Wine and Dine Off the Beaten Path in Moultrie

Colquitt County Courthouse decorated for the holidays

Colquitt County Courthouse decorated for the holidays. Photo courtesy The Square, Moultrie.

Moultrie, Georgia, located in Colquitt County, sits in the center of Georgia’s No. 1 agricultural county. It is home to the State Farmers Market and a beautiful downtown that boasts the friendliness of a small town with specialty shops, a turn-of-the-century courthouse and sophisticated award-winning restaurants. Two of the restaurants are right on the square of downtown Moultrie: one aptly named The Square and the other is the Blue Sky Grill.

The Square has made its home in a building that has been a part of downtown Moultrie’s landscape since the late 1800s. The Square’s impressive menu changes seasonally to represent what’s locally available in the fields and pastures of Colquitt County. At the core of the menu is the Southern tradition of sharing good food with the people you love.

Dinner at The Square in Moultrie

Dinner at The Square in Moultrie

The Square currently offers an International Wine Night, showcasing the culinary skill of their talented chef with wines paired from around the globe. I had the good fortune of attending their Spanish Wine Night and enjoying such Spanish delicacies as Serrano ham, paella, a house-made tomato compote served over potato and ham croquetas, and even churros with rich chocolate sauce all beautifully paired with regional Spanish wines.

Right next door, serving more delicious #GeorgiaEats, is the Blue Sky Grill. Started in 2002 by two friends returning home from college in Athens, Georgia, the restaurant showcases steaks seasoned with a signature rub and grilled over an open flame.

Horse Creek Winery Tasting Room in Sparks, Georgia

Visit the Horse Creek Winery Tasting Room in Sparks, Ga., on the Georgia Grown Highway 37.

On your way to Moultrie, be sure to add some time to your trip and enjoy the Georgia Grown Highway 37, Georgia’s first agritourism highway. Highlights like a wine tasting at Horse Creek Winery Tasting Room – Sparks (made from grapes grown on a 40-acre farm in Nashville, Ga.); a visit to  White Oak Pastures, a 2,500-acre, multi-generational farm and restaurant; and a stop at Still Pond Vineyard, Winery & Distillery, the South’s largest commercial vineyard, are all worth a trip off the beaten path.

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.

5 Mountain Bike Trails to Try in Gainesville

Tortoise mountain bike trail in Chicopee Woods

Tortoise Trail in Chicopee Woods. Photo by Candy Cook.

Spend a whole day exploring 21 miles of dedicated mountain bike trails winding through Chicopee Woods in Gainesville. The five bike trails of Chicopee Woods are set in a beautiful pine and hardwood forest of the Northeast Georgia Mountains, with Elachee Nature Science Center right around the corner. The Gainesville chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) does an amazing job of maintaining this network of interconnected loops, offering something fun for every skill level.

White Tail Trail in Chicopee Woods

White Tail Trail in Chicopee Woods. Photo by Candy Cook.

Warm up on the beginner-friendly gateway, Tortoise Trail. The 2.6-mile wide singletrack is clear of major rock and root system obstacles. Gentle climbs and lots of gradual downhill make a perfect, well-balanced warm-up or first-time ride.

Skilled mountain bike riders hop from Tortoise Trail to the excitement of White Tail Trail. White Tail takes intermediate riders twisting and turning on a descent to the creek. The 4.7-mile White Tail Trail is the key to connecting with other fast-flowing trails like Red Tail Trail and Flying Squirrel.

Finally, advanced mountain bike riders enjoy the technical challenges of adding Copperhead Gap’s 4.7 miles to their rides.

White Tail Trail in Chicopee Woods

White Tail Trail in Chicopee Woods. Photo by Candy Cook.

Chicopee Woods Mountain Bike Trail breakdown:

Tortoise Trail, Beginner – A quick 2.6-mile loop with very little elevation change and virtually no technical aspects.

White Tail Trail, Intermediate – 4.7 miles descending to the creek with some fun twisty, turny switchbacks.

Red Tail Trail, Intermediate – At 1.5 miles, this short and sweet side trail is a smooth rolling ride through the woods.

Flying Squirrel, Intermediate – 4.7 miles of fantastic flowing singletrack with some technical flair and a bridge crossing the creek.

Copperhead Gap, Difficult – Ride for 3.5 miles with plenty of technical difficulties for advanced mountain bike riders.

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.

4 Places to Experience German Culture in Georgia

Alpine Helen

Visit Helen to experience German culture any time of year.

1.)  Experience Helen. The north Georgia alpine village is a tourist destination all times of the year, and its annual Oktoberfest events welcome thousands. If you’ve never visited Helen in the summer, be sure to put a river tubing experience on your to-do list.

2.)  Shop the Dublin Christkindlmarket. They’re not all about Irish heritage in Dublin. At Christmastime each year, on weekends, the town hosts a shopping experience complete with German food like stollen, cookies, waffles, fried sausages, hot spiced wine, apple cider and a visit from Santa.

3.)  Taste authentic German cuisine. Georgia is home to some great restaurants serving up authentic fare in Helen, but you’ll also find authentic German cuisines elsewhere in the state at eateries including Der Biergarten (Atlanta), The Village Corner (Stone Mountain), Zum Rosenhof (Hinesville), Gasthous Tirol (Cumming), The Bavarian’s Restaurant (Jesup), Kurt’s Bistro (Duluth), Villa Europa Restaurant (Augusta) and City Café & Bakery (Fayetteville).

4.)  Make plans to attend German Bierfest. Woodruff Park in Atlanta is home to this German beer-centric festival each autumn. Don’t just go for the beer. There’s plenty of authentic food like schnitzel and sauerkraut to fill up on.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Clickhere for more Festival content from Eileen.

Favorite Holiday Traditions of Local Georgians

Every community has its own unique traditions, especially during the holiday season. As a traveler, I like to find the activities and events that even the people that live in the community look forward to seeing. Here are a few tried and true community traditions in Georgia that attract locals as well as visitors.

Thomasville residents dressed up for Victorian Christmas

The Victorian Christmas Festival will be held in Thomasville Dec. 10-11, 2015

Victorian Christmas Festival, Thomasville: On Dec. 10 and 11, Thomasville, Georgia, is transformed into a turn-of-the-century downtown. Enjoy carriage rides with jingle bells, costumed carolers who encourage singing along, and roasting marshmallows or chestnuts over an open fire. There is musical entertainment, shopping, and a live nativity, too.

Become a Sugar Plum Fairy, Lookout Mountain: Children can become part of Inara The Ice Queen’s court by purchasing a princess dress or fairy wings. Afterward, stroll through the kingdom, which includes the nightly Enchanted Garden of Lights from 6 – 9 p.m. Lights are a big part of many holiday celebrations throughout Georgia. Here is a list of 14 places to see holiday lights near Atlanta.

Ride the Pink Pig, Atlanta: My favorite traditions are the ones unique to a particular community. I’d venture to guess there is no other place in the world where you can ride a pink pig through a storybook. This Atlanta tradition started at the Rich’s department store in downtown and continues at the Macy’s at Lenox Square Mall. When you go, tell Priscilla I said “Hi.”

Hills & Dales Estate decorated for the holidays

See Hills & Dales Estate decorated for the holidays Dec. 5-26, 2015.

Build Gingerbread Houses, LaGrange: The Callaway family celebrated many a Christmas at the Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange. Now the family home is open to the public, and locals are creating their own traditions. In addition to tours through the mansion, on Dec. 19, bring the kids for a Children’s Christmas Celebration, including decorating gingerbread houses.

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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Guide to Holiday Shopping Events in Georgia

Downtown Thomasville decorated for the holidays

Shop downtown Thomasville during two festive events: Small Business Saturday Nov. 28 and the Victorian Christmas Festival Dec. 10-11.

Find unique gifts for everyone on your list at these special holiday shopping events throughout Georgia. Stroll through historic downtowns filled with boutiques, specialty stores and galleries while the sounds of the season fill the air. Shop for handmade crafts and gifts you can’t find anywhere else, and treat yourself to a bite in a local café. Make holiday shopping a merry event this year in Georgia!

Nov. 24: Candlelight Shopping on the Square, Historic Downtown Washington

Nov. 26: Christmas in Possum Snout, Tallapoosa

Nov. 28: Christmas at the Art Center, Blue Ridge

Nov. 28: Small Business Saturday in Downtown Thomasville

Nov. 28-29: Mistletoe Market & Sugar Plum Tea Room, North Georgia Technical College Campus, Blairsville

Nov. 28-Dec. 20 (weekends): Dublin Christkindlmarket (Traditional German Christmas Market), Dublin Carnegie

Nov. 30-Dec. 15: Christmas at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Atlanta

Dec. 1-4: Holiday Book Sale, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens

Dec. 3-4: Christmas Extravaganza, Downtown McRae

Dec. 4: First Fridays in Historic Downtown Brunswick

Dec. 4: First Friday, Downtown Valdosta

Dec. 4: Friday Night Live: Christmas in Downtown Woodstock

Historic Olde Town Conyers business district

Find special sales and promotions in the historic Olde Town Conyers business district during the Dec. 4 Christmas Party.

Dec. 4: Olde Town Conyers Christmas Party

Dec. 4: Downtown in December, Jefferson

Dec. 4-5: Christmas on the River, Savannah

Dec. 4-6: Art Dublin Holiday Gala & Show, Dublin-Laurens Museum & Cultural Center, Dublin

Dec. 5: Christmas in the Mountains, Downtown Cleveland

Dec. 5: Holiday Open House and Christmas Parade, Valdosta

Dec. 5: Back to Nature Holiday Market and Festival, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Roswell

Dec. 5-6: Home for the Holiday Expo, Gwinnett Center, Duluth

Dec. 5-6: Victorian Christmas Open House, National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus

Dec. 5-13 (weekends): 8th Annual Christkindlmarkt, Helen

Dec. 5-19 (Saturdays): Georgia Winery’s Christmas Open House, Ringgold

Dec. 10: 13th Annual Hometown Christmas, Downtown Warrenton

Dec. 10: Girls’ Night Out, Valdosta

Children visit with Santa in Thomasville

Take the kids to visit with Santa in Thomasville during the Victorian Christmas Festival Dec. 10-11, 2015.

Dec. 10-11: Victorian Christmas Festival, Thomasville

Dec. 11-23 (select dates): Dinner & Shopping in Truett’s Barn, The Rock Ranch

Dec. 12: Nacoochee Village Christmas, Helen

Dec. 12: Christmas Cookie Walk, Good Samaritan Catholic Church, Ellijay

Dec. 17: Christmas in Royston

Through Dec. 22: Mistletoe Market, Arts Clayton Gallery, Jonesboro

Through Jan. 9: Holiday Show and Sale, The Art Center, Blue Ridge

Looking for more unique shopping destinations in Georgia? Read Shopping for Kids this Holiday Season, visit the Shopping Trip Ideas page, and find many more holiday events on the Events page. Subscribe to the Explore Georgia email newsletter to receive the latest events and deals directly in your inbox!