6 Perfect Ways to Celebrate Fall

Fall is just around the bend! When it comes, you need to be ready to enjoy the BEST of the season in Georgia. Grab your map because we’ve got a bucket list for you!

Sunflowers

Fausett Farms Sunflowers in Dawsonville are in full bloom in October. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

Fausett Farms Sunflowers in Dawsonville are in full bloom in October. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

Dawsonville’s Fausett Farms Sunflowers planted more than 900,000 sunflowers this spring, and they will be showing their sunny faces by the first of October. They are open seven days a week, and the cost is $10 per car. More sunflower info here.

Apples

Apples are ripe for the picking in North Georgia in the fall. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

Apples are ripe for the picking in North Georgia in the fall. Photo by Lesli Peterson.

The North Georgia mountains are filled with apple orchards, including you-pick, hayrides, petting zoos and so much more. Don’t miss the Ellijay Apple Festival. We love the weekend events at Mercier Orchards, and the weekday you-pick options at BJ Reece. More apple info here.

Leaves

Leaf Watching at F.D. Roosevelt State Park

F.D. Roosevelt State Park

Georgia State Parks are fantastic family escapes for watching the leaves change color. Wondering which parks have the best showing? Try Amicalola, Cloudland Canyon or Black Rock Mountain. Find a complete listing here.

Waterfalls

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

There is something magical about fallen red and gold leaves on the rocks of a tumbling waterfall. Wondering where to take the family this autumn? Try Raven Cliff Falls, Fall Branch Falls or Dukes Creek for wonderful views. More waterfall info here.

Festivals

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

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

From hot air balloons in Callaway Gardens to Oktoberfest in Helen, and from the colors of Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground to the Fall Folklife Fest at the Atlanta History Center, autumn is amass with festive frolic options the entire family will enjoy. Find more fall festival info here.

Camping

Fall camping at Red Top Mountain State Park on Lake Allatoona

Fall camping at Red Top Mountain State Park on Lake Allatoona

Fall is made for camping under the bright stars. We love Swinging Bridge in Blue Ridge and Andrews Cove in Helen for the best in fall camping. Find more fall camping info here.

Looking for more fun for the family? Here are 18 can’t-miss fall events around the state.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

4 Ways to Get Outdoors in Dunwoody

Dunwoody Nature Center's Butterfly Festival

Dunwoody Nature Center’s Butterfly Festival

If you are looking for ways to get outside with your family, then head to Dunwoody for these awesome adventures. From playgrounds to zip lines to a FREE nature center, there is a weekend of excitement waiting for you!

Soar through the trees at Treetop Quest Dunwoody

Treetop Quest Dunwoody. Photo by Lesli Peterson

Treetop Quest Dunwoody. Photo by Lesli Peterson

Little ones as young as 4 years old can enjoy the Kiddie Quest ropes experience at Treetop Quest Dunwoody. Kids 7 years and older can play Tarzan on three courses, including a 300-foot zip line, and those over 12 years old have an extra challenge on the fourth course. Bring the whole family for an adventure in the trees! You can read more about our family’s antics here.

Climb and jump at Brook Run Park

Treetop Quest is just at the entrance of Brook Run Park, so don’t be scared to venture in a little farther once you finish your treetop excursion. Brook Run offers an incredible playground with shade awnings, an off-leash dog park, and a skate park arena. Read about Brook Run and other playgrounds we love in Atlanta.

Savor custard on the patio of Village Burger

Village Burger in Dunwoody

Village Burger in Dunwoody

Nothing will help you beat the heat like a frozen custard treat from Village Burger. You can enjoy it on the patio (shade umbrellas included), or take a breather at a table inside. We also LOVE the burgers and onion rings!

Explore Dunwoody Nature Center

Explore the teepee just inside the entrance to the nature center. Photo by Lesli Peterson

Explore the teepee just inside the entrance to the nature center. Photo by Lesli Peterson

You can spend hours and hours at the FREE Dunwoody Nature Center and still not experience all they have to offer. Play in the creek, walk the trails, climb the new playground structures, listen for frogs on the boardwalk….the possibilities are endless. Don’t miss the Dunwoody Butterfly Festival Aug. 20, and see our post on 22 great ways to get more out of the nature center.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

Where to “Talk to the Animals” in Georgia

If your family is looking to explore their wild side, Georgia is filled with opportunity. From the city to the mountains to the coast, there are a number of places to talk to the animals!

Zoo Atlanta (Atlanta)

Feed the giraffes, go behind the scenes with African elephants, and watch giant pandas in all their cuteness. Zoo Atlanta holds the nation’s largest collection of gorillas, the largest zoological collection of orangutans in the U.S., and many vanishing reptiles and amphibians.

Chehaw (Albany)

Bogart and Audrey at Chehaw Park. Photo from Facebook.

Bogart and Audrey at Chehaw Park. Photo from Facebook.

Pet a python, take the Veldt ride, feed Bogart the Bactrian (two-hump) camel who loves people. Chehaw is a special animal sanctuary that obviously takes pleasure in learning about and growing with their animals. If you can stay longer, then camp or sleep in a cabin in the park for an even more enjoyable adventure. See more photos here.

Yellow River Game Ranch (Lilburn)

25 acres in a rustic setting allow you to pet deer, see black bears, and visit a petting zoo at the Yellow River Game Ranch. I love this location for kids of all ages, but especially smaller kiddos. It isn’t too large or too busy, and keeps the sensory experience in check. Don’t miss Beau, Georgia’s Official Weather Forecaster.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary (Locust Grove)

BLT at Noah's Ark. Photo from Facebook.

BLT at Noah’s Ark. Photo from Facebook.

This animal rehabilitation center south of the city offers FREE admission (donations appreciated.) At Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, you’ll see roaming bison, feisty emu, tons of monkeys and parrots, and the famed trio BLT — the bear, lion and tiger — that live harmoniously together.

North Georgia Zoo (Cleveland)

Lemur at the North Georgia Zoo. Photo from Facebook.

Lemur at the North Georgia Zoo. Photo from Facebook.

400 animals and Georgia’s largest petting zoo make the North Georgia Zoo a fun family daytrip to accompany your mountain adventures.

Wild Animal Safari (Pine Mountain)

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Get up close to exotic animals at Wild Animal Safari.

Kids will ADORE this drive-thru animal park. My son said, “I love this more than the zoo because the animals can roam around, but WE are in the cage.” You’ll follow a 3.5-mile paved road through the 220-acre Wild Animal Safari park. You can even purchase food to give the animals as you drive through. You’ll see buffalo, pigs, zebra, emu, deer, giraffe and more. Read more about this fun other and nearby attractions here.

Oatland Island Wildlife Center (Savannah)

At Oatland Island Wildlife Center, animals are exhibited in large natural habitats along a rustic trail through forest and marsh lands. The “Wolf Wilderness” exhibit features gray wolves, armadillos, flying squirrels, screech owls and a selection of reptiles. Along the trail are cougars, bobcats, bison, alligators, red fox and birds of prey. Cows, sheep, goats and rabbits can be viewed in the “Georgia Farm” area.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

5 Reasons to Visit Little St. Simons Island with the Family

Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

You’ve probably heard of St. Simons Island, but do you know that just across the river is a private, eco-friendly, all-inclusive island just waiting for you? Our family visited Little St. Simons Island and fell madly in love; here’s why we think you should make a reservation today.

The Serenity

Untouched for centuries, Little St. Simons Island is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands, covering 10,000 acres with 7 miles of shoreline. We didn’t drive our car onto the island. Guests visit by boat, and only 32 at a time may stay overnight (though small guided day trips are periodically available). The untarnished environment, limited population and carefully protected wildlife create a tranquil escape that immediately melted away our stress.

The Food

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are all carefully created and presented on the island. There are no grocery stores or restaurants, and no need for them. Chef Ulfet Ralph hails from Turkey, and her delicious dishes include everything from filet mignon to duck tenderloin. Breakfasts are mammoth with a variety of delights like French toast, berries, eggs, bacon, frittata and more – everything you need to carry you through a day of exciting adventure.

We also love that there is a USDA-certified organic garden on-site providing vegetables and fruits at almost every meal. I’ll note, too, that Chef Ulfet was very thoughtful about the kids, offering hamburgers, PB&Js, mac and cheese, and other kid-friendly fare for our picky eaters.

The Water

Little St. Simons Island’s proximity allows families to swim in the Atlantic, boat on the Atlamaha River and fish in Mosquito Creek. Along the beach we rode the waves, collected shells, biked the shoreline, and caught Atlantic Sharp Nose sharks while shore fishing. We took a skiff and a kayak along the creek to the river and kept an eye out for dolphin and alligators. Low tide offers the best opportunities for kids to catch fish in the creek, including Redfish, Sea Trout and Flounder.

The Adventure

If fishing, swimming, boating and kayaking are not enough, there are even more ways for kids to explore. You can bike around the island (adult bikes, kid bikes and bike trailers are all available), keeping an eye out for more than 300 species of birds. We also saw alligators, a diamondback rattlesnake and a multitude of armadillo. Loggerheads and horseshow crabs were also active on the island.

Two to three excursions each day are led by one of the island’s naturalists, and the crew is amazing – both because of their extensive knowledge and because of their gentle nature with kids. Excursions are discussed after each meal, usually with about two options available during each time slot. I love that a trip to the beach with these guys is so much more – it includes learning about the changing shoreline, finding horseshoe crab eggs, or gaining a closer look through one of their field telescopes.

The Hunting Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

The Hunting Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. Photo by Lesli Peterson

The Value

Little St. Simons Island guests pay a single flat fee for accommodations, three meals, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, every excursion, use of the equipment (boats, kayaks, canoes, bikes, etc.) and so much more. Even the tip is included in the price!

Our family adored Little St. Simons Island, ranking it as one of our all-time favorite adventures. In fact, we are already planning to head back next year. Read our detailed post (with more photos) for more tips and insight on visiting Little St. Simons Island with kids.

LesliLesli Peterson is 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.

Tips for Planning a Father’s Day Fishing Trip

Nothing beats spending time with family on Father’s Day. This year, gather the kids around and offer to take them fishing in Georgia. Everyone likes to go fishing, especially when all are involved in the planning.

Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Ga., has a 260-acre lake, perfect for fishing with the family.

Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Ga., has a 260-acre lake, perfect for fishing with the family.

Suggestions:

  1. Pick a Georgia State Park. They are easy to access, inexpensive, and they have other things to do in addition to fishing, such as nature trails, panoramic views, deep canyons and waterfalls. There will be few distractions to take your attention away from your family, so you can enjoy spending time outdoors together.
  2. Take a camera to record the day. Nothing puts a smile on a child’s face better than holding up a catch before the camera.
  3. Fishing equipment is inexpensive and can be owned by the child. The rod and reel can be his or hers for a lifetime and be used hundreds of times over the years. If it’s already purchased and has already been used, make sure it works properly.
  4. Here’s a surprising tip: let the children have their phones and pads while you travel, get their fill, and then put them away. You don’t have to be in a boat. Fish from the bank or dock.
  5. Remember, you’re not after Blue Marlin or Giant Largemouth Bass. A simple little outfit to catch a little punkin’ seed Bluegill or pretty Rainbow Trout will do nicely.
  6. Take live bait. If the fishing is slow, the children can play with the crickets or worms.
  7. Don’t make it a full day. This is not a marathon. Stay as long as your family likes, but stage the ending with a closing adventure that will truly make it special.
  8. OK, here’s the close: Lake Burton Trout Hatchery right next to Moccasin Creek State Park in Clarkesville, Georgia. The kids can fish in the well-stocked little stream at the park and then walk over to the hatchery 50 yards away and see thousands of trout. That’s right, thousands. It’s a treat!
  9. Hold on, I’m not finished. Is that too far north? Then, as the day closes, visit the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia, right in the middle of the state. It’s a one-of-a-kind fishing overload of sights, sounds, photos, underwater views, and dozens of interactive displays. Don’t miss this. Initially, it’ll look like something that will take 30 minutes. I guarantee you’ll have to drag the children away.

Follow those tips, and you’ll have one great day full of memories with your family. There is no gift more precious than that.

oneill-headshotO’Neill Williams is host, creator and producer for the weekly O’Neill Outside television and radio shows. Born in Atlanta and a graduate of Emory University, Williams has been a television fishing personality for 35 years with shows titled “Fishing in Georgia,” “Southern Fishing” and “Reel Adventures.” He and his wife live in North Georgia, where they often broadcast the Saturday morning radio show.