Top 5 Things to Do in Athens, Georgia

Photo Credit: @picturesbecrazy via Instagram

Photo Credit: @picturesbecrazy via Instagram

This fall when you and thousands of others head to Athens, Georgia to cheer on the Dawgs in the Sanford Stadium, be sure to check out all that the Classic City has to offer beyond the hedges. With so many available activities, the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau has compiled a “Top 5 Things To Do in Athens on Football Weekends” list!

  • dtExplore downtown Athens: Just a short walk from Sanford Stadium, downtown Athens is bursting at its seams with stylish and quirky shops, a variety of bars and music venues, unbeatable dining, and more. The Victoria-era architecture creates an inviting atmosphere for both visitors and locals to take a leisurely stroll and explore the local shops. While you’re checking out the town, keep a look out for the world’s only Double-Barreled Cannon on the corner of College Ave. and Hancock Ave and the Tree That Owns Itself, which is a few blocks away on the corner of Dearing St. and Finley St. Bordering downtown, the University of Georgia’s beautiful North Campus, which also makes for a beautiful walk, begins at The Arch on Broad Street.
  • Feast on Local Fare: No football fan will be underfed this season with dozens of delectable restaurants lining the streets of downtown Athens. The Classic City’s food scene is booming and has recently caught the attention of national media. Among the most recognized eateries are Five and TenTop Chef Hugh Acheson’s restaurant, and The Last Resort Grill on Clayton St., which is always a family favorite. Mama’s BoyHeirloom CafeThe GritPorterhouse Grill, and East-West Bistro are also popular choices for weekend brunch. There is no shortage of traditional “tailgating food” such as pizza, burgers, and wings, which can be found downtown at Amici Italian CafeThe Volstead, and Dirty Birds. A complete list of Athens restaurants can be found here.
  • Enjoy a Cold Brew: While in Athens, fans will want to try local Athens beer. Known for its unsurpassed flavor and character, Terrapin beer is quickly winning over the nation. Adding to their collection of awards, Terrapin Beer Co. recently claimed a spot on The Best 25 Craft Breweries in the U.S. list, and visitors will understand why. The whole family, including leashed four-legged friends, is invited to tour the brewery on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Live outdoor music, free tastings, lawn games, and brewery tours every half-hour make for a pleasant, relaxing environment for all. A $10 souvenir beer glass secures eight four-ounce tasting tickets for visitors ages 21+. Athens’ newest brewery, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, opened in April 2014 in downtown Athens, in the old Snow Tire building on Hancock Avenue, and continues an Athens tradition of the exceptional reuse of historic spaces. Creature Comforts is open for tours Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check their Facebook page prior to home game weekends for any revisions on hours.
  • meltingRock Out: Named the “Number One College Music Scene in America” by Rolling Stone Magazine, Athens is gushing with awesome music!  The local venues attract rising stars, old favorites, and everything in between. Not only have world-renowned bands such as R.E.M., the B-52′s, and Widespread Panic originated from the Classic City, but hundreds of new and upcoming bands make their debut in Athens each year. Between famous Athens venues such as the Georgia TheatreThe Melting Point, and 40 Watt Club, and intimate venues such as Caledonia LoungeLittle Kings Shuffle Club, and the Green Room, there is always a great show to be seen. Check out the performance schedule here!
  • Take a Tour: For visitors interested in learning about the historical components of Athens, guided tours are available. The Classic City Tour of Athens is offered daily through the Athens Welcome Center, along with free self-guided brochures/maps, audio tours, and pod tours. Details can be found at hereAthens Food Tours are a delicious and exciting option for those wanting to learn about and taste local and regional cuisine. Lastly, the self-guided Athens Music History Walking Tour focuses on the history of Athens music and the locations that made the music scene into such a success. The tour brochure is available at the Athens Welcome Center or online.
For more information about Athens, Georgia visit http://www.visitathensga.com/.

Atlanta’s Best Scenic Beginner Hikes

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

 

Atlanta’s plentiful parks, tall trees and comfortable climate make it a fantastic city for outdoor activity. And with unique landscape features, from creeks and rivers like the mighty Chattahoochee to towering bald summits like Stone Mountain and Arabia, there’s an abundance of hiking adventures to be found around the city.

Explore Atlanta’s stunning outdoors on these five metro-area trails, all within 30 miles of the city (and some in town). They’re all great for beginning hikers: they’re easy to moderate in difficulty, under four miles in length, and pack a ton of outdoor beauty within a relatively short distance.  And the few that top the mileage charts are still beginner-friendly: there’s plenty of scenic outdoor beauty spread along the trail.  So if you don’t make it the full distance your first trip, don’t worry: enjoy as much of the trail as you can,  and return for more hiking fun in the future.

No hiking boots? No problem! These trails are running-shoe-friendly.  Be sure to pack basics, like printed trail directions (see each trail’s link for detailed directions and maps), water, sunscreen and your mobile phone in case of emergency.

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

(1.3 miles, unpaved / open rock expanses)

Hike through stunning geology and ecology to the summit of Arabia Mountain in the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve near Atlanta’s east side perimeter. The Arabia Mountain Top Trail scales the mountain’s cratered, open rock expanses to stunning 360-degree views at the summit.  The best time to hike? After a rain, to catch pools of water in the mountain’s craters that reflect the wide-open sky above.

 

South Peachtree Creek Trail

South Peachtree Creek Trail

South Peachtree Creek Trail

(2 miles, paved / boardwalk)

This PATH Foundation trail near Decatur crosses a towering train trestle before descending to the ruins of the Decatur Waterworks.  And after rolling elevation through a shady forest, the South Peachtree Creek Trail runs raised boardwalk through a forest on the banks of South Peachtree Creek.

 

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

(2.45 miles, unpaved)

Located on the fringes of Morningside, one of Atlanta’s upscale residential neighborhoods, the Morningside Nature Preserve Trail is a tucked-away favorite of neighborhood residents. The trail hikes across a suspension bridge spanning the sandy shores of South Peachtree Creek before winding through a terraced forest. Keep watch for wildlife on the trail: beavers, turtles, raccoons and birds are often sighted in the preserve.

 

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

(2.3 miles, unpaved)

Hike the Sweetwater Red Trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park to the ruins of a mill destroyed in the Civil War on the banks of a beautiful, whitewater-filled creek. Sweetwater Creek’s rushing whitewater rapids, small cascading waterfalls, and sandy banks punctuated with large boulders are a perfect backdrop to a mid-hike picnic.

 

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

(3.8 miles, unpaved / boardwalks)

Hike the meandering shore of Allatoona Lake on the Iron Hill Peninsula at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta. The Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail hikes through a spindly, shady forest, catching nearly continuous views of the lake’s glassy-water cove. The trail gently rolls elevation along the shore thanks to a series of raised wooden boardwalks that span the peninsula’s occasional elevation dips.

Eric ChamplinEric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, kayak and cycle Georgia’s beautiful outdoors. Eric is the author of Atlanta Trails, an online magazine that reviews the best hiking trails, running trails and outdoor adventures throughout Georgia. His mission? To inspire Atlanta residents and visitors to get fit outdoors and explore Georgia’s beauty.

PHOTO CREDIT (all): Eric Champlin

 

Albany, Georgia on a Budget

 

Ray Charles Piano StatueLocated in southwest Georgia off of I-75, Albany has lots of fun places to visit that won’t break the bank or, in some cases, even crack the wallet. Stroll the six-acre RiverFront Park anchored by Ray Charles seated at his baby Grand and grab a piano key bench for an evening “concert.” As the sun goes down, the lights go up on this one-of-a-kind sculpture. Take a nature walk along the three-mile Riverfront Greenway Trail System that follows the scenic Flint River or at Radium Springs, one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, with crystal clear waters, historic courtyard, indigenous and exotic flora and casino garden. Turn the kids loose at the fountain and at Turtle Grove Play Park or shout “fore” with a round of disc golf at Chehaw. Free Albany attractions include the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center, which is tucked inside the Historic Bridge House/Welcome Center – a great place to pick up a souvenir bargain, like a stuffed turtle. Also free: the Albany Museum of Art and its growing permanent collection comprised of African, European and American art, including one of the most impressive collections of sub-Saharan African art to be found in the Southeastern United States; and Thronateeska Heritage Center (NOTE: there is a charge for the planetarium show).

While in Albany, try these budget-friendly boredom busters:

  1. Picnic at Albany RiverFront Park.
  2. Explore Ray Charles Plaza and walk along the Greenway.
  3. Paint the town at Albany’s Art Park on Pine. Bring your own paint; rules of “open” walls are posted. Musicians and other artists are welcome, too. Open Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  4. Stroll through Radium Springs Gardens.
  5. Take it to two wheels. Rent a bicycle at the Albany Welcome Center.
  6. See the wild animals at Chehaw animal and adventure park, providing nearly 800 acres of fun, including a 100-acre, AZA-accredited zoo. Noted naturalist and Albany native Jim Fowler of TV’s “Wild Kingdom,” originally designed the park and is still involved with updates and expansions. The park features BMX bike racing, disc golf, campgrounds, nature trails, petting zoo, a miniature train and one of the state’s largest play parks for kids.
  7. Stargaze at Wetherbee Planetarium. Regularly scheduled shows plus fun evening special showings.
  8. The Albany Museum of Art serves as Southwest Georgia’s only fully accredited art museum. Six galleries offer a wide array of styles, artists and themes. Collections from across the country combine with showings by local artists, and exhibitions from AMA’s extensive permanent collection offer visitors an entertaining and educational museum experience. Free admission.
  9. Tour the historic Carnegie Library, which houses the Albany Area Arts Council. While there, view art work exhibitions of regional artists.
  10. Step back in time at the Albany Civil Rights Institute – where the Freedom Singers perform the second Saturday of every month.

Albany meerkats low resKids can romp to their heart’s content at RiverFront Park with Turtle Grove Play Park and its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain; at Legacy Park (fishing pond – with poles available, soccer, baseball and softball fields, 8 tennis courts, sand volleyball, a mile and a half walking track, recreational facilities and more); and at the All American Fun Park with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.

Fun family eateries include The Cookie Shoppe and Harvest Moon for pizza, among other kid-friendly places. Young shoppers will want to spend their mad money at the gift shops at the Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw animal and adventure park. Albany has more than two dozen hotels – and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities.

FREE attractions:  Turtle Grove Play Park and fountain at RiverFront Park; Thronateeska (NOTE: there is a charge for the show); the Albany Museum of Art; Legacy Park; and the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center.

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.

Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School Class

BulletinAs road trip travel bloggers, my sidekick Jerry and I spend a lot of time driving the backroads of our amazing planet, and we frequently find ourselves drawn to the AmericusPlainsAndersonville area of South Georgia because there is so much to see and do in that 15-mile radius. We typically make the historical Windsor Hotel in Americus our home base because it is centrally located between the Andersonville National Historic Site and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains.With two major national parks in such close proximity, this area of the Presidential Pathways region of Georgia is rich in culture and history.

When you visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site you will be transported back in time to the Boyhood Farm, Plains High School, and the Train Depot presidential campaign headquarters. You will drive away having spent a rewarding day learning about the 39th President of the United States.

But not so fast.

Jimmy Rosalynn HowardIf you leave now, you will leave town having missed the best part—the opportunity to meet the President himself.

Yes, you heard me correctly. You can meet President Jimmy Carter in person!

Although most Americans know President Carter as a humanitarian and spiritual man, many people do not know that he has been teaching Sunday School for most of his adult life, and he still teaches most Sundays at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains. We have been privileged to attend on two occasions, and those visits rank among the most memorable moments, not just of our travels, but of our lives. If you plan your South Georgia travel accordingly, you can attend Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class, too.

Here’s how it works:

1. The church doors open for seating at 8:30 AM, and Sunday School begins promptly at 10:00 AM.

2. You must pass U.S. Secret Service screening, including bag searches, metal detection, and a bomb-sniffing dog.

3. Prior to Sunday School, Miss Jan, a retired school teacher, will give a stern, but highly-entertaining, orientation so you will understand presidential protocol and how to behave in church.

4. After a short prayer, Jimmy Carter will rise, greet the congregation, comment on current events, and begin his hour-long lesson. (If you peek during the prayer, you will see the President enter the sanctuary from a side door.)

5. As the best souvenir, you can have your picture taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn, but you must wait until the end of the hour-long morning worship service.

President CarterJimmy Carter will be 90 years old on his next birthday, and although he is in excellent health and still very active in diplomatic missions and humanitarian causes, I would encourage you to make the Americus – Plains – Andersonville area of South Georgia your next road trip destination. Before you plan your visit, however, be sure to verify Jimmy Carter’s teaching dates at the Maranatha Baptist Church web site.

Howard BlountHoward Blount’s passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. He is a writer, consultant, and published author with Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. Although his road trips are financed by his day job as a middle school teacher, Howard would much rather be scouting waterfalls on the North Georgia mountain backroads near his cabin in Blairsville. You can reach Howard @backroad_planet on Twitter or at his road trip travel blog BackroadPlanet.com.

Chronicles of a State Park Journey: Part 2

Spring in Ga State Parks

My family and I are on a mission to visit every state park in Georgia, one a month, until we have explored the ins-and-outs of each one. Each quarter over 2014, we’ll share with you a sample from our diaries on this journey. May you be encouraged to explore the hundreds of thousands of acres that make Georgia beautiful.

April 28 – George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia

Richard B Russell

I’m sitting on the screened-in porch, listening to the rain fall; we’re hoping for a break in the clouds in order to canoe on the lake. In the meantime, I watch the kids play in the expansive backyard of our cottage, running through the puddles.  Earlier this morning we hiked around Parrish Mill and Pond.  The mill, originally built in 1880, is a grist mill and saw mill, as well as a covered bridge and dam.  Wait! I think the rain has stopped!

The boys and I returned from a canoe excursion on the pond, elated.  It was their first time canoeing, and my oldest has declared it a new love.  Cypress and tupelo trees towered from the black water, and Spanish moss hung low. Blue heron and white ibis flew low along the edge of the water. Long periods passed without a word from either boy; we were awe-struck.

April 29 -  After a restful night sleep, we piled in the truck for a 20-minute ride to Magnolia Springs State Park.  The natural spring flows with 7-9 million gallons of water each day, and I was determined to see this natural wonder.  The alligators and turtles – hundreds of turtles – captured the boys’ attention.

After ogling the wildlife on the boardwalk, we explored near the visitor center.  I was astonished to learn that Camp Lawton was on this site. It served as a prison during the Civil War, and the artifacts and stockade wall were only recently unearthed. We learned about the new limited edition Civil War Jr Ranger Badge, on which the boys are now diligently working.

May 2 – Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia

 

UnicoiOur original plans were to stay in the Lodge at Unicoi State Park, but once the boys caught a glimpse of the “barrel” cabins they begged for a change of plans.  Luckily, one had just become available. It was a little older than other cottages we have stayed in (the Unicoi GM told me that renovations are coming soon,) but it was fun!

We could see the lake from our porch, and it called to us.  Just as the sun was setting we opted for a hike around the lake; the trailhead was just a few yards from our door.  Solar lights along the trail marked our way. We crossed a creek and a playground as we wound by the campground, but we kept walking to the dock, beckoned by the throaty call of a bullfrog.

May 3 – We slept-in this morning and had coffee on the porch; the boys wondered aloud about the bullfrog we scouted last night.  After breakfast, we took a short ride to Anna Ruby Falls.  It isn’t in Unicoi State Park – it’s run by the US Forestry Service – but it is just on the border of the park.  The wildflowers were in full bloom, dotting the walk with bright colors against the lush green forest.  The boys confidently walked the short hike to the falls, and it was worth every step.

June 17 Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City, Georgia

Black Rock Mountain

The clouds were rolling in as we settled into our cottage; we talked about the “cotton balls” hanging in the mountains while we sat on the back porch. After unpacking our bags and answering a multitude of questions about the “awesome” stone fireplace that stood as the cottage centerpiece, we decided to hit the trail.

Ada-Hi is a half-mile trail, but we worked diligently on this hike because of the steep slope.  Dense thickets of rhododendron and mossy-covered rocks were our reward as we marched to the falls at the end of the trail. It reminded me of Smithgall Woods State Park.  We were lucky enough to visit the falls the day after a rainstorm, so the water was flowing generously.

June 18 – Early this morning we drove less than a half-hour to Tallulah Gorge State Park. The boys have a few more years before they can hike the gorge floor or the suspension bridge, but we enjoyed the North and South Rim Trails. A series of falls along the gorge floor grabbed our attention, as well as the towers used by Karl Wallenda when he walked across the gorge via tightrope.

Back at Black Rock Mountain we relaxed by taking a walk around Black Rock Lake, then visiting Foxfire Museum.  Foxfire isn’t part of the Park’s system, but it is on property adjacent to the park. Our favorite part was ringing the bell at the Chapel. It was a truly unique way to teach the boys about Appalachian life.

You can click through here to read about our winter Georgia State Parks journey.

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.