Go for a Ride on These Georgia Bike Trails

JerryColley_BikeRideAcrossGeorgia

Georgia’s bicycle-friendly trails and sightseeing routes offer unique ways to discover the Peach State.

Atlanta Beltline Bicycle

Located on Atlanta’s 22-mile paved trail, Atlanta Beltline Bicycle is home to hundreds of vintage and modern bikes. It was a pleasure to browse the collection and chat with the friendly staff as my son searched for his perfect ride. He fell in love with a blue mountain bike, and a great deal was sealed with a fun test drive on the Atlanta Beltline.  Open every day of the week, Atlanta Beltline Bicycle offers new and used bikes, as well as rentals and repairs.

Muddy Spokes Club

Earlier this year, we picked up our membership cards for this self-guided biking challenge at Georgia State Parks. Mountain bikers visit eleven parks and ride 68 miles of trail to earn a commemorative t-shirt. The designated trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous, offering visitors an exciting way to explore Georgia.

Silver Comet Bridge. Photo courtesy of Candy Cook.

Silver Comet Bridge. Photo courtesy of Candy Cook.

Bicycle Tours

Bicycle Tours of Atlanta and Savannah Bike Tours – Home give sightseers a new way to view the historic and cultural attractions of the iconic south. Bike tours are fun and interactive! Each tour includes bike rental, helmets, and friendly guides to lead the way!

Bike Ride Across Georgia

The most fun you can have on two-wheels, these social biking events attract riders from all over the world. Each season features another great bike ride! While it is a challenge, June’s week-long ride is not a race. Participants set their own pace, meeting new friends, and camping at local venues along the selected route. Join in the fun by signing up for a ride!

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.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Vidalia Onions

Vidalia Onion - GDECD

It’s officially Vidalia onion season! Celebrate with this list of fun facts about “America’s Favorite Onion.”

  1. Mose Coleman of Toombs County accidentally discovered the Vidalia onion during the Great Depression.
  2. Piggly Wiggly was the first retail store to sell Vidalias.
  3. The Vidalias are named after the town they are grown in, Vidalia, Georgia.
  4. The sweet flavor is due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil in which the onions are grown.
  5. It can be called a Vidalia only if it’s grown in one of 20 counties designated by the the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986.
  6. The Vidalia onion was named Georgia’s official state vegetable in 1990.
  7. Farmers grow Vidalias on more than 14,000 acres.
  8. There is a 1,300-square-foot Vidalia Onion Museum that is filled with exhibits that highlight the sweet onion’s economic, cultural and culinary significance.
  9. Vidalia sales now total $90 million, 40 percent of the nation’s spring onion crop.
  10. Around 5-million 40 lb. boxes are shipped out each season!

Learn more on the Vidalia Onion Committee website.

Secret Camping Spots at Georgia State Parks

While pitching a tent at one of the Georgia State Parks is a popular activity, the parks still harbor secret camping and glamping spots and unique accommodations known only to those willing to travel off (or even above) the beaten path.

Panola Mountain State Park – Treetop Bivouac Camping

The adventurous camper can sleep like a log with Panola Mountain State Park’s treetop bivouac camping program, called ZZZ’s in the Trees. Secured by harnesses for the night, campers can safely scale the majestic trees in the park to get to their quarters: canvas “treeboats” (sturdy hammocks) suspended high above the ground. The treeboats are open, not enclosed like a tent, and sway gently in the breeze, providing a relaxing canopy getaway for those comfortable with heights. Reservations for the treetop camping are required and can be made by calling the state park.

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham and High Falls State Park – Paddle-In Camping

Reed Bingham State Park, 20 minutes east of Moultrie offers paddle-in camping on Eagle Island for up to 30 campers. Eagle Island sits in the middle of the park’s 375-acre lake, popular with boaters, fishermen and skiers, and provides privacy from passing boaters. The island is only a 15-minute paddle from the shore, and campers may rent canoes or kayaks or bring their own.

High Falls State Park provides paddle-in camping to a secluded peninsula. The paddle-in takes about 30 minutes. The campsite can sleep up to 25 people and comes with five canoes.

Unicoi Squirrel's Nest Camping

Unicoi Squirrel’s Nest Camping

Unicoi State Park – Squirrel’s Nest Camping

Forget bird’s eye view. Campers can have a squirrel’s eye view at Unicoi State Park, just north of Helen. The park’s 16 squirrel’s nest camping shelters feature raised and covered wooden platforms with open sides that allow campers to spend the night side-by-side with the local wildlife. Each nest sleeps four.

The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls State Park – The Hike Inn

A five-mile hike from the top of Amicolola Falls will bring visitors to the 20-guest room Hike Inn. Guests have access to hot showers, but there are no outlets at this backcountry getaway. The Hike Inn serves breakfast and dinner every day in a family-style setting and is perfect for Appalachian Trail hikers or families looking for a wilder kind of vacation.

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Chattahoochee Bend State Park – Paddle-In River Camping and Adirondack Shelters

The new Chattahoochee Bend State Park, near Newnan provides seven paddle-in, riverside campsites for boaters traveling down the Chattahoochee River. The park also offers campers the unique experience of spending the night in a screened Adirondack shelter.

Smithgall Woods Luxury Cottage Camping

Smithgall Woods State Park – Luxury Cottage Camping

If you have never seen a chandelier in the middle of the woods, stay a night at Smithgall Woods State Park’s Smithgall Cottage. Rustically opulent and built of smooth Montana lodge pole pines, the cottage features immaculately decorated rooms, including a great room with a large stone fireplace, an exercise room, a kitchen, a dining room and four bedrooms (2 Kings; 1 Queen; 1 Double/Double) with private baths. Nestled at the heart of the park, the cottage’s large decks overlook the surrounding bubbling brooks and gorgeous forest scenery.

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park – Suwanee River Eco-Lodge

Run by Stephen C. Foster State Park, the Suwanee River Eco-Lodge in Fargo, consists of 10 cottages and a conference room that can seat up to 100 people. Perfect for hunting or paddling vacations, business meetings, retreats, reunions and weddings, the eco-lodge sits just 18 miles from the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp.

Fort Mountain – Back Country Camping

Situated two miles apart from each other deep in the woods outside Chatsworth, Fort Mountain State Park’s four backcountry campsites offer visitors private and secluded campsites. While each campsite comes with a fire ring, visitors must bring all camping gear to these rustic sites. Fort Mountain’s backcountry sites number 3 (called Moonshine) and number 4 (called Rock Creek) offer visitors gorgeous seasonal views looking out over the Chatsworth valley area. Backcountry sites are also offered at many other state parks, including as Tugaloo and Ft. McAllister, which have primitive campsites that do not require a long hike.

Other unique opportunities include:

Yurt at Tugaloo State Park

Yurt at Tugaloo State Park

Yurt “Glamping”

There’s no need to pitch a tent when High Falls, Tugaloo, Red Top Mountain, Fort Yargo and Cloudland Canyon State Parks offer the glamorous camping (“glamping”) option of yurts. Made of wood and canvas, yurts sleep up to six people and come with beds, futons, screened windows and locking doors, as well as an outside deck, picnic table and grill/fire ring. Yurts will also soon be added to Sweetwater Creek State Park.

First-Time Camper Program

For those who have never ventured into the woods, 13 state parks offer loaner gear through the First-Time Camper program. The program’s equipment was donated to the parks by Coleman, REI and The North Face, and, for just $50, first-time adventure seekers can spend two nights in a modern campground with a tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a camp stove, lantern and marshmallow-roasting sticks. Park staff and volunteers can help set up the tents and provide “Camping 101” instructions.

 

Three Georgia Restaurants with Postcard-Worthy Views

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

It’s no secret Atlanta is home to several sky-high restaurants with incredible views—the spinning blue dome at Polaris is a city icon, most Atlantans have celebrated a special occasion at rotating restaurant The Sun Dial, and Nikolia’s Roof, which sits on the 30th floor of the Hilton Atlanta hotel, has been an institution in the city since 1976. But these soaring spots aren’t the only restaurants in town suited for a postcard. Check out three more scenic restaurants where the views are as jaw-dropping as the eats:

Photo courtesy of Canoe.

Photo courtesy of Canoe.

Canoe (Atlanta): An Atlanta mainstay since 1995, Canoe is as close to dining in nature as you can get without actually camping in the woods. Nestled along the banks of the Chattahoochee river, tree-lined pebbled walkways surround lush gardens and a beautiful outdoor patio where outstanding service comingles with Asian-influenced seasonal fare (think yuzo-spiked crab cakes and crispy Georgia shrimp with curried cauliflower).

Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton, Reynolds Plantation.

Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton, Reynolds Plantation.

Gaby’s by the Lake (Greensboro): Few restaurants afford serene waterfront views like the sights you’ll snag at this lakeside and poolside restaurant (Hint: it’s located at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation). Signature chilled cocktails like champagne mojitos are best sipped on the sprawling patio overlooking Lake Oconee.

Photo courtesy of The Bohemian.

Photo courtesy of The Bohemian.

Rocks on the Roof (Savannah): Situated on top of The Bohemian, a riverfront boutique hotel, is small-plates favorite Rocks on the Roof, where sweeping views of the Savannah River and Talmadge Bridge are best enjoyed at a seat around the blue-flamed fire pit, truffle fries in hand. There’s even live music five days a week.

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

3 Family Summer Camps in Georgia

Why should kids have all the fun of summer camp? Summer camp is a time to disconnect and reconnect; make new discoveries with new friends, experiment with new activities, or just enjoy old favorites. You can enjoy that special summer experience, and make memories with your kids, by attending family camp. Family camps offer activities for a range of ages, and allow parents and kids can do their own thing, as well as spend time together. Here are three places in Georgia to enjoy summer camp with your kids.

Callaway Gardens Tubing - GDECD

At Callaway Gardens Summer Family Adventure families can take circus and acrobatic classes from The Florida State University Flying High Circus, which resides at Callaway Gardens each summer. Of course, there are also more traditional activities such as golf lessons, biking and swimming. During the evenings, families can enjoy spending time together with bingo, campfires with marshmallow roasts, stargazing, and camp traditions like enjoying muscadine ice cream and singing the Callaway Kid Camp Song.

postcard

Photo courtesy of Greyfield Inn

Island Camp at Greyfield Inn – For a few weeks in late July, early August, Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island transforms into an island camp for families. Camp time is allocated toward island exploration, beach-time fun, and crafts & activities with an island theme. From making homemade ice cream to creating a “garden to table” appetizer for the Inn’s guests, campers explore life on the Island in the native sense, even participating in Island sports like seining and kayaking.

Photo courtesy of Cohutta Springs Youth Camp

Photo courtesy of Cohutta Springs Youth Camp

Cohutta Springs Youth Camp – Cohutta Springs is a Christian summer sleep away camp for kids, but they also offer family camp for all ages. Mom and Dad can join the kids in activities such as horseback riding, paintball, zipline, water slide, wakeboarding, crafts or just swimming in the lake. The program mirrors what children do during the weeklong kids camps. Families sleep in the camper cabins, and all meals are included in the camper dining hall.

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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