Free Things to Do Around Atlanta

Final-Phoenix Flies 3-inch button(1)

Every March, the Atlanta Preservation Center puts together a month long series of FREE events around the city. The celebration is called the Phoenix Flies and it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn a bit about Atlanta’s past, as well as take in some unique and often under the radar events.  But what happens when you aren’t visiting in March? Here are three free things to do in Atlanta throughout the year.

Photo Courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Get Your Cowboy on at Booth Western Museum: The first Thursday of every month from 4 – 8 pm, the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville offers free admission. Get the kids into the spirit by requesting a saddlebag at the front desk. The contents will guide and engage children throughout the museum. Get the wiggles out by heading to the basement level where you’ll find the Sagebrush Ranch where kids can learn about light, perspective, observation and other art related concepts all in a kid-friendly playground.

Photo courtesy of Dunwoody Nature Center

Photo courtesy of Dunwoody Nature Center

Relax at the Dunwoody Nature Center: My boys love to visit The Dunwoody Nature Center in the warmer months when they can wade into the creek with their nets and try to catch water striders or even tiny fish. On a recent visit, my son and I hiked a few of the trails, stopping in the full-sized Indian tepee to entertain each other with a progressive story. It was tons of fun. The best part of the Dunwoody Nature Center is it’s free everyday.

Fly Into the Wild Blue Yonder: Kids 8-17 can learn about aviation and take an introductory flight with the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA)Young Eagles Program. Young Eagles chapters are located throughout the state with the most active in Columbus and Lawrenceville. Once the introductory course is complete, kids have the opportunity to advance their training with a free flight training course and a voucher for a first flight lesson with an instructor. Even if they don’t take the flight course, it’s fun to see the city from the sky.

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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A Guide to Duluth, Georgia’s Korean Restaurants

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

For those of you following allowing on my Instagram adventures, you likely saw that I recently took a tour of Duluth’s Korean eateries. I have to say, the city wasn’t kidding when they called Duluth the Seoul of the South—the sheer number of Korean restaurants in town is enough to warrant the nickname, but when you consider the authenticity of the cuisine, it’s even more deserving. To wit, here are five restaurants serving up some of Korea’s most iconic dishes:

Suwanee Chicken & Pizza - Kate Parham KordsmeierYangnyeom (Fried Chicken) at Suwanee Chicken & Pizza: Southern Americans aren’t the only ones with a penchant for fried chicken—in Korea, lightly battered (read: less greasy) and extra crispy wings are eaten frequently, often after work, and washed down with beer. Head to this fast-casual spot for an ultra-crunchy version—I recommend getting the sweet garlic sauce on the side, as it tends to weigh down the skin—served alongside pickled radish.

Jang Ju Sang - Kate Parham KordsmeierJeon (Pancakes) at Jang su Jang: When locals are craving homestyle cooking like their grandmother’s, they head to Jang su Jang for bona fide bites, like tofu soup, steamed pork, marinated beef, cold noodles and jeon (a savory, pan-fried fritter often filled with kimchi or seafood and dipped into a soy-vinegar sauce). Go for the mung bean jeon paired with roasted barley tea. Simply push the call button on your table when you’re ready to order—speed is paramount here.

Tree Story Bakery - Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Red Bean Bbang (bread) at Tree Story Bakery & Café: Few bakeries make the majority of their products from scratch multiple times a day, but at this hip café, fresh is the name of the game—a bite of their bbang (egg bread) bursting with housemade cream and red bean paste filling (a common Korean ingredient) proves as much. The dozens of baked goods found here, from cakes and cookies to mochi, manju and sugar balls, are best washed down with a sweet potato latte or Misugaru (a healthy grain tea that’s the equivalent of our breakfast smoothies).

Yummy Place - Kate Parham KordsmeierKimbab at Yummy Place: After school, children in Korea often head to cafés and food carts for snacks like donkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet with BBQ sauce), ddukpokgi (rice cakes in spicy sauce), kkochi o-deng (fish cake soup) and kimbab, a roll resembling Japanese sushi that employs steamed white rice seasoned with sesame oil and wrapped in dried seaweed sheets. Fillings range from tuna salad, crab stick and eggs to veggies like cucumbers, carrots and radish, all of which can be found at this street food specialty shop, Yummy Place.

Breakers BBQ - Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Korean Barbecue at Breakers Korean Bar-B-Q: Korean barbecue is nothing if not communal—not only do you share food with your tablemates, but you even cook the food yourself, on an open grill in the center of your table. This Duluth newcomer (which has plans for nine other locations throughout the state this year) is upping the BBQ ante by serving top-tier meats (think 20-day dry-aged short rib and pork belly from a Minnesota farm akin to Korea’s legendary Jeju Black Pig) in a swanky, upscale setting where the table grills use down-draft vent technology, eliminating smoke and lingering smells.

All photos courtesy of Kate Parham Kordsmeier. Follow her culinary adventures on Instagram.

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate

5 Unique Ways to Enjoy Georgia State Parks with Kids

By Lesli Peterson

ChattahoocheeBendTitle

In 2014 our family stayed overnight at a different Georgia State Park each month, and visited multiple parks in between overnight adventures.  (You can read about Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey.)

While I highly recommend such an adventure, it isn’t for everyone. Don’t let this discourage you from exploring the parks, though! Here are five fun daytrip park adventures for kiddos.

GeorgeLSmith

George L Smith State Park

Canoe or Kayak the blackwater at George L Smith State Park

There is nothing quite like canoeing in blackwater.  The Cypress and Tupelo trees tucked in the water reflect dreamily on the blacktop.  It is peaceful and serene, and the perfect environment for learning to row. Click here to learn more about our canoeing adventure:

Iron pour at Red Top Mountain State Park

Red Top Mountain’s name comes from the soil’s rich red color caused by high iron-ore content.  Bring the kiddos to select a scratch block mold. The crew then fires up the blast furnace, fills the mold with molten iron, and offers up your unique piece once cooled.

Magnolia Springs

Magnolia Springs

See Turtles in the natural spring at Magnolia Springs State Park

Not too far from George L Smith you’ll find Magnolia Springs. The natural spring here pumps 7-9 million gallons of water each day. It is crystal clear, and reflects beautiful shades of blue and green.  Within the spring we saw dozens and dozens of turtles, and a few alligators.  I’ve never seen so many turtles in such a small area; it was amazing.  A side note: Camp Lawton was on this site during the civil war. It was one of two POW camps, the other being the more famous Andersonville.  A museum at the park shares many of the artifacts found here. See a video of the springs and turtle here.

Hike the falls at Amicalola State Park & Lodge

Amicalola is one of the tallest falls this side of the Mississippi. You’ll want to take the kids to see it! I recommend driving up the hill and parking midway with younger kids.  A short walk will get you to a bridge, only feet from the falls. It’s gorgeous, and the kids loved it.  The path is paved, so a stroller would also work.  Active kids can make it down the stairs to the base of the falls and back. Older kids can climb up the 450 stairs to the top of the falls…or start at the top and walk all the way down. Read about our fall adventure here.

Get down with the diamorpha at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Diamorpha are succulants found in the pools of rock outcrops like those at Chattahoochee Bend and Arabia Mountain.  In spring they turn bright red, and then burst with a white bloom.  Primarily found in Georgia, they are on the endangered species list in Tennessee. In fall and winter they appear brown and “dead,” but they are not. Showing kids how special they are in spring, helps them to understand and better respect these beauties in the cold months. We inspected these charmers here.

What are your favorite things to do with kids at Georgia State Parks?

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.

These Georgia B&Bs Will Make You Want to Move In

Photo Courtesy of  Lucille's Mountain Top Inn and Spa

Photo Courtesy of
Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn and Spa

Spring is right around the chilly corner.  The 2015 class of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers will soon be hitting the Trail northward from Springer Mountain.  Quite often friends and families gather together to encourage loved ones who are starting their trek.  We hope this brief list of fabulous bed and breakfast inns (B&Bs) in the Northeast Georgia Mountains will help you find a special place for your fond, temporary farewells.

These B&B ideas come from our friends with the Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Association.  They always have great tips on the best places to enjoy spending time without necessarily spending a lot of money.

Bed and breakfast inns are special places to get away that offer an entirely different experience than cookie-cutter motels.  At B&Bs in Northeast Georgia’s mountains, you’re truly guests, not simply occupants of a room with iffy towels and TV clickers that are more germ infested than most CDC labs.

Cozy.  Comfy.  Friendly.  Fascinating get-aways. B&Bs are entirely different from places where you try to sleep by a busy freeway with a breakfast menu that consists of soggy cereal in a tiny Styrofoam bowl.

B&BS are mini vacations that you’ll remember long after most sleazy motels are plowed down to make room for another car lot.

When you need a break – when you REALLY need a break – pick one of Northeast Georgia’s lovely B&Bs with one-of-a-kind decorations and fabulous attitudes.  Enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast (that someone else makes for a change), have a quiet conversation (without you-know-who bothering you) in a spot with beautiful views and not-so-strange strangers.

Here’s a B&B you might like: Your Home in the Woods Bed & Breakfast Inn serves oatmeal from baked peaches and locally sourced blueberries.  Foodies will love their apple cheddar quiche and “creamy eggs” — scrambled eggs with cream cheese and Dijon mustard.  Going with a fussy eater?  Don’t tell him or her what’s in it and watch as it’s munched down faster than you can say, “I knew you’d like it.”

All of Northeast Georgia’s B&Bs are above average, of course, and many use local foods to add a gourmet twist to their breakfast offerings.

Twin Creeks Bed and Breakfast Inn, for example, makes a blueberry, cream cheese and croissant casserole.  Their signature dish is a carrot-cake Belgium waffle with cream cheese, cinnamon sugar butter and sublime syrup.

Photo Courtesy of Misty Mountain Inn and Cottages

Photo Courtesy of Misty Mountain Inn and Cottages

The Misty Mountain Inn B&B includes a full breakfast with fresh ground coffee and juices.  Daily offerings vary, but think of … a country breakfast with home fries and scrambled eggs with diced ham.  Add in a few cheeses, bacon, biscuits and toast with jams, jellies and locally produced honey and you’ll have a good idea of what’s for breakfast.  Or select a vegetarian quiche, a breakfast sausage casserole, waffles and pancakes or simply delicious coffee with a loved one.

Glen-Ella Springs is a fabulous place for dinner or to spend the night … followed by breakfast and appreciation.

Photo Courtest of @cgponder via Instagram

Photo Courtest of @cgponder via Instagram

If you’re adventurous, take a drive around magnificent Lake Rabun – be sure to notice the unique boathouses – then, stop by for a quick hike up Minnehaha Falls (honest).  Afterward, head down Bear Gap Road, the back way to Glen-Ella Springs.

Just when you-know-who is absolutely sure you’re lost and promises himself/herself never to trust you again, say, “Oh, no!  We’re almost out of gas and we have no food!  We’re going to die in the wilderness!”

Keep driving few miles through deepest, darkest Georgia to Glen-Ella Springs.  Park and go inside where you’ll say, “We have dinner reservations!”

(Yes, I actually did that years ago.  I’ve forgotten her name, but I’ll bet she remembers that date, if not me.  She’s probably doing better after all these years.  Probably.)

Glen-Ella Springs offers blueberry pancakes with Vermont maple syrup and hickory smoked bacon that could make almost anyone forgive you for almost anything.  (Some restrictions apply.)

Everyone’s favorite culinary masters at Glen-Ella delight guests with their Two Cheese Strata served alongside creamy stone-ground grits from Nora Mill Granary of Helen, GA.  Count me in for country ham and made-from-scratch biscuits.  Unless they’re serving Caramel French Toast Casserole and Mini Herb Egg Muffins.  Tough choices.

Everything at Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa – truly one of America’s finest – is fabulous.  If you’ve never been treated like royalty, Lucille’s is your big chance.  If you’ve never seen a sunset or sunrise in the Northeast Georgia mountains, Lucille’s is your big chance.  If you’ve never spent a night in a deluxe room with a couple of robes that probably cost more than your first car, Lucille’s is your big chance.  If you’ve never had a gourmet breakfast where the only thing that could possibly intrude upon the delight is trying to figure out which spoon and/or fork to use (trust me, they’ll bring you more) … yup, Lucille’s is your big chance.

My three-course breakfasts at home – generic V-8 juice, a generic English muffin, generic bran cereal and inexpensive coffee – aren’t the same as what you’ll be served at Lucille’s.  In a dining room overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northeast Georgia, you’ll dine on Gruyere and Shallot Frittatas, Crème Brulee French Toast with Minted Strawberries, Pancakes with Spiced Blueberries and a side of thick sliced Applewood Smoked Bacon.

Photo Courtesy of Lucille's Mountain Top Inn and Spa

Photo Courtesy of Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn and Spa

I’ve been to Lucille’s Mountaintop Inn.  Didn’t have a clue what I was eating (sorry), but if I get to choose where I want to eat my Last Meal, take me to Lucille’s, please.

Pffft.  Forget going to the Smokies.  Forget motels that have numbers in their names.  The next time you need to get away for a little adventure, exploration or relaxation, spend a night — and maybe the time of your life — at one of the forty B&Bs providing the best the Northeast Georgia Mountains can offer.

Robert SutherlandRobert Sutherland is a freelance writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA. Robert has two adult daughters, six grandchildren, one Kawasaki and a loving girlfriend. Robert’s e-mail address is: RJS@RobertSutherland.com.

What to Order at Five Must-Try Buford Highway Vietnamese Restaurants

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Lee's Bakery

Photo courtesy of Lee’s Bakery

The Restaurant: Lee’s Bakery

The Order: Banh Mi (sandwich)

This traditional Vietnamese sandwich—pâté and/or various kinds of pork and deli meat comingle alongside pickled veggies (think jalapenos, daikon, carrots and cucumbers) and fresh herbs (usually coriander or cilantro) in between a crusty French baguette smothered in mayo—is not only made from scratch at this sandwich and soup shop, it’s also the steal of the century at just $2.99. Go for the Grilled BBQ Pork version.

 

The Restaurant: Nam Phuong

The Order: Gỏi cuốn (spring rolls)

Gather up a group and head to this unsuspecting Vietnamese mecca where you roll your own spring rolls, also sometimes called salad rolls or summer rolls. I’m partial to the BBQ pork, but the shrimp is also great—simply dip rice paper into warm water and pile it high with your choice of fresh herbs, rice vermicelli and julienned carrots and cucumbers. Dipped in a tangy fish sauce, these rolls are DIY delicious.

 

The Restaurant: Chateau Saigon

The Order: Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaken Beef)

Like many Vietnamese dishes, this French-inspired beef creation is named for its cooking method: tender beef is tossed back and forth in a shaking motion over high heat. At Chateau Saigon, you’ll find it served authentically over greens with sautéed onions, scallions and tomatoes, alongside rice.

 

The Restaurant: Pho Dai Loi #2

The Order: Phở (Beef Noodle Soup)

This soup shop, tucked away in a corner of a strip mall, is the undisputed master of Vietnam’s iconic dish of phở. Here, a deliciously rich broth chockfull of spices (think cinnamon, star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, cardamom, coriander, fennel and clove) teems with rice noodles and a variety of beef cuts, from eye round steak and well-done flank to marble brisket, soft tendon and bible tripe (mix-and-match the cuts to customize your soup). Each steaming bowl comes with a bounty of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime and jalapenos for toppings.

 

The Restaurant: C’om Grill

The Order: đu đủ (papaya salad)

Though papaya salad is often thought of as a Thai dish, the Vietnamese version is equally bright and packed with flavor. At this casual eatery, you’ll find their signature salad brimming with green mango, papaya, Fuji apple, roasted peanuts and crispy scallions in a fish vinaigrette sauce. It’s the perfect balance of textures and flavors, and comes with the option to add pork, beef, chicken, lamb, shrimp or fish.

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate