Four Amazing Nature Centers in Georgia

These fantastic nature centers combine interactive, indoor exhibits with fun outdoor exploration to provide engaging learning opportunities for people of all ages.

Chattahoochee Nature Center, Roswell.

Chattahoochee Nature Center, Roswell. Photo credit: Chattahoochee Nature Center.

Chattahoochee Nature Center

Located along the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Chattahoochee Nature Center connects people with nature through wildlife programs, docent-led hikes, and community events. Inside the Discovery Center, visitors explore the Chattahoochee River watershed with interactive exhibits, live animal habitats, and a nature exchange. Outside, six beautiful hiking trails wind through forest near the Chattahoochee River, featuring year-round birdwatching, and abundant plant and wildlife.

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge is a spectacular canyon nearly 2 miles long and 1,000 feet deep. The hiking trails lead visitors to waterfall overlooks, a suspension bridge and a swimming hole deep in the canyon. But, before setting off on a day hike, take a virtual stroll through a unique representation of the gorge complete with exhibits featuring native plants and animals.

Discovering Stone Mountain Museum

Discovering Stone Mountain Museum. Photo by Candy Cook.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain Park offers a range of activities from hiking and biking to family fun and seasonal events. The massive rock sets the scene for many seasonal Atlanta traditions such as the summertime Lasershow Spectacular and Snow Mountain tubing in winter. But, do you know how it got here? Explore the geology behind the mountain with interactive geology exhibits, an informative video and guided hikes at the Discovering Stone Mountain Museum.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Photo by Candy Cook

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Sea turtles take the spotlight at this Jekyll Island nature center. Visitors learn about the variety of endangered sea turtles nesting along the Georgia coast through a variety of hands-on exhibits, guided turtle walks on the beach and educational programs. The center also features an on-site sea turtle hospital where visitors come face to face with the turtles.

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.

Where to Experience Supercross Fun in Georgia

The gate drops, and it’s like a line of brightly colored fish coming together to create an oscillating wave over a still brown ocean. Gradually the colors spread out, and the individual Supercross riders emerge, kicking up dirt around the turns and flying high in the air in-between.

Late February is when the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Race comes to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. It’s an exciting evening of racing by some of the sport’s best athletes. Georgia has lots of places where you can enjoy motorsports whether you are a professional or just learning. Here are three places to ride around Georgia for any skill level.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Alpharetta

Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Alpharetta

MSF Dirt Bike School, Alpharetta: If you’ve always wanted to ride, but didn’t know how, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Dirt Bike School offers fun one-day, hands-on courses to get you started. They also have advanced classes, and classes specifically for women or kids. It’s a great way to get introduced to motorcycle riding.

Durhamtown Off Road Resort, Union Point

Durhamtown Off Road Resort, Union Point

Durhamtown Off Road Resort, Union Point: Two hours east of Atlanta, just past the picturesque town of Greensboro is a hunting plantation called Durhamtown, where novice, as well as experienced ATV and motorcycle riders can have a great time. Durhamtown is perfect for the weekend warrior and has miles of one-way ATV and motorcycle trails plus a pee wee, Supercross, MX, drag strip, flat oval and freestyle park. Although my boys had never ridden before, they had a blast at Durhamtown, and when they needed a break, they enjoyed watching the experienced riders.

Millsaps Training Facility, Cairo: Cairo, Georgia, is the unofficial capital of motocross on the East Coast. They have several training facilities in the area, most for the serious motocross rider. If you want to take your riding to the next level, consider a training camp at Millsaps Training Facility. Owner Colleen Millsaps and her team have trained champions and currently teach both aspiring riders as well as accomplished professional riders.

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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Romance in Georgia

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and it’s time for Mom and Dad to plan a sitter and begin thinking about how to celebrate. Since hubby and I make the effort to take an overnight date once a month, we have plenty of ideas for you. Here are four of our favorite places to escape as a couple.

Horseback riding at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville

Horseback riding at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville

Adairsville. One of my favorite romantic escapes in Georgia is at Barnsley Resort. They have an onsite Fairy Godmother (her REAL title) whose job is to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences; she comes equipped with a menu of options for romantics looking for something over the top. Impress your love with cozy cottage accommodations with fireplaces and private romantic dining options.

The Valentine’s Weekend package includes a carriage ride, chocolate truffles, four-course gourmet meal and $100 credit toward activities such as spa treatments, horseback riding or golf. Hubby and I enjoyed this package about two years ago, and I always think of it fondly.

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain. The Lodge and Spa at Callaway is a luxurious resort adjacent to Callaway Gardens. Our family visited in winter. We roamed the resort grounds, hiked and picnicked at Callaway Gardens, lingered long hours in our spacious suite, and dined in-house. It was the perfect winter escape for us: relaxing, tranquil, and peaceful.

I love that they are offering a Little Lovebirds Package that is perfect for families. The package includes one two-bedroom suite with private balconies; $100 culinary credit to Piedmont Grille; four tickets to the Birds of Prey exhibit at Callaway Gardens; one family-friendly movie with DVD player in-room; champagne and strawberries amenity for the adults, and s’mores and milk for the little ones; de-stressing couples massage for adults, and cupcake manicures and pedicures for the little ones.

The indoor pool at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.

The indoor pool at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.

Buckhead Atlanta. Buckhead is filled with shopping and restaurants that exude romance. To cap the night, try a stay at Mandarin Oriental, Atlantaone of the sexiest hotels I’ve ever stayed in! Or cozy together at Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. They are celebrating 14 Days of Chocolate and a Romance Package featuring deluxe accommodations for one evening, breakfast for two in The Café, a bottle of chilled sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, rose petal turndown and overnight valet parking. Did I mention the heated pool is one of the best indoor pools in the state? Escape the cold this Valentine’s Day!

Romantic Buckhead restaurant recommendations? Try King + Duke, Umi or Local Three. Local Three is a favorite of mine and they have a Prix Fixe VDay menu.

Crème Brûlée at MAYA Steaks & Seafood, Sandy Springs

Crème Brûlée at MAYA Steaks & Seafood, Sandy Springs

Sandy Springs. Our first date night of 2016 was spent in Sandy Springs, and it was magnificent. We noshed on red wine, fried oysters, delicious steak and heavenly crème brulee at MAYA. Next door is Steve’s Live Music; it was new to us, but we are now destined to become regulars. The laid back, smoke-free atmosphere is filled with AMAZING local musical talent.

Finally, finish the night at The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North. Our Living Room Suite was heavenly. Don’t miss the Romantic Getaway Package that includes breakfast for two from the restaurant, champagne and strawberries upon arrival, and a late check out. Read more details about our Sandy Springs Date Night.

If you are looking for more Fun Date Night Ideas then check out the post on my website. We update it regularly, so be sure to bookmark it.

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.

Drive-By Truckers’ Athens Punch List for Feb’s 3-Night Stand

Drive-By Truckers. L to R: Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Brad Morgan

Drive-By Truckers. L to R: Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Brad Morgan. Photo by David McClister.

Patterson Hood adamantly declares that the Drive-By Truckers “are and always will be based in Athens. Two of our members still live there, plus most of our crew.” After a 21-year run, Hood and his family decamped from Athens for Portland this past summer. Reading between the lines, it may be a temporary respite. “I had some creative opportunities out there, plus I wanted to experience living in a bigger city and different region,” explains the lifelong Southerner.

Therefore, it’ll be a bit more of a homecoming than usual when the Truckers return for a three-night stand at the 40 Watt Club February 11-13 (at last check, a few tickets remained for the Thursday show). “We’ve been doing a multi-night 40 Watt play in Athens every year for 12 years or so. We call it The Athens Homecoming, and it also raises some money for Nuci’s Space,” a wonderful musicians’ resource nonprofit in town. “We always try to change up those shows a lot from night to night, digging deep into the catalog and I’m sure looking ahead to the new songs, too. Plus, we put a lot of extra attention into curating the opening acts,” which includes Athenians old and new on various nights (Monsoon, Five-Eight, Dave Marr, the Camp Amped Band).

The DBTs are currently putting the finishing touches on their 12th studio album, due out this fall. “We’re all beyond excited about it — I think it’s a good one,” he enthuses. “It just came together very magically.” October saw the release of “It’s Great To Be Alive!,” a three-disc document of these road warriors’ well-earned reputation as a barn-burning live band. Hood thinks it “turned out pretty stellar.”

Athens serves as the springboard for a brief March/April tour that will treat die-hard fans to more intimate settings. “We’re hitting some smaller rooms since we’ll be playing bigger rooms in the fall once the new album hits,” he says. “I love doing the multi-night stand thing. It’s always nice to have a couple of days in a town.”

Avid Bookshop, Athens

Photo courtesy Avid Bookshop, Athens

I asked Patterson which of his old Athens haunts he’s most excited about getting back to. “There’s an auction and meet/greet event at Nuci’s Space that’ll give me a chance to hang with old friends and family (note: this includes a Low Country Boil and is open to the public from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday, February 13). I also want to visit Avid Bookshop and Wuxtry Records and to eat at The Grit, Tlaloc el Mexicano, Puerta del Sol and The National.”

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.

Georgia Events for Chocolate Lovers

A selection of chocolates from Lulu's Chocolate Bar, Savannah

While visiting Savannah, stop in to Lulu’s Chocolate Bar for a sweet treat. Photo courtesy of Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, Facebook.

Valentine’s Day makes some people think about love and romance. For others of us, it’s all about the chocolate. While you’re exploring Georgia this year, try out these chocolate-centric events.

Chocolate Walk (Braselton) – Grab a treat from local businesses during this second annual event in Braselton on February 6 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. While you’re there, don’t be afraid to browse and shop. 

Chocolate & Art Walk (Monroe) – On February 11 from 5-8 p.m. the city of Monroe invites residents and guests to experience an evening filled with sweets. Explore the streets, visit with local artists, and taste a variety of desserts.

ERS Savannah Love Chocolate Half Marathon and 10K (Savannah) – Explore Savannah’s Southbridge district on foot while enjoying treats along the way- from the time you pick up your race packet to when you cross the finish line on February 13.

Chocolate Run (Statesboro) – Enjoy a 5K race through the campus of Georgia Southern University on February 20. Proceeds from the race benefit Open Hearts Community Mission.

But wait! There’s more!

Hot Chocolate 5K/15K, Atlanta

Hot Chocolate 5K/15K, Atlanta

Start training for your next road race now so you’re ready for next year’s Hot Chocolate 5K/15K in Atlanta. Work out and warm up during the annual race, happening each January, which takes runners on a course throughout downtown and lower Midtown Atlanta. During the race, participants have the opportunity to sample chocolate along with hot cocoa.

Chocolate Plantation on Sapelo Island, Georgia

Chocolate Plantation on Sapelo Island, Georgia

If you can’t get enough, explore Chocolate Plantation on Sapelo Island. It doesn’t have anything to do with the sweet treat; instead it gets its name from the Guale Indian village on the island named Chucalate. Today, the home’s thick tabby walls still stand, nearly 200 years after they were first built.

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.