Plan to Dine Out Often During Georgia Restaurant Week

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Thank the Georgia Restaurant Association and Department of Economic Development for hosting the second annual Georgia Restaurant Week. This food-focused week kicks off July 18 and lasts until the 24th with menu offerings from some of Georgia’s top-rated eateries — many of last year’s favorites and some new kids to the dining scene.

Enjoy the view from the top of the Hilton Atlanta during a meal at Nikolai's Roof

Enjoy the view from the top of the Hilton Atlanta during a meal at Nikolai’s Roof

What makes this week different than others of its kind? For starters, the participating restaurants are from all over the state, giving you the option of trying many of Georgia’s regional cuisines. Because each restaurant offers a sampling of their dinner menu at a low fixed price (some also offer lunch options), you can try more than just restaurant during the week.

Reuben at Muss & Turner's in Smyrna

Reuben at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna

As you’re making summer vacation plans, Georgia Restaurant Week is a wonderful way to enjoy dinner at a different restaurant in a different city, each night. This year, you have a lot of really diverse restaurants to choose from, including Nikolai’s Roof at the top of the Hilton Atlanta, Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna and Parker’s on Ponce in Decatur. When visiting the Golden Isles, give Tramici Neighborhood Italian on St. Simons Island a try. Wherever you decide to dine, rest assured that you’re supporting Georgia’s restaurants and family farmers who help supply them with fresh Georgia Grown products.

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Warren Haynes Celebrate Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration featuring Warren Haynes with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at Chastain Park Amphitheatre

Normally a wolf sighting in Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheater would be reason for a safety advisory; this weekend it’ll be cause for celebratory noodle dancing by Deadheads. On Friday, June 24, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) will join forces with a five-piece combo fronted by guitarist Warren Haynes to bring the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration to life. And Haynes will be playing Wolf, the custom-made guitar well-known to the late Garcia’s legion of fans.

Warren Haynes. Photo by Danny Clinch

Warren Haynes. Photo by Danny Clinch

This is the fourth year the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration has hit the road, but its first time in Georgia, which is surprising given the depth of local roots. Featured performer Haynes made his name as a central figure of the 1980s Allman Brothers reboot, then founded Gov’t Mule and solidified himself as a fixture on the jam band circuit. Drummer Jeff Sipe was an Atlanta scene mainstay in the ’80s as well, joining forces with the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton to form the Aquarium Rescue Unit.

The troupe is making 10 stops this year, including other iconic outdoor venues like Tanglewood and Denver’s Red Rocks. (Watch a clip of their 2013 Red Rocks show.) Like other regional orchestras, the ASO will be playing from sheet music as they have only a day-of-show rehearsal to build rapport with the traveling crew. You’d think this might impede the improvisational free-flow essential to this genre of music, but Haynes assures they’ve built “windows of opportunity” into the structure to allow the quintet (which includes two female vocalists, one of them longtime Garcia sidewoman Jacklyn LaBranch) to do their thing.

The set includes Grateful Dead classics like “Shakedown Street” and “China Cat Sunflower.” In past years they’ve also tackled “Terrapin Station;” I can’t confirm it’s in this year’s plans, but its recorded arrangement seems ready made for the ASO treatment.

Speaking of which, just one night earlier, the ASO’s free program in Piedmont Park will range from Rossini to John Williams to James Brown. And the symphony joins forces (pun intended) with John Williams at the end of the summer to perform “Star Wars and More” at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, including selections from “Hook” and “Harry Potter.”

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

AthFest: Dozens of Bands, With Or Without Wristbands

The 20th annual AthFest begins on Friday, June 24 with a nice piece of symmetry. Atlanta fixture and onetime Athens resident Kevn Kinney — best known as the leader of Drivin’ N Cryin’ — played the music and arts festival’s maiden voyage. This year, Kinney will reprise his role when he opens the proceedings Friday at 5 p.m.

AthFest 2015. Photo by Porter McLeod

AthFest 2015. Photo by Porter McLeod

An event that began as a device to bring foot traffic to downtown Athens during the student-deprived summer months has blossomed into one of the keystones of Georgia’s summer festival calendar. “It’s almost like a football game weekend,” says AthFest board member and booking chair Troy Aubrey. “You see the mass exodus of students around May, but a lot of the kids come back for this.” The free family-friendly fun and frolic draws roughly 10,000 for each of its three days.

AthFest’s musical offerings span two stages (three counting the KidsFest stage) situated a block and a half apart, the larger one directly in front of the iconic 40 Watt Club. Given the town’s well-deserved national reputation as a musical hotbed, it’s no surprise the big dawg’s share of acts are Athens-connected, including two of this year’s headliners: indie darlings Kishi Bashi (Sunday) and the two-drummer “more organic and folkie” Family and Friends (Friday). Meanwhile, Saturday boasts the one-two punch of Atlanta hip hop legends Arrested Development and Jessup-born Americana heavyweight and current Athens resident Randall Bramblett.

AthFest 2015. Photo by Porter McLeod

AthFest 2015. Photo by Porter McLeod

After the free music, AthFest also coordinates the late-night Club Crawl, for which a $30 wristband buys you access to multiple venues and sets over two nights by edgier bands like Athens’ current  high-fliers Mothers and perennial faves Elf Power, and Atlanta’s raucous Coathangers and the Black Lips. “I’ve got kids now. I’m not going out every night anymore, but this is a great way to get a crash course and see what’s really happening,” says Aubrey. “Take the kids to mom and dad’s house and get a wristband!” That wristband also scores you a discount for LaughFest, the 18-and-over comedy event at the Georgia Theatre the preceding Wednesday, as well as other related happenings.

AthFest offers lots of family-friendly fun. Photo by Porter McLeod.

AthFest offers lots of family-friendly fun. Photo by Porter McLeod.

In line with Athens’ grassroots spirit, AthFest also took a unique path to philanthropy. Once it began turning a profit, organizers looked for a way to channel the proceeds for community good. Enter AthFest Educates, the nonprofit created specifically to sustain music and arts education in Clarke County. So, by enjoying the current generation of Athens’ finest, you’ll also be paving the road for the next one.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

Outdoor Adventures for the Summer Solstice

Celebrate the long days of summer solstice with challenging adventures and relaxing evenings.

Summer Solstice Trail Races – June 20

Mo Flow Mountain Bike Trail at Allatoona Creek Park. Photo by Candy Cook

Mo Flow Mountain Bike Trail at Allatoona Creek Park. Photo by Candy Cook

Blaze the trails of Allatoona Creek Mountain Bike Park for the 7th annual Summer Solstice Races. With a picturesque mix of open meadow and shaded forest, the fast flowing trails of Allatoona Creek offer an exciting day of mountain biking and trail running. The races include a 3-hour mountain bike race, as well as 5k and 10k trail running races. Presented by Cobb County P.A.R.K.S and SORBA West Georgia, proceeds go toward park maintenance and improvement. Registration is now open!

Full Moon Lake Paddle or Suspension Bridge Hike – June 19 & 20

Tallulah Gorge. Photo by Candy Cook.

Tallulah Gorge. Photo by Candy Cook.

Play the day away at Tallulah Gorge State Park, and then enjoy a relaxing evening paddling the lake or hiking across the suspension bridge. Illuminated by the light of the full moon, this is truly a unique and exciting way to explore one of Georgia’s natural wonders in a different light. Register in advance to paddle the lake or hike the suspension bridge.

Stone Mountain Park

SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

The longest days of the year offer more time to experience the endless adventures at Stone Mountain Park. Hop aboard the Scenic Railroad for a trip around the mountain, splash the day away at Geyser Towers, and explore this natural wonder hiking the park’s nature trails. The day comes to a close with the awe-inspiring Lasershow Spectacular!

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Life Music in Oakland Cemetery: Tunes from the Tombs

Photo credit: Steve Grundy, Flickr

When you think of fun-filled destinations for a sunny Saturday afternoon, a cemetery probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind. Maybe it should. Back at the turn of the 20th century, cemeteries served many of the functions now filled by public parks, hosting weekend family picnics and the like. The 48-acre Oakland Cemetery, sitting just a mile southeast of downtown in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood, was established in 1850 as one of the first examples of a “rural garden cemetery.” It’s now part of a public/private partnership with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and is a beautiful and historic respite bridging several of Atlanta’s intown communities.

Arrested Development

Arrested Development

On Saturday, June 18, Oakland Cemetery will host its 6th annual Tunes from the Tombs, a day-long music and arts festival that for the second straight year features an all-local lineup. But don’t equate “local” with “provincial.” Headlining the bill is the Grammy-winning Atlanta hip hop collective Arrested Development, which topped the mid-90s charts with tracks like “Tennessee” and Mr. Wendal,” and continues to enjoy strong followings in Japan and Europe.

Original member Speech and his crew have been on a tear of late, having released two new albums this year: the free download “Changing the Narrative” (“more sample-based, with a hip hop feel,” as Speech describes it) and “This Was Never Home,” which he says has “a more current day feel, with synths and some acoustic guitar, but with our subject matter and energy.”

As he has from the band’s inception, Speech categorizes Arrested Development as “Life Music,” a positive, empowering force. “A lot of music strangely celebrates death, the ability to murder someone,” he continues. “If it were pure entertainment that would be one thing, but it’s too much the reality in our world today.”

Leave it to Arrested Development to bring a life-affirming vibe to a cemetery. One of the first hip hop bands to work with live instruments, AD will perform as an eight-piece, and Speech hints at several guest appearances given the proximity to their home base.

Also on the bill is HeaveN Beatbox, the stage name of charismatic Georgia State University grad Steven Cantor, who Speech says “has become a musical son to me,” as well as longtime area favorite James Hall and eclectic songstress Adron.

As part of the Historic Oakland Foundation’s stated goal of providing “something for everyone,” a second stage features a bevy of tribute bands with self-explanatory names like the B-53s and Fauxgerty. Add more than a dozen food trucks, an artists’ market, and a persimmon lager created for the occasion by Atlanta’s Red Brick Brewing Company with persimmons harvested from historic Oakland’s gardens, and you’ve got a recipe for a great day in the city.

As Events Director Mary Woodlan puts it, Tunes from the Tombs is “a party for a purpose. All proceeds benefit the foundation,” going toward the cemetery’s restoration and protection. General admission tickets are $20 in advance, a healthy discount from the $30 price if you meet at the cemetery gates.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.