Five Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ with Chocolate

This Valentine’s Day, get your loved one’s attention with chocolate from Georgia!

Photo courtesy Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Facebook

Photo courtesy Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Facebook

Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., Atlanta

Nationally known for their creation of exquisite origin-driven chocolate and confections, Cacao Atlanta partners with scientists and local growers to achieve extraordinary quality and upholds hand production methods throughout the entire chocolate-making process. With several locations to choose from, you can enjoy your treats to go or relax and enjoy them at the Cacao Café.

ChocoLaté Coffee, Decatur

Looking for your chocolate fix in liquid form? This independently owned and operated coffee and dessert shop is for you! They expertly roast their beans on site, giving each cup of specialty chocolate drinks a robust, but smooth, finish. Free Wi-Fi, leather chairs, comfy couches and a LONG list of drinks, homemade desserts and pastries is a welcoming change from the usual grab-and-go coffee chains.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread by Xocolatl

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. Photo courtesy Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, Facebook.

Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate. Atlanta

Their small batch chocolate is made from cacao that is sustainably and ethically grown. Once imported to their Atlanta store, it is turned into beautiful chocolate liquor. Using only two ingredients — cacao and organic cane sugar — what you’re left with is the true flavor of the chocolate from the different regions. By sticking with just those two ingredients, the end result is delicious, vegan, soy AND gluten free.

Maison Robert Chocolates, Atlanta

As a third generation pâtissier-confiseur-glacier, Robert Reeb opened Maison Robert in Georgia in 1977. They have the reputation of using only the finest ingredients available, and all of their chocolates are still made by hand. You can choose to enjoy your confections there, have them beautifully packed to go, and even make your own in one of their custom classes!

Photo courtesy diAmano Chocolate, Facebook

Photo courtesy diAmano Chocolate, Facebook

diAmano Chocolate, Atlanta

Say, “I Love You,” and then eat it! This family-owned business specializes in 1,000+ different shapes, edible logos and pictures, and custom messages ALL written in chocolate. They also offer flavors and combinations — several of which change throughout the year — and the option of custom flavors. So, come in (or order online) and make your Valentine Day’s message extra sweet!

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.

Four Romantic Dates that Won’t Break the Bank

Planning the perfect date or getaway for Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to include expensive champagne, diamond jewelry or five course meals. This Valentine’s Day, why not spend less money on things, and spend more time together? Here are four romantic dates in Georgia that won’t break the bank, but will give you some quality time with your honey or the entire family.

heart

Hike to the Heart: Hike the 1.6-mile Fort Mountain loop trail at Fort Mountain State Park in North Georgia and see if you can find the heart-shaped stone located in the Water Tower. During the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps mason carved the stone for his sweetheart, setting it into the fire tower. The lad’s romantic gesture must have won her heart, because they were married 59 years. If you’d like to take the whole family, on Feb. 13 at 1 p.m., there is a family-friendly group hike to see the stone and hear the love story.

C. Japonica "Purple Passion"

C. Japonica “Purple Passion”

Gather some “Winter Roses:” Why buy just a dozen roses when you can have an entire garden? Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley is hosting the Festival of Camellias throughout the month of February when the flowers are at their peak. Camellias are known as “winter roses,” and the gardens showcase thousands of varieties. For the truly frugal, celebrate a little early; the gardens offer free admission on Saturday, Feb. 6.

glass floats created by local artists on Jekyll Island

Hunt for glass floats created by local artists on Jekyll Island.

Go on a Treasure Hunt: In the early 1900s, fisherman used hollow glass balls on their nets as markers. Occasionally these balls would wash up on Jekyll Island’s beach for lucky beachcombers to find. In the spirit of those early “finds” Jekyll Island has commissioned artists from across the country to create one-of-a-kind glass balls. Throughout January and February, treasure seekers can hunt for the glass balls around the island. Each float is marked with a special tag and instructions for treasure finders to register their find at the Jekyll Island Guest Information Center.

Stargaze: What’s more romantic that looking at stars? The Fernbank Science Center planetarium has three different programs running in February: Solar Quest; Earth, Moon & Sun; and Amazing Astronomers of Antiquity. In addition, Fernbank’s observatory is open on Thursdays and Fridays for viewing the real night sky.

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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Four Best Places to See Roses in Georgia

Did you know that the Cherokee Rose is the official Georgia State Flower? Here is where you can see the flower and other roses throughout the state of Georgia.

Roses at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy Atlanta Botanical Garden, Facebook

Roses at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy Atlanta Botanical Garden, Facebook

Atlanta Botanical Garden (Atlanta) – Nestled into the heart of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden boasts 30 acres of gardens including the Rose Garden. Peak blooming times are in May and June while some re-blooming occurs in the autumn.

Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain) – Head to the Middle Georgia mountains in the springtime to see the flowers at Callaway Gardens at their peak color. In addition to roses, you won’t want to miss the Gardens’ acclaimed azaleas and the Day Butterfly Center.

Thomasville Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of The Village Journal

Thomasville Rose Garden. Photo courtesy of The Village Journal

Rose Show & Festival (Thomasville) – Celebrating its 95th year in 2016, the Rose Show & Festival features thousands of roses, two parades, live music, a street dance, arts and crafts, festival food and more. The 2016 festival will be held April 21-23. While you’re there, be sure to check out the 5-acre Thomasville Rose Garden.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum (Atlanta) – Along with being the home to a museum featuring President Jimmy Carter’s life, the destination features 37 acres of land where guests can see a formal garden, meadow, cherry orchard, waterfalls and rose garden that contains the coral-colored Rosalynn Carter Rose, named after the 43rd President’s wife.

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. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Spring Events Your Family Can’t Miss

Atlanta Botanical Garden Blooms

Tulips at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Most of the state has seen a touch of snow; are you ready for warm weather yet? If you are anxious for the sunshine and fun that comes with spring, then grab a pen and mark your calendar. Here are five events in four beloved Atlanta Metro locations that the family can look forward to.

I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle

The High Museum of Atlanta’s newest exhibit will open in April 2016.  I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle is set to span nearly 50 years of the artist’s career and feature more than 80 of his signature collage works from 15 of his most popular books.

Just like the current Mo Willems exhibit, this exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Alliance Theatre’s world premiere play with music Pancakes, Pancakes! (June 1 through July 3, 2016), based on Eric Carle’s book of the same name.

The Jump

Every year Stone Mountain Park adds a new aspect of adventure to the park. Families will love the new attraction, The Jump, coming spring 2016. This thrilling, family-friendly, multi-level free fall drop experience offers three different tower levels to jump onto free fall air bags — just like a stunt professional!

New Dolphin Tales Show

If you’ve been to the Georgia Aquarium this year you might have noticed that the Dolphin Tale show you’ve been watching since April 2011 is no longer showing. Currently, there is a new a new, temporary dolphin training experience in the AT&T Dolphin Tales theatre called Splash 101. It has taken the place of the first Dolphin Tales show as the Aquarium prepares to debut a completely new dolphin experience in March of this year.

Atlanta Blooms! & Chihuly Returns

I love spring each year at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for a number of reasons, but the tulips are at the top of that list. 2016 is going to be an amazing show, as the landscape changes almost daily as more than 300,000 bulbs spring to life during Atlanta Blooms!, including more than 38,000 new ones planted last fall.

As if that were not enough, Chihuly returns to the garden this spring! Chihuly in the Garden, set for April 30 – October 30, 2016, will include 21 installations, all set among the garden’s natural beauty. (That’s more than twice as many as his 2004 exhibit brought.) Additionally, Chihuly Nights will offer extended evening hours, giving visitors a different, yet spectacular experience for viewing the sculptures with dramatic lighting, set against the city’s beautiful skyline.

You can read details about these and other exciting family events on my Save the Date page, or ink your calendar from our Monthly Event Spotlights.

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.

The Year of Georgia Music and the Artists Keeping it Flowing

2016 Georgia Travel Guide coverIt’s official: 2016 is the Year of Georgia Music. Governor Nathan Deal made the announcement at the State Capitol last Tuesday as he unveiled the cover of the annual Georgia Travel Guide, which features country superstar and Leesburg, Ga., native Luke Bryan.

The designation is a welcome acknowledgement of the $3.6 billion annual impact and 26,000 jobs music brings to the Georgia economy, but it’s nothing new — music has been part of Georgia’s lifeblood for decades. Its generational strength was in full display at a Travel Guide launch party, where entertainment included 17-year-old Marietta-born Zach Seabaugh, a recent semi-finalist on “The Voice.” Zach was followed on stage by Macon’s Robert Lee Coleman, the 75-year-old bluesman who played guitar in James Brown’s legendary band the JBs. The talent stretches throughout Georgia as well, as evidenced by the guide’s photo of notable musicians from every corner of the state.

It’s easy to rattle off the classic names (Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, R.E.M., Ma Rainey) but Georgia’s new guard earns plenty of acclaim as well, via the recent Grammy nominations. And it would hard to top the variety:

  • Cedartown’s Sam Hunt for Best New Artist and Best Country Album for his 2014 debut “Montevallo.”
  • Veteran Atlanta rockers Sevendust for Best Metal Performance on “Thank You.”
  • Christian rockers Third Day for Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song for “Soul on Fire.”
  • Rounding it off, HBO’s documentary “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” is nominated for Best Music Film.

For another barometer of the latest Georgia sounds, check out the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll, an aggregation of nearly 500 critics’ best-of lists that provides a comprehensive snapshot of 2015 music. Macon native Mackenzie Scott, who records as Torres, finished an impressive #28 with her sophomore album “Sprinter.” Young Atlanta-based rappers Rae Sremmurd landed at #40 with their debut “SremmLife,” also topping Pazz & Jop’s “hipness” scale based on the poll’s own definition. Savannah’s Baroness crashed the party with their mid-December album “Purple,” rating a callout as one of the only metal bands to make this year’s chart — they also garnered as many votes as both Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez despite the late arrival.

Be sure to check out the new ExploreGeorgia.org/Music landing page. I’m particularly fond of the interactive “Today in Georgia Music” calendar, yet another example of the state’s deep, diverse musical roots. For example, February 1 is the birthday of OutKast’s Andre “Big Boi” Patton (Savannah, 1975). Oh, and 10 years earlier on that same date, James Brown recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Not bad for a day’s work.

Start making plans today to discover many more local artists on your next trip to Georgia with your free copy of the 2016 Georgia Travel Guide.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.