4 Ways for Families to Explore Atlanta

Georgia AquariumHigh-Profile Adventure:

  • Explore the newest exhibit at Zoo Atlanta – The Scaly, Slimy Spectacular Amphibian Experience, housing more than 60 animal species, including rare Cuban crocodiles.
  • Using high-tech RFID chips, each exhibit at the College Football Hall of Fame spotlights your favorite team.
  • The LEGOLAND Discovery Center has more than 15 activities for families to build, play, ride and explore together.

Multigenerational Fun:

  • The Atlanta History Center mixes history and fun through interactive exhibits, living history interpreters, and a grand outdoors to explore.
  • The Center for Civil and Human Rights uses fully immersive exhibits to teach visitors of the American civil rights movement and current human rights issues.
  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the fabulous Fox Theatre to learn about its history and a few mysteries of the famous Atlanta landmark.
Atlanta History Center

Swan House at the Atlanta History Center

Travel with Teens or Tweens:

Little City-Explorers:

  • Visit the Georgia Aquarium for a peek at dolphins, whales, colorful fish and more.
  • Watch a performance from the in-house puppeteers at Center for Puppetry Arts, and take a puppet-making class afterward.
  • Grab an adventure pass at Stone Mountain Park to gain access to all 10 of the park’s attractions as well as seasonal events.

Lesli 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.

Top Five Family Attractions in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Make memories with these unique Blue Ridge attractions, catering to multi-generational fun.

1. Mercier Orchards – A family-owned and -operated primarily apple orchard, the must-see attraction will reward senses with bushels of apples, strawberries and other produce, fresh pressed cider, warm fried pies – but, most importantly, memories. Started back in 1943 by Bill & Adele Mercier, Mercier Orchards is now celebrating more than 70 years of fruitful harvests. Beyond fruit, the onsite store serves up a variety of farm toys, pet items, kitchen paraphernalia, home decor and a meat and cheese shop. Visit the tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Gather the family for a u-pick experience and fill baskets with fresh-from-the-tree apples or other seasonal produce.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

It’s all about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

2. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – Chugga-chug down the 13-miles of rails comprising the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 45-minute (each way) excursion is a generation-bonding adventure that starts at the historic 1905 depot in Downtown. Vintage climate controlled rail cars or open air rail cars host more than 70,000 passengers each year for a ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River, with a stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill/McCaysville is one town with two names because it is split by the GA/TN state line, where visitors have a two hour layover (one & half layover on Sunday); plenty of time to eat lunch, shop for unique crafts and antiques, snack on ice cream, or walk around.

3. Swan Drive-in – Catch a movie the old-fashioned way at one of Georgia’s four remaining drive-in theaters. Established in 1955, the Swan Drive-in also features a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

4. The Lilly Pad – Mine for gems, go fishing, take a hike or play a round of mini-golf, all at Blue Ridge’s destination for family fun. Pets are welcome, too.

5. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

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.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

When you head to Georgia’s Coast this Independence Day holiday, there’s much more to do than just see fireworks. The state’s coastal towns have their own annual Fourth of July celebrations in addition to other family-friendly festivals and events planned.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, Inc.

Summer Classic Movies at the Ritz (July 2, 2015) – Get into the patriotic spirit by stopping by The Ritz Theatre to see a showing of the classic James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Brunswick’s Old Fashioned 4th of July (July 4, 2015) – Mary Ross Waterfront Park is home to an evening filled with family-friendly fun. There will be free watermelon slices, live musical entertainment, games and a fireworks display set to patriotic music to wrap up the evening.

Red, White & Blues on the Bluff (July 3, 2015) – Hosted by the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce, this festival invites residents and visitors to the shores of the river to listen to live bands and chow down on food from vendors while they wait for the fireworks display to start.

Canons Across the Marsh at Fort King George Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Artillery drills, musket firing and activities to get you better acquainted with a soldier’s life are on the schedule for this Independence Day at the Site. Also, free watermelon and lemonade will be served.

Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island Independence Day Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Jekyll Island will be celebrating the holiday all day on July 4th with beaches open and historical grounds begging for exploration. In the evening, gather near the Jekyll Island Convention Center to see the fireworks display.

Sunday Funday on Jekyll Island (July 5, 2015) – Bring a picnic from a local restaurant or snack shop and spend the afternoon on the Village Green where there will be a magician and face painter ready to entertain the kids.

Independence Day Colonial Faire at For Morris Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Offering period appropriate games of skill, colonial music, musket firings, cannon firings and the usual park recreation opportunities, you family’s day at the park also comes with free admission in honor of the holiday.

Richmond Hill
Independence Day Celebration at Fort McAllister State Park (July 4, 2015) – Bring your family to the park to celebrate Independence Day like it’s 1864. There will be games, food, living history demonstrations, canon firing and musket demonstrations throughout the day in addition to the park’s other recreational activities.

River Street Fourth of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Starting at 4 p.m. town visitors and residents are invited to River Street to celebrate Independence Day, Savannah style. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at dark.

Starland District’s First Friday Art March (July 3, 2015) – Explore local art and culture by experiencing the monthly art walk. July’s March will include an indie market, kids art activities and free trolley service.

Sea Island
The resort community has family-friendly fun planned from July 1-5, 2015 including the Family Olympics, the Ice Cream Sundae Challenge, a fun run, barbecue, luau, parade, fireworks and much more! The entire schedule of events is available as a PDF here.

St. Marys
4th of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Family-friendly fun lasts all day long on Independence Day in the quaint Georgia town of St. Marys. From a parade to arts and crafts to food vendors to rides for kids to a street dance, there’s something for everyone. At night, there will be one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southeastern United States lighting up the sky.

St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival (July 3-5, 2015) – Pier Village is home to the festival that highlights the region’s best art including painting, pottery, jewelry, woodcraft, photography and garden art in addition to the annual 1 mile fun run, 5K race and July 4th fireworks display.

A Little Light Music Concert featuring Mason Waters and the Groove Allstars (July 5, 2015) – Locals and visitors are invited to gather on the grounds of the historic St. Simons Lighthouse for an evening concert before heading to face the workweek.

Tybee Island
Fourth of July Fireworks on the Pier (July 3, 2015) – You can spend your day on the beach, visiting friends, and taking advantage of local dining but be sure to leave enough time to head to the Pier on Tybee Island where they’ll shoot off fireworks around 9:00 p.m. on Independence Day.

Market at the Light House (July 5, 2015) – Shake off the Saturday revelry for a relaxing morning browsing the food, goods and more at the market.

Eileen 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.

Family Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Chattahoochee Bend Observation Tower

Chattahoochee Bend Observation Tower

When this outdoor family celebrates a birthday, we invite our friends to a campout. Our most recent family camping party took place at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan. The park’s camping options meet a wide variety of adventure needs, including separate campgrounds for RVs and tent campers. I also love the seclusion of the paddle-in primitive sites on the Chattahoochee River and the hike-in platform sites. But, for this party, we chose to make camp at a shady tent site in Campground 2.

Chattahoochee River

Chattahoochee River

The park offers canoe rentals and several miles of hiking trails that meander along the river. We spotted many deer, turtles, frogs, and lizards while exploring the trails. Our hike of the Riverside Trail led us through a chorus of frogs to an observation tower overlooking the river. But, the one-mile Flat Rock Trail is the must-see hike of Chattahoochee Bend. Winding through the pines, this easy trail lets hikers explore the rock outcrops and colorful wildflowers of the region.

Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Tent Camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Chattahoochee Bend is prepared for families with unique playgrounds, picnic areas, and a collection of fun things for guests to borrow. When checking in at the visitor center, make sure you check out some of these items to liven up your camp, for free.

Board and card games – We snagged the Apples to Apples card game for a roaring good time around the campfire. Other selections include UNO, playing cards, Candyland, and more.

Binoculars – Chattahoochee Bend is a birdwatcher’s paradise! Get started by borrowing a pair of binoculars and talking to the friendly staff about which birds are currently flying around the park.

Telescope – The darker skies, away from city lights, make Chattahoochee Bend the perfect place to set up a telescope. You can even borrow one for your campout!

Fishing gear – The park offers fishing rods and tackle boxes to help families give fishing a chance. My boys borrowed the gear and headed to the riverbank to catch catfish. Guests can also rent a kayak or canoe to get out on the water.

DVDs – A newer addition to the park, RVers can choose from some popular movies for evening entertainment.

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.

Georgia Spas Fit for Foodies

A smear of honey butter, a dollop of peach oil and a splash of red wine. We could be talking about some of the best plates at local restaurants, but in fact, these are some of the key ingredients in the state’s top spa treatments. Take a look at four of our favorite made-from-scratch spa rituals:

Mandarin Oriental Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Atlanta

The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

Citrus, Honey and Sweet Tea
Keep your nails looking polished this sandal season with a mani-pedi at The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead—the aromatic service kicks off with an invigorating warm citrus soak followed by a bamboo scrub and hydrating honey butter mask. Wash it all down with some classic Sweet Tea—the spa also offers a gentle body buff treatment made with sugar crystals and black tea spiked with lemon and sweet almond honey.

The Spa at Chateau Elan

Photo courtesy of The Spa at Chateau Elan

The health benefits of drinking red wine have long been touted, but did you know when used in beauty treatments, grape seeds are proven exfoliators and hydrators? Head to Chateau Elan’s Spa for the Winery Ritual to see for yourself—the treatment begins with an antioxidant-infused wine bath and moves into a body scrub using red wine grape seeds to slough away dead skin. Finish with the grape seed and clay mud wrap for intense moisture.

Lucille's Mountain Top Inn and Spa

Photo courtesy of Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn and Spa

Of course, the state’s signature fruits are used in top spas, like Mandarin Oriental Atlanta, where the indulgent Peaches and Cream journey employs the juicy gems to melt away muscle tension. Start with a skin-softening apricot kernel exfoliation, the perfect prep for a warming massage using cream and peach oil, followed by a red clay scalp massage.

Set on a mountain top overlooking North Georgia’s historic Sautee Valley, The Spa at Lucille’s employs natural cocoa, winery grape-infused serums and soothing chamomile in their signature antioxidant and firming chocolate facial, a treatment sweet enough to eat.

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