Night during the first Friday of each month. What’s better than pulling out the leggings, oversized shirts with shirt clips, teasing your hair and listening to a little Duran Duran or Journey?

The Soul Bar features live music and is named appropriately for The Godfather of Soul and Augusta native, Mr. James Brown. Hang out, have a drink, or stop by and see a local band bring down the house. The Soul Bar is also famous for its theme nights. Favorites include 80s Night, 90s Night, Pop Life or Disc Hell. The theme nights will take you back, way back – and have you coming back to Augusta.

 

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.

Fantastic Fort Mountain

Fort Mountain ViewA scenic drive through Georgia’s Historic High Country leads us to a little slice of heaven on Fort Mountain. This state park, hidden in the hills of Chatsworth, is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaways. In addition to the incredible views from overlooks, Fort Mountain State Park boasts one of the most challenging Muddy Spokes mountain biking trails and the 8-mile Gahuti Trail connecting secluded backcountry campsites.CandyCook_ftMtnGahudiTrail

The hiking trails of Fort Mountain range from easy to strenuous. For really amazing views, take a stroll down the easy, paved Cool Springs Trail or hike to an overlook deck on a combination of the West Overlook-Stone Tower Trails. More experienced hikers will appreciate backpacking on the more difficult Gahuti Trail. Gahuti is a beautiful, yet strenuous hike often used by hikers preparing for the Appalachian Trail.

Mountain bikers of all ages and experience levels enjoy taking on 27 miles of thrill riding at the park. Multi-use Lake Loop Trail offers an easy warm-up shared with hikers, while the Gold Mine and Cool Springs Loops cater to more advanced riders looking for a fun roller coaster ride through the forest. Finally, one of the last Muddy Spokes trails a mountain biker completes, the East/West Loop offers a wild and rocky ride for the experts. CandyCook_FtMountainSwim

A Fort Mountain escape isn’t complete without a refreshing dip in the cool mountain lake, a round of mini golf, and perfecting s’mores as the moonlight shines through those magnificent Georgia pines. Pack up the tent and run away to Fort Mountain this weekend!

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.

AMP Up Your Summer Adventures

Banish summer boredom with thrilling adventures and new family experiences! Just 20 minutes east of Atlanta, AMP Adventures is celebrating the season with river exploration, free bike rentals, campfire folktales and “s’more!” You can see some highlights below and the full calendar of events here.

Arabia Mt APM

All of these activities are located in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). The 33+ mile paved trail is dedicated to hikers and cyclists and is quickly becoming known as Atlanta’s most scenic trail. Remember, while several events are free, many have a limited amount of space so participants should RSVP now to save their spot.

FREE Bike Rentals at Panola Mountain State Park (June 13th and June 14th) and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve (June 20th) For three amazing days you can feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you peddle past gorgeous forests and flower-filled meadows along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). Already have a bike? This is the perfect time to get your bike-less friends to finally take a ride with you!Roasting Marshmallow

Folktales by Firelight (June 27th) Hiking, a campfire, storytelling and s’mores; what a great combination! We have two event start times for a full evening of family fun. We’ll hear folktales from professional storyteller, Jonah McDonald, adventure guide and author of Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out. This is a rain or shine event, so bring your galoshes if we get a shower!

Georgia River Network: Hidden Gem Paddle (August 22nd) Join the South River Watershed Alliance and Georgia River Network (GRN) for a personal tour of the bends and gentle waters of the South River. This event will attract river enthusiasts from across the state and you can join the tour! The day will include a picnic lunch and presentations along the route, ranging from natural history and water quality testing to river clean-up training! Other floats are planned for June 13 and July 25. Canoe and kayak rentals can be waived for novice paddlers!Georgia River Network

AMP Adventures is presented by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of Coca-Cola and Subaru.

 

Kimberly EstepWhen not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs.  Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.