3 Scenic Day Hikes in Georgia

Plan day hikes at these trails and experience Georgia’s natural beauty from mountains overlooking Atlanta, shady rock gardens and enchanting waterfalls.

Cloudland Canyon

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

Two challenging trails at Cloudland Canyon State Park lead hikers on an impressive journey to the waterfalls at the canyon floor. One of Georgia’s top scenic hikes, West Rim Loop, winds along the plateau, offering magnificent views before descent into the canyon. The 5-mile trail includes several entry points, including the campground and yurt village, as well as seamless connection to Sitton’s Gulch Trail via The Waterfalls Trail. Hikers can join Georgia’s Canyon Climbers Club by completing Sitton’s Gulch Trail. Following an array of staircases and natural paths, Sitton’s Gulch features hemlock groves, overlooks, and amazing rock formations for 2.5 miles.

Panola Mountain

Panola Mountain State Park is a hidden gem for day hikes.

Panola Mountain State Park is a hidden gem for day hikes.

A true hidden gem just 15 minutes from Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park invites hikers to explore a pristine monadnock on guided tours to the top. The moderately strenuous hike presents a gorgeous blanket of colorful moss and lichen as hikers ascend and loop the summit. This summer, several scheduled group hikes coincide with nightfall, offering hikers a fantastic view of the sunset over Atlanta.

Little Kennesaw Mountain

Little Kennesaw Mountain

Little Kennesaw Mountain. Photo by Candy Cook.

Hikers find a quiet, out-and-back trail that fills the senses with magical mountain rock gardens, wildlife sightings and tree-framed views. Beginning at the Pigeon Hill Trail in Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Little Kennesaw Mountain is a great escape to nature that connects to the higher elevation Kennesaw Mountain for hikers hoping to extend the trek.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

5 Reasons to Visit Little St. Simons Island with the Family

Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

You’ve probably heard of St. Simons Island, but do you know that just across the river is a private, eco-friendly, all-inclusive island just waiting for you? Our family visited Little St. Simons Island and fell madly in love; here’s why we think you should make a reservation today.

The Serenity

Untouched for centuries, Little St. Simons Island is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands, covering 10,000 acres with 7 miles of shoreline. We didn’t drive our car onto the island. Guests visit by boat, and only 32 at a time may stay overnight (though small guided day trips are periodically available). The untarnished environment, limited population and carefully protected wildlife create a tranquil escape that immediately melted away our stress.

The Food

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are all carefully created and presented on the island. There are no grocery stores or restaurants, and no need for them. Chef Ulfet Ralph hails from Turkey, and her delicious dishes include everything from filet mignon to duck tenderloin. Breakfasts are mammoth with a variety of delights like French toast, berries, eggs, bacon, frittata and more – everything you need to carry you through a day of exciting adventure.

We also love that there is a USDA-certified organic garden on-site providing vegetables and fruits at almost every meal. I’ll note, too, that Chef Ulfet was very thoughtful about the kids, offering hamburgers, PB&Js, mac and cheese, and other kid-friendly fare for our picky eaters.

The Water

Little St. Simons Island’s proximity allows families to swim in the Atlantic, boat on the Atlamaha River and fish in Mosquito Creek. Along the beach we rode the waves, collected shells, biked the shoreline, and caught Atlantic Sharp Nose sharks while shore fishing. We took a skiff and a kayak along the creek to the river and kept an eye out for dolphin and alligators. Low tide offers the best opportunities for kids to catch fish in the creek, including Redfish, Sea Trout and Flounder.

The Adventure

If fishing, swimming, boating and kayaking are not enough, there are even more ways for kids to explore. You can bike around the island (adult bikes, kid bikes and bike trailers are all available), keeping an eye out for more than 300 species of birds. We also saw alligators, a diamondback rattlesnake and a multitude of armadillo. Loggerheads and horseshow crabs were also active on the island.

Two to three excursions each day are led by one of the island’s naturalists, and the crew is amazing – both because of their extensive knowledge and because of their gentle nature with kids. Excursions are discussed after each meal, usually with about two options available during each time slot. I love that a trip to the beach with these guys is so much more – it includes learning about the changing shoreline, finding horseshoe crab eggs, or gaining a closer look through one of their field telescopes.

The Hunting Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

The Hunting Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

The Value

Little St. Simons Island guests pay a single flat fee for accommodations, three meals, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, every excursion, use of the equipment (boats, kayaks, canoes, bikes, etc.) and so much more. Even the tip is included in the price!

Our family adored Little St. Simons Island, ranking it as one of our all-time favorite adventures. In fact, we are already planning to head back next year. Read our detailed post (with more photos) for more tips and insight on visiting Little St. Simons Island with kids.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

Four Ways to Celebrate American Patriotism in Georgia

Photo courtesy Madison-Morgan Cultural Center's Annual Independence Day Picnic & Free Concert, July 1, 2016.

Photo courtesy Madison-Morgan Cultural Center’s Annual Independence Day Picnic & Free Concert, July 1, 2016.

America’s birthday is coming up soon. In addition to attending or planning a picnic decked out in red, white and blue, or figuring out the best place to see the fireworks, why not consider taking in a little of Georgia’s patriotic pastimes? Of course, there is Georgia’s military history, but patriotic doesn’t just mean the armed forces. When I think of America, I think of baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, too. Here are some of the best places in Georgia for all four patriotic escapades.

Georgia Military Museums

The Last 100 Yards exhibit at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia

The Last 100 Yards exhibit at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia

One of the best military museums in Georgia is the National Infantry Museum in Columbus. Experience the last 100 years of some of the most important battles in American history. For a smaller, more intimate experience; visit the Heritage Park Veterans Museum in Henry County, Ga. This unassuming museum is staffed by volunteers who are also veterans and who share their own, as well as others, stories.

Baseball in Georgia

Photo courtesy Atlanta Braves, Facebook

Photo courtesy Atlanta Braves, Facebook

Baseball is America’s pastime, and you can catch it in lots of places around the state. Everyone knows about the Atlanta Braves, the state’s professional baseball team that plays for one more season out of “The Ted” in downtown Atlanta before moving to SunTrust Plaza in Cobb County. But there are also several minor league teams, like the Gwinnett Braves and the Rome Braves. In Augusta, you can watch the GreenJackets play. Don’t discount the many college teams, too. My boys enjoyed watching Georgia Tech play and were thrilled they could get up close and get autographs from the players. Of course, there are also any number of little league games going on pretty much anywhere in the state.

Hot Dogs in Georgia

The Varsity hot dogs made it into the Atlanta History Center's "Atlanta in 50 Objects" exhibit on display through Dec. 31, 2016.

The Varsity hot dogs made it into the Atlanta History Center’s “Atlanta in 50 Objects” exhibit on display through Dec. 31, 2016. Photo: The Varsity, Facebook.

What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? It’s the cry at at the world’s largest Drive-In, The Varsity near Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Varsity sells more than two miles of hot dogs daily.

In Macon, Nu-Way Weiners is the place to get a famous chili dog. They still use the same secret chili sauce recipe James Mallis’ did in 1916 when he opened Nu-Way.

In Albany, Jimmie’s is the place to go. This iconic dog joint has been in operation at the same location (across from the bus station) since 1925. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but well worth it. For beach goers, Hot Dog Alley on St. Simons Island is the place to go.

Apple Pie in Georgia

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

What better place to get an apple pie — or better yet, a fried pie — than R & A Orchards. You can also get apple butter, apple bread, apple dumplings and whatever else you can think of to make with the orchard’s fresh apples.

In Columbus, if you’re lucky, Planet Pops will be making its Spiced Apple Cider artisan popsicle. For a twist on the regular apple pie, try the Old Smoky Apple Pie moonshine at The Edgewood Speakeasy in East Atlanta.

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.

Click here to order Sue’s book, 100+ Things to Do in Atlanta.

Click here to follow Sue on Facebook.

Click here to follow Sue on Twitter.

Click here to follow Sue on Pinterest.

Click here to follow Sue on Google+

Click here to follow Sue on Instagram.

6 Ways to Rekindle Your Bromance in Georgia’s Lake Country

Cruise around the lake

Boating in Georgia's Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Boating in Georgia’s Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Sometimes the best ways to have fun are also the simplest. What more do you really need than a boat or jet ski on one of our twin lakes to have a blast on your day off? There are several places in Georgia’s Lake Country to rent your water vehicle of choice so you can cruise around the lake for hours of fun and relaxation. Check out Oconee Wild Watersports, Young Harris Water Sports, Typhoon Tommy’s, Twin Lakes Jet Ski, Sinclair Marina and more to rent everything you need to take your bro out on the lake.

Learn to wakeboard or hydrofoil

Wakeboarding in Georgia's Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of CommercePhoto courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Wakeboarding in Georgia’s Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Impress all your friends with your new skills! Being able to skillfully ride a wakeboard or the more recently popular hydrofoil will give you some bragging rights and guarantee you a new fun activity for many summers to come. Oconee Wild Watersports, located behind That Pizza Place at Lake Oconee, can teach you to ski, wakeboard or hydrofoil. (They also offer paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, pontoon boats and jet skis.) Call them ahead of time, and they’ll take you out on the water for a day of bromance under the sun.

Measure up

Fishing in Georgia's Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Fishing in Georgia’s Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Who can catch the biggest bass? Take your bro out for a fun day of fishing on the lake! Georgia Power parks offer public docks and shoreline on both Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair for you to fish at your leisure. Be sure to check out their website for a list of the most common fish in our twin lakes and a PDF of Lake Sinclair fish attractors.

If you’re not comfortable with going it alone, or just want a new experience, Sinclair Marina offers guided fishing tours so you can explore the lake and have a friendly bass fishing competition with your friends.

Hone your poolside manner

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

If you’re looking for a day of luxury and chilling by the pool, there’s a place for you in each part of Georgia’s Lake Country. Lounge around in style at The Lodge on Lake Oconee in Eatonton or the Ritz-Carlton in Greensboro. Even the Antebellum Inn in Milledgeville, though a smaller establishment than the other two, offers a beautiful saltwater pool to all guests right in the middle of the historic downtown area. You can also rent out the pool cottage adjacent to the main house for a larger gathering or extended stay.

Show your guns

Shooting in Georgia's Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Shooting in Georgia’s Lake Country. Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

The Cedar Creek Shooting Range is the place to go in Georgia’s Lake Country if you want to perfect your target shooting. The range is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday (excluding some major holidays), so it’s the perfect stop during a weekend getaway with your buddies. The fee is $5 per shooter per day. Make sure you take a look at the website before heading out, though, to ensure your weapons are allowed and you’re equipped to follow the range rules.

Hike through rugged terrain

Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

Photo courtesy Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce

The Rock Hawk Park on Lake Oconee is free and open to the public for hiking, biking, boating, camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking and hunting. This park functions as an outdoor classroom and has 15 miles of multi-use trails, plus 20 miles of biking trails. Join them on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. for Trailhead Tuesdays.

Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville has a relaxed trail through the woods on the 500-acre farm that once was home to famed author Flannery O’Connor. This is a must-see for literary buffs and anyone else who enjoys a nice 45 minutes of walking in the shade.

Southern Cross Guest Ranch in Madison has hiking trails as one of its amenities; however, you might also enjoy some horseback riding at this ranch and B&B that has been called “One of America’s best dude ranches” by Travel + Leisure Magazine.

Whether you’re looking for action or relaxin’, Georgia’s Lake Country has plenty to offer you and your bros for the ideal guys’ getaway. See you soon!

kaitlyn-sam-web

Kaitlyn Parham graduated from Valdosta State University with a degree in marketing. A native of Eatonton, Kaitlyn recently moved back to be closer to family. She is the Tourism and Special Events Coordinator for the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce, and as such, she is on the board of many marketing collaborations, including Georgia’s Antebellum Trail and Georgia’s Lake Country.

Sam Campbell is the summer intern at the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce. Graduating from Georgia College in August 2016 with a B.A. in Mass Communication, Sam assists the Chamber’s efforts in strategic communication, including graphic designs, blog posts and social media.

5 Must-Try Food Stalls at Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall

Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Photo: Party on Ponce 2015, Facebook.

Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Photo: Party on Ponce 2015, Facebook.

Atlanta hot spot Ponce City Market features a Central Food Hall with a lively mix of more than two dozen chef-driven, dine-in restaurants and market stalls with a huge range of regional fare, global cuisines and artisanal market goods, like fresh breads, dry aged meats, creamy cheeses and fragrant spices.

What makes this space more than just another food hall with amazing food is the location. The Central Food Hall is located walking distance to adjoining parks, neighborhoods and the ever-expanding Atlanta BeltLine. So, grab your goodies to go and enjoy them al fresco. Use #GeorgiaEats to share your food finds.

Botiwalla

Tamarind glazed spare ribs and tandoori chicken plates at Botiwalla by Mia Yakel Photography. Photo: Facebook

Tamarind glazed spare ribs and tandoori chicken plates at Botiwalla by Mia Yakel Photography. Photo: Facebook

The newest addition to Central Food Hall, Botiwalla, has a menu themed after the savory street foods you’d find after hours in India, like grilled meats, lamb kabobs and Tikka rolls. BONUS: Huge menu of authentic Indian fare.

El Super Pan

Spanish "focaccia," serrano ham, manchego, almond-date spread, arugula & piquillo agridulce at El Super Pan. Photo by Sarah Dodge from Facebook

Spanish “focaccia,” serrano ham, manchego, almond-date spread, arugula & piquillo agridulce at El Super Pan. Photo by Sarah Dodge from Facebook

Puerto Rico meets Atlanta in this Latin-inspired sandwich & cocktail bar featuring small plates and a full cocktail menu. BONUS: All baked goods at El Super Pan are made in house.

Farm to Ladle

Spring greens & grilled apricots, pineapple & peaches at Farm to Ladle. Photo: Facebook

Spring greens & grilled apricots, pineapple & peaches at Farm to Ladle. Photo: Facebook

The European-style café and farmstand Farm to Ladle specializes in using locally grown products to create its soups, sandwiches and fresh salads. BONUS: Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options are available.

The Mercury

Mai Tai at The Mercury. Photo: Facebook

Mai Tai at The Mercury. Photo: Facebook

The 1960’s vibe and full-service bar program makes The Mercury the place to go for cocktails. They also offer full lunch and dinner service — with a 20-ounce Tomahawk pork chop that’s not to be missed. BONUS: Daily cocktail hour.

H. Stiles Fish Camp

Oysters at H. Stiles Fish Camp. Photo: Facebook.

Oysters at H. Stiles Fish Camp. Photo: Facebook.

Affectionately known as “Dubs,” this casual-style fish shack features Southern seafood at its best: FRESH. Sandwich options like shrimp po-boys and lobster rolls makes H. Stiles Fish Camp the perfect grab-and-go place for lunch. BONUS: More than 20 fresh oyster options.

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.