5 Unique Ways to Enjoy Georgia State Parks with Kids

By Lesli Peterson

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In 2014 our family stayed overnight at a different Georgia State Park each month, and visited multiple parks in between overnight adventures.  (You can read about Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey.)

While I highly recommend such an adventure, it isn’t for everyone. Don’t let this discourage you from exploring the parks, though! Here are five fun daytrip park adventures for kiddos.

GeorgeLSmith

George L Smith State Park

Canoe or Kayak the blackwater at George L Smith State Park

There is nothing quite like canoeing in blackwater.  The Cypress and Tupelo trees tucked in the water reflect dreamily on the blacktop.  It is peaceful and serene, and the perfect environment for learning to row. Click here to learn more about our canoeing adventure:

Iron pour at Red Top Mountain State Park

Red Top Mountain’s name comes from the soil’s rich red color caused by high iron-ore content.  Bring the kiddos to select a scratch block mold. The crew then fires up the blast furnace, fills the mold with molten iron, and offers up your unique piece once cooled.

Magnolia Springs

Magnolia Springs

See Turtles in the natural spring at Magnolia Springs State Park

Not too far from George L Smith you’ll find Magnolia Springs. The natural spring here pumps 7-9 million gallons of water each day. It is crystal clear, and reflects beautiful shades of blue and green.  Within the spring we saw dozens and dozens of turtles, and a few alligators.  I’ve never seen so many turtles in such a small area; it was amazing.  A side note: Camp Lawton was on this site during the civil war. It was one of two POW camps, the other being the more famous Andersonville.  A museum at the park shares many of the artifacts found here. See a video of the springs and turtle here.

Hike the falls at Amicalola State Park & Lodge

Amicalola is one of the tallest falls this side of the Mississippi. You’ll want to take the kids to see it! I recommend driving up the hill and parking midway with younger kids.  A short walk will get you to a bridge, only feet from the falls. It’s gorgeous, and the kids loved it.  The path is paved, so a stroller would also work.  Active kids can make it down the stairs to the base of the falls and back. Older kids can climb up the 450 stairs to the top of the falls…or start at the top and walk all the way down. Read about our fall adventure here.

Get down with the diamorpha at Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Diamorpha are succulants found in the pools of rock outcrops like those at Chattahoochee Bend and Arabia Mountain.  In spring they turn bright red, and then burst with a white bloom.  Primarily found in Georgia, they are on the endangered species list in Tennessee. In fall and winter they appear brown and “dead,” but they are not. Showing kids how special they are in spring, helps them to understand and better respect these beauties in the cold months. We inspected these charmers here.

What are your favorite things to do with kids at Georgia State Parks?

LesliLesli 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.

Make a Splash at These Indoor Pools

By Lesli Peterson

atlanta hotels with indoor pool

What makes a hotel family-friendly? It could be the in-room amenities, like refrigerator or bathtub. It could be special touches, like children’s programming or a babysitting service.  For this family, the number one rule of thumb is a pool.  Our city-exploring happens during the day, but pools provide entertainment for my kiddos in early morning and late evening, when we would otherwise be stuck in the room.  It helps to start the day by getting the wiggles out, and it relaxes and calms them before bed…also ensuring they sleep through the night.  You’ll find numerous hotels around Atlanta with pools, but the number dwindles a bit for winter guests looking for an escape from the cold. Here are details about our favorite family-friendly Buckhead hotels with indoor pools, and a list of additional hotels as well.

RC Buckhead

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

Ritz Carlton Buckhead’s pool is one of my family’s favorites.  It is a saline pool, heated to perfection.  The ceiling is glass, and while the cold outside weather created a dew on the ceiling that prevented us from star-gazing, we did enjoy the open feeling that came from a view of the sky.  You’ll find boogie boards and noodles strategically placed around the pool deck, which our boys enjoyed.  Guest services even provided the kids with rubber ducks, as swim partners.

The pool is attached to the fitness center, so we were able to leverage the locker rooms.  There were lockers, showers, plastic bags for holding our wet suits, extra towels, and fruit for the boys to munch on.  I must also admit that hubby and I tried out the sauna and hot tub, as well. Heaven!

See more photos of our pool adventures here.

MO Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental is one of Atlanta’s most beloved hotels, with inescapable opulence and grandeur. Don’t let this fool you, though; they love children.  Strollers, cribs, and even baby monitors are available on request. Be sure to inquire about the Little Fan’s Passport program, also. But the real fun is at the pool.  Through a beautiful hallway, and down an elevator, kid’s will love the secret entrance to the swimming area.  The heated pool is only steps away from an extra restroom, perfect for little one’s “emergencies.” In warmer months the doors open to a view of the sunken courtyard and garden, as well as the views of Buckhead.

Learn more about our stay at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta here.

JW Marriott Buckhead

There are many things to love about JW Marriott Buckhead and its conveniences. One of my favorite: it is adjacent to Lenox Mall.  That small detail opens a world of family-friendly options for shopping and dining.  Until September 1, 2015 Marriott is offering complimentary valet parking to ease your unloading, and a free kids’ meal at the onsite restaurant with the purchase of an adult meal. Kids will also enjoy the heated pool and whirlpool for exerting the leftover energy that kid’s pack during vacation. You’ll also enjoy the glass ceiling, allowing in ample light for your swim.

See their site for more details about this Kids Eat Free package.

Additional Atlanta hotels with indoor pools:

Atlanta Airport Marriott

Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Comfort Inn & Suites Galleria

Embassy Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Hampton Inn & Suites Galleria

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Airport

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown

Renaissance Atlanta Waverly

Sheraton Atlanta Downtown

Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta             

Springhill Suites by Marriott Atlanta Buckhead

Staybridge Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

The Westin Peachtree Plaza

Wingate Inn & Suites Atlanta Galleria

LesliLesli 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.

Bring Your Whole Family to This Atlanta Coffeehouse

By Lesli Peterson

Hodgepodge Coffeehouse

I almost didn’t go. It had been a long and difficult morning, but I needed caffeine. Once Imumbled my intention aloud, my girlfriend was game. “I love that place. We’ll come with you.”

And that, my friends, is how I first met the love of my life…er, I mean, Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Let me introduce you to my new favorite hangout. It’s perfect year-round, but especially wonderful in winter. Here are four reasons I love Hodgepodge; I want you to visit, too.

AWESOME COFFEE. So let’s be real. You can’t have fall in love with a coffeeshop that has bad coffee. Here you’ll find Batdorf and Bronson beans, roasted locally. Delish! I’m a fan of the Oh Honey! – Espresso, steamed milk, honey, and a hint of vanilla.

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ART ATTACK KIDS. Every Monday, Art Attack helps kids create and art project. Pair this with story time, and you have the recipe for an awesome start to the week.

PLAY SPACE. There’s a corner defined by a rug against huge windows. There are toys – worn and loved, but still awesome. Books…rocking chairs…an old-school rocking horse. This is where the children gather to play. I’ve cried big tears and laughed a million laughs all with my girlfriends, while my littles played beside me.

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PALEO BROWNIES. There is great food here. Love the chicken salad on spinach. Kudos. But there are also sweets for everyone, including Paleo brownies! And they are so yummy! I recommend a stop for lunch, and don’t skip dessert.

Don’t miss another day. Delicious coffee to warm your bones, and family-friendly to arm your heart. Bring the kids, invite your bestie, and have a great time.

LesliLesli 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.

Family-Friendly Attractions in Georgia

By Lesli Peterson

LenFootTitle

It’s time to share a few places we love, in honor of Valentine’s Day. I geared up to write about local places that cater to kids…. LEGOLAND Discovery Center, INK!, and SkyZone.  These are super escapes for children, and we recommend them gleefully.

But….

I want to challenge you to consider family travel in a different light.  My personal goal is to encourage the exploration of Georgia with kids, not just for kids. 

Children adapt; they thrive wherever you put them, and they are naturally curious. Use these traits to your advantage. Show them the glory of the mountains, the excitement of the theatre, the art of farm-to-table cuisine. Don’t be scared to step outside your comfort zone and introduce them to all the wonders of Georgia.

So, with this call to action, let me tell you about four places that our family LOVES. These places aren’t advertised as family travel venues, per say, but they top our list without a doubt.

Len Foote Hike Inn

Len Foot Hike Inn was the most exciting overnight of our year! We hiked five miles deep into the forest during fall’s big color show, explored the property, played games, slept in our cozy bunkhouse, then watched the sun rise over the mountains. The boys loved meeting a thru-hiker that had just completed the Appalachian Trail. It was challenging, but a memory that will stay with us forever. You can read more about our adventure here:  365atlantafamily.com/lenfootehikeinn

5 Seasons Brewing

Yes, I am suggesting you bring your kids to a brew house. They will be welcome with open arms. The food is top-notch, locally sourced, and earth-friendly. Even the butter is made in-house; don’t miss spreading it on the bread baked from spent grain from 5 Season’s craft brews. Upwards of 70,000 gallons of craft beer, to be exact. For the kids, the menu is diverse and plenty: Grassfed burgers, chicken strips… even a bowl of baby grapes for the pickiest of eaters. You can read more about our experience here: 365atlantafamily.com/5seasonsbrewing

Old Car City USA

We discovered unexpected multi-generational family fun at Old Car City USA in White, Georgia. 4000 old cars…34 acres…6.5 miles of trails.  The oldest cars, with the most character are near the front. We explored the cars, played a little hide-and-seek, snapped over 500 photos, and discussed the history and family lore we recalled upon seeing the old junkers. The boys also enjoyed the doodle gallery of Styrofoam cups in the loft area of the old barn.  You can see our photos and memories here: 365atlantafamily.com/oldcarusa

Merry Acres Inn

There is enough fun in Albany to fill a weekend, and Merry Acres Inn is the best place to call ‘home base.”  Parents will love the spacious rooms, hardwood floors, and the Manor Pub with outdoor porch seating under oversized ceiling fans. Sure, the kids will love the pool filed with mineral water, but let me tell you the best part. You can order delicious, gourmet cuisine from three different restaurants, and have it delivered to the porch for your family. Even though it is “take out,” the served it as if it were made in the back…no flimsy Styrofoam containers and plastic forks.  Family-friendly served to perfection. Check out our room, the pool, and more here: 365atlantafamily.com/merryacresinn

If you are interested in more information about these family-friendly places, please check them out on my website:

LesliLesli 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.

Weekend Itinerary: Albany with kids

By Lesli Peterson

Merry Acres Inn Pool Title

Albany, Georgia is filled with adventure for kids of all ages. Wild animals…an aquarium…historical exploration…art opportunities…and plenty of wonderful places to eat! Here is what to do with kids in Albany!

Stay

We gladly called Merry Acres Inn our home while visiting Albany last summer.  Our experience included resting in a spacious suite with hardwood floors, swimming for hours in a mineral-water pool, and dining outdoors on a true southern porch complete with ceiling fans and sweet tea.

Play

We stopped at Albany Welcome Center to learn about the best places for us to visit on our three-day adventure this summer, but found so much more.  We were richly rewarded with a powerful history lesson; learning about Horace King, freed slave and bridge builder, was a highlight for me.  The boys also enjoyed Turtle Grove Play Park, the community-built playground out back.

We walked to Flint River for breathtaking views of the powerful waterway that wreaked havoc on Albany not too long ago.  The city is recovering beautifully, though, and leveraging the river by creating kayak and canoe launch sites right out the back door of the Welcome Center.

Just beside the Welcome Center is RiverFront Park, where my kids splish-splashed the heat away in the Festival Spring Fountain.

Chehaw Park

Chehaw Park

There is a ton of fun and adventure for the entire family at Chehaw Park – more than we were able to do in our short visit. We played on a huge playground, petted a snake, fed a camel, rode through the safari with wild animals, and gazed at an abundance of alligators.  We didn’t even make it to the campsite, nature trails, disc golf, BMX track, bald eagle aviary, or the banks of Lake Chehaw. Whew! This “zoo” is like no other, commissioned by Jim Fowler of Wild Kingdom fame. Don’t miss it.

Flint Riverquarium was borne from the devastation of the 1994 Albany flood.  It is an opportunity for children (and adults) to discern the importance of the natural resources in the area, and the uniqueness of the Flint River watershed. We learned about Blue Holes, watched alligator feedings, peered at shark eggs, and walked with birds through the aviary. It gave our family a great appreciation for the diversity of the Flint River, on which this aquarium resides. Don’t ask the boys if it was educational, though…they only know they had a great time!

ArtPark on Pine

ArtPark on Pine

Artpark on Pine is the only open-air art community in Georgia, and one of only a few in the US.  The building was previously an old auto parts store, but stood empty for a long while.  The city turned it into a venue for local and visiting artists. My boys had a blast watching artists paint and exploring the “graffiti” on the walls and floor. I can only imagine how much more they would have liked it if I had come prepared.  Don’t forget to BYOP – Bring Your Own Paint!

Thronateeska Heritage Center is a science museum, train car display museum, and a planetarium all in one. It teaches visitors about history and exploration in the Albany area, as well as around the south. We were lucky enough to receive a guided tour through the Center. This option is available for anyone for only a nominal fee, and I highly recommend it. Without the tour, we would have enjoyed ourselves, but certainly not as much as we did.  I’m always leery about history centers with my young boys…scared that they are not yet old enough to appreciate the exhibits.  Lisa, our guide, clued right into their ages and took us on a tour that captivated the whole family.

Eat

The following restaurants were kid-friendly, with delicious eats!

Blackbeards. Seafood and BBQ, with a cornucopia of options, and large servings.

Manor House Pub. Located at Merry Acres Inn. Outdoor dining options make this fun for the family.

Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking. Perfect for breakfast. Kids will love the French toast sticks.

Cookie Shoppe. The pimento cheese is perfect, and the fresh-from-the-oven cookies will make a sweet-tooth out of anyone.

Harvest Moon. The pizza sounded amazing, but the His and Her Salads with blackened grouper will bogle your taste-buds. Heaven.

LesliLesli 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.