5 Favorite Brunch Spots in Georgia

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What it is about this gluttonous weekend meal that makes it all the rage? Maybe it’s because I know I can go right back to bed after I eat it. Or maybe it’s just because it is a fun way to spend an afternoon with excellent food and friends catching up or reliving a wild night out on the town. As a homegrown Georgia peach, I have a few that I have on my must visit brunch list.

Anis Café and Bistro- Atlanta

When in Atlanta, I love brunching at Anis Bistro and Café. Located in an older residential section of Buckhead, Anis is a family owned café serving up beautiful and delicious Provencal fare. A major crowd favorite is the steak frites. They also serve up some of the best nutella and banana crepes outside of France. Don’t forget the homemade whipped cream!

cinnamonCafé Frederica- St. Simons Island, Georgia

Located in my hometown, this local café has been serving up delicious breakfast and lunch fare for over 20 years. They serve breakfast and lunch all day everyday but I find when I’m home visiting I make my visits to the café on Sunday for an early brunch. My favorites are- good ole scrambled eggs served with grapefruit and toast and blueberry pancakes. They also make a cinnamon roll so big and sweet you can’t help but smile.

 

 Indigo Coastal Shanty- Brunswick, Georgia

In downtown Brunswick, Indigo Coastal Shanty is another local favorite. They aren’t your typical brunch spot with mimosas and French toast, but it’s a great spot to get your weekend grub on. Chef Kate is a classically trained in fine dining but turned in her chef coat to open Indigo, a casual restaurant serving island style fare. I’ve had everything on the menu and you really can’t go wrong. My favorites include: curry chicken salad, a pimento cheeseburger topped with a fried green tomato (oh yea), and jerk fish sandwich.

heirloomcollageHeirloom Café- Athens, Georgia

Newer on the scene is Heirloom Café. Located in the historic Boulevard Neighborhood of Athens, Heirloom Café made its home in an old gas station, and is retrofitted to perfection as a homey farm-to-table café and market. Their brunch is lighter than most offering fresh salads and traditional egg dishes. They also serve up a tasty veggie burger (made in house) and a personal favorite: Love on a Biscuit, a down home version of eggs benedict with seasonal toppings on a homemade biscuit.

The Last Resort Grill- Athens, Georgia

A Classic City brunch institution is The Last Resort Grill. This downtown favorite serves up brunch staples like omelettes, a seasonal frittata, and pancakes. Order the Spinach Feta Grill: challah toasted in egg batter, then grilled to perfection, topped with poached eggs, portabellas, fresh spinach, artichokes & feta with our homemade roasted tomato sauce. Want something sweeter? Get the stuffed French toast: egg dipped challah bread baked with layers of rich ricotta cheese & seasonal flavors.

167948_541553330940_3616875_nEmily Laborde is a freelance writer and social media manager hooked on cruising backroads, photographing old houses, and loving all things local. For more check out her blog Em’s on the Road. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

10 Holiday Light Displays Around Atlanta

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‘Tis the season for sparkle and glitz, a time to pile into the car and tour the myriad light displays around Georgia. Below is a list of the 10 biggest and brightest displays in the Atlanta area. Fill the thermos with cocoa, and dig out the holiday tunes; let’s hit the road!

Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden (Nov. 16 – Jan. 4): This Garden Lights adventure ignites all of your senses! With more than 1 million lights, the garden is alive with seasonal spirit. Orchestral Orbs glow harmoniously with holiday tunes. S’mores on the Twinkling Terrace and treats from the Glow Bar taunt your taste buds. This year, colorful figures from Imaginary Worlds join the Ice Storm Trees and Poinsettia Tower. Listed in Forbes “10 Dazzling Light Displays Around the World,” you’ll want to buy your tickets early for this monumental event.

lake lanierMagical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier (Nov. 15 – Dec. 31): Tune your MP3 player to Burl Ives, and drive six leisurely miles enjoying larger-than-life holiday light displays. Your adventure doesn’t end with the light show. Be sure to stop at the Holiday Village and enjoy ice skating, carnival rides, s’mores sticks and a few moments with Santa. Look for double coupon days in November, and fill the car with the entire family because tickets are by car and not by person.

Light Up the Holidays at Barnsley Resort (Nov. 30 – Dec. 30): Visitors (including those who are not staying overnight) are welcome to view more than 1 million lights and festive décor in the historic 1800s manor house ruins, surrounding gardens and English-style village. There is a small fee for the self-guided tour, but those with dinner reservations at one of the resort’s two onsite restaurants can tour the garden at no cost. For a truly special holiday experience, visitors can take advantage of the Light Up the Holidays promotion available for overnight stays from Nov. 30 – Dec. 30, 2013, with luxurious cottage accommodations and more.

Stone Mountain Christmas at Stone Mountain Park (Nov. 9 – Jan. 1): Two million lights, Christmas shows, Rudolph and Bumble create a night to remember. Don’t miss a five-mile excursion on the Singalong Christmas Train, featuring a satellite message from Santa’s elves and a track-side show, The Gift, about the very first Christmas. Be sure to grab a seat for the nightly Christmas Parade where you can see Santa and Mrs. Claus, and end your night with the magic of the Snow Angel flying high to create snow and fireworks.

rock cityEnchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City Gardens (Nov. 22 – Jan. 4): Although it is often associated with Chattanooga, did you know Rock City Gardens is actually in Georgia? Tour the gardens, aglow with more than 30 holiday scenes encompassing more than 1 million lights. Stop in the pavilion for nightly entertainment, gingerbread cookie decorating and warm fire pits. Special VIP tickets are available for Dinner with Santa and early garden entrance.

Global Winter Wonderland Atlanta at Turner Field (Nov. 21 – Jan. 5): Experience the transformation of Turner Field into a lantern festival and multicultural theme park. Debuting in Atlanta this year, illuminating lanterns as large as 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide depict landmarks from countries all over the globe. Families can delight in carnival rides and games, international dining options, live shows, and celebrations of holiday traditions and cultures from all over the globe. Single-entry or season passes are available, and prices include all rides and live entertainment.

Christmas at The Rock Ranch (Dec. 1 – Dec. 31): Guests to The Rock Ranch can cut their lights and slowly roll through the mile-long display of thousands of lights, all strung by volunteers and ranch hands of the property. Bring the family by Truett’s Barn for hot cocoa and apple cider, soups and other treats. Dec. 7 and 14, families can dine with Santa and pose for a keepsake.

Lights of Life at Life University (Nov. 29 – Dec. 31): Families are thrilled that the Light of Life show is back in Marietta after a brief hiatus. Priced by the carload, this light show is an affordable family excursion. Bring cash; no cards accepted. If you are looking for more than lights, visit on the weekend to ride a pony, take a turn on a mini Christmas train or pose with Santa. Concession wagons offer funnel cakes, s’mores platters, fried Snickers and more.

CAllawayFantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens (Nov. 22 – Dec. 30): Bundle up and snuggle tight for a Jolly Trolley ride, or drive your own car through this award-winning display of more than 8 million lights. Each of the scenes are custom built for Callaway, taking more than 3,900 man-hours to complete. Inside the Christmas Village, visitors can purchase unique gifts from Georgia crafters or nibble on specialty treats. Make it a special time for the family with the Fantasy In Lights overnight packages, which include accommodations, entrance to the gardens, and a special loading area for the trolley.

Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park (Nov. 23 – Jan. 20): Each evening, visitors to downtown Atlanta can stroll in the 21-acre park, relishing thousands of lights that illuminate the cityscape. While you are there, take a spin on Atlanta’s only outdoor ice skating rink or enjoy a treat from Googie Burger. A tour of Centennial Park is the perfect nightcap to a day at Georgia Aquarium’s Festival of the SEAson.

lesliLesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way. 

 

8 Holiday Train Adventures Around Georgia

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Remember a train encircling your Christmas tree when you were growing up? My boys spend hours enjoying our steam engine that comes out each year with the mistletoe and stockings. Holiday train adventures around Georgia will help you relive those childhood memories. Hold on to your seat, we’re going for a ride!

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – A visit with Santa is magical, especially when you’re headed through the mountains alongside the winding Toccoa River. A daytime ride is best for young children, lasting only an hour. It includes storytelling, caroling and a visit from Santa. Older kids (and adults) will enjoy the four-hour nighttime adventure to Santa’s Pavilion. Santa visits each of the vintage train cars, and guests stop in the border town of McCaysville/Copperhill for dining and shopping.

ABGAtlanta Botanical GardenGarden Lights, Holiday Nights is one of my favorite nighttime holiday treats, with millions of lights illuminating the downtown gardenscape. Holiday cheer continues during the day when visitors can enjoy a G-scale train and trolley winding through a mountain village town. The miniature metropolis is not the only train show; kids can enjoy a turn on The Botanical Express.

Stone Mountain ParkStone Mountain Christmas is an event for all your senses. See multiple live plays amidst 2 million sparkling holiday lights. Visit the Snow Angel in her palace or see Polar Express in 4D. End the evening with a parade featuring Santa, the Snow Angel and a fireworks extravaganza. If you ask me, though, the highlight is a ride on the Singalong Train. Carol with the other passengers along this five-mile route around the mountain. There is no extra charge; it’s included with admission!

pink pigMacy’s Pink Pig – This vintage train is enjoying more than 50 years in Atlanta. Once with Rich’s, then at Egleston’s Festival of Trees, it now sits rooftop at Lenox Mall. If you grew up in Atlanta, you probably rode this train as a child. Bring your kiddos to meet Priscilla and carry on this Atlanta tradition benefitting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The Southern Museum – Follow the City of Kennesaw’s Christmas celebrations with an evening at The Southern Museum’s Polar Express Adventure. A train conductor and hobo greet families as they enter the museum. Kids can make crafts, write letters to Santa and meet the Big Guy himself. Warm up with hot chocolate and take in the holiday-themed model train layout.

Southeastern Railway Museum – When Santa’s reindeer are taking a breather, you’ll find him at the Southeastern Railway Museum where he can pick from more than 90 pieces of railway equipment, all perfect for delivering presents. Mingle with Santa and his elves, make holiday crafts and take a ride with Santa at the museum. On select days in December, families can dine with Santa for breakfast or lunch and watch a unique showing of Polar Express.

SRMGeorgia State Railway Museum in Savannah – Don your jammies and head to the museum for a special evening with Santa. Ride the city’s steam engine, which is decked for Christmas, and meet a very special conductor. After the 30-minute ride, visit Santa, create holiday crafts and listen to a reading of The Polar Express. Leopold’s Ice Cream is there with hot chocolate and hot cocoa ice cream for sale.

SAM Shortline Excursion Train- Head to southwest Georgia for multiple holiday adventures on the 1949 vintage cars that are part of the Heart of Georgia Railroad. Rudolph’s Favorite is a relaxing ride into Cordele for a short layover. There, kids can play games, listen to music, hear the Polar Express story or hunt for Christmas gifts. The Bells Over Plains ride is longer and includes options for a special Santa lunch or a visit from one of Santa’s elves, complete with hot cocoa to warm your spirits.

lesliLesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way. 

11 Must-Dos in Albany, Georgia

Ray Charles Plaza

Ray Charles Plaza

We didn’t know what we were in for when we packed our bags and headed down I-75 to Albany, Ga., but we were pretty sure that adventure loomed ahead. From paddling the waterways of the Flint River to donning a zookeeper’s hat at Chehaw Wild Animal and Adventure Park, our expectations were exceeded during an autumn visit to Ray Charles’ hometown. Don’t miss these Albany, Ga., must-sees!

  1. Go wild at Chehaw. Get up close with a baby wildebeest; say “hi” to Charlotte and Chloe, the zoo’s two new pygmy goats; and spend the day roaming Chehaw’s 700 acres of pristine, conservation land. Stay overnight at one of 44 RV sites.
  2. At the Thronateeska Heritage Center with Wetherbee Planetarium, walk through Albany’s historic Union Station complete with a steam locomotive and model railroad exhibit. Then, watch a live presentation beneath the brilliant stars of the Wetherbee Planetarium.
  3. Flint RiverQuariumGo down to the depths at the Flint RiverQuarium and Imagination Theatre, featuring a unique blue hole spring with more than 120 mysterious creatures. Don’t miss Moonshine the Albino alligator!
  4. Radium Springs Gardens, one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, pours 70,000 gallons of water a minute into the nearby Flint River and wows with clear waters and a breathtaking landscape.
  5. At the newly renovated Albany Museum of Art, the AMAzing Space Gallery provides interactive learning through hands-on experiences for children of all ages, while the galleries showcase more than 2,100 original works of African, European and American art.
  6. Get a hands-on history lesson at the Albany Civil Rights Institute, which provides an interactive window into Albany, Ga.’s history of leadership in the fight for equality. Tip: Hear the Freedom Singers perform the second Saturday of every month.
  7. Walk the Greenways system and then picnic at Riverfront Park, featuring Turtle Grove Play Park and its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain.
  8. Settle a bet on the 18-hole disc golf course at Albany’s Legacy Park.
  9. Bikers on RiverFront WalkStop by the Historic Bridge House/Albany Welcome Center and rent bikes to explore the area on two wheels.
  10. Hear Ray Charles play in the Plaza.
  11. Spend hours at the All American Fun Park with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.

Albany satisfies with Southern dining at its best. Feast on local barbecue, have dinner and listen to music in one of Albany’s trendy downtown restaurants, dine elegantly in town or at a traditional quail hunting plantation. The icing on the cake: Albany has more than two dozen hotels, and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities. www.VisitAlbanyGA.com

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Top Spots for Fall Foliage at Arabia Mountain

Top of Arabia Mt.

Crisp air, brilliant leaves and cozy sweaters; no wonder fall is the most popular time of year! You can get the most out of the season at these picture-perfect places in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (AMNHA). From secluded lakeside retreats to mountaintop vistas, you’ll always be treated to spectacular views. And the best part? The AMNHA is located just 20 minutes east of Atlanta along I-20!

The AMNHA is more than 40,000 acres and has many picturesque places to watch the leaves turn. However, these three spots perfectly frame our brilliant fall color and offer a fantastic variety of choices for even the most particular fall visitor. We’re sure you’ll be amazed!

1) Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve: Mountaintop 360-degree views of fall color make this breathtaking spot worth the walk! From the base of the mountain at the south parking lot you can follow the trail for an easy 25-minute walk to the top of this domed monadnock above the tree line. As you hike, you can enjoy small pools of water that shelter rare plants and the swirling pattern of the granite in this lunar landscape. Once you arrive at the mountaintop you can look down on an almost uninterrupted view of spectacular fall color!

 

2) Alexander Lake at Panola Mountain State Park: The water here is often still as glass and reflects the surrounding trees. This means double the fall color and perfect photo opportunities! Sit and soak it all in at one of the many picnic tables tucked into grassy spots along the edge of the water. When you are ready to walk through this fall wonderland, you can use the paved hike/bike PATH trail though the park. The trail boasts a new raised boardwalk that winds over the water. Continue walking for about 20 minutes to a viewing platform that reaches out over a granite outcrop. From there you’ll be able to see the undisturbed ecosystem that grows on the bare rock and a rare view of Panola Mountain in the distance. This area is encircled with trees and offers viewers a lovely burst of fall color!

Location: Alexander Lakes: 5089 Flat Bridge Road S.W. , Stockbridge, GA 30281

Phone Number: (770) 389-7801

Times: The park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk

Cost: $5 parking (free for Georgia State Parks Pass holders)

Chestnut Grove at the Monetary of the Holy Sprit3) Chestnut Grove at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit: The Monastery is the perfect place to spend a quiet and reflective afternoon viewing the fall colors. The stunning Abby Church is located on more than 2,000 acres of woodland and is open to those of all faiths or no faith. Unlike many monasteries, this location has always been open and welcoming to the general public. When you visit, you can enjoy the Monastic Heritage Center (which includes a historic barn where the monks used to sleep), an exhibit area, the largest bookstore of its kind in the Southeast, and a renowned bonsai greenhouse. Looking for a relaxing spot to have a picnic? Spread your blanket out under the grove of mature chestnut trees and enjoy the view of the Abbey Church. Or you could circle around the church and follow a path to a small peaceful lake framed with trees in full fall colors. Did you forget your favorite fall treat? Don’t worry, the Abby store has monk-made breads, fudge and other scrumptious goodies to stock your picnic basket.

Location: 2625 Highway 212 SW Conyers, GA 30094

Phone Number: (770) 483-870

Times: The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Monastery Visitor Center is open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free

Hungry for more? The preserve has more than 18 miles of soft and paved trails for you to wander through. As you explore, you can find granite ruins and lakes all with a gorgeous backdrop of the red and orange leaves of fall.

Location: 3787 Klondike Road, Lithonia, GA 30038

Phone Number: 770-492-5220

Times: The park is open from dawn to dusk.

Cost: Free

Kimberly EstepWhen not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs.  Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.