Atlanta’s Exotic Bird Fair

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Photo by Stefanie Barber

Atlanta’s Exotic Bird Fair is happening this weekend! Breeders from all over the region come to the North Atlanta Trade Center to sell all sorts of breeds, from beautiful multicolored finches to the most uniquely hued macaws. Vendors also attend, selling items specifically for birds such as seeds, toys and cages, all at huge discounts compared to pet stores.

For bird lovers of all kinds, there is plenty to find at this fair. When my adorable budgie Jasmine needed a friend we had an amazing selection to choose from. Cinderella was just a sweet baby when we got her, but she has grown into the biggest diva around.  My two budgies are spoiled by all the fun toys and treats I get each time we visit the fair. One of the best deals I got from this fair is my budgies’ amazing cage that I purchased for 50% less than I saw in stores and online!

So if you love birds, head over to the show this weekend. You can even get $1 off admission by going to the website and either printing or pulling up the coupon on your phone.  If you can’t make it to this show the next one is on April 25th and 26th.

Location

North Atlanta Trade Center
1700 Jeurgens Court
Norcross, GA 30093-2219

Hours

Saturday  9am to 5pm
Sunday 10am to 4pm

Admission

Kids 12 and under: Free
13 and older: $5

Tickets are valid for both days
Free Parking
http://www.northatlantatradecenter.com/bird.html

525868_337136273015782_693027213_nOur names are Stefanie and Adam and we are a married couple who grew up in Augusta. After graduating from college, we both set our sights on the big city of Atlanta to further grow in our careers and lives. During the week we maintain our respective office jobs. The weekends, however, are spent exploring all that Georgia has to offer – every hidden gem and fascinating locale. We run StefanieandAdam.com to share our exciting adventures and explorations with the world.

Georgia’s 7 Best Weekend Getaway Spots

Georgia, The Peach State, has more to offer than nearly one million tons annual production of the sweet fruit. This state is also the location of beautiful natural landscaping like gardens, islands, caves, parks and mountains. Visitors and locals also enjoy world-renowned aquariums and museums. Read on for 7 of Georgia’s best getaway spots you need to visit right away.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

1.   Callaway Gardens

Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens is a resort complex of 6,500 acres with over 750,000 visitors each year. There is much to do and see, making the Gardens a great weekend vacation spot for almost anyone. Visit Robin Lake Beach, the world’s largest man-made, white sand beach. Step into the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, a conservatory maintained at 80ºF and 74% relative humidity and home to 1,000 butterflies of 50 different species. There are also golf courses, walking and biking trails, and seasonal events.

2. Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island, located off the Georgia coast, is an island of over 36,000 acres. Much of the island is maintained by the National Park Service, and salt marshes, untouched beaches and a variety of animals can be found all over the island. Go hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. Comb the beaches for sharks teeth and sea shells while watching wild horses run along the shore. Visit the Dungeness Ruins and Plum Orchard Mansion, both of which date back to the late 1800’s.

3. Frick’s Cave

Home to the endangered Gray Bat, Frick’s Cave is Georgia’s richest biologic cave environment. The cave makes up about 34 acres of karst topography, or cave area. The cave is also home to Georgia’s only population of the rare Tennessee Cave Salamander. Frick’s is closed to visitors during the summer due to the 10,000 endangered bats that live there, though people can visit the cave during parts of the winter, during which time winter conditions drive the bats live elsewhere.

4.Georgia Aquarium

Opened in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium was the world’s largest aquarium until China’s Ocean Kingdom opened in 2014. The aquarium houses more than 100,000 animals—500 species—in 10 million gallons of marine and fresh water. Visitors to the aquarium can enjoy sea otter and dolphin encounters, behind the scenes tours, sleepovers, and animals like beluga whales, African penguins, whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins and manta rays.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

5. Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park, located at the base of Stone Mountain in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is the hotspot for family activities. Visitors can camp or stay in one of the hotels in the park. The park’s activities and attractions include a Swiss cable car ride with views from the summit of the mountain, a museum with 12,000-year-old artifacts, hiking trails, fishing, golfing, restaurants, shopping, and festivals and events in every season. There’s something for everyone at Stone Mountain Park.

6. Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Among this museum’s permanent exhibits is the Giants of the Mesozoic display, which features a 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus—the largest dinosaur ever classified. Enjoy a film in the IMAX theater and special exhibitions that make their appearance at different times of the year. Different activities and events are available throughout the year, so consider making a call before visiting to find out what will be offered when you visit.

7. Forsyth Park

Forsyth Park, a 30-acre park in Savannah, is the perfect place to spend a beautiful, almost picture-esque day with the family. Talk a walk along the paths and through the gardens, get a bite to eat at the cafe, and attend the occasional concert in the park. Throw a frisbee around or have a picnic lunch in the open grassy areas. Children will enjoy the play area, and the whole family can appreciate the fountain, fragrant garden, tennis and basketball courts.

vincentVincent Stokes is an outdoor enthusiast and an experienced world traveler. He also writes writes for the National Parks and works to promote pride in homegrown travel destinations. You can also connect with Vincent on G+ or twitter (@TravelingGlobal).

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.