Georgia’s 7 Best Weekend Getaway Spots

Georgia, The Peach State, has more to offer than nearly one million tons annual production of the sweet fruit. This state is also the location of beautiful natural landscaping like gardens, islands, caves, parks and mountains. Visitors and locals also enjoy world-renowned aquariums and museums. Read on for 7 of Georgia’s best getaway spots you need to visit right away.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

1.   Callaway Gardens

Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens is a resort complex of 6,500 acres with over 750,000 visitors each year. There is much to do and see, making the Gardens a great weekend vacation spot for almost anyone. Visit Robin Lake Beach, the world’s largest man-made, white sand beach. Step into the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, a conservatory maintained at 80ºF and 74% relative humidity and home to 1,000 butterflies of 50 different species. There are also golf courses, walking and biking trails, and seasonal events.

2. Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island, located off the Georgia coast, is an island of over 36,000 acres. Much of the island is maintained by the National Park Service, and salt marshes, untouched beaches and a variety of animals can be found all over the island. Go hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. Comb the beaches for sharks teeth and sea shells while watching wild horses run along the shore. Visit the Dungeness Ruins and Plum Orchard Mansion, both of which date back to the late 1800’s.

3. Frick’s Cave

Home to the endangered Gray Bat, Frick’s Cave is Georgia’s richest biologic cave environment. The cave makes up about 34 acres of karst topography, or cave area. The cave is also home to Georgia’s only population of the rare Tennessee Cave Salamander. Frick’s is closed to visitors during the summer due to the 10,000 endangered bats that live there, though people can visit the cave during parts of the winter, during which time winter conditions drive the bats live elsewhere.

4.Georgia Aquarium

Opened in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium was the world’s largest aquarium until China’s Ocean Kingdom opened in 2014. The aquarium houses more than 100,000 animals—500 species—in 10 million gallons of marine and fresh water. Visitors to the aquarium can enjoy sea otter and dolphin encounters, behind the scenes tours, sleepovers, and animals like beluga whales, African penguins, whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins and manta rays.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

5. Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park, located at the base of Stone Mountain in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is the hotspot for family activities. Visitors can camp or stay in one of the hotels in the park. The park’s activities and attractions include a Swiss cable car ride with views from the summit of the mountain, a museum with 12,000-year-old artifacts, hiking trails, fishing, golfing, restaurants, shopping, and festivals and events in every season. There’s something for everyone at Stone Mountain Park.

6. Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Among this museum’s permanent exhibits is the Giants of the Mesozoic display, which features a 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus—the largest dinosaur ever classified. Enjoy a film in the IMAX theater and special exhibitions that make their appearance at different times of the year. Different activities and events are available throughout the year, so consider making a call before visiting to find out what will be offered when you visit.

7. Forsyth Park

Forsyth Park, a 30-acre park in Savannah, is the perfect place to spend a beautiful, almost picture-esque day with the family. Talk a walk along the paths and through the gardens, get a bite to eat at the cafe, and attend the occasional concert in the park. Throw a frisbee around or have a picnic lunch in the open grassy areas. Children will enjoy the play area, and the whole family can appreciate the fountain, fragrant garden, tennis and basketball courts.

vincentVincent Stokes is an outdoor enthusiast and an experienced world traveler. He also writes writes for the National Parks and works to promote pride in homegrown travel destinations. You can also connect with Vincent on G+ or twitter (@TravelingGlobal).

Indoor Play Options in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

NatureQuest

NatureQuest

I am a huge advocate for outside play. Rain, sleet, snow, or mosquitos…we are out there.  I’m also a realist. When you experience day after day after day of wet, freezing, or muggy weather, the kids need a break. Here are a few of our favorite places to play indoors.

In the City

High Museum The Greene Family Learning Gallery is a hands-on education center. It provides a building area, storytelling space, and three other kid-friendly areas. I love it as a tool for connecting my boys to the art in the museum.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History My boys love to explore at NatureQuest, where they learn about forests, swamps, and more. If I can drag them away, we also play scientist at Sensing Nature. Their favorite stations are the bubble maker and the green-screen meteorologist camera.

North of Atlanta

INK

INK

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Plan to spend an entire day at this “kid-sized” town. Climb in a plane, play musical instruments, or play veterinarian. You can also climb aboard a firetruck, “milk” a cow, or play judge and jury. Bring a picnic, as there are not lunch options in the building.

Tellus Science Museum Head straight to the back, and busy the kids with gem mining.  My boys look forward to getting a little wet and finding a golden nugget. In the next room, ancient dinosaur bones hide under rubble, waiting for little hands to discover them.

South of Atlanta       

Thronateeska

Thronateeska

Museum of Aviation Explore four hangers of equipment, uniforms, and other military flying gear. Most are “for eyes only,” but there are a handful of places where children can climb, touch, push, steer, and more. Stop for lunch at the cafeteria, with large windows for viewing more airplanes outdoors.

Thronateeska Heritage Center This kid-friendly museum is a science center, train exhibit, and planetarium – all under one roof. Our favorite areas are the archaeology exhibit, the “skeleton” piano, and the HO-scale model train.  

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.

 

Georgia’s Best Pies

Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

It’s National Pie Day! In honor of this delicious holiday, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite pies in the Peach State. Fair warning: this list will make you very hungry.

Buttermilk Pie courtesy of GirlsGetaway.com

Buttermilk Pie courtesy of GirlsGetaway.com

Buttermilk Pie at Yesterday Café in Greensboro: Arguably the most famous pie in Georgia, the Buttermilk Pie at Yesterday Cafe is so good that Southern Living named is one of the South’s Best Pies and Carrie Underwood ordered 300 for her wedding.

Photo courtesy of  Savannah Candy Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Savannah Candy Kitchen

Pecan Pie at Savannah Candy KitchenSavannah Candy Kitchen’s recipe uses fresh eggs, real butter, corn syrup, sugar and fancy Georgia pecan halves. You can purchase your own pecan pie at the store in Savannah or online. We suggest serving your pie with whipped cream and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Your taste buds will thank us.

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

Fried pies at R&A Orchards in Ellijay: What could be better than a pie? A FRIED pie! R&A Orchards in Ellijay serves up a wide variety of fried pies everyday. We’d tell you our favorite but we can’t choose just one.

Anything from The Pie Hole in Roswell: Busy bakers, tiny tables and a display case full of sugary treats welcome you to The Pie Hole in Roswell, Georgia. Slices are available daily but the menu is different every day. However, we’ve never tasted a Pie Hole pie that didn’t make our eyes roll back into our head with delicious delight.

Mary Macs photo courtesy of Foodspotting.com

Mary Macs photo courtesy of Foodspotting.com

Peanut Butter Pie at Mary Macs in Atlanta: Nothing cleanses the palate after a southern feast like a piece of Mary Macs’ famous Peanut Butter Pie. It’s silky-smooth texture and cookie crust will make you want to give up your day job and become a professional pie eater. Seriously. It’s that good.

 

 

LaurenLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!

5 Outdoor Family Adventures in Georgia

By Candy Cook

My family enjoys a wide range of activities in Georgia’s diverse landscapes. We’ve taken one step at a time to discover and broaden our outdoor hobbies. Budding outdoor enthusiasts, like my young sons, need places that offer lots of options to make the most of an adventurous side while not breaking the bank or getting overwhelmed. These are some of my favorite places to start adventuring outdoors in Georgia.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island

The great outdoors play an important role in all of our visits to the shores of Jekyll Island. My family first discovered Jekyll when my son developed an interest in sea turtles. I planned a week vacation around a visit to The Georgia Sea Turtle Center for his birthday. We have returned several times having fallen in love with the beauty of the land, relaxed beaches and focus on nature. I love that we can camp out near the beach and head out to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic. To get started on our Jekyll Island adventures, we abandon the car in favor of biking the trails, go on a sea turtle walk with the experts, and get hands-on with local animals at Tidelands Nature Center.

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

This laid-back park is the entrance to the largest blackwater swamp in North America and boasts some of the darkest night skies in the state. One of my sons’ favorite memories is touring the Okefenokee in a park boat. There are guided tours if you’re uncomfortable going it alone. This year, our visit will include an overnight stay to admire the spectacular view of stars, explore the Trembling Earth Nature Trail and learn more about the ecosystem. I haven’t decided if we’ll be camping or staying in one of the cottages. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center is my number one recommendation for families who are really enthusiastic about outdoor recreation. I have been fortunate enough to attend several programs offered by Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, including an affordable three-day workshop just for women who came from all over the country. This is where I learned firearm safety, wilderness survival, fishing and animal tracking.

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a place we visit often to enjoy the mountain landscape while expanding our outdoor skills and hobbies. Unique recreation options inspire us to adventure without over-doing it and risking our sanity. Day hiking the gulch, caving with guides, mountain biking and disc golf can make camping a challenge. I balance our adventure at Cloudland by staying in a yurt. It’s like camping, only easier and more comfortable. I’m taking my sons back country camping this year, and Cloudland Canyon is where we’ll start.

Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park has done an amazing job of combining great entertainment, outdoor fun and nature. I’ve explored Stone Mountain Park for decades, and there is always something new. The camper program that provides gear and help to first-time campers is a great way to get started in a family-fun environment. My sons enjoy attractions that weren’t available years ago, like completing the Sky Hike course and tubing Snow Mountain. In fact, that’s where we’re heading this weekend. I hope we can sneak in a hike to the top or a stroll around the base of the mountain. It’s a fun place to get excited about adventuring outdoors in Georgia.

Spend a Not-So-Chilly Day Outdoors at Snow Mountain

By Candy Cook

CandyCook_SnowMountain

What’s on every kid’s mind all winter long? A snow day! Snow is a great incentive to get everybody active outdoors, and at Snow Mountain we can enjoy all the benefits of snow without the snowy weather! Just outside of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park‘s memorial lawn is transformed into a snow-covered winter wonderland every weekend until February 22.

We headed to Snow Mountain on a sunny Saturday in January for some frosty fun. Excitedly, we all piled into the family tube and zoomed down the 400-foot hill before returning to the top to race each other down on solo tubes. I’m happy to report that the boys preferred the family flying down the hill together, because they are growing up so fast. It’s nice to know there are still some things my pre-teens love to do as a family.

After tubing, we entered the Snow Zone! I can honestly say that I’ve never seen the boys so excited to play in the snow. With the help of other families and children, several igloos and some snowmen were constructed. The boys had a blast throwing snowballs at targets in the shadow of Stone Mountain.

Get outside this weekend with a fun sunny snow day at Stone Mountain Park. Oh, and if you need a quick warm up, grab a mug of hot chocolate. That really hit the spot!