Georgia’s 7 Best Weekend Getaway Spots

Georgia, The Peach State, has more to offer than nearly one million tons annual production of the sweet fruit. This state is also the location of beautiful natural landscaping like gardens, islands, caves, parks and mountains. Visitors and locals also enjoy world-renowned aquariums and museums. Read on for 7 of Georgia’s best getaway spots you need to visit right away.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

1.   Callaway Gardens

Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens is a resort complex of 6,500 acres with over 750,000 visitors each year. There is much to do and see, making the Gardens a great weekend vacation spot for almost anyone. Visit Robin Lake Beach, the world’s largest man-made, white sand beach. Step into the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, a conservatory maintained at 80ºF and 74% relative humidity and home to 1,000 butterflies of 50 different species. There are also golf courses, walking and biking trails, and seasonal events.

2. Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island, located off the Georgia coast, is an island of over 36,000 acres. Much of the island is maintained by the National Park Service, and salt marshes, untouched beaches and a variety of animals can be found all over the island. Go hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. Comb the beaches for sharks teeth and sea shells while watching wild horses run along the shore. Visit the Dungeness Ruins and Plum Orchard Mansion, both of which date back to the late 1800’s.

3. Frick’s Cave

Home to the endangered Gray Bat, Frick’s Cave is Georgia’s richest biologic cave environment. The cave makes up about 34 acres of karst topography, or cave area. The cave is also home to Georgia’s only population of the rare Tennessee Cave Salamander. Frick’s is closed to visitors during the summer due to the 10,000 endangered bats that live there, though people can visit the cave during parts of the winter, during which time winter conditions drive the bats live elsewhere.

4.Georgia Aquarium

Opened in 2005, the Georgia Aquarium was the world’s largest aquarium until China’s Ocean Kingdom opened in 2014. The aquarium houses more than 100,000 animals—500 species—in 10 million gallons of marine and fresh water. Visitors to the aquarium can enjoy sea otter and dolphin encounters, behind the scenes tours, sleepovers, and animals like beluga whales, African penguins, whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins and manta rays.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Stone Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

5. Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park, located at the base of Stone Mountain in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is the hotspot for family activities. Visitors can camp or stay in one of the hotels in the park. The park’s activities and attractions include a Swiss cable car ride with views from the summit of the mountain, a museum with 12,000-year-old artifacts, hiking trails, fishing, golfing, restaurants, shopping, and festivals and events in every season. There’s something for everyone at Stone Mountain Park.

6. Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Among this museum’s permanent exhibits is the Giants of the Mesozoic display, which features a 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus—the largest dinosaur ever classified. Enjoy a film in the IMAX theater and special exhibitions that make their appearance at different times of the year. Different activities and events are available throughout the year, so consider making a call before visiting to find out what will be offered when you visit.

7. Forsyth Park

Forsyth Park, a 30-acre park in Savannah, is the perfect place to spend a beautiful, almost picture-esque day with the family. Talk a walk along the paths and through the gardens, get a bite to eat at the cafe, and attend the occasional concert in the park. Throw a frisbee around or have a picnic lunch in the open grassy areas. Children will enjoy the play area, and the whole family can appreciate the fountain, fragrant garden, tennis and basketball courts.

vincentVincent Stokes is an outdoor enthusiast and an experienced world traveler. He also writes writes for the National Parks and works to promote pride in homegrown travel destinations. You can also connect with Vincent on G+ or twitter (@TravelingGlobal).

A Nature Lovers Paradise on Little St. Simon’s Island

 By Sue Rodman

Photo courtesy of Little St. Simon’s Island

Photo courtesy of Little St. Simon’s Island

Although it was only May, the white Christmas lights sparkled as we bumped down the deserted sand road toward the beach. As we got closer, we realized those weren’t lights, but fireflies.

The Lodge at Little St. Simons Island

The Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island is a short 10-minute boat ride from the mainland, but it feels worlds away. Since there are only 30 guests at a time at the Lodge, it’s easy to explore the 10,000-acre barrier island with seven miles of beach and 20 miles of wilderness trails without ever seeing another human. You will see lots of other inhabitants though. My boys were especially interested in the armadillos that burrowed under the boardwalk. The alligator resting next to the dock as we crabbed was a little unnerving, but well behaved.  If you prefer a guided tour, on-site naturalists lead adventures for every interest.

Meals at the Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island

The Lodge at Little St. Simon’s Island is truly an all-inclusive experience. Three gourmet meals a day prepared with ingredients from the on-site garden are delicious and if you’d rather not stop to sit down, staff will prepare a picnic lunch large enough to share. Cocktail hour brings everyone together and a grab as you wish cooler is always full.

Now is a great time to visit Little St. Simon’s Island and Explore Georgia has several packages available. The Captain Gabby kayaking adventure sounds very intriguing.

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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Glamping at Fort Yargo State Park

By Candy Cook

Photo Credit: geocaching.com

Photo Credit: geocaching.com

We’ll be camping every month in 2015. We’ll explore each season at park campgrounds and back country campsites only accessible by hiking or paddling. Camping once a month will help us discover Georgia and connect with nature as a family.

Is it cheating that our January campout is in a yurt? I don’t care. It’s cozy, and the luxuries of glamping make our stay more comfortable than crawling into a tent after our muddy winter hike. Greeted by a couple of dreary days, lower lake levels and no mountain bikes on wet trails, I’m happy to settle into a camp with heat, electricity, and big rustic furniture designed for cuddles.

The cold drizzle won’t stop us from venturing out to make some compelling discoveries about Fort Yargo. We start with a portion of the Lake Loop, a relatively easy trail serving both hikers and beginner mountain bikers. Meandering through the trees and near the shoreline, this trail presents an intriguing landscape as it connects us to fishing areas, picnic shelters and a disc golf course. The boys wander around Old Fort Yargo, examining a building that dates back to 1793, before we head back to the yurt. The hike has me eager to tackle features of the longer Mountain Bike Loop.

My favorite discovery at Fort Yargo has more to do with accessing nature than nature itself. The Bird Berry Trail is paved for a half-mile loop offering visitors with wheelchairs or strollers a place to enjoy nature. The trail is marked by interpretive signs describing the environment in text and braille. A bird-watching platform overlooks the lake, and a gazebo is surrounded by a garden. It reminded me of the important role that nature plays in our lives and inspired my boys to think about ways to make it more accessible for everyone.

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.

Indoor Play Options in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

NatureQuest

NatureQuest

I am a huge advocate for outside play. Rain, sleet, snow, or mosquitos…we are out there.  I’m also a realist. When you experience day after day after day of wet, freezing, or muggy weather, the kids need a break. Here are a few of our favorite places to play indoors.

In the City

High Museum The Greene Family Learning Gallery is a hands-on education center. It provides a building area, storytelling space, and three other kid-friendly areas. I love it as a tool for connecting my boys to the art in the museum.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History My boys love to explore at NatureQuest, where they learn about forests, swamps, and more. If I can drag them away, we also play scientist at Sensing Nature. Their favorite stations are the bubble maker and the green-screen meteorologist camera.

North of Atlanta

INK

INK

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Plan to spend an entire day at this “kid-sized” town. Climb in a plane, play musical instruments, or play veterinarian. You can also climb aboard a firetruck, “milk” a cow, or play judge and jury. Bring a picnic, as there are not lunch options in the building.

Tellus Science Museum Head straight to the back, and busy the kids with gem mining.  My boys look forward to getting a little wet and finding a golden nugget. In the next room, ancient dinosaur bones hide under rubble, waiting for little hands to discover them.

South of Atlanta       

Thronateeska

Thronateeska

Museum of Aviation Explore four hangers of equipment, uniforms, and other military flying gear. Most are “for eyes only,” but there are a handful of places where children can climb, touch, push, steer, and more. Stop for lunch at the cafeteria, with large windows for viewing more airplanes outdoors.

Thronateeska Heritage Center This kid-friendly museum is a science center, train exhibit, and planetarium – all under one roof. Our favorite areas are the archaeology exhibit, the “skeleton” piano, and the HO-scale model train.  

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.

 

Georgia’s Best Pies

Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

It’s National Pie Day! In honor of this delicious holiday, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite pies in the Peach State. Fair warning: this list will make you very hungry.

Buttermilk Pie courtesy of GirlsGetaway.com

Buttermilk Pie courtesy of GirlsGetaway.com

Buttermilk Pie at Yesterday Café in Greensboro: Arguably the most famous pie in Georgia, the Buttermilk Pie at Yesterday Cafe is so good that Southern Living named is one of the South’s Best Pies and Carrie Underwood ordered 300 for her wedding.

Photo courtesy of  Savannah Candy Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Savannah Candy Kitchen

Pecan Pie at Savannah Candy KitchenSavannah Candy Kitchen’s recipe uses fresh eggs, real butter, corn syrup, sugar and fancy Georgia pecan halves. You can purchase your own pecan pie at the store in Savannah or online. We suggest serving your pie with whipped cream and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Your taste buds will thank us.

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

R&A Orchards, photo courtesy of examiner.com

Fried pies at R&A Orchards in Ellijay: What could be better than a pie? A FRIED pie! R&A Orchards in Ellijay serves up a wide variety of fried pies everyday. We’d tell you our favorite but we can’t choose just one.

Anything from The Pie Hole in Roswell: Busy bakers, tiny tables and a display case full of sugary treats welcome you to The Pie Hole in Roswell, Georgia. Slices are available daily but the menu is different every day. However, we’ve never tasted a Pie Hole pie that didn’t make our eyes roll back into our head with delicious delight.

Mary Macs photo courtesy of Foodspotting.com

Mary Macs photo courtesy of Foodspotting.com

Peanut Butter Pie at Mary Macs in Atlanta: Nothing cleanses the palate after a southern feast like a piece of Mary Macs’ famous Peanut Butter Pie. It’s silky-smooth texture and cookie crust will make you want to give up your day job and become a professional pie eater. Seriously. It’s that good.

 

 

LaurenLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!