A Nature Lovers Paradise on Little St. Simon’s Island

 By Sue Rodman

Photo courtesy of Little St. Simon’s Island

Photo courtesy of Little St. Simon’s Island

Although it was only May, the white Christmas lights sparkled as we bumped down the deserted sand road toward the beach. As we got closer, we realized those weren’t lights, but fireflies.

The Lodge at Little St. Simons Island

The Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island is a short 10-minute boat ride from the mainland, but it feels worlds away. Since there are only 30 guests at a time at the Lodge, it’s easy to explore the 10,000-acre barrier island with seven miles of beach and 20 miles of wilderness trails without ever seeing another human. You will see lots of other inhabitants though. My boys were especially interested in the armadillos that burrowed under the boardwalk. The alligator resting next to the dock as we crabbed was a little unnerving, but well behaved.  If you prefer a guided tour, on-site naturalists lead adventures for every interest.

Meals at the Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island

The Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island is truly an all-inclusive experience. Three gourmet meals a day prepared with ingredients from the on-site garden are delicious and if you’d rather not stop to sit down, staff will prepare a picnic lunch large enough to share. Cocktail hour brings everyone together and a grab as you wish cooler is always full.

Now is a great time to visit Little St. Simon’s Island and Explore Georgia has several packages available. The Captain Gabby kayaking adventure sounds very intriguing.

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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Spotlight on Georgia’s First Craft Peanut Butter Company

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Georgia Grinders

Photo courtesy of Georgia Grinders

Georgia may be the peanut capital of the world, but until Jaime Foster came along, there was no Georgia-based craft peanut butter company. The Atlanta resident is launching Georgia’s first hand-crafted, small batch peanut butter, Georgia Grinders, this month. Here she shares her story with us:

Q: What inspired you to start making your own nut butters? 

A: Our family has a passion for high quality, healthy foods. And as a mother of two young children, I was always looking for delicious, yet nutritious snacks and meals to appease picky eaters. “[I often turned to] my grandfather’s homemade almond butter—it doesn’t compare to what is commercially available. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and leave the corporate world to launch a small food business in January 2012.

Q: So that’s when Georgia Grinders was born?

A: That’s when we launched NaturAlmond, an all-natural almond butter. But as the cost of almonds hit a historical high, it was imperative that we diversify. The first and most obvious choice was our official state nut, the peanut. Then Georgia Grinders, which encompasses all of our future premium nut butters (cashew, pecan and sunflower seeds are next) and NaturAlmond, was born.

Q: It’s amazing there wasn’t another local peanut butter producer already. Why do you think that is?

A: The majority of our state’s peanuts are purchased by established brands, mass-produced and then distributed internationally at a low cost to the consumer. Often times these products contain hydrogenated oils, unnecessary sugars and preservatives. But we make a premium, handcrafted peanut butter that contains just two ingredients: non-GMO peanuts from South Georgia and sea salt. That’s it!

Q: I can taste the difference! What’s your secret?

A: We produce in small batches, only when orders come in, to provide the consumer with [fresh peanut butter] with a one-year shelf life.  We have perfected the ideal roasting time of premium nuts and have a proprietary grinding process that results in our signature [crunchy] texture (it also comes in creamy). It tastes like freshly roasted peanuts, not masked by the addition of sugars or oils, and it’s easy to stir and spread.

Q: What’s the future for GA-based peanut butters?

A: The health benefits associated with nuts and seeds—they’re high quality protein, fiber and fats—peanuts are the perfect, locally sourced solution. Plus, nut butters are extremely versatile—use them in sauces, baked goods, added to smoothies or eaten by the spoonfuls to satisfy hunger and sustain energy.

Find Georgia Grinders peanut butter at Whole Foods, Atlanta farmer’s markets and boutique shops like Oli+Ve, Savi, Totally Running, and Star Provisions. Or order online at www.georgiagrinders.com

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

Glamping at Fort Yargo State Park

By Candy Cook

Photo Credit: geocaching.com

Photo Credit: geocaching.com

We’ll be camping every month in 2015. We’ll explore each season at park campgrounds and back country campsites only accessible by hiking or paddling. Camping once a month will help us discover Georgia and connect with nature as a family.

Is it cheating that our January campout is in a yurt? I don’t care. It’s cozy, and the luxuries of glamping make our stay more comfortable than crawling into a tent after our muddy winter hike. Greeted by a couple of dreary days, lower lake levels and no mountain bikes on wet trails, I’m happy to settle into a camp with heat, electricity, and big rustic furniture designed for cuddles.

The cold drizzle won’t stop us from venturing out to make some compelling discoveries about Fort Yargo. We start with a portion of the Lake Loop, a relatively easy trail serving both hikers and beginner mountain bikers. Meandering through the trees and near the shoreline, this trail presents an intriguing landscape as it connects us to fishing areas, picnic shelters and a disc golf course. The boys wander around Old Fort Yargo, examining a building that dates back to 1793, before we head back to the yurt. The hike has me eager to tackle features of the longer Mountain Bike Loop.

My favorite discovery at Fort Yargo has more to do with accessing nature than nature itself. The Bird Berry Trail is paved for a half-mile loop offering visitors with wheelchairs or strollers a place to enjoy nature. The trail is marked by interpretive signs describing the environment in text and braille. A bird-watching platform overlooks the lake, and a gazebo is surrounded by a garden. It reminded me of the important role that nature plays in our lives and inspired my boys to think about ways to make it more accessible for everyone.

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.

Running and Family Funning on Tybee Island

By Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

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Photo courtesy of Critz Tybee Run Fest

 

Are you a fan of pounding the pavement? Bounding down the beach? There’s a route and a length for everyone at this year’s Critz Tybee Run Fest.

Taking to the streets and beaches of Tybee Island February 6th and 7th, 2015, the festival features events for your entire family including a 1/7 mile kiddie fun run, 5K, 10K, half marathon, 2.8 Mile Beach Run, and 1 miler. You can also do all the events, which add up to a full marathon.

In addition to the races, there is live entertainment scheduled as part of the weekend but if you want added fun to your race weekend experience, I recommend visiting the Tybee Island Museum which features the Light Station, Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse; exploring the grounds of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel; and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center that kids and adults alike will love.

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.

Indoor Play Options in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

NatureQuest

NatureQuest

I am a huge advocate for outside play. Rain, sleet, snow, or mosquitos…we are out there.  I’m also a realist. When you experience day after day after day of wet, freezing, or muggy weather, the kids need a break. Here are a few of our favorite places to play indoors.

In the City

High Museum The Greene Family Learning Gallery is a hands-on education center. It provides a building area, storytelling space, and three other kid-friendly areas. I love it as a tool for connecting my boys to the art in the museum.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History My boys love to explore at NatureQuest, where they learn about forests, swamps, and more. If I can drag them away, we also play scientist at Sensing Nature. Their favorite stations are the bubble maker and the green-screen meteorologist camera.

North of Atlanta

INK

INK

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Plan to spend an entire day at this “kid-sized” town. Climb in a plane, play musical instruments, or play veterinarian. You can also climb aboard a firetruck, “milk” a cow, or play judge and jury. Bring a picnic, as there are not lunch options in the building.

Tellus Science Museum Head straight to the back, and busy the kids with gem mining.  My boys look forward to getting a little wet and finding a golden nugget. In the next room, ancient dinosaur bones hide under rubble, waiting for little hands to discover them.

South of Atlanta       

Thronateeska

Thronateeska

Museum of Aviation Explore four hangers of equipment, uniforms, and other military flying gear. Most are “for eyes only,” but there are a handful of places where children can climb, touch, push, steer, and more. Stop for lunch at the cafeteria, with large windows for viewing more airplanes outdoors.

Thronateeska Heritage Center This kid-friendly museum is a science center, train exhibit, and planetarium – all under one roof. Our favorite areas are the archaeology exhibit, the “skeleton” piano, and the HO-scale model train.  

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.