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.

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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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:

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


*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.

Where to Eat in the New Savannah

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Collins Quarter

Collins Quarter

When it comes to food in Savannah, most people immediately think of the soul food at Mrs. Wilkes’, the decadent banana splits at Leopold’s or the crackling fried chicken from The Pirate House. These institutions are classics for a reason — their food is satisfying, storied and, most importantly, delicious. But, something new has taken hold in Savannah’s dining scene, and the eats are equally noteworthy. Take a look at three of my new favorites in Georgia’s oldest city:

  • The Florence

    The Florence

    The Florence: Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson (you may recognize him from Athens’ 5&10 or Atlanta’s Empire State South) expanded his empire to the Hostess City in 2014, and Southerners have been flocking to the Italian-focused, Southern-grown hotspot ever since. Go for the irresistible bruschettas (I’m partial to the crispy pork belly), wood-fired pizzas and pastas that wouldn’t be out of place in the Piazza della Repubblica.

  • Collins Quarter: There’s no better place to start your morning than at this Australian-inspired café (breakfast, brunch and lunch only). The brainchild of native Melbournian Anthony Debreceny, The Collins Quarter pairs single-origin coffee with innovative dishes like ricotta hotcakes with bourbon-maple syrup and burgers, where nearly every ingredient is made from scratch, from the house-ground brisket to the brioche bun, caramelized onion aioli and hand-cut steak fries.
  • Zunzi’s: Though Zunzi’s isn’t exactly new, the concept is revolutionary in Savannah, and on a leisurely stroll through Oglethorpe Square you might miss this incredible takeout spot. The pint-sized restaurant is really more of a counter, but one dishing out incredible international sandwiches, most notably the Conquistador — tender chicken breast sandwiched between French bread with lettuce, tomato and Zunzi’s legendary special sauce. It’s the quintessential picnic lunch.


Iconic Southern Dishes with a Twist

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Credit - JCT Kitchen

Photo courtesy of JCT Kitchen

When most people think of Southern food, drool-worthy visuals of fried chicken, cornbread, biscuits and pecan pie likely come to mind. Trust me when I say there’s certainly no shortage of these historically delicious eats in Atlanta. But in today’s New South, innovative chefs are putting their own stamp on these tried-and-true favorites, revamping classics into mouthwatering stories all their own. Take a look:

  • Grits at Miller Union: Farm-to-table is more than just a buzzword at this vegetable-heavy hotspot run by James Beard-nominated chef Steven Satterfield, who draws on Southern traditions to create one-of-a-kind dishes, like his renowned grits fritter (a fried ball of the Southern staple brimming with country ham and cheese).
  • Okra at Chai Pani: No Southern table is complete without a big bowl of okra—even ethnic restaurants here recognize Southerners’ unwavering passion for the antioxidant-packed pods. Just look at Decatur’s bustling Chai Pani, an Indian street food restaurant, where diners swap starchy potatoes for okra “fries.” Here, okra gets the flash-fried treatment before being doused with lime juice and salt, resulting in a crunchy, addictive snack you can actually feel good about eating.
  • Pea Gratin at Empire State South: Traditional Southern meals often include field peas, often shelled at their peak in the summer and frozen to beef up hearty winter dishes. Always one to blend his European cookery with quintessential Southern ingredients, chef Hugh Acheson created a creamy, French-style gratin chock-full of decidedly Georgian components, like field peas, onion and bacon.
  • Nashville Hot Chicken at Holeman and Finch: Though the city may not be in Georgia, Nashville’s signature dish of hot chicken (fried chicken smothered in spicy cayenne pepper) has made its way to many tables in the Big Peach. One of our favorite renditions is at Holeman and Finch, where chef-owner Linton Hopkins serves his tear-inducing hot chicken sandwiched on a housemade roll with kohlrabi and pickled green tomatoes. Don’t forget the tissues!
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at JCT Kitchen: Coat anything in cornmeal and fry it and the result is sure to be delicious, but unripe green tomatoes are particularly extraordinary. At Ford Fry’s beloved JCT Kitchen, you can find these gems topped with pimiento cheese, pickles and a sherry honey gastrique, an unquestionably Southern dish with a twist.