St. Simons Island Activities that are Better in Winter

 By Sue Rodman

Photo courtesy of The King & Prince Resort

Photo courtesy of The King & Prince Resort

No matter what time of year you visit St. Simons Island, you’ll find plenty to do. Unlike many beach vacation destinations, St. Simons has a year-round population of about 13,000, so businesses aren’t just seasonal. That, coupled with mild temperatures, means a wintertime beach vacation can be just as much fun as the summer, with better prices and smaller crowds. My favorite hotel on the island is the newly renovated King and Prince Hotel, which is running a special through Explore Georgia.

While the beach is fun any time of year, here are three things to do on St. Simons that are best in the cooler months.

  1. Guard the coast against Spaniards. If things had gone differently back in Colonial times, Georgia might have been a Spanish colony. Fort Frederica guarded the coast from Spanish-occupied St. Augustine. It’s now a National Historic Site with a small museum and stunning marsh views.
  2. Become a rice farmer at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation. Just off St. Simons Island is this authentic Southern rice plantation. Learn about life on a rice farm from its antebellum heyday through modern times.
  3. Go Shrimping on the Lady Jane. In summer it can be tough to get a reservation for this popular attraction, which is one of my favorites. The Lady Jane is an authentic shrimp boat. Trawls bring up a bounty of sea life to examine and release.

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2015 Free Days at Atlanta Museums and Attractions

By Lesli Peterson

CallawayGeorgia offers a wealth of museums and attractions, with exhibits that range from space to dinosaurs and animals to gardens. We own a membership to several, but it can be financially daunting to visit all of them…especially with multiple kids. Thank goodness for FREE DAYS which allow us to experience new places.

Here’s a list of Atlanta Metro’s best museums and attractions, and the days they are available for FREE in 2015. Always check the website or call before you visit to inquire about cancellations, parking fees, and ID required for Bank of America and Fulton County resident free days.

Atlanta Ballet

Every Month: On the first of every month, Atlanta Ballet offers a free class day at all locations for its adult open division classes.

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center

Every Week: ACAC waives the $5 admission fee every Thursday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. You may be able to catch lectures, gallery tours, film screenings and more for free.

Atlanta History Center

Every Month: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission on the first full weekend of each month.**

November 1: Visitors are welcome to celebrate Day of the Dead.

Booth Western Art Museum

Every Month: Free admission on the first Thursday of each month from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Callaway Gardens

January 16 – February 27: Free Admission (except weekends and holidays – with the exception of Sat. Feb. 21)

February 21: Free admission on Founders’ Day, which honors the late Virginia Callaway, co-founder of Callaway Gardens.

March 26 – 29: Free Admission to the Plant Fair (through Beach gate.)

April 5: Free admission for those who arrive prior to 8 a.m. to attend Easter Sunrise Service. Attendees can stay in Gardens for the day.

June 1 – July 27: Free admission to Astronomy Night with Coca-Cola Space Science Center on Mondays at dark.

September 11: Free admission in honor of 9/11

November 6: Free admission on Founders’ Day, which honors the late Cason Callaway, co –founder of Callaway Gardens.

November 21 – December 30: Free day admission with the purchase of Fantasy In Lights admission at night.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

Every Month: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission on the first full weekend of each month.**

Center for Puppetry Arts

Every Month: Walk-up admission is free for Fulton County, Georgia, residents on the first Saturday of each month.*

Children’s Museum of Atlanta

New Exhibits: Fulton County residents are invited to buy one admission ticket and receive one additional general admission ticket for free on the opening day of each feature exhibit.

Every Month: On Target Free Second Tuesday, anyone can attend the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for free from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

Free admission for all active, retired, and reserve military personnel are admitted for free, and their families receive a discounted rate on the following holidays:

Memorial Day, July 4, Veterans Day, Flag Day, and Armed Forces Day

Georgia Museum of Art

Admission is ALWAYS free during regular museum operating hours.

Georgia State Parks 

September: Georgia State Parks are always free, although is a parking fee.  Your State Parks Day is held each year in late September, which waives the parking fee at State Parks. Historic Sites are also free on this day.

High Museum of Art

Every Month: Walk-up admission is free for Fulton County, Georgia, residents on the first Saturday of each month.*

Every Month: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission on the first full weekend of each month.**

Michael C Carlos Museum

Free admission 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm on the following Thursdays:

January 22, February 5, March 5, April 30, May 7, and June 11, 2015

Museum of Design Atlanta

Every Month: On the 2nd Sunday of the month museum entrance is Pay-as-You-Wish. Enter for free, or make a donation. (Note: The museum is closed on the 2nd Sunday of April in order to change exhibitions.)

Tellus Science Museum

Every Month: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission on the first full weekend of each month.**

Additional ways to visit for free:

Georgia Aquarium offers free admission on your birthday.

Georgia Libraries offer free or discounted passes to families who check out certain materials. They can be used once per family. Participating attractions include the following: Zoo Atlanta, Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, Go Fish Education Center, and Center for Puppetry Arts Museum

During Museum Day Live in September, Smithsonian magazine offers free admission to participating venues. Several Georgia museums are included. The 2015 list has not yet been released, but be sure to check the website as September draws closer.

A great number of Georgia museums are always free to the public. See a comprehensive list here: http://blog.exploregeorgia.org/free-museums-in-georgia/

Share your Georgia museum adventures using the #ExploreGeorgia hashtag on social media!

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*Fulton County Free Saturdays: Tickets are subject to availability. Acceptable I.D. includes valid driver’s license, utility bill or student I.D. from a Fulton County school. Major funding is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners

**Museums on Us, Bank of America: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission on the first full Saturday and Sunday of each month. Discount offered for cardholder only.

 

Exploring the MLK Historic Site with Kids

By Lesli Peterson

MLK Birth Home

MLK Birth Home

With our oldest now in first grade, we surmised that it was time to extend our discussions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beyond books and YouTube videos. It was time to visit the MLK National Historic Site and The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.  I am thrilled that we made this choice; the boys learned so much.  Here are 10 areas of our self-guided tour that resonate most with children.

  1. Junior Ranger Program – Ask any park ranger for the Official Activity Booklet. Kids 9 – 15 complete it on-site, as well as promise to live by King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence.
  2. Firestation No. 6

    Firestation No. 6

    Firestation No. 6 – Dr. King visited here often as a boy. This Atlanta icon also became one of the first fire stations to desegregate. Inside, kids love the 1927 fire truck on display.

  3. King’s Birth Home – My boys enjoyed having their photo taken on the steps and imagining that Dr. King sat in the very same spot when he was a boy. Next door is a gift shop, with a number of books and games for kids.
  4. Children of Courage Exhibit – This exhibit is geared toward younger visitors, telling the story of the children of the Civil Rights Movement.
  5. Courage to Lead Exhibit – The main exhibit within the Visitor’s Center, Courage to Lead is primarily for adults. However, in each section of the exhibit there is a blue sign that describes in simple terms, for children, the gist of the kiosk. On a personal note, it was here that Dr. King’s sacrifices for peace became most apparent to my son. I urge you not to skip this.
  6. Ebenezer Baptist Church

    Ebenezer Baptist Church

    Ebenezer Baptist Church – My oldest walked directly to the altar, inquiring about the “voice from the speakers.” Hearing Dr. King speak in this setting genuinely touched him (and all of us.)

  7. International Walk of Fame – Just outside the Visitor’s Center our kids walked along footprints of many great leaders who have struggled to bring peace and equality to everyone. They also enjoyed posing with the life-size Gandhi statue and learning of his influence in Dr. King’s life.
  8. World Peace Rose Garden – The shrubs were bare when we visited, but that didn’t stop us from admiring the poetry within the garden written by children from around the world.
  9. Trading Cards – Collect all five cards from a park ranger, located at the Visitor’s Center, church and fire station. A Civil War to Civil Rights trading card program encourages families to visit multiple parks.
  10. The Eternal Flame

    The Eternal Flame

    The Eternal Flame – The flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s dream. My boys enjoyed seeing the flame and understanding its message.

 

Things to know before you visit:

  • Parking and admission are free.
  • Restrooms are available onsite in multiple locations.
  • If you visit in cold weather, bring a coat. You will travel from site to site on foot.
  • Cameras are allowed in all locations except inside the Birth Home.
  • Arrive as early as possible to tour the Birth Home. Tickets are free, but spots are limited and fill quickly.
  • Sweet Auburn Curb Market is just down the road and the perfect place for lunch.

3 Low Cost and Free Things to do on Jekyll Island

By Sue Rodman

Driftwood Beach

Jekyll Island was once the winter escape for some of America’s richest families. Now the island is a playground for the public, and winter is a perfect time to see it all at a discount. Explore Georgia has some hotel deals for a special getaway, and here are three low cost or free things to do on Jekyll Island so you can spend a little more on your hotel package.

  1. The Tidelands Nature Center is a little more rustic than its neighbor the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. In addition to a small collection of sea animals in the center, they offer kayak tours, nature walks and special hands-on programs for kids. We participated in an identifying fish program, and my kids are still singing the parts of a fish song to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
  2. Driftwood Beach, also known as Boneyard Beach, is a hidden gem along the northern end of Jekyll Island. The name comes from the remains of weathered grey trees that have been preserved by the salt air and water from the ocean. It’s a beautifully eerie place and a perfect backdrop for photographs.
  3. The Jekyll Island Museum is free and located within the Jekyll Island Historic District. It has a small museum that showcases photographs and objects from the island’s colorful past. Bet you didn’t know that in addition to being the winter retreat for some of America’s most elite families, Jekyll Island also played a significant part in America’s history. In 1910, Senator William Alrich convened a secret meeting of financiers on Jekyll Island to create a proposal for banking reform that was the forerunner of today’s Federal Reserve. Today, the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District is a 240-acre, riverfront compound and one of the largest, ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States.

 

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

Read more family travel tips from Sue Rodman on her blog, Field Trips with Sue.

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Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Sparks Dialogue Throughout the Month

By Eileen Falkenberg Hull

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

500+ entries were evaluated and now the calendar is set for the annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) featuring 65 films from 26 countries that will be shown at seven theatrical venues across the metro area including United Artists Tara CinemasRegal Atlantic StationLefont Sandy Springs, and Georgia Theatre Company at Merchants Walk January 28 through February 19, 2015.

The public is invited to the festival’s Opening Night Gala and film at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre where they will “Paint the Town Red” while enjoying food tastings by local and Israeli celebrity chefs, an open bar, and live entertainment.

In addition to theatrical screenings, AJFF and Creative Loafing will host an immersive Young Professional’s Art Party on February 7 at The Mammal Gallery in downtown Atlanta. Also, around the city, AJFF will be featured in art drops from some of Atlanta’s most interesting creators- CatlantaBlockhead ATLClunky Robot, and Crazy Monkey Trucker.

Tickets to all the screenings and parties are on sale now at ajff.org.