5 Great Places to Ride Bikes in Georgia

We spent some time out west a few years ago during the summer months and did a good bit of biking. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to explore. Things look much different from the seat of a bike than they do from a car window, and I just like being outside. Georgia has several places perfect for exploring on two wheels. Here are five of our favorites.

Silver Comet Trail, Northwest GeorgiaRider on Silver Comet TrailThe Silver Comet Trail is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. It ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown and Esom, where it joins the 33-mile long Chief Ladiga Trail which takes you as far as Anniston, Alabama. I like to start at the Floyd Road trailhead because they have a bike rental shop for those who don’t have their own bikes. This section is pretty flat too, perfect for new riders.

Atlanta Beltline, AtlantaAtlanta-BeltLineThe Atlanta Beltline is built on former railroad paths and when complete, will be 22 miles of continuous trails circling Atlanta and connecting 45 neighborhoods. At this point though there are five sections of the out and back trails. An added bonus, there are several playgrounds and interesting stops along the routes to keep kids engaged and entertained.

St. Simon’s Island and Jekyll IslandBiking on Jekyll IslandSt. Simon’s Island, and nearby Jekyll Island, have miles and miles of bike paths. On St. Simon’s you can pedal next to the ocean, or to the airport to watch the planes take off and land. On Jekyll, explore the maritime forest or tour the historic district.

Panola Mountain State Park, StockbridgePanola Mountain State Park - StockbridgeWe went to this state park for the archery, but also brought our bikes to test out the paths. It was a lot of fun and next time I’d like to take some additional time and go to Arabia Mountain Park and maybe stop along the way at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

Amp it up at Durhamtown Plantation, Union PointDurhamtown Off Road Riding ResortIf you like your bikes with motors, try Durhamtown Plantation in Union Point Georgia. Durhamtown claims to be the America’s largest off-road resort. They have motorcycles, ATVs and 150 miles of trails. They also offer hunting and shooting ranges and they’re family friendly. If you’d like, stay on-site or nearby at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Plantation.

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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Attack of the Killer Tomato Recipes

For the last six years, the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival has gathered Atlanta’s top chefs and mixologists together to create new dishes for a day of tasting. Each year attendees taste tomato-based food and drinks and while judges pick their favorites as winners. Festival proceeds always go to good causes and there’s some good food along the way.

Killer Tomato Festival

Killer Tomato Festival
Photo Credit: Emily Schultz

In 2014, Bloody Mary Ice Pops by Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos, the master of pastry for all of Ford Fry’s restaurants, was a crowd favorite. Ready to try these for your next outdoor picnic? I snagged the recipe:

Bloody Mary Ice Pops

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups water
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
7 1/2 cups Bloody Mary mix
6 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups of your favorite vodka
ZipZicle Ice Pop Bags

Method

  1. Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Refrigerate until very cold.
  3. Grab a large enough container so that all the ingredients can fit at once.  Pour in your chilled simple syrup, then whisk in Bloody Mary, fresh lime juice, and vodka.  Whisk thoroughly to combine.
  4. Find a tall sided container to hold your pops upright.  Using a liquid measure cup with a pouring spout or whatever you have around the kitchen, fill the Zipzicle bags and place upright in your container — they only need to remain upright until frozen, then they can be placed on their sides for easier storage.

Eduardo Guzman, beverage manager at JCT. Kitchen & Bar, The Optimist, and Marcel concocted the cocktail named “All in One Basket,” the 2014 Festival Judge’s Choice cocktail winner. Here is how you can make yours:

All in One Basket

Ingredients

32 oz. Crop Vodka
16 oz. Cocchi Americano
1 quart sun gold tomatoes
1 quart Georgia peaches, sliced and pitted
1/4 cup calabrese peppers
3 dill springs
3 cups lemon juice
Celery salt

Method

  1. Dry out the peppers in the oven for 20 minutes, then soaked the peppers and pulverize them.
  2. Then, combine tomatoes, peaches, and peppers with 2 cups of water in a blender.
  3. Strain out the mixture, and combine with the dill sprigs, about 3 pinches of celery salt, and the lemon juice.
  4. Let it rest for one hour before serving.

2015’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival is July 19 at Westside Provisions District in Atlanta. The festival will feature over 40 of the South’s top chefs, more than 20 mixologists, and over 30 farmers competing for prizes while music from Ill Communication and Five Bone Rack, Ford’s all-chef band, keeps the crowd’s spirits up. Festival proceeds benefit Georgia Organics and The Giving Kitchen.

EileenEileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Save Money at Georgia’s Theme Parks

Nothing says ‘summer’ like a visit to a theme park, and Georgia has quite a few. Whether you want to scream through a loop-de-loop on a roller coaster, spin around and around or just ride up and down on a merry-go-round, there’s a place for you and it’s closer than you might think. Here is what’s new this summer at three theme parks in Georgia, as well as a tip for how to save money on a visit.

Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta:Six Flags Over Georgia

This is probably the largest of Georgia’s theme parks and perhaps the most well known. New this year is The JOKER Chaos Coaster which rockets seven stories in the air, soaring through a bedlam of loops, suspending riders upside-down for a ravaging thrill; and Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a spinning, twisting and rolling ride through a cycle of classic family fun. Don’t forget your bathing suit for Hurricane Harbor, which was introduced in 2014.
Money Saving Tip: Do as much as you can in advance. Go to www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia and purchase your tickets, parking pass, Flash Passes, meal plans and/or season passes. You’ll save the most money for your visit by purchasing in advance. Also, plan your trip using suggestions from this post Tips for a Great Day. The advice is valid for any theme park visit, not just Six Flags Over Georgia.

Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta:Stone Mountain Park

The fun at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t need to end when the park closes. All new this year, stay in one of three Stone Mountain Park yurts, nestled lakeside in the park’s popular campground. This is glamping at it’s finest with yurts made of wood and canvas, featuring outside decks, picnic tables, charcoal grills, a fire pit and large water spigots for camping convenience. Inside each smoke-free yurt, are all the comforts of home with log furniture, heat and A/C, electric outlets, large windows, skylights, ceiling fans, lockable doors and sleep space for up to five guests. Just bring a sleeping bags and personal items.
Money Saving Tip: Visit Stone Mountain’s free attractions early in the day, like the covered bridge, outdoor granite museum, and the hike up the stone mountain. Plan to visit the paid attractions after 4 pm when prices go down with the sun. A Sunset Adventure Pass includes all your favorite attractions like the 4-D Experience, SkyHike, Geyser Towers, and the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, as well as terrace seating for the Laser Light show and unlimited popcorn until the start of the show, and an ice cold Coca-Cola beverage.

Wild Adventures, Valdosta:Wild AdventuresWild Adventures’ new ride, Jungle Rumble, takes guests swinging, swooping, climbing and dropping. Like a monkey swinging through the trees, the ride has no shortage of screeching and screaming. Riders swing back and forth before reaching four-stories high then plunge back down to the ground to do it all over again in reverse. The ride is designed for families to enjoy together with thrills for adults and kids. Once you’ve gotten your thrills on the roller coaster, head over to see the new squirrel monkey exhibit in a rejuvenated area of the theme park.
Money Saving Tip: Purchase your tickets at least 7 days in advance online and save $10. If you don’t have that much time, you can still save $8 by purchasing at least two days in advance. For those that can’t plan that far ahead, grab lunch at a nearby Subway in Valdosta, Albany or Columbus and pick up an $8 off coupon.

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.

Click here to order Sue’s book, 100+ Things to Do in Atlanta.

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5 Things to Explore at Tunes from the Tombs

Historic Oakland Cemetery’s summertime music festival Tunes From the Tombs returns for its fifth year on Saturday, June 13. The daylong festival is quickly becoming an Atlanta tradition, and and all proceeds benefit Historic Oakland Foundation, which in partnership with the City of Atlanta works to preserve, restore, enhance and share Oakland Cemetery.

Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet

Headliner Matthew Sweet plays alongside more than a dozen bands, including:

  • Michelle Malone
  • Little Tybee
  • Eliot Bronson
  • Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
  • Sweet Auburn String Band
  • Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen
  • Blood On the Harp
  • Sourwood Honey
  • Max & Maggie
  • Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers
  • Octave
  • The Ghosts Project
  • Sarah Wilson
  • Atlanta Taiko Project

    Little Tybee

    Little Tybee

Here’s our roundup of what to look forward to at Tunes From the Tombs:

Take in some history on a mini guided walking tour
Oakland Cemetery tour guides offer shorter versions of a few of the cemetery’s popular guided walking tours throughout the day during Tunes. Get a peek into the past with the Sights, Symbols & Stories of Oakland overview tour, Malts & Vaults of Oakland: Where Beer Meets History, Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour, Fear & Accusation: The Leo Frank Story, The Women of Oakland and Art & Architecture of Death.

Plant yourself in the beer garden
Grab a cold one and take in a performance at the Bell Tower beer garden, which features The Ghosts Project, a cappella group Octave, Bonaventure Quartet and the Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers. No matter your preference, there’s plenty of brews on tap, including: Red Brick Brewery’s Hoplanta IPA, Sessions IPA, Hibiscuwit Belgian Wheat and Laughing Skull Amber Ale; Starr Hill Brewery Grateful Pale Ale; Modelo; Pacifico; Corona Light and PBR.

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon

Fortune Teller Robyn Avalon
Photo Credit: Historic Oakland Foundation

See what the future holds
Fortune teller Robyn Avalon holds court in the Rawson Mausoleum, offering readings from 1 p.m to 6 p.m. While Avalon’s readings are offered on the house, tips are appreciated (a portion of which are donated back to Oakland!)

RIP and get the VIP treatment
Upgrade with a Rock In Peace (RIP) package for plenty of perks! RIP ticket holders have the chance to meet and mingle with Tunes performers; receive complimentary food from Doc Chey’s Noodle House and Republic Social House; complimentary Historic Oakland Foundation membership for a year, and much more! RIP ticket sales end at 12 p.m. on Friday, June 12, and are available online only at TicketAlternative.com.

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

Bob Seymore, the Living Statue

See illusion come to life
Strike a pose with Bob Seymore, the living statue who’s been performing world-class pantomime for more than 40 years. Seymore’s statuary is one that must be seen to be believed, and is sure to delight attendees of all ages!

Advance tickets for Tunes From the Tombs available online at TicketAlternative.com. General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children (kids 3 and under are free). Tickets sold at the gate are $20 for adults and $5 for children.

For more information at Historic Oakland Cemetery and Tunes From the Tombs, please visit www.oaklandcemetery.com or call 404-688-2107.

Edible Entertainment

You’ve just snagged a prime seat at the movie theater for this summer’s biggest blockbuster, but your excitement quickly turns to nausea. You’ve already had one too many handfuls of greasy popcorn—it’s coated with so much fake butter you can literally feel your arteries clogging as you chew. Not exactly the ideal date night. Thankfully, Atlanta’s top culinary talent has taken notice of this dilemma and a slew of talented gourmands are upping the date night ante and opening one-of-a-kind, chef-driven venues where the eats (think locally-sourced, seasonal dishes that wouldn’t be out of place at a James Beard winning restaurant) are equally as noteworthy as the entertainment. Tonight, make a beeline to one of these surprisingly scrumptious venues.

The Painted Pin

Photo Credit: The Painted Pin

Dinner and Bowling at The Painted Pin
Out: greasy, gristly chicken wings and stale beer. In: wood-fired pepperoni pizza laced with truffle oil, hand-cut fries loaded with cheddar, chiles, bacon, scallions and crema and uber-crispy fried chicken sliders with spicy mayo and housemade pickles. You’d never guess you were eating at a bowling alley, but Justin Amick, you may recognize him as the former sommelier at The Spence, has knocked down all 10 pins with his latest venture, The Painted Pin. The 23,000-square-foot gaming mecca is home to 20 vintage bowling lanes equipped with upscale service (personalized staff deliver balls and shoes laneside), incredible small plates—don’t miss the In-and-Out-inspired burger (we think theirs blows the original out of the water!)—craft cocktails and a wine list rivaling those in the city’s top restaurants. Be forewarned, there’s often a wait for bowling, but a indoor gaming courtyard chockfull of complimentary games (bocce courts, 10-foot Pop-a-Shots, shuffleboard, ping pong, Skee-Ball and Northamptonshire hood skittles) and live music will console you while you wait.

TopGolf Alpharetta

Photo Credit: TopGolf Alpharetta

Dinner and Golf at TopGolf
A day at the driving range hasn’t always been an activity to please the masses… until TopGolf opened in Alpharetta. Of course, TopGolf isn’t your average driving range. Not only does the 65,000-square-foot, three-story, dog-friendly facility boast more than 100 hitting bays (each with their own state-of-the-art digital scorecard and game center with HDTVs, not to mention covered seating with plush couches, fans and a dedicated server), but there’s something for every personality type—video games, pool tables, indoor lounges, rooftop fire pits and live music, to name a few. As if that weren’t enough reason to go, the food is so good you’ll quickly start reconsidering your country club membership. We recommend starting with an order of the wings—insanely crispy skin surrounds juicy, tender meat bathed in fun sauces like Asian Sesame—before moving onto their elevated plays on comfort food classics, like fried chicken and waffle sliders with spicy jalapeno gravy, a pulled pork sandwich a la Vietnamese banh mi’s, and a dangerously delicious burger topped with green chili mac ‘n cheese, all washed down with local beer from Jekyll Brewery, of course. For a sweet finish, go with the cinnamon-sugar-dusted donut holes, which are injected tableside with fillings like chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. And, coming soon: TopGolf Midtown!

Stationside

Photo Credit: Stationside

Dinner and a Concert at Stationside
Atlantans have been flocking to Terminal West for killer live music since 2012, but the addition of Stationside, the adjoining restaurant serving up sandwiches and snacks (think chicken enchiladas with salsa verde and chipotle-lime aioli, mac-and-cheese made with aged white cheddar and pimento béchamel breadcrumbs and Korean fried chicken with Simply Seoul kimchi), in 2013 pushed the King Plow Arts Center venue over the top. Chef Dan Brown’s, who hails from the legendary Porter Beer Bar, counter-service spot is a modern take on the traditional soup and sandwich joint offering up food so unheard of at a music venue (don’t miss the adobo roasted pork Cubans, chickpea burgers and San Marzano tomato soup), you’ll be hard-pressed to leave your trendy red oak table and make your way to the stage—though, you won’t have to miss a beat as TVs screen the live show next door while you nosh.

CinéBistro

Photo Credit: CinéBistro

Dinner and a Movie at Cinebistro
Forget about the aforementioned movie nightmare. No longer are you resigned to stale nachos with fake cheese and cheap candy, thanks to CinéBistro at Town Brookhaven, where each ultra plush, high back leather rocking chair is equipped with a dedicated server so you can nosh on uber crispy buttermilk fried chicken with loaded mashed potatoes, bacon and cheddar waffles and honeyed Tabasco while you watch. (Did we mention there’s complimentary popcorn and a full beer, wine and cocktail list, too?). Discuss the plot over a Peachtree Street cocktail (Maker’s Mark, peach purée and fresh lemon juice) afterward in the swanky lounge.

Jeju Sauna

Photo Credit: Jeju Sauna

Dinner and a Spa Visit at Jeju Sauna
It’s not often a relaxing visit to the spa comes hand in hand with exotic ethnic eats, but thanks to Duluth’s Jeju Sauna, one of the largest, most authentic Korean spas in the country, spagoers can finish their detox with refreshing fruit smoothies and juices, mandu (Korean dumplings), ddukbokgi (rice cakes stir-fried with sliced fish cake in a chile sauce) and traditional soups, like kimchi jjigae. Even better? You get to eat barefoot on the floor in an ensemble so comfy you may just want to curl up in one of the saunas afterward for a nap. In fact, Jeju provides each guest with this t-shirt and shorts outfit to wear as they journey through seven dry mineral saunas, each of which offers unique mind-body benefits. There’s also a junior Olympic size salt water pool, separate wet rooms for men and women (note: these are nude) complete with whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas, and it’s all just $25 per person, though add-on treatments (think foot detox, traditional body scrub or acupressure) are available for an additional fee.

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