Georgia Camping for the Non-Camper


Conestoga Wagons at The Rock Ranch

Conestoga Wagons at The Rock Ranch

Camping is a great way to explore Georgia on a budget, and there is nothing better than telling stories around the campfire while enjoying some freshly toasted marshmallows. However, gathering all the gear and pitching a tent can be a bit intimidating to the novice. Here are three ways to enjoy Georgia camping, without all the hassles.

Georgia State Parks First Time Camper Program: The Georgia State Parks first time camper program gives newbie campers everything they need for two nights under the stars. For $50, campers receive a six person tent, two chairs, four self-inflating sleeping mats, a camp stove with fuel, lantern and marshmallow roasting sticks – you need to bring your own s’more fixings though.

Glamping at North Georgia Canopy Tours: No need to bring a tent. Instead enjoy the comforts of an authentic Native American teepee with a few modern conveniences, like air conditioning (or heat in the winter), lighting and electrical outlets. If you’d rather, North Georgia Canopy tours also has 15 rustic campsites. The best part is getting first dibs on a zip line canopy tour the next day.

Glamping at North Georgia Canopy Tours

Glamping | Photo courtesy of North Georgia Canopy Tours

Conestoga Wagons at The Rock Ranch: The wagons are circled on a Georgia farm with cows grazing nearby rather than amid buffalo on the plains, but everything you could need is set up nearby. The Conestoga Wagons at The Rock Ranch have four sets of bunk beds, so just pack a sleeping bag or some sheets. Firewood is stacked on a flatbed, and a table with paper towels, cups, hand washing water, drinking water, lanterns, paper and matches is nearby. If you don’t want to bring dinner, just order the Hot Dog Dinner and everything you need, down to the cooking skewers will be waiting for you upon arrival.

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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Georgia Outdoor Blast


Steve Scruggs, Snake Master at Outdoor Blast

Steve Scruggs, Snake Master | Photo courtesy of Georgia Outdoor News

Presented by Georgia Outdoor News and Georgia’s Best Chevy Dealers, Outdoor Blast returns July 24-26 at Gwinnett Center. One of the best shows of the season, this weekend for sportsmen features hundreds of hunting and fishing vendors, prizes, and a kids zone. A strict policy of allowing only outdoor-related products and services prevents the crowd of vacation marketing or flea market booths found at other shows. This is a great opportunity to check out the latest gear for the upcoming season, and book trips with professional outfitters.

This year’s highlights include a massive collection of Georgia’s biggest bucks from 2014, deer scoring for the GON All-Time County-by-County Records, and gun giveaways every hour. Outdoorsmen also compete for a truck in the annual Truck Buck Shootout, and learn to identify venomous snakes with Snakes Alive star Steve Scruggs.

Don’t leave the kids at home! The Blast Kids Zone features a Wipeout sweeper obstacle, kiddie mechanical bull, gun safety and more. Kids can take aim at the BB shooting range and complete a free DNR-certified hunter education course. Best of all, kids under 12 are free!

Location: Gwinnett Center, free parking
Admission: $8/adult, kids 12 and under are free.
Dates: July 24-26, 2015

Outdoor Blast Kids Zone

Outdoor Blast Kids Zone | Photo courtesy of Georgia Outdoor News

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.

Guide to the BB&T Atlanta Open


BB&T Atlanta Open

Photo courtesy of BB&T Atlanta Open

The BB&T Atlanta Open kicks off July 25, 2015 at Atlanta’s Atlantic Station. While you’re there, you should visit the Georgia table and say hey! But before you go, here’s what you need to know:

Getting There
Location: Atlantic Station (Atlanta, GA) is a mixed use live/work/play development situated squarely between typical Midtown and Westside neighborhood boundaries along 17th Street.

Public Transportation: By bus, the No. 37 DeFoors Ferry line will get you to Atlantic Station. By rail, the Atlantic Station Free Ride Shuttle is available to transport guests to and from the Arts Center MARTA Station from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

Self- Parking: Atlantic Station offers abundant deck parking with color-coded parking sections for easy vehicle location. The first two hours of parking are free. Click here to see the full fee schedule. You must pay for parking before returning to your vehicle to exit the parking deck.

Valet Parking: For a fee, there is valet parking available just east of the Target parking deck.

EV Charging: If you’re taking your plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle to the BB&T Atlanta Open, you can charge it at one of Atlantic Station’s numerous charging locations.

Lexus Owners: If you drive your Lexus to the tournament, you’re able to receive complimentary parking in the 20th Street parking lot at the north end of Atlantic Station. Care to valet? Lexus drivers are eligible for reduced $5 valet parking.

Schedule of Events:
To see the full daily schedule of matches, click here.

John Isner

2-Time Defending Champion, UGA Grad John Isner | Photo courtesy of BB&T Atlanta Open

Who’s Playing:
You’ll hear names you’ll recognize from this year’s Wimbledon tournament like Vasek Pospisil. Crowd favorite Andy Roddick, fresh off covering the tournament for the BBC will play as well longtime pros Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers (Mike and Bob).

Plus you can watch players with a Georgia connection: Georgia Tech freshman Christopher Eubanks defeated top collegiate tennis players for the wild card spot in the tournament, and UGA grad John Isner will be looking to defend his two consecutive Atlanta Open titles.

Kids Go Free – During kids weekend, July 25 and 26, children under 18 years old may attend the day’s matches for free when accompanied by an adult with a ticket. Up to four children can go free per adult ticket.

College Night – College students, with valid ID, can purchase a ticket and get one free on July 28.

Ladies Day – Ladies, enjoy a VIP package that includes an ATP player clinic and lunch at STRIP as part of a daytime event on July 30.

Fireworks & USTA Member Appreciation Day – On July 31, the tournament welcomes USTA members and celebrates their support of the game with a fireworks celebration post-game.

Free T-Shirt – During the length of the tournament, guests can show their BB&T Atlanta Open ticket at any Atlantic Station retailer with a LOVE decal for an exclusive offer. Shoppers who net $150+ in same-day receipts at any Atlantic Station store or restaurant will receive a free LOVE t-shirt when they present their receipts at Concierge.

Bag Check – Shoppers can conveniently drop off their purchases at the pop-up Concierge desk located on Market Street, just across from the tournament entry area, from July 31 to August 2.

When you’re at Atlantic Station, be sure to take advantage of their numerous restaurant offerings like Top Chef contestant Roy Eyester owned Diner, meat and seafood restaurant The Pig and the Pearl, local favorite Chick-a-Biddy  and fast-casual Atlanta-born Tin Drum Asia Cafe.

What to Bring:
Don’t forget a small seat cushion, sunscreen (lotion only; aerosol cans are not permitted), a water bottle, a hat, and sunglasses. Backpacks, hard coolers, bottles or cans, weapons, pets, signs/banners, and larger electronic devices like iPads are not permitted. Be sure to check the full list of prohibited items before you leave to attend the tournament.

Ticket prices vary by seat, date and promotion. To see the full ticket cost breakdown, click here. 

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.

3 Georgia Lakes Perfect for a Family Vacation


beach pool lake oconee

Georgia is home to 23 lakes, all of which offer superior family fun. Here are three Georgia lakes we particularly love that make great escapes for a vacation with the kids.

Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. There are myriad ways to explore the 19,000+ acres of Lake Oconee, but our family’s favorite is to experience the waters from Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation. Enjoy a host of activities for families on the resort grounds, including S’mores by the Lake every evening at 8 p.m. Relax at the infinity pool overlooking Lake Oconee, or splash in the water at the beach. Reynolds Plantation offers numerous lake activities such as canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Young Harris Water Sports Boat Rentals is onsite to offer jet skis, pontoon boats, ski boats and wake boats.

Our family stayed at Reynolds Plantation and named it the best family resort in the state:

Lake Blue Ridge in Blue Ridge, Ga. North Georgia’s rolling mountains surround the unspoiled blue waters of Lake Blue Ridge, creating one of the most scenic lakes in the state. Lake Blue Ridge Marina is a full service marina where you can launch your own boat, or rent a pontoon for a half or full day. Kids will love renting paddle boats, canoes or stand up paddle boards, as well. Don’t miss Morganton Point Recreation Area on the lake. It offers a beach, showers, a picnic area and trails to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters is located here; you can rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards and fishing equipment. You can purchase a fishing license, buy a hotdog, pick up bait or enjoy an ice cream all at one stop.

If one day is not enough- and it never is –then try camping at Morganton Point, with sites for primitive tent camping or full service hookups for campers. Blue Ridge also offers numerous cabin rental options; many are directly on the lake. Find a list of cabin rental companies here.

Our family stayed at a lovely unit from Mountain Top Cabin Rentals. You can read more about it on my site:

Lake Blue Ridge Marina

Lake Blue Ridge Marina | Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge CVB

Lake Blackshear in Cordele, Ga. The Lodge at Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club at Georgia Veteran’s State Park. Take the SAM Shortline train excursion or visit the local Military Museum. At the marina, you can launch your own vessel or rent fishing boats, pontoon boats, jet skis, ski boats or kayaks. Stay overnight at the lodge for a weekend of excitement.

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.

4 Things to Do at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Georgia loves tennis and, according to BB&T Atlanta Open Tournament Director and Chief Development Officer Eddie Gonzalez, tennis loves Georgia. Last year about 347,000 people played tennis in Atlanta — more than any city in the world! World-class tennis facilities are in the works, as well; Berry College recently broke ground for the Rome Tennis Center of Georgia, which will feature 51 USTA standard courts on a 30-acre site.

BB&T Atlanta Open

Photo courtesy of BB&T Atlanta Open

This summer, tennis lovers from around the world will convene at Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta for the 12th annual BB&T Atlanta Open. The first stop in the Emirates Airline US Open Series is also the only professional tennis tournament in Atlanta. The week-long event will kick off on Saturday, July 25 with a qualifying draw and advance to the championship set for Sunday, August 2, 2015. A few Georgia natives will showcase their talents at the tournament, including Georgia Tech freshman Christopher Eubanks, who defeated top collegiate tennis players for the wild card spot in the tournament. And, be sure to watch for UGA grad and reigning champ John Isner, who will be vying for his third title this year.

Alongside the exhilarating tennis matches, BB&T Atlanta Open and Atlantic Station will offer plenty of activities suited for all ages. After watching your favorite players compete for the prestigious title, stroll around to shops, restaurants and ongoing events throughout the week.

Family Zone presented by Prince – Play like the players do on the free tennis courts available from noon until 7 p.m. during the BB&T Tournament. Tennis balls and racquets will be available on a first come, first serve basis.

Kick-Off Concert with The Commodores – These legends of Motown will take the “Night Shift” on July 25 to kick off the tournament in Atlantic Station. The concert promises to be the perfect start to a week of great entertainment.

Post-Match Concert with LoCash – As if one concert wasn’t enough, this dynamic country duo will perform a post-match concert July 29 at 9 p.m. All ticket holders for the Wednesday night match can enjoy the concert for free. LoCash is known for writing songs for Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and many other well-known country artists. Individual tickets for the tennis match begin at $39, including a round of tennis and the LoCash concert.

Post-Match Fireworks Show – Post-match fireworks will be presented by Coca-Cola after the Friday, July 31 night session.

Did we mention that Atlantic Station will be broadcasting the whole tournament live on the big screen in Central Park? So, get your tickets, head to Atlantic Station (remembering to visit the Explore Georgia table!) and show the world how much Georgia loves tennis!

John Isner

2-Time Defending Champion, UGA Grad John Isner | Photo courtesy of BB&T Atlanta Open