3 Low Cost and Free Things to do on Jekyll Island

By Sue Rodman

Driftwood Beach

Jekyll Island was once the winter escape for some of America’s richest families. Now the island is a playground for the public, and winter is a perfect time to see it all at a discount. Explore Georgia has some hotel deals for a special getaway, and here are three low cost or free things to do on Jekyll Island so you can spend a little more on your hotel package.

  1. The Tidelands Nature Center is a little more rustic than its neighbor the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. In addition to a small collection of sea animals in the center, they offer kayak tours, nature walks and special hands-on programs for kids. We participated in an identifying fish program, and my kids are still singing the parts of a fish song to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
  2. Driftwood Beach, also known as Boneyard Beach, is a hidden gem along the northern end of Jekyll Island. The name comes from the remains of weathered grey trees that have been preserved by the salt air and water from the ocean. It’s a beautifully eerie place and a perfect backdrop for photographs.
  3. The Jekyll Island Museum is free and located within the Jekyll Island Historic District. It has a small museum that showcases photographs and objects from the island’s colorful past. Bet you didn’t know that in addition to being the winter retreat for some of America’s most elite families, Jekyll Island also played a significant part in America’s history. In 1910, Senator William Alrich convened a secret meeting of financiers on Jekyll Island to create a proposal for banking reform that was the forerunner of today’s Federal Reserve. Today, the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District is a 240-acre, riverfront compound and one of the largest, ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States.


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Where to Eat in the New Savannah

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Collins Quarter

Collins Quarter

When it comes to food in Savannah, most people immediately think of the soul food at Mrs. Wilkes’, the decadent banana splits at Leopold’s or the crackling fried chicken from The Pirate House. These institutions are classics for a reason — their food is satisfying, storied and, most importantly, delicious. But, something new has taken hold in Savannah’s dining scene, and the eats are equally noteworthy. Take a look at three of my new favorites in Georgia’s oldest city:

  • The Florence

    The Florence

    The Florence: Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson (you may recognize him from Athens’ 5&10 or Atlanta’s Empire State South) expanded his empire to the Hostess City in 2014, and Southerners have been flocking to the Italian-focused, Southern-grown hotspot ever since. Go for the irresistible bruschettas (I’m partial to the crispy pork belly), wood-fired pizzas and pastas that wouldn’t be out of place in the Piazza della Repubblica.

  • Collins Quarter: There’s no better place to start your morning than at this Australian-inspired café (breakfast, brunch and lunch only). The brainchild of native Melbournian Anthony Debreceny, The Collins Quarter pairs single-origin coffee with innovative dishes like ricotta hotcakes with bourbon-maple syrup and burgers, where nearly every ingredient is made from scratch, from the house-ground brisket to the brioche bun, caramelized onion aioli and hand-cut steak fries.
  • Zunzi’s: Though Zunzi’s isn’t exactly new, the concept is revolutionary in Savannah, and on a leisurely stroll through Oglethorpe Square you might miss this incredible takeout spot. The pint-sized restaurant is really more of a counter, but one dishing out incredible international sandwiches, most notably the Conquistador — tender chicken breast sandwiched between French bread with lettuce, tomato and Zunzi’s legendary special sauce. It’s the quintessential picnic lunch.


Iconic Southern Dishes with a Twist

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Credit - JCT Kitchen

Photo courtesy of JCT Kitchen

When most people think of Southern food, drool-worthy visuals of fried chicken, cornbread, biscuits and pecan pie likely come to mind. Trust me when I say there’s certainly no shortage of these historically delicious eats in Atlanta. But in today’s New South, innovative chefs are putting their own stamp on these tried-and-true favorites, revamping classics into mouthwatering stories all their own. Take a look:

  • Grits at Miller Union: Farm-to-table is more than just a buzzword at this vegetable-heavy hotspot run by James Beard-nominated chef Steven Satterfield, who draws on Southern traditions to create one-of-a-kind dishes, like his renowned grits fritter (a fried ball of the Southern staple brimming with country ham and cheese).
  • Okra at Chai Pani: No Southern table is complete without a big bowl of okra—even ethnic restaurants here recognize Southerners’ unwavering passion for the antioxidant-packed pods. Just look at Decatur’s bustling Chai Pani, an Indian street food restaurant, where diners swap starchy potatoes for okra “fries.” Here, okra gets the flash-fried treatment before being doused with lime juice and salt, resulting in a crunchy, addictive snack you can actually feel good about eating.
  • Pea Gratin at Empire State South: Traditional Southern meals often include field peas, often shelled at their peak in the summer and frozen to beef up hearty winter dishes. Always one to blend his European cookery with quintessential Southern ingredients, chef Hugh Acheson created a creamy, French-style gratin chock-full of decidedly Georgian components, like field peas, onion and bacon.
  • Nashville Hot Chicken at Holeman and Finch: Though the city may not be in Georgia, Nashville’s signature dish of hot chicken (fried chicken smothered in spicy cayenne pepper) has made its way to many tables in the Big Peach. One of our favorite renditions is at Holeman and Finch, where chef-owner Linton Hopkins serves his tear-inducing hot chicken sandwiched on a housemade roll with kohlrabi and pickled green tomatoes. Don’t forget the tissues!
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at JCT Kitchen: Coat anything in cornmeal and fry it and the result is sure to be delicious, but unripe green tomatoes are particularly extraordinary. At Ford Fry’s beloved JCT Kitchen, you can find these gems topped with pimiento cheese, pickles and a sherry honey gastrique, an unquestionably Southern dish with a twist.

5 Must-See Civil Rights Landmarks in Atlanta

MLK Birth Home - ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

MLK Birth Home – ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

Atlanta is known as the cradle of the civil rights movement, and as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Walk in King’s footsteps along Auburn Avenue, reflect on the Dream at The King Center and relive the movement at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. There’s no better time than MLK weekend to explore Atlanta’s most inspiring civil rights landmarks.

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site: Start your journey at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, a 35-acre area encompassing historic landmarks including King’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. Start at the birth home and take in family stories of young King while imagining life in Atlanta’s bustling Sweet Auburn neighborhood during King’s day. Visit the church where Dr. King served as minister, Ebenezer Baptist Church. Hear audio of King’s sermons on love and nonviolence in the very pews frequented by the King family. Finish your visit by reflecting on the Dream at the tomb of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The couple’s massive final resting place is etched with the words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”
  2. APEX Museum - ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

    APEX Museum – ©2015, Kevin Rose/AtlantaPhotos.com

    The APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience) Museum
    Atlanta’s APEX Museum traces history from prominent African civilizations to the period of slavery in America, and onto the civil rights movement. Much of the Museum is dedicated to the history of Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, the main thoroughfare for African-American business and civil life from the mid-1900s to the 1960s. Step inside the Museum’s replica of Yates and Milton Drug Store, one of Atlanta’s first black-owned businesses. After, step aboard the museum’s Trolley Theatre, a historic reproduction of the streetcar that ran up Auburn Avenue during the 1900s.

  3. Sweet Auburn Curb Market - ©2015, Jay Jordan/AtlantaPhotos.com

    Sweet Auburn Curb Market – ©2015, Jay Jordan/AtlantaPhotos.com

    Sweet Auburn Curb Market
    Sweet Auburn Curb Market is situated in the heart of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, King’s boyhood neighborhood and the hub of African American life in Atlanta during ‘40s and ‘50s. Established in 1924, the Market was segregated at its start with white patrons browsing inside and black patrons shopping at curbside stalls; a phenomenon that dubbed it the “Curb Market.” The surrounding Sweet Auburn neighborhood was so influential in subsequent years that it was named a National Historic Landmark. Today, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a downtown hotspot frequented by local business people, students, creatives and foodies. Grab a bite from popular stalls like Bell Street Burritos and Grindhouse Killer Burgers. Take home an edible souvenir from Sweet Auburn Bakery.

  4. Paschal’s - ©2015, Paschal’s Restaurant

    Paschal’s – ©2015, Paschal’s Restaurant

    Paschal’s Restaurant: Brothers James and Robert Paschal opened Paschal’s Restaurant in 1947 on Atlanta’s Westside. At the time, it was a small, 30-seat diner. The restaurant grew to be Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant, a 120-room hotel, restaurant and lounge –a venue that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used as a home base for the movement. Paschal’s quickly became the place for leaders of the civil rights movement to eat, meet and strategize – the brother’s secret recipe fried chicken served as fuel for the activists’ bodies and souls. Today, Paschal’s has a new location in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill neighborhood and remains a mainstay for the city’s movers and shakers. Take a seat and feast on the famous fried chicken enjoyed by the likes of John Lewis, Dr. King and Jesse Jackson, to name just a few.

  5. Center for Civil and Human Rights - ©2015, J Glenn Photography

    Center for Civil and Human Rights – ©2015, J Glenn Photography

    Center for Civil and Human Rights
    The Center for Civil and Human Rights is the newest civil rights destination in Atlanta. The Center utilizes compelling exhibits paired with audio and motion to immerse guests in the journey of the civil rights movement. Sit in protest at a simulated lunch counter, or join in the march on Washington. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection gallery which features a rotating selection of King’s artifacts, papers and hand-written notes. Complete your visit by learning about today’s movements from global human rights activists and challenge yourself to get involved.

Guide to Dining in Alpharetta

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Shocking to my fellow friends – mostly the ones who are living up the singles scene in the city or maintaining their hipster vibe sans minivan, the suburbs are happening, too, when it comes to the foodie scene. Nearby, Alpharetta, easily accessible, just north of Atlanta and in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, along Georgia 400, the state’s “Hospitality Highway,” is undeniably suburban, but with 175 dining options, this locale makes for one mean menu.

Pared down, here are five picks for a palate pleasing meal, whether the suburbs scare you – or a Suburban is the only way to lug your crew around.

  1. For local flavor, South Main Kitchen, located in the heart of Alpharetta’s Historic Downtown District, offers a fresh and unique kitchen-inspired dining experience that is distinctly ingredient driven. The restaurant, housed in a historic building built in 1902, features an open kitchen, inviting dining room, communal seating and rooftop bar and, under the direction of executive chef Christy Stone, focuses on the social aspect of dining and the true artistry of food with farm-to-table flair and a frequently changing menu. An extensive beer menu complements taste bud ticklers like edamame with mint fleur de sel and unique twists on classic southern ingredients like boiled peanut hummus with blackberry jam, fig compote, brie and goat cheese. It’s even rumored the Brussels sprouts here are above all else.
  2. Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Another locally-owned and operated Alpharetta restaurant to add to the tasting menu: Smokejack Southern Grill and BBQ, serving smoked, hand-pulled pork, moist tender ribs, signature beef burnt ends…is your mouth watering yet?

  3. Whipping up winning eateries, the Sedgwick Restaurant Group has several players on the Alpharetta scene including the escape-from-the-normal Vinny’s on Windward where menu highlights include risotto, gnocchi and tiramisu, transporting guests straight to Italy.
  4. Another Sedgwick spawn, Pure taqueria, offers authentic Mexican cuisine – think corn, seafood and slaw – as well as killer margaritas. Chris Sedgwick, long time Alpharetta resident and successful Atlanta restaurateur, was looking for a new way to express his style and his love of food when he opened the original PURE taqueria at the site of an abandoned 1920’s era Pure Fuel Oil station. The small stone building on the corner (now used for storage) was part of the original gas station, but the main restaurant was built from scratch, with Chris designing, decorating and doing much of the construction himself. Since 2005, PURE taqueria has grown into a local institution, and a successful franchise company with five locations in the ATL.
  5. New to the culinary scene, Oak Steakhouse at Avalon is reserved for occasions as special as the food. From grilled swordfish to cornmeal crusted grouper to melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, along with sides like bone marrow bread pudding and truffle frites, coupled with exceptional service and a sophisticated ambiance, this is the place where memories are made.

Can’t get enough? Add these foodie events to your calendar and fill up on good times:

Concerts at Matilda's. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Concerts at Matilda’s. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Taste of Alpharetta – May 7; Join the Southeast’s premier dining festival attracting over 50,000 festival-goers each year. Satisfy taste buds with specialties from more than 60 restaurants. Expect cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, three entertainment stages, art exhibits and a Kids Korner. A Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event for 2015.

Alpharetta Summer Brew Moon Fest – June 6; Gather your friends and celebrate summer with beer, wine and delicious food from some of Alpharetta’s best restaurants.

Craft Beer Festival & 5k Road Race – June 20; Run the 5K and then stick around for the party. Over 100 beer vendors from around the U.S. will set up in Downtown Alpharetta for an awesome street party filled with live music and awesome food.

Farmers Market – Seasonal, April through October; Shop local at the Alpharetta Farmers Market featuring food vendors including produce, grass-fed meats, cheese baked goods and more.

Food Truck Alley – Seasonal, April through October; Feast on the street every Thursday evening at Alpharetta Food Truck Alley. This weekly gathering will have a variety of 6-8 rotating food trucks and music each week. Stroll the streets, eat delicious food, listen to some great music and kick off the weekend a little early.

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.