Three Places to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Atlanta

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Makan

Photo courtesy of Makan

This Thursday (February 19, 2015) marks the turn of the Chinese calendar, or as we here in the States know it: a day filled with dumplings, noodles and dancing dragons. It’s Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year), and if you’re looking for a fun way to commemorate the occasion, be sure to check out these three Atlanta spots for a celebration to remember:

  • Makan: This Decatur gem, a Chinese-Korean hotspot beloved for their pork belly buns, will not only host an eight-course feast on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve, (think housemade noodles symbolizing long life, dumplings representing wealth and seafood galore), but they’re also offering a dumpling and wonton cooking class on Thursday, followed by a family-style dinner complete with a whole duck and whole fish to share. Get your tickets ($50/person) here.
  • Mandarin Oriental Atlanta: Head to this famed Buckhead hotel on Thursday to usher in the year of the goat—expect festive décor, authentic Chinese specialties (don’t miss the whole roasted Peking duck and the barbecue pork), live dance and drum performances and a huge giveaway (a trip for two to China with two business class tickets on Cathay Pacific to Shanghai and three nights at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai). Tickets are $65 each and available when you call (404) 995 7500 or email moatl-restaurants@mohg.com.
  • Tin Drum: With a dozen locations throughout Atlanta, this local chain is paying homage to China’s traditional festival with two limited-time dishes: crispy orange chicken spiked with ginger and spicy Mongolian steak with crispy onion strings. Every Friday during the celebration, diners can get these dishes along with a fountain drink for just $6.

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

How to Keep Spring Break Fun and Affordable in Georgia

By Susan Rodman

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Spring break is always a welcome respite from the long winter days. Whether planning a week-long family vacation, a quick city break or a staycation near home, here are some tips on saving money on spring break while keeping the fun.

Mix in Some Free: Ask attractions you’d like to visit if they have free or discounted days or hours. For example, the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville is free on Thursdays after 4 pm.

Become a Member: Take inventory of memberships you have in your own city. Many museums and attractions have reciprocal memberships, which means if you are a member in one city, you get in free or at a reduced rate in another.

Get Social: Find restaurants, attractions and hotels where you will be visiting on social media. Often they’ll offer discounts to loyal followers and even if you don’t spend less, you may be able to have a better experience while on vacation.  Research local travel bloggers who may have visited before and ask them for advice or inside tips via social media or comments on their blog. There’s always someone who has been there before that can offer advice, or even be there to answer a question. Plus a lot of times locals have done some of the more hidden adventures that tend to be the most fun and least expensive.

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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Discover Atlanta’s Black History Aboard the Atlanta Streetcar

By Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

With the recent addition of the Atlanta Streetcar as a transportation option for locals and tourists. Atlanta’s part in America’s black history is more accessible than ever.

Free to ride through March, 2015, the Streetcar has several pick-up points throughout Downtown Atlanta, the Old Fourth Ward, and Sweet Auburn districts of the city.  Here’s where to get off and explore history:

Edgewood at Hilliard – A few blocks south of this stop is Historic Oakland Cemetery, the centuries old burial place for people of Atlanta from all classes and races. Graves of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor; Bishop Wesley John Gaines, founder of Morris Brown College; and Carrie Steele Logan, 19th Century founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for black children which continues today as the Carrie Steel Pitts Home.

King Historic District – This stop is at the Martin Luther King, Jr, National Historic Site where visitors will find multiple sites paying tribute to the civil rights leader including the Birth Home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center, and the National Park Service Visitor Center.

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Market – The Sweet Auburn Historic District is an African-American neighborhood centralized on Auburn Avenue.  On the list of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and as a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark District, Sweet Auburn offers up history alongside modern Atlanta foodie haven the Sweet Auburn Curb Market which offers up cuisine for every palate including my favorite place to grab a burger in Atlanta- Grindhouse Killer Burgers.

Auburn at Piedmont – Just a short walk from the intersection of Auburn at Piedmont you’ll find the APEX Museum, a museum dedicated to presenting history from an African American perspective.

Centennial Olympic Park – Pemberton Place, next to Centennial Olympic Park, is the home of the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, and the recently opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The center connects the American Civil Rights Movement to today’s Global Human Rights Movements through interactive displays and a multi-cultural experience. Across the part visitors will find the College Football Hall of Fame which features an immersive experience surrounding the game including a special display about Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

On February 28, 2015 the annual Black History Month Parade will march alongside much of the Atlanta Streetcar route. The parade is the largest celebration of Black History Month in the United States.

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.

8 Ways to Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

By Candy Cook

CandyCook-Bluebird

I’m always looking for fun ways to get outdoors, with my kids, and learn more about nature. The Great Backyard Bird Count gets us excited about spending time outside and learning about Georgia’s birds. It’s an annual event that we’ve been doing for years. One thing we’ve learned is that the diversity of Georgia’s landscape attracts birds to the mountains, swamps, coastline and forests offering an exceptional birdwatching experience all across the state.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 13 – 16, this year. It’s a fun citizen-science project launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The National Audubon Society. Birdwatchers, of all ages, provide real-time information that helps scientists learn more about our wild bird populations including migration routes and diversity. Many parks and nature centers are jumping in to help novice birders identify species and give experts a chance to share their knowledge. Learn more about Georgia’s feathered friends with crafts, activities and expert bird watching guides at these eight great bird count events.

FDR State Park
Friday, February 13
8am – 11am
Novice and expert birders, bring your binoculars and meet at the park office to receive a bird count checklist. Pack a picnic to enjoy after the count.

 

Dunwoody Nature Center
Friday, February 13 9:30am & 11am
Monday, February 16 10am & 12pm
In addition to 22 acres and miles of trails for participants to use in their search for birds, Dunwoody Nature Center  offers free classes to help birdwatchers correctly identify and observe birds in the wild. Register here.

 

Birdsong Nature Center
Friday, February 13 8:30am – 12pm
Saturday, February 14 8:30am- 12pm
Birdsong Nature Center in Thomasville has guided birdwatching tours. Plan to meet in the parking lot at 8am to participate.

 

Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway

Saturday, February 14, 9am
Woodbine Women’s Club & Coastal Georgia Audubon Society are hosting a bird count at Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway in Woodbine  with fun activities and games, afterward at 10:30am. Bring your binoculars and meet at the Riverwalk Gazebo on 2nd street.

 

Blue Heron Nature Preserve
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Join Atlanta Audubon Society at Blue Heron Nature Preserve for guided hike bird counts and more surprises.

 

Panola Mountain State Park
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Atlanta Audubon Society will also be counting woodland and grassland bird species along the newest trail at Panola Mountain State Park. Meet at the visitors center.

 

Smith-Gilbert Gardens
Saturday, February 14 10am – noon
Come count birds with an expert to help with identification! Make a bird feeder and go on a birdhouse scavenger hunt while you explore the gardens.

 

Gwinnett Environmental Heritage Center
Saturday, February 14 11am – 3pm
Sunday, February 15 11am-3pm
Monday, February 16 11am-3pm
Learn about birds with crafts and activities, followed by bird count hikes throughout the day, at Gwinnett Environmental Education Center. Bird watching and identification classes are also available each day at 1:00 & 2:00pm.

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.

Family-Friendly Attractions in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

LenFootTitle

It’s time to share a few places we love, in honor of Valentine’s Day. I geared up to write about local places that cater to kids…. LEGOLAND Discovery Center, INK!, and SkyZone.  These are super escapes for children, and we recommend them gleefully.

But….

I want to challenge you to consider family travel in a different light.  My personal goal is to encourage the exploration of Georgia with kids, not just for kids. 

Children adapt; they thrive wherever you put them, and they are naturally curious. Use these traits to your advantage. Show them the glory of the mountains, the excitement of the theatre, the art of farm-to-table cuisine. Don’t be scared to step outside your comfort zone and introduce them to all the wonders of Georgia.

So, with this call to action, let me tell you about four places that our family LOVES. These places aren’t advertised as family travel venues, per say, but they top our list without a doubt.

Len Foote Hike Inn

Len Foot Hike Inn was the most exciting overnight of our year! We hiked five miles deep into the forest during fall’s big color show, explored the property, played games, slept in our cozy bunkhouse, then watched the sun rise over the mountains. The boys loved meeting a thru-hiker that had just completed the Appalachian Trail. It was challenging, but a memory that will stay with us forever. You can read more about our adventure here:  365atlantafamily.com/lenfootehikeinn

5 Seasons Brewing

Yes, I am suggesting you bring your kids to a brew house. They will be welcome with open arms. The food is top-notch, locally sourced, and earth-friendly. Even the butter is made in-house; don’t miss spreading it on the bread baked from spent grain from 5 Season’s craft brews. Upwards of 70,000 gallons of craft beer, to be exact. For the kids, the menu is diverse and plenty: Grassfed burgers, chicken strips… even a bowl of baby grapes for the pickiest of eaters. You can read more about our experience here: 365atlantafamily.com/5seasonsbrewing

Old Car City USA

We discovered unexpected multi-generational family fun at Old Car City USA in White, Georgia. 4000 old cars…34 acres…6.5 miles of trails.  The oldest cars, with the most character are near the front. We explored the cars, played a little hide-and-seek, snapped over 500 photos, and discussed the history and family lore we recalled upon seeing the old junkers. The boys also enjoyed the doodle gallery of Styrofoam cups in the loft area of the old barn.  You can see our photos and memories here: 365atlantafamily.com/oldcarusa

Merry Acres Inn

There is enough fun in Albany to fill a weekend, and Merry Acres Inn is the best place to call ‘home base.”  Parents will love the spacious rooms, hardwood floors, and the Manor Pub with outdoor porch seating under oversized ceiling fans. Sure, the kids will love the pool filed with mineral water, but let me tell you the best part. You can order delicious, gourmet cuisine from three different restaurants, and have it delivered to the porch for your family. Even though it is “take out,” the served it as if it were made in the back…no flimsy Styrofoam containers and plastic forks.  Family-friendly served to perfection. Check out our room, the pool, and more here: 365atlantafamily.com/merryacresinn

If you are interested in more information about these family-friendly places, please check them out on my website:

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.