Savannah St. Patricks Day 2015 Guide

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Historic Savannah square with springtime azaleas. Photo courtesy Sandy Traub

If one Irish tradition — the day begins after sunset – holds true, then St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, Georgia will begin at 7:33 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2015.  We can say assuredly, though, that upwards of 200,000 revelers won’t be watching for a St. Patrick’s Day clock to begin their party! In fact, a few days beforehand, the city’s public fountains – from staid, simple ones like that in Orleans Square to the elaborate Victorian confection of a fountain in Forsyth Park — begin to flow a brilliant green in a visual nod to the Emerald Isle.

It will be 10:15 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, 2015, when one of America’s biggest Irish heritage parades — resplendent in shamrock green and lilts of Irish music and fetching laughter — departs from Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah, Georgia USA.

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Green Palm Inn’s Irish Dinner with inspired desserts from “Gone With The Wind”. Photo courtesy Diane Crews.

Rich Old Irish Traditions: Intimate, Generous Hospitality Is Revived in Historic Inns

Amid the St. Paddy’s Day good humor and tomfoolery, the simple, authentic Irish farmhouse foods will be showcased on the historic home tables at many of the small Romantic Inns of Savannah. Winsome cooks and chefs at the restored stately and cottage inns rally to serve up the charming hospitality reminiscent of Ireland, where “the best food was generally for guests, and the warmest hospitality was often to be found in the most humble cabins.” – Source: The Complete Book of Irish Cooking by Darina Hall, owner of Balleymaloe Cooking School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland.

Even if you’re not Irish by birth, in friendly Savannah’s hospitality style — famously “The Hostess City of the South” — the intriguing cues to be energetically Irish or celebrate as though a Colleen or Patrick during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are not by accident. Thomas Paul Thigpen writes in his “Lay Leaders as Cultural Mediators: The Catholic Experience in Nineteenth-Century Savannah, Georgia” of the “cultural mentors” and the “aristocracy of the heart” which welcomed nearly arrived Ireland immigrants into Savannah. “Catholic lay leaders in Savannah built for themselves and their fellow parishioners a home where they could think, speak, and act confidently as Catholics, Americans, and Southerners.”  We read in Ancestry.com that “many of the Irish who came to America in the mid-19th century did not speak English, an obstacle to smooth adjustments. Groups such as the Hibernian Society helped to teach newcomers the English language.” (Source: Heritage Quest, Ancestry.com, “Irish to Georgia (USA) — 1700s and early 1800s.)

This inclusive, orientated, welcoming spirit of welcoming every stranger as “a kin” drives the celebration of Irish heritage in Savannah, Georgia USA.

Diane Crews at Celtic Cross Monument, Emmet Park, downtown Savannah GA. Photo courtesy Green Palm Inn

Diane Crews at Celtic Cross Monument, Emmet Park, downtown Savannah GA. Photo courtesy Green Palm Inn

Generous Savannah Hospitality: Small Inns Honor Irish Ancestors

“Wide open is the door of the little cottage.” – Irish Saying

Helping newly arrived travelers get closer to the culture and learn Savannah’s ways are happy traditions.

Behind the scenes at Zeigler House Inn (121 West Jones Street), the Kentucky-born caterer-turned-innkeeper is preparing her traditional Irish fare. “Grandma and Grandpa Carroll were both Irish and she is the inspiration for my cinnamon rolls, biscuits, scones and the Colcannon I make for St. Patrick’s Day,” shares Jackie Heinz. Jackie uses an antique potato masher, reminiscent of the one she and her cousins scrambled to use in her grandmother’s kitchen.  The mid-day St. Patrick’s Day menu is an annual tradition featuring Irish Coffee, Irish Colcannon, Reuben Quesadilla, and Irish Pancakes with maple syrup and Kerrygold® Irish butter. Jackie’s Irish recipes are here.

Kindness was the currency amid Irish farm cottage families, for the humble Irish in Savannah welcoming potato famine immigrants, and for Irish heritage celebrants on St Patrick’s Day today. Fleeing the Great Potato Famine in Ireland (1840s), Irish immigrants lived in the most humble of housing in the Old Fort District east of East Broad Street near Savannah’s historic Trustees’ Gardens, and in the shanty towns off of West Broad Street (today’s MLK Jr. Boulevard) near Yamacraw and Frogtown. The Celtic Cross, located in Emmet Park is near the old Irish neighborhood along the Bay Street strand, reminds daily travelers of the hearty Irish pioneers of the American south who exemplify still random acts of kindness.

Near the Old Fort District today, there is welcoming old Irish charm at Green Palm Inn (548 East President Street), a 4-bedroom cottage inn, once townhomes to sea captains.  Innkeeper Diane Crew’s Irish ancestry comes through her mother’s paternal Skelly family — O’Scolaidhe in Gaelic. “My farming grandfather came to the United States, settling in Minnesota, by way of Nova Scotia and Canada.”

THE O’HARA’S “GONE WITH THE WIND” DESSERTS IN SAVANNAH

In tribute to her Irish heritage, the St. Patrick’s Day holiday lunch menu (called dinner in Ireland) at Green Palm Inn features three “Gone With The Wind” inspired desserts from the O’Hara’s table – Four-Layer Chocolate Cake, White Chocolate Pudding (mange blanc), and Champagne Pound Cake Minis with Champagne Glaze. In Irish style, the inn’s hearty menu – complementary to lodging guests — will include also Poached Salmon, Leek and Bacon Potato Soup, Pear and Dried Cranberry Chutney, and market plates including pork loin marinated in garlic and honey mustard, banger sausage, smokehouse ham, Murphy and Kerrygold Irish cheese, butter, and Irish Soda and brown breads. Beverages are red wine, sparking wine, and Emmet’s Irish cream.

40 SHADES OF GREEN ARE IN SAVANNAH STREETS ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

Savannah lacks Ireland’s green mountain cliffs and rolling hillsides, renowned for the island’s “40 shades of green” nature-scapes. However, on St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah anyone who meanders along the 191st Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade route through the National Landmark Historic District is sure to see 40 shades of green and more.

The “Wearin’ of the Green” in Savannah is quite the picturesque scene, with shades of Clover Green, Emerald Green, Kelly Green, and Shamrock Green trumping Army Green, Tea Green or Screaming Green for the day’s favorites.

Lead by Irishmen walking with fashionable shillelaghs, Savannah’s Irish families join hundreds of parade floats and invited bands playing heritage-conscious tunes like “McNamara’s Band” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” The crowd-pleasing Irish farm horses, now America’s iconic Budweiser® Clydesdales, prance majestically along old town streets under live oak tree canopies dancing with Spanish Moss (which is gray, not green!). Early rising revelers attempt to temporarily homestead the choicest of spots in the historic squares (small garden parks) and line the parade route for the front-seat vantage points to watch a three-hour long parade.  Reserved bleacher seating is available at Bay Street, Colonial Cemetery, and Cathedral locations.

WHAT IF IT RAINS ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY?  

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a rain or shine event, all the more akin to a Top o’ the Mornin’ day in Ireland, we’d say!

“…I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk….”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

IS SAVANNAH GA AT THE END OF THE IRISH RAINBOW?

Both Savannah and Ireland are celebrated for natural beauty, golf, romance, religious traditions, historic heritage, and food.

If Guinness in Dublin Ireland is where the Irish rainbow begins, then Guinness ice cream could very well be the end of that dreamy rainbow in Savannah, Georgia USA. The annual Irish favorite is served during the month of March each year from the nostalgic Leopold’s Ice Cream shop (212 East Broughton Street; closed St. Patrick’s Day).

One critic dubbed author Margaret Mitchell’s Remington typewriter the harp, the official symbol of Ireland. It is the Irish harp music that was played by traveling bards reading the Psalms.

This trail of Irish music and faith reminds us, too, of Irish worship observed at Savannah’s majestic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Lafayette Square) during the St. Patrick’s festivities. John Paul Thigpen relays the story of brawny and charismatic Irishman named John McMahon, a captain in Savannah’s Irish Jasper Greens. “[W]hen McMahon marched his whole company to the Catholic Church for Mass on Sunday morning, the Jasper Greens felt a sense of pride: Under McMahon’s leadership, as one said, they were ‘testifying their respect for religion, and proving to all that soldiers should not blush to bend the knee to their Creator.’”

GETTING HERE

Airlines at Savannah/Hilton Head International airport offer over 45 daily nonstop flights – American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and U.S. Airways. Allegiant begins service in May 2015.

PATRICK’S DAY DINING TIPS

Ask any Romantic Inns innkeeper where the best Irish pubs in Savannah are. Expect the hearty Irish drinking songs, including “Wild Rover” and “Beer, Beer, Beer Tidily Beer, Beer, Beer”.  Everyone has favorites!

Make dinner reservations early. Or, plan ahead or stop in spontaneously at The Fresh Market (5525 Abercorn Street, Savannah) to fill a last-minute picnic basket with a wide variety of Kerrygold® Irish cheddar cheese and butter, fresh-cut corned beef, deli Rueben Panni, mustards, St. Paddy’s Day cupcakes, pretzels, cookies, Irish Soda Bread, Moonstruck’s Bailey’s Irish Truffles, Guinness® Draught, and the freshest of seasonal berries.

Wishing all a happy St. Patrick’s Day, and hoping you are in Savannah, Georgia, on March 17, 2015!

““These things I warmly wish for you:
Someone to love, some work to do,
A bit o’ sun, a bit o’ cheer,
And a guardian angel always near”
– Irish blessing.

Free Things to Do Around Atlanta

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Every March, the Atlanta Preservation Center puts together a month long series of FREE events around the city. The celebration is called the Phoenix Flies and it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn a bit about Atlanta’s past, as well as take in some unique and often under the radar events.  But what happens when you aren’t visiting in March? Here are three free things to do in Atlanta throughout the year.

Photo Courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Get Your Cowboy on at Booth Western Museum: The first Thursday of every month from 4 – 8 pm, the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville offers free admission. Get the kids into the spirit by requesting a saddlebag at the front desk. The contents will guide and engage children throughout the museum. Get the wiggles out by heading to the basement level where you’ll find the Sagebrush Ranch where kids can learn about light, perspective, observation and other art related concepts all in a kid-friendly playground.

Photo courtesy of Dunwoody Nature Center

Photo courtesy of Dunwoody Nature Center

Relax at the Dunwoody Nature Center: My boys love to visit The Dunwoody Nature Center in the warmer months when they can wade into the creek with their nets and try to catch water striders or even tiny fish. On a recent visit, my son and I hiked a few of the trails, stopping in the full-sized Indian tepee to entertain each other with a progressive story. It was tons of fun. The best part of the Dunwoody Nature Center is it’s free everyday.

Fly Into the Wild Blue Yonder: Kids 8-17 can learn about aviation and take an introductory flight with the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA)Young Eagles Program. Young Eagles chapters are located throughout the state with the most active in Columbus and Lawrenceville. Once the introductory course is complete, kids have the opportunity to advance their training with a free flight training course and a voucher for a first flight lesson with an instructor. Even if they don’t take the flight course, it’s fun to see the city from the sky.

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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5 Unique Ways to Enjoy Georgia State Parks with Kids

By Lesli Peterson

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In 2014 our family stayed overnight at a different Georgia State Park each month, and visited multiple parks in between overnight adventures.  (You can read about Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey.)

While I highly recommend such an adventure, it isn’t for everyone. Don’t let this discourage you from exploring the parks, though! Here are five fun daytrip park adventures for kiddos.

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George L Smith State Park

Canoe or Kayak the blackwater at George L Smith State Park

There is nothing quite like canoeing in blackwater.  The Cypress and Tupelo trees tucked in the water reflect dreamily on the blacktop.  It is peaceful and serene, and the perfect environment for learning to row. Click here to learn more about our canoeing adventure:

Iron pour at Red Top Mountain State Park

Red Top Mountain’s name comes from the soil’s rich red color caused by high iron-ore content.  Bring the kiddos to select a scratch block mold. The crew then fires up the blast furnace, fills the mold with molten iron, and offers up your unique piece once cooled.

Magnolia Springs

Magnolia Springs

See Turtles in the natural spring at Magnolia Springs State Park

Not too far from George L Smith you’ll find Magnolia Springs. The natural spring here pumps 7-9 million gallons of water each day. It is crystal clear, and reflects beautiful shades of blue and green.  Within the spring we saw dozens and dozens of turtles, and a few alligators.  I’ve never seen so many turtles in such a small area; it was amazing.  A side note: Camp Lawton was on this site during the civil war. It was one of two POW camps, the other being the more famous Andersonville.  A museum at the park shares many of the artifacts found here. See a video of the springs and turtle here.

Hike the falls at Amicalola State Park & Lodge

Amicalola is one of the tallest falls this side of the Mississippi. You’ll want to take the kids to see it! I recommend driving up the hill and parking midway with younger kids.  A short walk will get you to a bridge, only feet from the falls. It’s gorgeous, and the kids loved it.  The path is paved, so a stroller would also work.  Active kids can make it down the stairs to the base of the falls and back. Older kids can climb up the 450 stairs to the top of the falls…or start at the top and walk all the way down. Read about our fall adventure here.

Get down with the diamorpha at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Diamorpha are succulants found in the pools of rock outcrops like those at Chattahoochee Bend and Arabia Mountain.  In spring they turn bright red, and then burst with a white bloom.  Primarily found in Georgia, they are on the endangered species list in Tennessee. In fall and winter they appear brown and “dead,” but they are not. Showing kids how special they are in spring, helps them to understand and better respect these beauties in the cold months. We inspected these charmers here.

What are your favorite things to do with kids at Georgia State Parks?

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.

Shake Off Boring and Rattle Down the Road to Claxton

By Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

This side of the Chattahoochee River you’re unlikely to find another festival dedicated to celebrating a poisonous snake quite as fun as the Claxton Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival.

15,000 visitors from all over Georgia, and beyond, flock to Evans County, halfway between Vidalia and Savannah, each year for the family-friendly festival which features captive rattlesnakes, snake handling demonstrations and wildlife educational programs from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Southern University Wildlife Center, Let’s Get Wild, Quails Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Running March 14th and 15th this year, the festival, which has been voted one of the “Top  Twenty Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society, also features a Miss Rattlesnake & Wildlife Pageant, parade, arts and crafts, vendors selling their wares, and more.

While you’re in town visiting the city known as the Fruitcake Capital of the World, be sure to stop by the world-famous Claxton Bakery company store in downtown Claxton.

Want to make a stop at the festival part of your weekend but also want to visit another Georgia city? Vidalia is 40 minutes from downtown Claxton and Savannah is just shy of an hour away by car.

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.

Atlanta’s Most Amazing Hike

By Candy Cook

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During the month of March, Monadnock Madness takes over. Hikers earn free souvenirs for participating in naturalist-led hikes, field photography, mountaintop picnics and other events. You’ll hike about six miles, to the tops of three Atlanta mountains: Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain, and Panola Mountain.

Monadnock Madness is a thoughtfully-crafted annual event that combines one of Georgia’s most popular trails with one of the most pristine. This hike tells a story that will enrich your view of our relationship with planet Earth. It’s truly an unforgettable experience and, in my opinion, it’s Atlanta’s most amazing hike.

Learn more & Register for one of the Triple Hike Challenges to experience all three trails the same day, or pick and choose from events scheduled throughout the month. However you decide do it, Monadnock Madness is a hike you don’t want to miss!

The journey begins hiking two miles on the Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail. Of the three mountains, this trail includes the most obstacles like boulders and exposed roots. It’s also where hikers will experience the most challenging elevation change of the three monadnocks.

The second leg, of Monadnock Madness, takes hikers on an easier one-mile hike on Arabia Mountain, the oldest of the three. This more relaxed trail has the least elevation change or obstacles.

Finally, hikers are treated to the pristine beauty of hiking a protected trail to the top of Panola Mountain. The longest leg of the hike, at three miles, winds through the forest as it climbs the hidden mountain. This summit offers a unique look at the monadnock environment that will surprise you!

Don’t miss out on this amazing annual event!

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.