My 5 Favorite Turkey Day Treats

PeachDish Thanksgiving Holiday Meal kit.

PeachDish Thanksgiving Holiday Meal kit. Photo courtesy PeachDish.

PeachDish Box. Thanks to PeachDish, you can host Turkey Day dinner without having to shop or prep (or really cook). Order a Thanksgiving PeachDish box, and you’ll receive all the ingredients you’ll need to roast your turkey (already brined), your sides (like Pecan & Apple Dressing), and even easy-to-make cream biscuits! The shopping and most of the prep work is done. You get to do the fun part: cook, eat and enjoy dinner with your family and friends. Be sure and place your order by Saturday, November 21 to receive your PeachDish box in time for Thanksgiving.

Dekalb Farmers Market. For those of you who love to cook, this market is the place for you. You can pick up everything you need to make Thanksgiving dinner with just one stop! Dekalb Farmers Market offers a vast selection of exotic and ethnic fruit, vegetables, fresh seafood, organic meats and poultry (like naturally raised turkeys), baked goods, an amazing cheese counter, and even fresh flowers for your table’s centerpiece. I always pick up some freshly roasted and ground coffee beans for a special Thanksgiving breakfast treat.

Sweet-Potato-Cheesecake

Chef Sonya Jones’ Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Sweet Auburn Bread Company. There are so many freshly baked treats to choose from — like Lemon Pound Cake, Pecan Pie, and Old Fashioned Tea Cookies — that it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to, it would be Chef Sonya Jones’ rich and creamy Sweet Potato Cheesecake. Made with fresh, local ingredients and cooked to perfection, this is a dessert worth giving thanks for — and it’s former President Bill Clinton’s favorite dessert.

Red Apple Barn. Enjoy a visit with your family to the Red Apple Barn near Ellijay in the North Georgia Mountains. While you’re there, you can pick your own apples and a bottle of fresh apple cider from their farm store. When you get home, you can turn those apples into pie and that cider into Hot Mulled Cider (recipe below), a warm and fragrant after-Thanksgiving dinner drink.

13th Colony Distillery

13th Colony Distillery

13th Colony Distillery offers a wide array of handcrafted spirits. My favorite is their Southern Bourbon Whiskey — it has a velvety smooth finish. Located in Americus, Georgia, Thirteenth Colony Distillery prides itself on producing unique, small-batch spirits at a friendly price. I suggest adding a splash to your apple cider for a more festive flavor.

Mulled Cider
Yields 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 quart apple cider
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 fresh lemon, cut in quarters
1 fresh orange, cut in quarters
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch of allspice
2 whole cloves
1 cup spiced rum

Garnish:
6 whole star anise

Directions:
1. Combine apple cider, ginger, lemon, orange, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in a stainless steel saucepan.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
4. Strain mixture, add the spiced rum and serve hot in mugs.
5. Garnish with star anise.

Enjoy!

From Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Shopping for Kids this Holiday Season

Gift shop at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens

Find artistic gifts for kids at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? We try to keep it simple and focus on giving rather than the gift, settling on four presents each: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Even with a minimal shopping list, I love finding just the right gift for my little ones. One of my favorite places to scope out? Gift shops at museums and attractions. Here are 10 of my favorite museums and gift shops in Georgia for gift hunting.

Georgia Museum of Art Gift Shop, Athens. Books, art supplies, games, craft and DIY kits, dolls and stuffed animals are available for the kids. Stationary and decorative items are ideal for adult gift giving.

High Museum Shop, Atlanta. Select from art studio supplies and workbooks, plus a series of fun collectibles from Mo Willems Seriously Silly exhibition.

Tellus Science Museum Store, Cartersville. Pick up a gemstone mining kit or a science experiment. There are also activity kits to help kids learn about magnets, microscopes and more.

Foxfire Museum Gift Shop, Mountain City. A plethora of books include subjects on outdoors, cooking, Appalachian living and more. There are also soaps, craft kits and other unique finds.

Museum of Arts and Science Museum Store, Macon. You’ll find science-related items for all ages, unique art and gifts and nature-inspired jewelry.

Georgia Aquarium Gift Shop, Atlanta. Enjoy books, games, toys and more that focus on the beloved underwater creatures of the aquarium. The website even features a Kids’ Holiday Gift Guide, allowing you to purchase items online.

Gift shop at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah.

Find choo-choo trains and more at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah.

Georgia State Railroad Museum Gift Shop, Savannah. Perfect for your train enthusiast, there are dozens of gift-giving ideas here.

Red Top Mountain Visitors Center Gift Shop, Cartersville. You’ll find gifts, books, apparel, toys for children, and much more to please nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Walking Dead Store and Museum, Senoia. Perfect for the zombie-lover in the family. You’ll find officially licensed TWD products like clothing, games, accessories and collectibles.

Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre Boutique, Atlanta. There is also an extensive gift department at this location, featuring dance books, music, jewelry, statues and collectibles as well as imaginative children’s items like the exclusive Atlanta Ballet Signature Nutcracker, available only during the holidays.

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.

4 Awesome Geocaching Challenges in Georgia

Geocaching is a fun adventure game played by using high-tech devices to hunt treasures called geocaches. These caches, hidden in some of the most interesting places around Georgia, contain a variety of items such as trading cards, trinkets, and traveling coins. The game is exciting fun for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking to liven up hikes and explore new destinations.

Georgia State Parks has hidden nearly 50 caches in spectacular parks all over the state. There are treasures to find while viewing waterfalls in the mountains, hiking canyons and forest, or hitting the beach. Geocachers are encouraged to earn souvenir geo-coins for finding 15, 30, and 40 state parks geocaches. Grab a Geo-Challenge Passport from participating parks such as Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, or Skidaway Island state parks.

Columbus RiverWalk

Columbus RiverWalk

Explore Columbus with the RiverWalk GeoTour, which includes over 30 geocaches to find between hiking, rafting, and ziplining around town. Six unique series lead visitors to Columbus’ historical sites, incredible views, and various attractions. Complete each series to collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs.

Columbus GeoTour Souvenirs

Collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs when you complete portions of the Columbus GeoTour.

Peachtree City’s GeoTour highlights historic landmarks and reveals hidden spots to enjoy nature along the 90 miles of paved cart paths. Each cache holds trinkets and trading cards featuring fun facts about the location. With just under 20 caches to find, the tour can be completed in a day or weekend trip. Stay at the Wyndham Peachtree Hotel and borrow a golf cart for the adventure.

Jackson County geocache

Find surprises at each destination on the Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail. Photo by Candy Cook.

The Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail celebrates history and countryside with 30 creative caches. The unique treasures on this tour add puzzles and games to the thrill of the hunt. Explore local attractions and landmarks collecting stamps for the official tour passport.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Jingle All the Way with Georgia’s Christmas Parades

Milledgeville Christmas Parade

The Milledgeville Christmas Parade will be held Dec. 5, 2015. This year, the parade will be held at night!

Pull out your jingle bells and your striped tights; it’s time to get into the holiday spirit with the annual Christmas parades throughout Georgia. I’m a huge fan of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade. In fact, we attend every year, even though my little ones are now teens. In addition to the floats, helium balloons, and marching bands, I like to see the stormtroopers of the 501st Legion with their Santa hats and snowman noses. The Christmas parade signals the start of the holiday season for me, and it’s a great inexpensive family tradition. It seems no matter where you travel in Georgia, you’re bound to find a Christmas parade to welcome in the holiday season. Here are several from around the state.

Boat Parade of Lights (Nov. 28 in the evening): Savannah sure knows how to do a parade. The Westin sponsors this event, which is located on the waterfront in front of the hotel. It includes 35 lighted boats, accompanied by live music performances, tree lighting ceremony, and fireworks extravaganza. Of course, the best seat in the house is at the Westin, where you’ll also find a Gingerbread Village competition.

Rome Christmas Parade (Dec. 1 in the evening): This is one of Northwest Georgia’s oldest and largest Christmas parades. It’s organized by a volunteer committee and has more than 100 entries each year.

Cedartown Christmas Parade (Dec. 3 at 6 p.m.): The theme for this year’s event is “Christmas Lights on Parade.” Floats are awarded cash prizes in three categories, so you know they’ll be good.

Dublin Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 2 p.m.): In addition to floats and bands, young spectators get excited about the handfuls of candy and Christmas cheer tossed their way during this event.

Jefferson Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.): Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in a horse-drawn carriage during this parade.

City of Rockmart Christmas Parade (Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.): This parade is held on a Friday night and has more than 5,000 spectators. The theme for 2015 is “Memories of Christmas.”

Downtown Holiday Open House in Valdosta (Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.): Come early in the day for the Holiday Open House and stay for the parade at 5 p.m. Floats are judged on appearance, special effects, creativity, workmanship and use of the theme, which is “A Christmas Story.” First prize gets a leg lamp. (just kidding)

Savannah Lighted Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m.): Although Savannah is best known for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Lighted Christmas Parade looks pretty awesome, too. This parade travels from River Street through town to City Market.

Stormtrooper at the North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade

Stormtrooper at the North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade

North Georgia Mountain Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.):  It’s the 26th year for this mountain parade. Expect lots of traditional floats and maybe a stormtrooper or two.

City of McDonough Christmas Parade (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.): The City of McDonough celebrates Christmas with a parade, as well as a tree lighting ceremony and a 5K Jingle Jog. Of course, there is also a visit from St. Nick, too.

Golden Isles Christmas Boat Parade of Lights (Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.): Sponsored by the Golden Isles sailing club, the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights features boats of all sizes decked out with brilliant holiday lights and decorations.

Festival of Lights Christmas Parade in Douglas (Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.): Expect to see lots of Santa’s home in this parade. The theme for 2015 is “Santa’s Workshop.”

City of Royston Christmas Parade (Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.): Kick off the season with floats, music and Santa.

City of Hartwell Christmas Parade (Dec. 14 at 3:30 p.m.): Celebrate the “Magic” of the season during Hartwell’s annual parade.

Find more parades on exploregeorgia.org/events.

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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5 Native American Sites Not to Miss in Georgia

Fort Mountain View

Fort Mountain View. Photo by Candy Cook

Fort Mountain

Visit the mysterious wall believed to have been built by Woodlands-era Indians between 500 BC and 500 AD. Fort Mountain, in Chatsworth, is named for the ancient rock wall that stretches 855 feet across the highest point of the mountain. The wall seems to indicate fortification against hostile groups or possible ceremonial rituals. Fort Mountain is one of several stops along Georgia’s Cheiftains Trail, a driving tour of several sites related to North Georgia’s Native American heritage.

Track Rock Gap

Track Rock Gap, in Chattahoochee National Forest, preserves a significant site of rock art created by Creek and Cherokee people. Visitors can view a small sampling of boulders featuring petroglyphs at the Track Rock Gap Archeological Site. It’s worth a visit, but make plans to extend your visit with other activities as the site is small. A trailhead for the 11-mile Arkaquah Trail is located just across the street. You can reach the Track Rock Gap site by taking US 129 to Blairsville, the US 76 east about 5 miles. Turn right on Trackrock Gap Road until you reach the small parking lot.

Ocmulgee National Monument. Photo by Candy Cook.

Ocmulgee National Monument. Photo by Candy Cook.

Ocmulgee National Monument

Located in Macon, this National Park Service monument exhibits artifacts from several Native American cultures, including the Paleo-Indians, who arrived during the ice age period; the Woodland culture, which began horticulture in Middle Georgia; and the Mississippians, who built mounds for their elite. The site includes an educational video, temple mound, and hiking trails that tour the grounds.

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site 

These sites, managed by Georgia State Parks, both offer a look at the cultures and lives of the mound-building Native Americans. Etowah, located in Cartersville, exhibits artifacts in the visitor center and protects six earthen mounds complete with a village site. A nature trail that follows the Etowah River features a fish trap and highlights medicinal uses for native plants.

Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Located in Blakely, Kolomoki Mounds State Park protects the largest Woodland Indian site in the Southeast. The park features the oldest great temple mound, burial mounds, and ceremonial mounds. A unique museum is built around an excavated mound where visitors learn about the culture surrounding this historic site. The park also features scenic trails and camping, among other recreational activities.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.