Top 3 Things to do in Madison, Georgia

By Susan Rodman

Photo courtesy of Madison, Georgia CVB

Photo courtesy of Madison, Georgia CVB

Madison, Georgia always feels like a genteel southern lady to me. The tree-lined streets shading local shops and restaurants invite you to wander. The active town square is perfect for a picnic, maybe a festival or just somewhere to meet the locals. These three activities are well-worth the hour drive from Atlanta, and if you’d like to stay the night, Explore Georgia has some hotel discounts in Madison too.

Time Travel: The stately antebellum mansions, spared by General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Civil War, give us a glimpse of what life was really like for the aristocratic southern planter.  There are walking tours where you can view the homes from the sidewalk, or visit in May for the annual Tour of Homes & Gardens. Explore Georgia has a special group rate for the 2015 event.

Ride Into the Sunset: Southern Cross Guest Ranch is the weekend house you’ve always dreamed about. Numerous activities are available on this country lane, but it’s the horseback riding that takes center stage. All riding levels are welcome, and experienced riders can choose to go off on their own after a brief introduction to the trails. Even better, the trail horses are saddled only when being ridden and rotated among the herd, so there is plenty of time for the horses to just be horses.

Go Hollywood: Ricky D’s, located in the historic town of Madison, is a retro cinema, diner, wine bar and museum all rolled into one. Grab a hot dog and frozen custard from the pick up window, or sip a glass of merlot with Elvis at Backstage, the wine bar. The retro cinema shows indie films and you are welcome to enjoy your meal as you watch.

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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Family-Friendly Attractions in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

LenFootTitle

It’s time to share a few places we love, in honor of Valentine’s Day. I geared up to write about local places that cater to kids…. LEGOLAND Discovery Center, INK!, and SkyZone.  These are super escapes for children, and we recommend them gleefully.

But….

I want to challenge you to consider family travel in a different light.  My personal goal is to encourage the exploration of Georgia with kids, not just for kids. 

Children adapt; they thrive wherever you put them, and they are naturally curious. Use these traits to your advantage. Show them the glory of the mountains, the excitement of the theatre, the art of farm-to-table cuisine. Don’t be scared to step outside your comfort zone and introduce them to all the wonders of Georgia.

So, with this call to action, let me tell you about four places that our family LOVES. These places aren’t advertised as family travel venues, per say, but they top our list without a doubt.

Len Foote Hike Inn

Len Foot Hike Inn was the most exciting overnight of our year! We hiked five miles deep into the forest during fall’s big color show, explored the property, played games, slept in our cozy bunkhouse, then watched the sun rise over the mountains. The boys loved meeting a thru-hiker that had just completed the Appalachian Trail. It was challenging, but a memory that will stay with us forever. You can read more about our adventure here:  365atlantafamily.com/lenfootehikeinn

5 Seasons Brewing

Yes, I am suggesting you bring your kids to a brew house. They will be welcome with open arms. The food is top-notch, locally sourced, and earth-friendly. Even the butter is made in-house; don’t miss spreading it on the bread baked from spent grain from 5 Season’s craft brews. Upwards of 70,000 gallons of craft beer, to be exact. For the kids, the menu is diverse and plenty: Grassfed burgers, chicken strips… even a bowl of baby grapes for the pickiest of eaters. You can read more about our experience here: 365atlantafamily.com/5seasonsbrewing

Old Car City USA

We discovered unexpected multi-generational family fun at Old Car City USA in White, Georgia. 4000 old cars…34 acres…6.5 miles of trails.  The oldest cars, with the most character are near the front. We explored the cars, played a little hide-and-seek, snapped over 500 photos, and discussed the history and family lore we recalled upon seeing the old junkers. The boys also enjoyed the doodle gallery of Styrofoam cups in the loft area of the old barn.  You can see our photos and memories here: 365atlantafamily.com/oldcarusa

Merry Acres Inn

There is enough fun in Albany to fill a weekend, and Merry Acres Inn is the best place to call ‘home base.”  Parents will love the spacious rooms, hardwood floors, and the Manor Pub with outdoor porch seating under oversized ceiling fans. Sure, the kids will love the pool filed with mineral water, but let me tell you the best part. You can order delicious, gourmet cuisine from three different restaurants, and have it delivered to the porch for your family. Even though it is “take out,” the served it as if it were made in the back…no flimsy Styrofoam containers and plastic forks.  Family-friendly served to perfection. Check out our room, the pool, and more here: 365atlantafamily.com/merryacresinn

If you are interested in more information about these family-friendly places, please check them out on my website:

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.

32 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Georgia

Fort Mountain State Park

Fort Mountain State Park

With Valentine’s Day on a weekend this year, you have lots of time to celebrate with your special someone. Make a date with your sweetie to check out these festivals, plays, concerts, art exhibits and activities in Georgia.

Atlanta Metro

Feb. 13: Big Band Valentines Dance at Stardust Ballroom Dance Club in Fayetteville 

Feb. 13-14: “The Elephant Man” at Act3 Playhouse in Sandy Springs 

Middle Georgia

Feb. 13: Southern Soul & Song: Sam Bush at The Imperial Theater in Augusta 

Feb. 13-28: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at Warner Robins Little Theatre 

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day Wagon Ride at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge

Feb. 14: Kiss My Grits! at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City

Feb. 14: Family Day: Love and Lerda at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens

North Georgia

Feb. 13 – March 15: Winston Churchill Art Exhibition at Berry College in Rome

Feb. 13-14: Valentine’s Dinner at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville

Feb. 13-15: Valentine’s Marriage Retreat at Lanier Islands Resort in Gainesville

Feb. 13-21: “Antigone” at UNG-Gainesville’s Ed Cabell Theatre in Oakwood

Feb. 14: 5th Annual Fire and Ice in Blue Ridge

Feb. 14: Fasching – German-style Mardi Gras in Helen

Feb. 14: Neil Berg’s “102 Years of Broadway” at Brenau University in Gainesville 

Feb. 14: Reserve the Valentine Package at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day Celebrations at Hightower Creek Vineyards in Hiawassee

Feb. 15: Behind the Scenes Tour at North Georgia Zoo & Farm in Cleveland

South Georgia

Feb. 12: “Back on Broadway” at the Georgia Southern University Performing Arts Center in Statesboro

Feb. 13-15: Dublin Farm’s Valentine’s Day Weekend Celebration in Dublin 

Feb. 13-15: “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Averitt Center for the Arts in Statesboro 

West Georgia

Feb. 12: Cocktails & Acrylics at the Albany Museum of Art

Feb. 13-14: Dance The Night Away in Albany

Feb. 13-22: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Theatre Albany 

Feb. 14: Music City Hit Makers at the Bill Heard Theatre in Columbus 

Feb. 14: “Notes from the Balcony: Romeo and Juliet in Music” in Thomasville 

Feb. 14: Under the Night Sky – Valentine’s Day Hike at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan 

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day Dinner at The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain

Georgia Coast

Feb. 12-14: 7th Annual Mardi Gras Tybee on Tybee Island

Feb. 13-14: Valentine’s Dinner Cruise in Savannah 

Feb. 14: Mardi Gras Festival in St. Marys

Feb. 14: Mardi Gras Ball in St. Marys 

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day Weddings in the Davenport House Garden in Savannah 

Atlanta’s Top Tasting Menus

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Nikolai’s Roof

Photo courtesy of Nikolai’s Roof

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner (read: a romantic night out at one of the city’s best restaurants is on most everyone’s radar), it seemed apropos to highlight Atlanta’s top tasting menus.

Nikolai’s Roof: For one of the best skyline views in town, savvy Atlantans know to book a window-facing table at Nikolai’s Roof, an upscale French-Russian hotspot located on the 30th floor of the Hilton Atlanta hotel, where decadent four-course tasting menus (diners choose from a handful of options for each course) are the norm. On Valentine’s Day, a special five-course menu ($110 per person, plus $58 for five wine pairings) featuring items like lump crab terrine, seared foie gras, sautéed swordfish and dark chocolate soufflé, will wow your beloved.

Woodfire Grill: Give Cupid a run for his money by booking a table at this Buckhead gem where chef Matthew Weinstein regularly offers five and seven-course tasting menus (including a vegetarian option) emphasizing local produce, sustainably-raised meats and seafood and avant-garde techniques. This V-Day, expect a five-course feast ($100 per person; wine pairings available) chockfull of indulgences like lobster with local caviar (it’s from UGA!), short ribs with black truffle and dark chocolate cheesecake.

Restaurant Eugene: Ask any local where they spend special occasions and you’re likely to hear Restaurant Eugene, one of Atlanta’s foremost farm-to-table restaurants with a reputation for exquisite fine dining and unparalleled service. No better time to finally check this one off your list than Valentine’s Day, when an exclusive four-course menu will be offered all weekend ($125 per person, with wine pairings available for $70). Don’t miss the crab bread pudding and celebration of cauliflower with Tennessee truffle.

Better Half: Though this Midtown eatery is decidedly more casual than some of the other spots on this list, chef Zach Meloy’s three-course tasting menu (which can also be ordered a la carte) is no less impressive. Meloy’s cooking is always a lesson in balance, contrast and intrigue—just see his seared Brussels sprouts with coconut curry gnocchi and peanuts for proof. Take your sweetheart here on Valentine’s Day for a festive five-course menu (available all weekend for $80 per person or $100 with wine pairings) showcasing inventive creations like tender beef with blue cheese, crispy potato, mushroom veloute and marmite caramel.

Aria: This Buckhead mainstay has been wooing locals for more than a decade with its sumptuous, often slow-cooked fare, served up in a swanky, yet intimate dining room complete with a candlelit wine cellar. A $68 per person, six-course tasting menu is offered every night, but on Valentine’s Day, star-crossed lovers can indulge in a special four-course tasting menu.

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

6 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Outdoors in Georgia

By Candy Cook

CLASSIC ROMANCE

Create classic romance, for your outdoorsy Valentine at one of these escapes.

Romance on the River

There’s nothing that better represents the timeless nature of love like Georgia’s rivers. Find river walks with dining nearby at Porterdale’s Yellow River Park and at the Chattahoochee River Walk in Columbus. For something a little more rugged, make a day of hiking or mountain biking Bear Creek in North Georgia. Home to the giant Gennett Poplar, Bear Creek Trail offers a moderate hike and bike along the water, several creek crossings and a relaxing area perfect for a picnic. Speaking of picnics…

Plan a Picturesque Picnic

Pack a blanket and carry a favorite meal to an overlook, for a charming change of scenery. Hike to a spacious wooden deck and a stunning view on Fort Mountain State Park‘s West Overlook Trail or take a more leisurely stroll to picnic on the boulders of Arabia Mountain.

Arabia Mountain. Photo courtesy of Candy Cook.

Arabia Mountain. Photo courtesy of Candy Cook.

Serenade your Sweetheart

Take a scene from classic love stories and serenade your sweetheart, guiding a canoe among the Cypress trees, at the secluded George L Smith State Park.

Waterfall Wonders

Taking the plunge this Valentine’s Day? Georgia’s waterfalls create a stunning backdrop for popping the question.

Coastal Combinations

Well-known for romantic inns, coastal cuisine and southern strolls, a stay in Savannah weaves a weekend of nature and nightlife. Further down the coast, hop on a bike to explore 30 miles of historic sites, ocean views, shopping and eateries on St. Simons Island.

Enchanted Evening

A Valentine’s night hike at Chattahoochee Bend State Park will lead lovers to an observation tower to gaze at the heavens with astronomers. [Reservations required. Click here to learn more.

Camp Cuddles

Cuddle up at a campsite in Crooked River State Park followed by a day of walking with wild horses on Cumberland Island.

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.