Georgia Lighthouses

Traditionally lighthouses have served as beacons for ships sailing in the night – today these popular structures serve as beacons for beach-goers and sight-seers. And Georgia’s historic lighthouses are no exception: these gorgeous structures all have unique stories and make for fantastic photo ops!

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Meredith112 via Flickr

Standing tall at the entrance to the Savannah River, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of only seven surviving colonial era lighthouses. James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founding father, ordered the construction of the light station that would survive hurricanes, earthquakes and being burned by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Today the tower continues to serve as a guide for ships, in addition to housing a museum of Tybee Island’s history. Visitors can also climb to the top for a gorgeous view.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesdy of Joe Szalay via Flickr

Commissioned by the federal government, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse still serves as a warning for ships entering the St. Simons Sound. Though the tower no longer requires a keeper to greet guests, the panoramic view of the Golden Isles from the top provides visitors an unforgettable experience. The Keeper’s Dwelling and Museum illustrate the life of a lighthouse keeper and the history of the Golden Isles.

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Evangelio Gonzalez via Flickr

Sitting on the island that serves as a modern epicenter of Gullah culture, the Sapelo Island Lighthouse is the nation’s second-oldest brick lighthouse. Originally built in 1820, the tower was replaced in 1905 and later reconstructed to its original structure in the 1930s. The lighthouse is no longer active, but visitors can visit the lighthouse on a tour of Sapelo Island led by Georgia State Parks.

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of paulbr1 via Flickr

Located at the South Channel of the Savannah River, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse is considered part of Fort Pulaski. Situated in the direct line of fire of Union and Confederate troops during the defeat of Fort Pulaski, the lighthouse miraculously suffered minimal damage. Instead the structure would fall victim to flooding and today is only accessible via kayak or small boat. Along with the rest of the Fort, the lighthouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

The only one of Georgia’s five surviving historic lighthouses not open to the public, the light station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two towers were built on Little Cumberland Island: the one to the south with a revolving light and the one to the north, which remains, with a fixed light to mark the Satilla River and St. Andrew Sound. The lighthouse is no longer active, but has been well preserved by the Little Cumberland Island Association.

In addition to the five surviving historic lighthouses, Georgia boasts several other nautical lighting fixtures:

Sapelo Island Range Front

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon | Photo courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology via Flickr

While on a tour of Sapelo Island, visitors can also view the front beacon situated at the southern tip of the island. Though inactive now, the beacon historically helped guide mariners within the range of the island’s lighthouse.

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light | Photo courtesy of Phil Houck via Flickr

This cast iron light was erected as the rear range light to guide vessels from Fig Island Lighthouse into Savannah. Six ships had been sunk during the Revolutionary War to provide a naval buffer, and the Old Harbor Light was utilized to avoid these wrecks. After renovations in the early 21st century, the light was re-erected in Emmet Park on Bay Street.

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Sussman Imaging via Flickr

Situated right on the Georgia-Alabama line on West Point Lake, this ornamental tower provides beautiful ‘Kodak moments’ from the middle of the lake or for visitors to Maple Creek Park in LaGrange.

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.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

When you head to Georgia’s Coast this Independence Day holiday, there’s much more to do than just see fireworks. The state’s coastal towns have their own annual Fourth of July celebrations in addition to other family-friendly festivals and events planned.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, Inc.

Brunswick
Summer Classic Movies at the Ritz (July 2, 2015) – Get into the patriotic spirit by stopping by The Ritz Theatre to see a showing of the classic James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Brunswick’s Old Fashioned 4th of July (July 4, 2015) – Mary Ross Waterfront Park is home to an evening filled with family-friendly fun. There will be free watermelon slices, live musical entertainment, games and a fireworks display set to patriotic music to wrap up the evening.

Darien
Red, White & Blues on the Bluff (July 3, 2015) – Hosted by the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce, this festival invites residents and visitors to the shores of the river to listen to live bands and chow down on food from vendors while they wait for the fireworks display to start.

Canons Across the Marsh at Fort King George Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Artillery drills, musket firing and activities to get you better acquainted with a soldier’s life are on the schedule for this Independence Day at the Site. Also, free watermelon and lemonade will be served.

Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island Independence Day Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Jekyll Island will be celebrating the holiday all day on July 4th with beaches open and historical grounds begging for exploration. In the evening, gather near the Jekyll Island Convention Center to see the fireworks display.

Sunday Funday on Jekyll Island (July 5, 2015) – Bring a picnic from a local restaurant or snack shop and spend the afternoon on the Village Green where there will be a magician and face painter ready to entertain the kids.

Midway
Independence Day Colonial Faire at For Morris Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Offering period appropriate games of skill, colonial music, musket firings, cannon firings and the usual park recreation opportunities, you family’s day at the park also comes with free admission in honor of the holiday.

Richmond Hill
Independence Day Celebration at Fort McAllister State Park (July 4, 2015) – Bring your family to the park to celebrate Independence Day like it’s 1864. There will be games, food, living history demonstrations, canon firing and musket demonstrations throughout the day in addition to the park’s other recreational activities.

Savannah
River Street Fourth of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Starting at 4 p.m. town visitors and residents are invited to River Street to celebrate Independence Day, Savannah style. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at dark.

Starland District’s First Friday Art March (July 3, 2015) – Explore local art and culture by experiencing the monthly art walk. July’s March will include an indie market, kids art activities and free trolley service.

Sea Island
The resort community has family-friendly fun planned from July 1-5, 2015 including the Family Olympics, the Ice Cream Sundae Challenge, a fun run, barbecue, luau, parade, fireworks and much more! The entire schedule of events is available as a PDF here.

St. Marys
4th of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Family-friendly fun lasts all day long on Independence Day in the quaint Georgia town of St. Marys. From a parade to arts and crafts to food vendors to rides for kids to a street dance, there’s something for everyone. At night, there will be one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southeastern United States lighting up the sky.

St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival (July 3-5, 2015) – Pier Village is home to the festival that highlights the region’s best art including painting, pottery, jewelry, woodcraft, photography and garden art in addition to the annual 1 mile fun run, 5K race and July 4th fireworks display.

A Little Light Music Concert featuring Mason Waters and the Groove Allstars (July 5, 2015) – Locals and visitors are invited to gather on the grounds of the historic St. Simons Lighthouse for an evening concert before heading to face the workweek.

Tybee Island
Fourth of July Fireworks on the Pier (July 3, 2015) – You can spend your day on the beach, visiting friends, and taking advantage of local dining but be sure to leave enough time to head to the Pier on Tybee Island where they’ll shoot off fireworks around 9:00 p.m. on Independence Day.

Market at the Light House (July 5, 2015) – Shake off the Saturday revelry for a relaxing morning browsing the food, goods and more at the market.


Eileen
Eileen 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.

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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Where to Cool Down in Georgia

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Six Flags White Water

Are you tired of making small splashes in the rain puddles this summer? Make a big splash at Georgia’s water parks this summer!

1. Six Flags White Water in Marietta: Six Flags White Water is one of the Travel Channel’s Top Family Water Parks in the United States. The park is packed with over 50 water rides from the Cliffhanger’s 90-foot free fall to the S.S. Feathersword, an interactive play ship that is perfect for kids.

Splash in the 'Boro

Splash in the ‘Boro

2. Splash Island at Wild Adventures in Valdosta: South Georgia natives can be swept down the Wahee Cyclone at Wild Adventures’ Splash Island. The cyclone will flush riders down a 45-foot funnel into the waves below. Splash Island also offers a less adrenaline-pumping tube ride down Paradise River among other rides.

3. Splash in the Boro in Statesboro:  Splash in the Boro is home to the only dual flowrider in Georgia. Surf Flowrider’s unbroken wave, and ride up the wave’s surface. If you aren’t up for hanging ten, grab an inner tube, and float down the 800-foot Lazy River at Splash the Boro.

4. SoakYa Water Park at Lake Winnepesaukah: Celebrate SoakYa Water Park’s five-acre expansion, the largest expansion in the park’s history. Splash in the pools, fly down the new slides and soak up the sun on the poolside beach.

Summer Waves

Summer Waves

5. Summer Waves Water Park in Jekyll Island: Watch out for the larger-than-life splash bucket in the Splash Zone at Summer Waves Water Park. The bucket will tip over and drench you if you aren’t careful. Also, beware of Nature’s Revenge on the Tornado and Hurricane water slides.

6. Lanier World at Lake Lanier Islands Resort: The Big Beach at Lake Lanier offers fun in the sun for kids and adults. From the kid-friendly Wiggle Waves to the twists and turns of the Twister, Lanier World has something fun for the entire family.

Collins_Goss_HeadshotA Georgia native and UGA alumnae, Collins Goss is the summer communications intern for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Currently, she is working on her Masters in Fine Arts in Arts Administration emphasizing in communications at The University of Alabama. Collins will graduate in December and hopes to return to the Peach State.