Attending Georgia’s Music Festivals with Kids

Attending 420 Fest in Atlanta with kids

Attending 420 Fest in Atlanta with kids. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

There are a few music festivals that hubby and I attend every year; we just love listening to music under the sun, experiencing the city, and chowing at the food trucks. This year, we did something different: We brought our kiddos!

Our 7-year-old and 3-year-old went with us to Sweetwater 420 Festival at Centennial Olympic Park. I’ll admit, we were nervous. This was our first large music festival with them, but we ended up having a wonderful time! There were a great number of other children there, too!

Thinking of bringing your own kids to one of the summer’s music festivals? Here are a few things we learned that made it an easy adventure.

  1. Bring ear protection. Even when you aren’t in the crowd near the stage, the music can be very loud. It’s important to protect little ears. We found that over-the-ear protection was easier to manage with little ones, and we found affordable solutions at the big chain home improvement stores.
  1. Plan an abbreviated visit. When hubby and I attend a concert, we usually arrive early and stay until the last song of the encore. That doesn’t work work with kiddos, especially young ones. This time, we studied the itinerary and picked the ONE concert we wanted to see each day. If we heard more than one band then that would be a special treat, but our expectations were set for no more than that.
  1. Shade and games are your friends. Pack a Frisbee or a Hacky-sack, and a blanket. Work to secure a spot under the trees so the kids can escape to a shady area when necessary. When they seem restless, offer an ice cream or King of Pops treat – and be sure to get one for yourself!
  1. Expect the best, plan for the worst. Chances are, your kids will be by your side the entire time, but just in case you are separated, make a plan. For older kids, plan a meet-up place, or point out the police and staff uniforms so they know where to go for help. With younger kids, pin your business card or phone number to the back of their shirt.

Trying to decide which Georgia Music Festival to share with your kids? Follow Glen Sarvady, Georgia’s Music Explorer, for more ideas.

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.

5 Dreamy Wedding Destinations at Lake Oconee

Planning a wedding in Georgia, or envisioning your perfect wedding day? Check out these romantic options loaded with Southern beauty and charm on the shores of Lake Oconee.

The Sandy Creek Barn at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee offers rustic romance for Georgia weddings.

The Sandy Creek Barn at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee offers rustic romance for Georgia weddings.

The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Lake Oconee

If you would love a destination wedding but worry about the travel for guests, this venue is the perfect compromise. Your guests will swoon over this luxurious resort, complete with onsite spa, golf, tennis, boating and more. This venue has several settings for ceremonies and receptions, including a barn, lakeside lawn and ballroom.

The carriage at the entrance to the Carriage House at Harbor Club adds charm to the beautiful venue.

The carriage at the entrance to the Carriage House at Harbor Club adds charm to the beautiful venue.

Harbor Club, The Carriage House

With a rustic and romantic flare, the Carriage House is the perfect location for an outdoor ceremony. Add a tent to maximize space and offer a little safety net in case of rain. The renovated horse stables provide covered seating or a nice space for cocktail hour. No need for a photo booth, because your guests will want to take photos near the beautiful carriage located at the venue’s entrance!

Beautiful wedding ceremony sites abound on the Corry House's expansive grounds.

Beautiful wedding ceremony sites abound on the Corry House’s expansive grounds.

The Corry House

With six ceremony site options at the Corry House, you are bound to find a spot that suits your “I Do’s.” The famous house sits on 500 acres and can sleep 20, which is popular for many wedding parties. The air-conditioned barn is often used for receptions and can hold up to 200 guests for the perfect shabby chic wedding.

Wedding parties love the opportunity to stay at the Goodwin Manor B&B.

Wedding parties love the opportunity to stay at the Goodwin Manor B&B.

Goodwin Manor

This bed and breakfast is the perfect place for a Southern wedding! It can hold up to 300 guests, but is also a great option for a small, intimate ceremony. Many brides use the house, which sleeps up to 12 and is furnished with beautiful antiques, for family and the wedding party. It has three popular ceremony options — one indoor and two outdoor — and space for a reception tent.

Throw a perfectly romantic party for your wedding at the Washington Grass Inn.

Throw a perfectly romantic party for your wedding at the Washington Grass Inn.

The Washington Grass Inn

This bed and breakfast will make all your whimsical wedding dreams come true! Hold your ceremony in the Circle of Trees for a romantic forest setting, and then throw the perfect party in the Cottonboll room that seats up to 225 guests. One of the most popular aspects of this venue are the bathrooms! Your guests will be thrilled to find the most adorably rustic bathrooms located just a few feet from the reception area. The parking onsite is particularly impressive, too.

Visit for more details on Lake Oconee wedding venues and places to stay for your out-of-town guests.

hannah-webHannah Ian is a contributing writer for Visit Lake Oconee from Athens, Georgia. She enjoys beauty and lifestyle blogging alongside the perfect cup of coffee. 

National Park Service Sites in Georgia Not to Miss

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore | Photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge, Georgia Conservancy

You may have experienced the unspoiled beauty of Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore. You might also have hiked or paddled your way down the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. But did you know that Georgia plays host to several other fascinating sites managed by the National Park Service?

Here’s a quick rundown of lesser-known National Park Service locations in Georgia. As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016, use this guide to start planning your own Georgia national parks vacation on

National Historic Sites

Andersonville. Copyright: Joseph Sohm /

Andersonville. Copyright: Joseph Sohm /

Andersonville National Historic Site near Americus – Tour the historic Civil War prison site and Andersonville National Cemetery, where veterans are still being buried. The on-site National Prisoner of War Museum pays tribute to prisoners of all American wars.

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains – Tour the Carter boyhood farm, the Plains High School Museum and Visitors Center, the Plains train depot and other points of interest in the 39th president’s hometown.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta – Tour King’s birth home, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center, where Dr. King and Coretta Scott King were laid to rest.

National Heritage Areas

Arabia Mountain. Copyright: Stacy Funderburke

Explore the natural wonders of Arabia Mountain. Copyright: Stacy Funderburke

Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area east of Atlanta – Explore granite “mountains” (actually monadnocks), wetlands and forests, a nearby monastery and numerous other historic structures and exhibits. Plan to spend at least a day learning about the cultures that have populated the area, hiking or biking trails, and discovering the natural and cultural secrets that make this region truly amazing.

Augusta Canal National Heritage Area in Augusta – What once played a role in both the Civil War and Augusta’s once-booming textile trade is now a recreational corridor with easy access for paddlers and a tow path that can be used for hiking, biking and fishing. Take a guided boat tour to learn more about the importance of the Augusta Canal in the area’s history.

National Trails

Springer Mountain

Springer Mountain

Appalachian National Scenic Trail has its southern terminus at Springer Mountain within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Even if you never leave the state of Georgia, the “AT” will lead past waterfalls, through deep, green forests and to the peaks of some of the state’s tallest mountains.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, starting at the New Echota State Historic Site in Calhoun, the Trail of Tears commemorates the forced removal of members of the Five Civilized Tribes to Oklahoma beginning in 1838. Historic sites along the way include the homes of wealthy Cherokee leaders and the assembly points and gravesites that bear witness to the tragic mass relocation.

National Historic Monuments

Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island – Learn about the battle between Spain and Great Britain for contested lands between Florida and Georgia. Explore the museum, visitor’s center and archaeological site to learn more about this 18th century outpost.

Fort Pulaski. Photo copyright: Jason Tench. Source:

Fort Pulaski. Photo copyright: Jason Tench. Source:

Fort Pulaski National Historic Monument on Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island –  See the earthen forts that became obsolete during the Civil War, the moat that once protected the fort, the damage from Union bombardment, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse and interesting exhibits detailing the island’s history.

Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon – See huge burial mounds constructed by the Mississippian culture around 1000 A.D. Explore the exhibits, hike the trails and learn about a place that’s been occupied continuously for 17,000 years.

National Military Parks

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Fort Oglethorpe – See markers and monuments that tell the story of the Battle of Chickamauga, and learn why the Confederate’s eventual loss here foretold the end of the Civil War.

At the top of Kennesaw Mountain

At the top of Kennesaw Mountain. Photo by Candy Cook.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Marietta – Explore three battlefields with interpretive trails, a visitor center, preserved earthworks and a memorable view from the top of Kennesaw Mountain.

National Cultural Heritage Corridor

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. The Gullah/Geechee culture, originating with West African slaves brought to coastal North and South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida, can be seen in unique communities that this cultural heritage corridor is meant to preserve. Keep your eyes open as you travel the Georgia Coast for remnants of this distinct and colorful culture.

laing-webJoe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. He has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years, camping across the United States, from coast-to-coast, and makes a point to stop at national landmarks along the way.

Fabulous Flowers – Azaleas and Rhododendrons for Southern Gardens

In May, evergreen rhododendrons and late blooming azaleas put on a show at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga.

In May, rhododendrons and azaleas put on a show at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Ga.

Spring is a lovely season to visit gardens in Georgia. Blooms are abundant, and temperatures are usually mild. Favorite shrubs and trees include daffodils, dogwoods, azaleas, viburnums, mountain laurel and rhododendrons.

At Gibbs Gardens, there are hundreds of azaleas and rhododendrons blooming from early spring through summer. Some are deciduous (they lose their leaves at the end of the growing season and new foliage appears in spring), while others are evergreen. Certain varieties are ever-blooming like the Encore series, which flowers over a period of months.

White azalea in bloom in the Japanese Garden at Gibbs Gardens.

White azalea in bloom in the Japanese Garden at Gibbs Gardens.

For the purpose of clarification, it helps to know that all azaleas belong to the genus Rhododendron, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. For example, the popular piedmont azalea, Rhododendron canescens, is a type of native azalea. In spring, it offers delightfully spicy sweet flowers that appear on bare branches before the new foliage emerges. Mature specimens may reach 10 feet to 15 feet tall over time.

Tried and true hybrid evergreen azaleas for Southern gardens include Indica, Kurume, Kaempferi and the Encore series. Southern Indica azaleas typically have large flowers and leaves. Popular selections include ‘Mrs. G.G. Gerbing’ with white flowers, ‘George L. Tabor’ with orchid-pink flowers and ‘Formosa’ with magenta flowers.

In late April, the native flame azalea, Rhododendron calendulaceum arrives on the scene with striking flowers that range from yellow to orange to scarlet.

Flame Azalea at Gibbs Gardens

Flame Azalea at Gibbs Gardens

Later in May or early June, the air is filled with the perfume of the swamp azalea, Rhododendron viscousum. This native tolerates wet soils but will grow happily in average garden soils, provided it gets regular water.

A perennial favorite of both humans and butterflies is Rhododendron prunifolium, the plumleaf azalea with stunning red to bright orange blooms that appear in late July to August. Plants can easily grow to heights of 15 feet or taller.

Large leaf evergreen rhododendrons are not the first plant that comes to mind for Southern gardens, but with the right location and adequate moisture, there are a number of selections, both native and exotic, that thrive. A few stalwart selections are listed below.  When possible, look for “Iron Clad selections.” These are well suited to tolerate the extreme heat and humidity we experience in the South.

Anna Rose Whitney rhododendron at Gibbs Gardens

Anna Rose Whitney rhododendron at Gibbs Gardens

Rhododendron “Anna Rose Whitney” – deep pink flowers

Rhododendron ‘Janet Blair’ – pink, cream and gold flowers

Rhododendron ‘Nova Zembla’ – deep red flowers, almost bluish red

Rhododendron ‘Roseum Elegans’ – lavender pink flowers

Rhododendron ‘Scintillation’ – pink flowers

For the best effect in your own garden, combine native and ornamental rhododendrons with other plants, including hydrangeas and Japanese maples.

Consider color, texture, form and fragrance, too. With some thought and planning, your garden can offer fabulous flowers for months.

Visit Gibbs Gardens this month to see these brilliant blooms and enjoy a number of special events, including Mother’s Day Brunch in a Box and strolling musicians on May 8, an arts and crafts show May 14-15, and the Twilight “Live” Music Series May 21 and 28. Find the full calendar online.

ericaErica Glasener is the marketing manager for Gibbs Gardens. A horticulturist, author and lecturer, Erica was the award-winning host of HGTV’s “A Gardener’s Diary” for 14 years. Erica is the author of “Proven Plants: Southern Gardens.” She is also the co-author with Walter Reeves of “Getting Started with Gardening in Georgia,” and “Month-by-Month Gardening in Georgia,” revised edition.

Six Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day Outdoors

Celebrate mom with Mother Nature this Mother’s Day weekend!

Panola Mountain State Park

Panola Mountain State Park

Panola Mountain Hike, Saturday, May 7

This naturalist-led hike ascends to the protected summit of Panola Mountain. Hikers enjoy scenic views along one of the most amazing trails in the Atlanta area. The monadnock shares many of the same features as Arabia and Stone Mountain, with conservation efforts that have preserved thick, colorful blankets of lichen and moss.

New Manchester Mill Ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park.

New Manchester Mill Ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park.

Sweetwater Creek Kayaking & Candlelight Hike, Saturday, May 7

Kick off Mother’s Day weekend with a morning paddle exploring Sweetwater Creek State Park by kayak. Kayaking the reservoir is exciting and easy for beginners. The park offers single and tandem kayaks. As evening falls, experience the magic of nature along a half-mile out-and-back hike to the mill.

Richard B. Russell State Park

Richard B. Russell State Park

Hidden Gem History at Richard Russell State Park, Saturday, May 7

Moms meet at the disc golf parking area at Richard B. Russell State Park for a fun, naturalist-led hike through living history of the park’s past homesteads. This hike is part of Georgia State Parks’ Hidden Gems series.

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

Cloudland Canyon’s Sunset Point Hike, Saturday, May 7

One of Cloudland Canyon‘s best kept secrets, a short walk leads hikers to Sunset Point for gorgeous views of Lookout Valley as the sky puts on a colorful twilight show. Moms should meet at the West Rim Access Parking Lot to experience this hidden gem.

High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park. Photo by Candy Cook

High Falls Paws on the Falls, Sunday, May 8

A special surprise awaits each pup who comes out to hike the High Falls State Park Trail. This dog-friendly hike follows a relatively easy trail for a tail-wagging good time with Mom’s Best Friend. Share your pictures from your hike on social media using #exploregeorgiapup!

Chattahoochee Nature Center.

Chattahoochee Nature Center. Photo by Candy Cook.

Chattahoochee Nature Center, Sunday, May 8

Pack a picnic and bring mom to the Chattahoochee Nature Center for free admission on May 8 (only moms get in free). Enjoy a short film about our treasured Chattahoochee River, a Wildlife Walk, animal encounters, and register by May 5 for the Mother’s Day Canoe Paddle!

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.