Budget-Friendly Things to Do with Relatives over Thanksgiving

See Santa at BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Ga., on Nov. 21, 2015.

See Santa at BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Ga., on Nov. 21, 2015.

Whether you’re traveling or having relatives come to you, sometimes all that family during the Thanksgiving holidays can be a little bit too much. Instead of picking around the leftover turkey or at each other, here are some fun and budget-friendly ways to get out of the house and make joyful memories.

Appalachian Christmas at Babyland General Hospital, Cleveland, Nov. 21: Start the day enjoying pancakes with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Afterward, peruse the 75 decorated trees (maybe head out to buy one of your own). There will be carolers, hourly prize drawings, pictures with Santa, and specially priced Cabbage Patch Kids. The evening culminates in the lighting of BabyLand’s holiday tree. Admission is free. Pancake breakfast is $10.

Lights, Lights, Lights Festival, Moultrie, Nov. 26: Leave the dishes for tomorrow, and head to the Courthouse in Downtown Moultrie to welcome the holiday season. There is a nighttime lighted Christmas parade, visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, and holiday shopping. It’s all under a canopy of lights that stretch from the courthouse cupola to the four corners of the square. The lights stay up until New Year’s Day.

The Nutcracker and other holiday shows, Atlanta: Atlanta has several wonderful local theater companies in addition to nationally touring troupes. With so many options, there is a holiday show for any budget and taste. I’m personally looking forward to seeing Elf the Musical at the Fox Theatre.

Mistletoe Market and Sugar Plum Tea Room, Blairsville, Nov. 28-29: Leave the kids at home with their cousins and do some holiday shopping for unique locally crafted gifts. Bypass the leftovers and enjoy soup, sandwiches, salad and desserts in the Sugar Plum Tea Room.

Embassy Suites and World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Nov. 10, 2015-Feb. 3, 2016: Get away entirely with this Explore Georgia deal at the Embassy Suites Centennial Park & World of Coca-Cola. The package includes two adult tickets to the World of Coca-Cola, two bottles of Coca-Cola, and a welcome amenity. Enjoy cooked-to-order breakfast and a nightly evening reception. Kids optional.

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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Explore Georgia’s Military History Year-round

Veterans Day is this week, but it’s not the only day to honor Georgia’s military history. There are festivals and events that happen each year across the state celebrating the victories and sacrifices of the armed forces.

The Black Patriots Monument in Washington, Ga.

The Black Patriots Monument in Washington, Ga., honors black Revolutionary War soldiers.

Revolutionary Days Parade in Washington, Ga.

Revolutionary Days Parade in Washington, Ga.

Revolutionary Days (February, Washington) – Hundreds of re-enactors, historians and spectators gather in Historic Downtown Washington for a parade and re-enactment of the February 14, 1779, Battle of Kettle Creek. There is also a historical memorial church service, reminiscent of a late-1700s service.

Thunder Over Augusta (May, Augusta) – Each year, on Armed Forces Day, this festival celebrates America with military pageantry and a heaping helping of typical festival fun.

Currahee Military Weekend (October, Toccoa) – In the early 1940s, Toccoa was home to a paratrooper training camp. 18,000 men attended the camp, but only 6,000 made it through the training. Since 2000, Currahee Military Weekend honors the men of the 101st, 506th, 501st, 511th and the 517th who trained at the site. While you’re there, plan on exploring the 14,000-square-foot Currahee Military Museum.

Also, the 6th Cavalry Museum in Fort Oglethorpe and Andersonville National Historic Site celebrate Georgia’s military history throughout the year with a variety of events.

To see more Georgia military history, be sure to visit the Ft. Stewart Military Museum (Augusta), Heritage Park Veterans Museum (McDonough), Marietta Museum of History (Marietta), U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum (Ft. Gordon), National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center (Columbus), the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (Pooler), the Museum of Aviation (Warner Robins) and The Drummer Boy Civil War Museum (Andersonville).

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.

Hidden Gems of Greene County and Lake Oconee

Nestled in the hills and valleys of Greene County, Ga., you will find the hidden gem of Lake Oconee. Exit 130 from Interstate 20 puts you in the perfect position to try some unique and surprisingly diverse dishes.


Take a right, and you will find yourself heading toward the Linger Longer Steakhouse, where the seafood is fresh, the steaks are cooked to perfection and each meal ends with a giant ball of cotton candy. (Yes, cotton candy!)

Giant ball of cotton candy at Linger Longer Steakhouse

End your meal with a giant ball of cotton candy at Linger Longer Steakhouse at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee.

A left turn off the interstate leads you directly into downtown Greensboro and The Yesterday Café. Their Buttermilk Pie has been named one of the best pies of the South, although I think their fried green tomatoes are even better. I’ve eaten a lot of them over the years, and the tomatoes served at The Yesterday Café are some of my favorites!


Ripe Thing Market in Greensboro, Ga.

Ripe Thing Market in Greensboro, Ga.

Turn the corner, and you’re sitting in front of the Ripe Thing Market. This local market offers up more than just super fresh fruits and vegetables, local eggs, grits, and an impressive selection of infused olive oils and aged vinegars. You can also buy made-to-order sandwiches, homemade soups, and even hand-rolled tamales — the perfect treat to enjoy while watching Greensboro’s Downtown Tree Lighting Ceremony, (Dec. 4, 2015, from 6-8 p.m.) or after a day of ice skating at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee (opening at the end of November).

If you’re looking to take some local flavor home with you, visit Genuine Georgia Marketplace on your way out of town. There, you can find beautiful artwork created by Georgia artists, and jars of seasonal jellies, jams and pickles made by Zandra, a lady who lives right in Greene County.

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.

4 Awesome Geocaching Challenges in Georgia

Geocaching is a fun adventure game played by using high-tech devices to hunt treasures called geocaches. These caches, hidden in some of the most interesting places around Georgia, contain a variety of items such as trading cards, trinkets, and traveling coins. The game is exciting fun for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking to liven up hikes and explore new destinations.

Georgia State Parks has hidden nearly 50 caches in spectacular parks all over the state. There are treasures to find while viewing waterfalls in the mountains, hiking canyons and forest, or hitting the beach. Geocachers are encouraged to earn souvenir geo-coins for finding 15, 30, and 40 state parks geocaches. Grab a Geo-Challenge Passport from participating parks such as Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, or Skidaway Island state parks.

Columbus RiverWalk

Columbus RiverWalk

Explore Columbus with the RiverWalk GeoTour, which includes over 30 geocaches to find between hiking, rafting, and ziplining around town. Six unique series lead visitors to Columbus’ historical sites, incredible views, and various attractions. Complete each series to collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs.

Columbus GeoTour Souvenirs

Collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs when you complete portions of the Columbus GeoTour.

Peachtree City’s GeoTour highlights historic landmarks and reveals hidden spots to enjoy nature along the 90 miles of paved cart paths. Each cache holds trinkets and trading cards featuring fun facts about the location. With just under 20 caches to find, the tour can be completed in a day or weekend trip. Stay at the Wyndham Peachtree Hotel and borrow a golf cart for the adventure.

Jackson County geocache

Find surprises at each destination on the Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail. Photo by Candy Cook.

The Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail celebrates history and countryside with 30 creative caches. The unique treasures on this tour add puzzles and games to the thrill of the hunt. Explore local attractions and landmarks collecting stamps for the official tour passport.

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.

Jingle All the Way with Georgia’s Christmas Parades

Milledgeville Christmas Parade

The Milledgeville Christmas Parade will be held Dec. 5, 2015. This year, the parade will be held at night!

Pull out your jingle bells and your striped tights; it’s time to get into the holiday spirit with the annual Christmas parades throughout Georgia. I’m a huge fan of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade. In fact, we attend every year, even though my little ones are now teens. In addition to the floats, helium balloons, and marching bands, I like to see the stormtroopers of the 501st Legion with their Santa hats and snowman noses. The Christmas parade signals the start of the holiday season for me, and it’s a great inexpensive family tradition. It seems no matter where you travel in Georgia, you’re bound to find a Christmas parade to welcome in the holiday season. Here are several from around the state.

Boat Parade of Lights (Nov. 28 in the evening): Savannah sure knows how to do a parade. The Westin sponsors this event, which is located on the waterfront in front of the hotel. It includes 35 lighted boats, accompanied by live music performances, tree lighting ceremony, and fireworks extravaganza. Of course, the best seat in the house is at the Westin, where you’ll also find a Gingerbread Village competition.

Rome Christmas Parade (Dec. 1 in the evening): This is one of Northwest Georgia’s oldest and largest Christmas parades. It’s organized by a volunteer committee and has more than 100 entries each year.

Cedartown Christmas Parade (Dec. 3 at 6 p.m.): The theme for this year’s event is “Christmas Lights on Parade.” Floats are awarded cash prizes in three categories, so you know they’ll be good.

Dublin Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 2 p.m.): In addition to floats and bands, young spectators get excited about the handfuls of candy and Christmas cheer tossed their way during this event.

Jefferson Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.): Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in a horse-drawn carriage during this parade.

City of Rockmart Christmas Parade (Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.): This parade is held on a Friday night and has more than 5,000 spectators. The theme for 2015 is “Memories of Christmas.”

Downtown Holiday Open House in Valdosta (Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.): Come early in the day for the Holiday Open House and stay for the parade at 5 p.m. Floats are judged on appearance, special effects, creativity, workmanship and use of the theme, which is “A Christmas Story.” First prize gets a leg lamp. (just kidding)

Savannah Lighted Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m.): Although Savannah is best known for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Lighted Christmas Parade looks pretty awesome, too. This parade travels from River Street through town to City Market.

Stormtrooper at the North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade

Stormtrooper at the North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade

North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.):  It’s the 26th year for this mountain parade. Expect lots of traditional floats and maybe a stormtrooper or two.

City of McDonough Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.): The City of McDonough celebrates Christmas with a parade, as well as a tree lighting ceremony and a 5K Jingle Jog. Of course, there is also a visit from St. Nick, too.

Golden Isles Christmas Boat Parade of Lights (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.): Sponsored by the Golden Isles sailing club, the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights features boats of all sizes decked out with brilliant holiday lights and decorations.

Festival of Lights Christmas Parade in Douglas (Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.): Expect to see lots of Santa’s home in this parade. The theme for 2015 is “Santa’s Workshop.”

City of Royston Christmas Parade (Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.): Kick off the season with floats, music and Santa.

City of Hartwell Christmas Parade (Dec. 14 at 3:30 p.m.): Celebrate the “Magic” of the season during Hartwell’s annual parade.

Find more parades on exploregeorgia.org/events.

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.

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