Shooting Star Parties in Georgia

AH Stephens SP Starry Sky

The view from AH Stephens State Park | Photo courtesy of Arthur Stiles, Georgia Nature Photographer Association

Stargazers search out Georgia’s darkest skies to view one of the year’s best and brightest meteor showers. This year’s Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12-14 as 50 to 100 meteors an hour streak across the night sky. With little to no moonlight ruining the dazzling display of shooting stars, 2015 is a great year to view this shower. Viewers don’t need telescopes or binoculars to watch the show, but a dark sky makes it even better. So, where are the best places in Georgia to view the meteor shower?

Georgia State Parks and local astronomy clubs are teaming up to make the most of the Perseids this year. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs and snacks to Hard Labor Creek, Cloudland Canyon and Richard B Russell State Parks for shooting star parties.

Hard Labor Creek State Park Shooting Star Party
August 13-14, 10 pm- 3 am
The beach is open late for this special event at Hard Labor Creek. Bring a blanket and lay out for a night of stargazing, rather than sun bathing. The park also hosts “Paddling under the Perseids.” Paddlers hop in a kayak or canoe for a view from the lake. Pre-registration required: 706-557-3001

Hard Labor Creek SP Shooting Star Paddle

Hard Labor Creek State Park | Photo courtesy of Kim Hatcher, Georgia State Parks

Cloudland Canyon State Park Star Party 2015
August 14, 9 – 11 pm
The perfect party for amateur astronomers and meteor shower viewers, Cloudland Canyon invites everyone to take a look at star clusters, galaxies and planets through BSA member’s telescopes! No word on where to meet, so calling ahead is highly recommended! 706-657-4050

Richard B Russell State Park Annual Perseid Viewing Party
Aug 14 9 – 11 pm
Join fellow stargazers and amateur astronomers to count meteors at this park northeast of Atlanta. Bring your own chairs and nonalcoholic refreshments to the disc golf course! Call ahead for directions and more information: 706-213-2045

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.

Georgia Planetariums: Exploring Space with Kids

Mark Smith Planetarium

Mark Smith Planetarium

Did you see the Blue Moon in July? It’s the last one we’ll see until 2018, which fascinated my kiddos. They have been talking “Outer Space” non-stop since that encounter. What better place to learn more about the moon, stars and other planets than a planetarium. Here are three planetariums we’ve enjoyed, and several others on our bucket list.

Wetherbee Planetarium at Thronateeska Heritage Center (Albany): Thronateeska is a wonderful science center in Albany. Enjoy trains, a green screen theater for kids, dinosaur bones and more. The Planetarium is full-dome with as many as five shows a day.

Coca Cola Space Science Center (Columbus): While it is billed as an Omnisphere Theatre rather than a planetarium, the concept is the same. Enjoy theatre seating while watching space and science movies on a full dome screen. The Columbus location even has several children’s selections available like One World, One Sky from Sesame Street.

Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium at Fernbank Science Center (Atlanta): Don’t confuse this with the Natural History Museum which is down the block. The Science Center offers numerous planetarium shows on its 70-ft diameter dome- one of the largest in the US.

More planetariums near you:

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.

Watermelon Salad

Breathe it in . . . those last days of summer! Pretty soon backyard barbeques, picnics at the park, and lazing around the pool will be replaced with the organized chaos of packing lunches, checking homework, and laying out school clothes. It also means planning that weekly menu of grab and go breakfasts and quick and easy dinners. As a working mom, I do my best to plan my menus and recipes around the Sunday grocery sales papers. This way I know whatever I decide to make for dinner is on sale and more than likely in season-which is why it’s on sale in the first place. Although it’s the end of summer break, it’s not the end of summer’s growing season. We still have peaches, tomatoes, melons, greens and acres of other wonderful produce growing fresh here in Georgia.

So if you’re looking to hold on to those dog days of summer a little while longer, try this cool refreshing Watermelon Salad. This recipe celebrates summer with juicy sweet watermelon, crisp arugula, and a quick and easy vinaigrette.

Watermelon Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Yields 6 servings

Watermelon Salad

Photo courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

3 tablespoons sesame seeds
6 cups seeded watermelon cubes, about 1- inch in size
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
6 cups arugula greens

3 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons grained Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste ( I like Shamrock Apiaries Honey from Macon, GA)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Georgia Olive Farm’s extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste



  1. In a small bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, mustard, honey and vinegar.
  2. Whisk in the oil by slowly pouring it into the bowl in a steady stream. The vinaigrette should be thick. If oil has settled on the top-continue to whisk until well combined.
  3. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste and additional honey if too tart. Set aside


  1. In a small dry sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are a golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve for later.
  2. In a large bowl, toss half of the sesame seeds, the watermelon, parsley and scallions with the vinaigrette.
  3. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and spoon the watermelon salad on top, pouring any remaining vinaigrette over the salad.
  4. Sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Adapted from Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

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.

3 Ways to Keep Cool in Columbus for Less

Columbus, Georgia is a perfect weekend getaway. There are a variety of locally owned restaurants, theatre productions, intriguing museums and lots of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Here’s how to keep cool and still have money left over for a great meal at 11th and Bay.

Go Tubing. Whitewater Express is known for their whitewater rafting expeditions, but they also rent inner tubes for a lot less than a guided raft trip. Put in at the Eagle and Phenix Mill and take a leisurely float down the river. Rentals include a shuttle ride back. NOTE: All tubing must be done before 3 pm each day. That’s when the dam lets out, sending a surge of water rushing down the river and raising the water levels significantly.Whitewater Kayaker in Columbus

Splash in the Spray Grounds. At the end of 10th street along Bay Ave is the Columbus Splash Pad. Mom and Dad can sit on the large rocks carved into a seat, while the little ones run around in the water. Or better yet, bring someone to watch the kids play in the water while Mom and Dad go rafting.

Columbus Splash Pad

Photo courtesy of Sue Rodman, Field Trips with Sue

Grab a Popsicle. If you don’t want to get wet, cool down with a visit to Planet Pops, a local artisan popsicle store on 12th street. On select days, you may also find a cart located right on the RiverWalk. I can highly recommend the raspberry lemonade. There’s no way to suck the juice out of these pops. Each bite is flavorful and refreshing. Next time I’m going to try the Girl Scout Thin Mint popsicle.

Planet Pops

Photo courtesy of Sue Rodman, Field Trips with Sue

Looking for more fun in Columbus Georgia, see Built to Thrill: A Columbus Georgia Adventure Weekend on Field Trips with Sue.

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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Atlanta Chinatown Mall

As a true lover of food, I’m always looking for a great meal. You may be thinking that since I’m a Chef, a great meal means lots of fancy food, served as lots courses-all costing lots of money. Nope. To me a great meal means delicious food with big flavors, lots of fresh ingredients and affordability. I also like to step out of my comfort zone from time to time and try something new. I’ve found all of that, and more, right here in Atlanta at the Chinatown Mall. It’s tucked away off I-285 and New Peachtree Road, and offers Chinese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Laotian and Korean culture all in one small community.

Atlanta Chinatown Mall

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Chinatown Mall

My favorite location at the mall is the food court. No surprise there, especially considering it offers six restaurant stalls, a bakery and two dine-in restaurants. The food selections are all authentic cuisines from around China, recipes passed down from generation to generation. I’ve enjoyed Peking Duck, which is a whole duck cooked until the meat is tender and the skin crisps up crunchy and delicious. The Crispy Pork Belly with a Spicy Hoisin Sauce is another dish I like that cooks the pork belly until the fat and lean are both rich and crisp, before being dipped into a sweet and spicy sauce. And then there is my all-time favorite, a big piping hot bowl of Red Pepper Fish Stew. This stew is thick with chunks of succulent white fish swimming in a broth thick with red hot peppers and Chinese vegetables. Yum! The main thing to remember when checking out the Atlanta Chinatown Mall is to bring a big appetite, your sense of adventure and cash-they don’t accept plastic.

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.