4 Ways for Families to Explore Atlanta

Georgia AquariumHigh-Profile Adventure:

  • Explore the newest exhibit at Zoo Atlanta – The Scaly, Slimy Spectacular Amphibian Experience, housing more than 60 animal species, including rare Cuban crocodiles.
  • Using high-tech RFID chips, each exhibit at the College Football Hall of Fame spotlights your favorite team.
  • The LEGOLAND Discovery Center has more than 15 activities for families to build, play, ride and explore together.

Multigenerational Fun:

  • The Atlanta History Center mixes history and fun through interactive exhibits, living history interpreters, and a grand outdoors to explore.
  • The Center for Civil and Human Rights uses fully immersive exhibits to teach visitors of the American civil rights movement and current human rights issues.
  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the fabulous Fox Theatre to learn about its history and a few mysteries of the famous Atlanta landmark.
Atlanta History Center

Swan House at the Atlanta History Center

Travel with Teens or Tweens:

Little City-Explorers:

  • Visit the Georgia Aquarium for a peek at dolphins, whales, colorful fish and more.
  • Watch a performance from the in-house puppeteers at Center for Puppetry Arts, and take a puppet-making class afterward.
  • Grab an adventure pass at Stone Mountain Park to gain access to all 10 of the park’s attractions as well as seasonal events.


Lesli
Lesli 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.

Women’s Sports in Georgia

Women’s sports teams often focus on providing to those communities that they call home, and empowering women and girls through the power of athletics. Fans so often go out and support their local school or college or little league teams, but don’t always realize Georgia has leagues and teams for adults. Here are some of the professional and semi-professional women’s sports teams that call Georgia home:

Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream

Basketball
When the Atlanta Dream made it to the WNBA Finals in 2013 for the third time in four years, the team’s fans were ecstatic. While they have yet to claim that elusive title, the Dream are still one of the most successful teams in the Eastern Conference, reaching the playoffs every season since 2009. The Dream play at the top level and thrill fans with season promotions ranging from their Heritage Series to Kids Day, from Dream Pink to Faith & Family Night.

And in Augusta, the semi-professional Georgia-Lina Lady Hurricanes compete in the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL). Many of the players originally played school ball in the Augusta area and played college hoops in the South, competing with and against each other. The team hosted their first annual Season Kick-Off Tournament this year, featuring teams from the community.

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

Soccer
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup currently occuring in Canada, women’s sports are on the world’s biggest stage. And while none of the Atlanta Silverbacks Women were called up to their national sides for this tournament, they are still providing quality entertainment for fans here in Georgia. The Silverbacks play in the highly competitive W-League, which they most recently won in 2011.

Georgia also has a presence in W-20, which is the adult-amateur under-20 women’s league associated with W-League. The Georgia Revolution in Conyers have increased their program to include a W-20 team this year, and the Atlanta Metros FC regularly field a side, though are focusing on local leagues for the 2015 season. Both programs offer extensive opportunities for player development in youth local and travel leagues.

Savannah Sabers

Savannah Sabers

Football
Georgia hosts several women’s football teams across three different leagues. The North Atlantic Division of the Women’s Football Allliance (WFA) features the Atlanta Phoenix and Savannah Sabers. The Phoenix have experienced great success in the North Atlantic Division and enjoy a dedicated fangroup known as the Phoenatics. The Sabers were unable to field a team this season, but look forward to returning to competitive play in 2016. The Sabers say their “vision is a community of strong, independent, confident women and girls where the game of football with empower females.”

Focused on a drive to “empwer women through athletics and serve the greater Atlanta community,” the Atlanta Heartbreakers compete in the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). Between playing in the WSFL, and having orginally played in the WFA, the Heartbreakers have won three division titles.

The 2014 Legends Football League (LFL) Eastern Conference Champions also play in metro Atlanta. The Atlanta Steam began playing in 2013 and within two seasons were already playing in the title game. They join several other Georgia sports teams playing out of the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Soul City Sirens

Soul City Sirens

Roller Derby
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a leading organization for roller derby in the US and abroad, has a heavy presence in Georgia. The Atlanta Rollergirls were one of the founding leagues of the WFTDA and hosted the Champioinship in 2012. The league fields four home teams as well as three travel teams. The Classic City Rollergirls field two travel teams out of Athens and host biannual boot camps for anyone interested in learning to derby. In Augusta, the Soul City Sirens have partnered with local partners to benefit the community, all the while throwing down on the rink of the Columbia County Exhibition Center. And the Savannah Derby Devils feature two travel teams, as well as a junior team for theose female skaters aged 10-17 who are intersted in trying out the sport.

Outside of the ‘big-league’ derby teams, the WFTDA sponsors an apprenticeship program for aspiring member leagues. Here in Georgia, the Marietta Derby Darlins in Cobb County and the Muscogee Roller Girls in Columbus compete as apprentice leagues. Additionally, teams such as the Middle Georgia Derby Demons in Macon, Rome Rollergirls and War Town Bombshells in Warner Robins compete individually according to WFTDA rules.

Atlanta Harlequins

Atlanta Harlequins

Rugby
The sport of rugby is quickly growing in popularity, and Georgia is no exception to the craze. Several mixed teams and an all-female team are members of the Georgia Rugby Union (GRU), the local branch of USA Rugby. Teams compete in tournaments here in Georgia – from Atlanta to Augusta, from LaFayette to Savannah – as well as all over the country. The Atlanta Harlequins, a member club of GRU, compete in the Women’s Premier League and hosted the 2014 Nations at Life University.

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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