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

5 Great Places to Ride Bikes in Georgia

We spent some time out west a few years ago during the summer months and did a good bit of biking. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to explore. Things look much different from the seat of a bike than they do from a car window, and I just like being outside. Georgia has several places perfect for exploring on two wheels. Here are five of our favorites.

Silver Comet Trail, Northwest GeorgiaRider on Silver Comet TrailThe Silver Comet Trail is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. It ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown and Esom, where it joins the 33-mile long Chief Ladiga Trail which takes you as far as Anniston, Alabama. I like to start at the Floyd Road trailhead because they have a bike rental shop for those who don’t have their own bikes. This section is pretty flat too, perfect for new riders.

Atlanta Beltline, AtlantaAtlanta-BeltLineThe Atlanta Beltline is built on former railroad paths and when complete, will be 22 miles of continuous trails circling Atlanta and connecting 45 neighborhoods. At this point though there are five sections of the out and back trails. An added bonus, there are several playgrounds and interesting stops along the routes to keep kids engaged and entertained.

St. Simon’s Island and Jekyll IslandBiking on Jekyll IslandSt. Simon’s Island, and nearby Jekyll Island, have miles and miles of bike paths. On St. Simon’s you can pedal next to the ocean, or to the airport to watch the planes take off and land. On Jekyll, explore the maritime forest or tour the historic district.

Panola Mountain State Park, StockbridgePanola Mountain State Park - StockbridgeWe went to this state park for the archery, but also brought our bikes to test out the paths. It was a lot of fun and next time I’d like to take some additional time and go to Arabia Mountain Park and maybe stop along the way at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

Amp it up at Durhamtown Plantation, Union PointDurhamtown Off Road Riding ResortIf you like your bikes with motors, try Durhamtown Plantation in Union Point Georgia. Durhamtown claims to be the America’s largest off-road resort. They have motorcycles, ATVs and 150 miles of trails. They also offer hunting and shooting ranges and they’re family friendly. If you’d like, stay on-site or nearby at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Plantation.

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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Free Fun Things to Do at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

Piedmont National Wildlife RefugeLooking for some summer fun, we headed to Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Piedmont NWR is best known for hunting and fishing opportunities, but there’s more to explore during the summer season.

Piedmont National Wildlife RefugeVisitor Center
Piedmont NWR’s Visitor Center takes guests on a short tour of the local environment introducing them to the native plants and animals in an interactive way. Learning about the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Deer, Turkey and plants that grow here is a spectacular way to start exploring the Refuge. Free trail maps and fishing permits, as well as information on hunting can be found at the Visitor Center.


HikingPiedmont National Wildlife Refuge
There are about five miles of hiking trails open year-round, at Piedmont NWR. The trails are relatively easy and short leading hikers to view wildlife in their natural habitat and to destinations such as Allison Lake. Bring your binoculars and cameras along on these hikes as we were able to track and spot a couple deer, as well as sighting many lizard and bird species. The Creek and Pine Trails beginning at the Visitor Center, combine to form a 2 mile loop that also connects to the 3 mile Allison Lake trail. Other trails to hike include a 1-mile nature walk along the Wildlife Drive, and the 2.9 mile Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Trail, which loops by a colony site for the endangered bird.

Wildlife Drive
Little Rock Wildlife Drive gives visitors a look at the history of Piedmont NWR, explores various habitats and explains management programs using a self-guided tour brochure that visitors can pick up at the Visitor Center. Driving along this gentle gravel road is a peaceful way to see some of the interesting highlights of the pine forest and includes a one-mile foot path for nature discovery.

Piedmont National Wildlife RefugeFishing
Fishing at Piedmont NWR is allowed from April 1st to September 30th during daylight hours. Anglers reel in a variety of fish including catfish, sunfish, bream, crappie, and bass at Piedmont’s many designated fishing ponds and creeks. There’s also a children-only fishing pond for kids age 15 or younger to experience the fun of sport fishing. Be sure to pick up a free fishing permit from the visitor center before heading out.

Make Piedmont NWR part of a getaway weekend by camping nearby at High Falls or Indian Springs State Parks.
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.

Attack of the Killer Tomato Recipes

For the last six years, the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival has gathered Atlanta’s top chefs and mixologists together to create new dishes for a day of tasting. Each year attendees taste tomato-based food and drinks and while judges pick their favorites as winners. Festival proceeds always go to good causes and there’s some good food along the way.

Killer Tomato Festival

Killer Tomato Festival
Photo Credit: Emily Schultz

In 2014, Bloody Mary Ice Pops by Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos, the master of pastry for all of Ford Fry’s restaurants, was a crowd favorite. Ready to try these for your next outdoor picnic? I snagged the recipe:

Bloody Mary Ice Pops


4 1/2 cups water
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
7 1/2 cups Bloody Mary mix
6 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups of your favorite vodka
ZipZicle Ice Pop Bags


  1. Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Refrigerate until very cold.
  3. Grab a large enough container so that all the ingredients can fit at once.  Pour in your chilled simple syrup, then whisk in Bloody Mary, fresh lime juice, and vodka.  Whisk thoroughly to combine.
  4. Find a tall sided container to hold your pops upright.  Using a liquid measure cup with a pouring spout or whatever you have around the kitchen, fill the Zipzicle bags and place upright in your container — they only need to remain upright until frozen, then they can be placed on their sides for easier storage.

Eduardo Guzman, beverage manager at JCT. Kitchen & Bar, The Optimist, and Marcel concocted the cocktail named “All in One Basket,” the 2014 Festival Judge’s Choice cocktail winner. Here is how you can make yours:

All in One Basket


32 oz. Crop Vodka
16 oz. Cocchi Americano
1 quart sun gold tomatoes
1 quart Georgia peaches, sliced and pitted
1/4 cup calabrese peppers
3 dill springs
3 cups lemon juice
Celery salt


  1. Dry out the peppers in the oven for 20 minutes, then soaked the peppers and pulverize them.
  2. Then, combine tomatoes, peaches, and peppers with 2 cups of water in a blender.
  3. Strain out the mixture, and combine with the dill sprigs, about 3 pinches of celery salt, and the lemon juice.
  4. Let it rest for one hour before serving.

2015’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival is July 19 at Westside Provisions District in Atlanta. The festival will feature over 40 of the South’s top chefs, more than 20 mixologists, and over 30 farmers competing for prizes while music from Ill Communication and Five Bone Rack, Ford’s all-chef band, keeps the crowd’s spirits up. Festival proceeds benefit Georgia Organics and The Giving Kitchen.

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.

5 Things to Explore at Tunes from the Tombs

Historic Oakland Cemetery’s summertime music festival Tunes From the Tombs returns for its fifth year on Saturday, June 13. The daylong festival is quickly becoming an Atlanta tradition, and and all proceeds benefit Historic Oakland Foundation, which in partnership with the City of Atlanta works to preserve, restore, enhance and share Oakland Cemetery.

Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet

Headliner Matthew Sweet plays alongside more than a dozen bands, including:

  • Michelle Malone
  • Little Tybee
  • Eliot Bronson
  • Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
  • Sweet Auburn String Band
  • Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen
  • Blood On the Harp
  • Sourwood Honey
  • Max & Maggie
  • Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers
  • Octave
  • The Ghosts Project
  • Sarah Wilson
  • Atlanta Taiko Project

    Little Tybee

    Little Tybee

Here’s our roundup of what to look forward to at Tunes From the Tombs:

Take in some history on a mini guided walking tour
Oakland Cemetery tour guides offer shorter versions of a few of the cemetery’s popular guided walking tours throughout the day during Tunes. Get a peek into the past with the Sights, Symbols & Stories of Oakland overview tour, Malts & Vaults of Oakland: Where Beer Meets History, Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour, Fear & Accusation: The Leo Frank Story, The Women of Oakland and Art & Architecture of Death.

Plant yourself in the beer garden
Grab a cold one and take in a performance at the Bell Tower beer garden, which features The Ghosts Project, a cappella group Octave, Bonaventure Quartet and the Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers. No matter your preference, there’s plenty of brews on tap, including: Red Brick Brewery’s Hoplanta IPA, Sessions IPA, Hibiscuwit Belgian Wheat and Laughing Skull Amber Ale; Starr Hill Brewery Grateful Pale Ale; Modelo; Pacifico; Corona Light and PBR.

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon
Photo Credit: Historic Oakland Foundation

See what the future holds
Fortune teller Robyn Avalon holds court in the Rawson Mausoleum, offering readings from 1 p.m to 6 p.m. While Avalon’s readings are offered on the house, tips are appreciated (a portion of which are donated back to Oakland!)

RIP and get the VIP treatment
Upgrade with a Rock In Peace (RIP) package for plenty of perks! RIP ticket holders have the chance to meet and mingle with Tunes performers; receive complimentary food from Doc Chey’s Noodle House and Republic Social House; complimentary Historic Oakland Foundation membership for a year, and much more! RIP ticket sales end at 12 p.m. on Friday, June 12, and are available online only at

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

See illusion come to life
Strike a pose with Bob Seymore, the living statue who’s been performing world-class pantomime for more than 40 years. Seymore’s statuary is one that must be seen to be believed, and is sure to delight attendees of all ages!

Advance tickets for Tunes From the Tombs available online at General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children (kids 3 and under are free). Tickets sold at the gate are $20 for adults and $5 for children.

For more information at Historic Oakland Cemetery and Tunes From the Tombs, please visit or call 404-688-2107.