September in Savannah

Savannah Bacon Fest

Bacon Fest | Photo courtesy of the Savannah Waterfront Association

September in Savannah is filled with festivals and fun. Every weekend there’s a new reason to explore one of the state’s most historic cities!

Bacon Fest – Rousakis Riverfront Plaza plays home to the second annual edition of the popular pork-filled festival on September 4-5, 2015. While you’re in town for the festival, be sure to check out some of Savannah’s great breakfast locations where you can get bacon like Henry’s on Drayton Street.

Savannah Craft Brew Fest – On September 5 200 different beers from 68 different breweries are able to be tasted during the annual event. While you’re in town for the Craft Brew Fest, be sure to check out some of the city’s local breweries like Moon River Brewing CompanyService Brewing Co. and Southbound Brewing Company.

Savannah Craft Brew Fest

Savannah Craft Brew Fest

Tybee Island Beach Bash – Though not properly in Savannah, if you’re in town you won’t want to miss the kid-friendly event featuring live music during the day and fireworks at dusk. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beach and pier scene at sunset.

Savannah Pride Festival – On September 12, everyone is invited to celebrate the diversity of the city during the annual Savannah Pride Celebration in Forsyth Park.

Savannah International Food and Wine Tasting – This September 13 event features 50+ wines and dishes from nearly 20 of the city’s most beloved restaurants with proceeds benefiting Meals on Wheels.

Coastal Arts Fair – The first edition of this Tybee Island festival kicks off September 26 in Memorial Park. Artists from across the Southeastern U.S. will be showcasing their work. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out local artists’ work at galleries in City Market in downtown Savannah or at Art by the Sea on Tybee Island.

2013 Savannah Jazz Festival in Forsyth Park

Savannah Jazz Festival | Photo courtesy of the Coastal Jazz Association

Savannah Jazz Festival – For eight days, September 20-27, individuals and families are invited to listen to the sounds of the festival, all for free! While you’re in town, be sure to check out Savannah’s nightlife when live acts play in local clubs and bars around town.

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.

Labor Day Outdoors!

Labor Day Weekend is coming up quick. Make your plans for the last blast of summer! Here are some ways to enjoy the outdoors September 5-7.

Paddling
Labor Day Paddle at SweetwaterThe beautiful blazing colors of fall are almost upon us. Get ready to experience the seasonal change in a brand new way by learning to kayak! Imagine taking in the breathtaking scene of trees topped with brilliant golds and reds reflected along the banks of lakes and rivers. Sweetwater Creek State Park offers the perfect chance to prepare with Introduction to Kayaking Classes this Labor Day Weekend. Women, join qualified instructors on Sunday, September 6 or join the co-ed class on Monday, September 7. Reservations are required: 770-732-5871

Biking & Blading
Labor Day on the Silver Comet TrailHead to Rockmart to ride the Silver Comet Trail with Georgia’s Rails Into Trails Society. This annual Labor Day event brings cyclists, runners and rollerbladers together to celebrate the multi-use paved trail. Several options for participating include 13 miles to Brushy Mountain Tunnel, 27 miles to Cedartown, and a 62-mile ride to the Georgia-Alabama state line. Register online or on-site.

Camping
Labor Day Camping at Stone MountainMake camp near Stone Mountain Park‘s tranquil lake and enjoy the last blast of summer this Labor Day Weekend! Spend the day exploring the 5-mile Cherokee Trail, enjoying the view from the top, and playing with the kids on the Crossroads attractions. When night falls, relax on Memorial Lawn for the special Labor Day Lasershow Spectacular.

Hiking
Labor Day Hiking at Tallulah GorgeJoin the Canyon Climbers Club at Tallulah Gorge to enjoy the last swim of summer near Bridal Veil Falls. This is a strenuous trek that takes hikers from the overlooks deep into the gorge. Along the way, hikers encounter a suspension bridge, river crossings and new hiking friends. The 3.5-mile hike takes most of the day, so pack some snacks and wear sturdy shoes! Space is limited, so register in advance for one of the hikes happening Labor Day Weekend. Sept 5, 6, and 7. 706-754-7981

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.

Things to Do on Labor Day Weekend in Georgia

Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens

Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens, Labor Day Weekend

As the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day signals the upcoming season of fall festivals, football, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, apple picking and brilliantly colored scenery. Don’t miss the chance to squeeze in one more summer blast at these Georgia Labor Day events! Find more information about these and many more things to do in Georgia on ExploreGeorgia.org.

Food & Drink

Sept. 4: Food Truck Friday, Duluth

Sept. 4-5: Bacon Fest, Savannah

Sept. 4-5: 33rd Annual Kingsland Catfish Festival, Kingsland

Sept. 5: Grape Stomping Festival, Blairsville

Sept. 5: Boos and Brews Pub Crawl, Dahlonega

Sept. 6: August Wine Cruise Series, Lake Lanier

Follow Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer Jennifer Hill Booker for fall recipes and culinary trip ideas, and follow Georgia’s official Festival Explorer Eileen Falkenberg-Hull for more fall festival trip ideas!

At the State Parks

Sept. 4: Labor Day Twilight Paddle, Fort Yargo State Park, Winder

Sept. 4-6: Laborless Day, Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge, Helena

Sept. 5: Red Fox Fun Run, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain

Sept. 5: Labor Day at Jarrell Plantation, Juliette

Sept. 5: Labor Day Face Painting, Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth

Sept. 5: Labor Day Celebration, Fort McAllister State Park, Richmond Hill

Sept. 5: Dirty Spokes Trail Run, Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Sept. 5-6: Wild Cave Tours, Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn

Sept. 5-6: Labor Day Weekend Night Kayak, Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Sept. 5-6: Tightrope Lessons, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5-6: Twilight Night Paddle, High Falls State Park, Jackson

Sept. 5-7: Holiday Gorge Floor Hike, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5-7: Tools and Skills That Built a Colony, Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah

Sept. 5-7: Labor Day on the Lake, Florence Marina State Park, Omaha

Sept. 7: Labor Day at Fort King George, Darien

Sept. 7: Labor Day Commemoration, Fort Morris Historic Site, Midway

Follow Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer Candy Cook for more outdoor trip ideas this fall!

Family Fun

Sept. 4: Hot Rods on Main Cruise-In, Douglasville

Sept. 4: Dive In Movie, Atlantis, Lake Lanier

Sept. 4-5: Fiddlin’ Flea Market & Family Festival, Newnan

Sept. 4-6: Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

Sept. 4-6: Stone Mountain Park’s Labor Day Weekend Celebration, Stone Mountain

Sept. 5: Dive In Movie, Finding Nemo, Lake Lanier

Sept. 5-6: St. Simons Island Antique Show, St. Simons Island

Sept. 5-7: Labor Day Weekend at the Zoo, Cleveland

Sept. 6: Tybee Island Labor Day Beach Bash, Tybee Island

Follow Georgia’s official Family Explorer Lesli Peterson for more family-friendly fall trip ideas!

Free Things to Do

Sept. 4: 1st Friday Concert, Rome

Sept. 4: Friday Night Live: The Great Downtown Tailgate, Woodstock

Sept. 4: First Friday Fireworks, Savannah

Sept. 4: First Friday: The Benders, Thomasville

Sept. 4: First Friday Concert Series, The Swingin’ Medallions, Monroe

Sept. 4: First Friday Concert Series, Top 40 Pop Night, Dublin

Sept. 4: First Fridays, Historic Downtown Brunswick

Sept. 4: First Friday, Valdosta

Sept. 4: First Friday Fest in the Northeast Georgia Mountains, Clayton

Sept. 5: Good Life Drum Circle, Albany

Sept. 5: Buchanan Cruise Night, Buchanan

Sept. 5: Bluegrass on the Square, Tallulah Falls

Sept. 5: First Saturday Programs, Andersonville

Sept. 5-6: Perspectives 2015 – Georgia Pottery Invitational demonstrations and gallery talks, Watkinsville

Follow Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer Sue Rodman for more inexpensive fall trip ideas!

Sports & Racing

Sept. 4-6: IPRA World Championship Fall Rodeo, Cumming

Sept. 5: South Hall Rotary 5K, Gainesville

Sept. 5: 21st Annual Duck Race, Glenwood

Sept. 6: Callaway Gardens Family Fitness Series Triathlon, Pine Mountain

Last Chance! Events Ending Labor Day Weekend

Through Sept. 7: Summer Music Weekends, Lookout Mountain

Through Sept. 7: Blue Star Museums, Albany

Through Sept. 8: Festival Springs Fountain, Albany

Opening Labor Day Weekend

Sept. 1-Sept. 30: Blue Morpho Butterfly Month at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

Sept. 4-Oct. 30: Augusta Canal Moonlight Music Cruise, Augusta

Sept. 5-Oct. 11: Blue Ridge Mountains Photographers National Juried Show, Blue Ridge

Find special offers and discounts on great places to stay in Georgia on the ExploreGeorgia.org Deals page.

Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival

2015-shrimp-grits-10th-anniversary logoLooking for a Shrimp Extravaganza? Come out to the coast and eat your way through Georgia’s Golden Isles-starting with The 2015 Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival! The Golden Isles are nestled on the Georgia coast, making a breathtaking view of the four barrier islands of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. Running from Friday, September 18th through Sunday, September 20th, this 3-day festival marks the 10th anniversary of Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival! To celebrate this milestone, they are gearing up for a weekend jammed packed with both amateur and professional cooking competitions, cooking demonstrations, and lots and lots of Wild Caught Georgia Shrimp! There will also be live entertainment, goodies for sale, and tons of family fun to be had by all. But in my opinion the highlight of the festival is being able to eat your weight in sweet Georgia shrimp. You’ll also, be able to sample all of the creative and delicious ways people cook shrimp & grits. I’ve seen it deep fried, stewed, pickled, barbequed, stuffed . . . well, you get the idea! In the meantime, you can whet your appetite with my take on Shrimp & Grits. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits | Courtesy of The Jekyll Island Authority

Shrimp & Grits with Tomato Okra Gravy
Yields 4 servings
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker

Ingredients:
1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
¾ cup grated cheddar
¼ cup parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 pound medium wild Georgia shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 medium garden fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
½ pound tender young okra, cut into ½ inch pieces
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions:
In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cover and cook until grits are tender and creamy, about 30–40 minutes, whisking frequently. Add additional water if grits are too thick.

Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt; cover and set aside on low heat

In a medium sized skillet heat vegetable oil over low heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet with reserved bacon fat and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Lower heat and add onion to skillet and cook until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute more.

Add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated, while scraping the bottom of skillet, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to high, add chicken stock. Whisk until smooth, simmering until thick and smooth.

Add tomatoes and okra to onion flour mixture, decrease heat to medium, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Cook until okra softens and tomatoes begin to break down, making a thick gravy. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, and continue to simmer until okra has cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add more stock if gravy gets too thick.

Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce eats through, about 1 minute.

Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and tomato okra gravy.

Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions.

Enjoy!

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Find Your Park at Georgia’s National Parks

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CELEBRATES 99TH BIRTHDAY WITH FIND YOUR PARK EVENTS

Find Your Park at Florence Marina SP

Florence Marina State Park | Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 99th birthday. Since its start in 1916, the Service has grown to include 403 parks across the 50 states. Georgia is home to 14 of those properties and many of them are celebrating the anniversary with Find Your Park events including:

Butterfly Bio Blitz (August 22) – From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests are invited to Ocmulgee National Monument help count as many butterflies as possible with their camera/smartphone. Participants will receive a free t-shirt, backpack, water bottle and much more. In addition to the hunt, children can paint a butterfly jewelry box or sun catcher to take home with them.

While you’re in town, be sure to visit The Allman Brothers Band Museum, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Hay House.

“Find Your Park” Centennial Bike Ride (August 28-30) – Grab your bike and get ready to ride… or not. It’s totally up to you and there are options for everyone during this family-friendly Find Your Park experience. Registration, route maps and the itinerary for the ride are available online at findyourparkride.org. Activities are also offered for non-cycling family and friends of participating cyclists who would like to visit the parks, camp overnight at Florence Marina State Park or Lake Blackshear Resort and ride the SAM Shortline train.

If you’re heading to the event through Columbus, look into their whitewater rafting experiences. If you’re driving through Albany, take your family to see visit the Flint RiverQuarium

Fort Pulaski Candlelantern Tours (December 18 & 29) – At six times each evening, Fort Pulaski National Monument will commemorate the 154th anniversary of the Confederate Nog Party of 1861 with the family-friendly candlelantern tours. The event includes hot cider, cookies, music, caroling and historic weapons firings.

Want to experience more Savannah history? Take a Savannah Haunted History Tour, visit the Savannah History Museum and stay in a historic hotel like the River Street Inn.

Stay tuned to FindYourPark.org and ExploreGeorgia.org for additional Find Your Park activities throughout the autumn and winter.

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.