Georgia’s Lesser-Known Sports Teams

Georgia sports fans are incredibly supportive of the state’s big league baseball, football and basketball teams. But those are not the only teams to play on the Georgia stage. Georgia’s lesser-known professional and semi-professional sports teams thrill fans with exciting competition and winning records and provide high-caliber competition for very little money.

Ice Hockey

The Thrashers may have flown to Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean lovers of ice hockey can’t still enjoy the game here in Georgia. The Gwinnett Gladiators play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Since moving to Duluth for the 2003-04 season, the Gladiators have made the playoffs eight times. Each year the Gladiators thrill their fans at Gwinnett Arena with awesome promotions such as Star Wars night and a teddy bear toss.

Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths

In Columbus, the Cottonmouths are one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Since helping found the SPHL, the Cottonmouths have never missed the playoffs and have won the championship twice, including receiving the inaugural Presidents Cup. The Cottonmouths are great supporters of their local community and promote both youth and adult leagues, teaching everyone how to skate and play the most popular game on ice.

Having first played as the Augusta RiverHawks from 2010 to 2013, the Macon Mayhem will begin playing as a member of the SPHL in the 2015-16 season. Even prior to the start of the new season, the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths are preparing for the fiercest rivalry in the SPHL!

Soccer

People are going crazy over the Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Atlanta. They start play in 2017 and, though they have yet to be named, are already growing a following. But before soccer at the highest level comes to Georgia, you still have the opportunity to check out some fantastic soccer sides.

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

For many, the Atlanta Silverbacks will always be Atlanta’s team. Atlanta Silverbacks Park is home to not only the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, but also the Women’s and Reserves’ teams. And did you know Reggie Bush and David Beckham filmed an Adidas commercial at the park? The Terminus Legion supporters group (emphasis on the “support”) has been instrumental in making Atlanta a prime soccer location.

Based in Conyers, the Georgia Revolution play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Since their founding in 2010, they have twice made it to the later stages of the US Cup, each time losing by one goal to the in-state rival Silverbacks. The Revolution support a local chapter of the Super Y-League, giving local kids the chance to get out and play the game themselves.

Rugby

The Atlanta Rhinos also play at Silverbacks Park. They joined the USA Rugby League in 2014, forging a partnership with the Leeds Rhinos of Britain’s Super League.

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Rugby Union is also popular in Georgia, with an entire region of USA Ruby based in the state. Teams are spread throughout Georgia with teams in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blue Ridge, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Gwinnett, Macon and Savannah. The Georgia Rugby Union also features a women’s team based out of Atlanta.

And to forget mentioning collegiate rugby would be an outrageous mistake. Life University has been one of the premier teams in both professional and college-level rugby for men and women.

Lacrosse

Fans of box lacrosse can rejoice as the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League announced recently they will move to Georgia to become the Georgia Swarm and begin playing in Gwinnett starting with the 2016 season. Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the popular sport, creating a faster-paced, more intense game.

And for those fans of field lacrosse, Johns Creek plays host each year to the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championships, and Kennesaw State University will play host to the ACC Championships in 2016 and the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.

 

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with Kids

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with KidsOur family recently went on vacation in Augusta, and while we were there, we attended an Augusta GreenJackets game. It was my first minor league game and a first-ever baseball game for the boys. It was fabulous! Here are five reasons why a minor league baseball game is must-do experience with kids.

1. Close to the action. Georgia’s minor league stadiums offer close-to-the-action seating. When kids can see the players well and actually feel the power of the ball meeting the bat, they are hooked. If you ask me, this is the best reason to start them at a minor league game.

2. Affordability. Tickets to minor league games are extremely affordable, and in many places like Augusta, parking is also free. If you join the Kids’ Club (see below) there are often opportunities for kids to attend for free.

3. Kids Club. Kids Clubs vary in cost from free in Augusta to $30, and their benefits vary. The Sand Gnats Kids Club includes an autograph session with the players, The Rome Braves offer includes box-level tickets. Each team’s program is vastly different, so be sure to look at each one.

Augusta GreenJackets

4. Special Events. My boys loved meeting Auggie, the GreenJackets’ mascot. He was very accessible and easy to get a photo with. Besides mascot days, other special events around the state include Splash day, Fireworks, Boy and Girl Scout Days, Family Nights, Kids Eat Free nights and more. Check Explore Georgia’s blog post on 2015 Summer Baseball Promotions and each team’s programming for details.

5. Play Areas. If your little one gets ants in his pants then you can always head to the play area. We enjoyed watching the last inning of the GreenJackets game as the boys played on the playground. Other fields include inflatables, and other play areas. If you think the kids need a little more freedom than a stadium seat offers, several places like Gwinnett and Rome offer berms for picnic-style seating.

So, where are the minor league fields?? There are four in Georgia: Augusta, Rome, Lawrenceville and Savannah. You can read more about our Augusta experience at 365AtlantaFamily.

 

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.

Civil War Wednesday: Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski, Library of Congress HABS GA, 26-SAV.V, 2-50

“From the position the enemy has taken in the Savannah River, it becomes necessary that you look to your defense in that direction.”[1] On February 17, 1862, General Robert E. Lee wrote these words to Colonel Charles Olmstead, the officer responsible for the garrison of 385 soldiers holding Fort Pulaski. For Lee, this occasion did not mark his first visit to Georgia, or to Fort Pulaski. As a young lieutenant in the late 1820s, Lee, after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, took his engineering training to Georgia’s coast.

During the aftermath of the War of 1812, the United States began building a series of coastal fortifications – The Third System. On Cockspur Island in the Savannah River, construction had started on a fortification named in honor of Casimir Pulaski, a native of Poland, who led cavalry troopers during the American Revolution.[2] While Lee influenced the early design of Fort Pulaski, advancements in artillery in the years leading up to the Civil War would prove the death knell of masonry fortifications.

Captain Quincy Gillmore

Captain Quincy Gillmore, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-06490

Seeking to seal the port of Savannah, and cut the number of blockade-runners making safe passage into the city, the Federals began preparations for taking Fort Pulaski in January 1862. Captain Quincy Gillmore received the task of landing troops and artillery on nearby Tybee Island, and positioning his artillery to launch a bombardment of the fort. Gillmore’s soldiers stepped onto the sandy shores on February 21, but several days passed as the men worked in the marshy areas, busily constructing roads and gun placements. Finally, with all preparations complete, the Federal guns opened fire on the morning of April 10. The artillery – many of the guns rifled – soon found their mark, and the shells started reducing the walls of the fort to rubble. Olmstead realized he held a position no longer tenable; the following day, he surrendered Fort Pulaski.[3]

Colonel Charles Olmstead

Colonel Charles Olmstead, Fort Pulaski National Monument—Georgia, gutenberg.org

Reporting on the mission’s success, Gillmore wrote to department commander, Major General David Hunter. “I have the honor to transmit herewith the terms of capitulation for the surrender to the United States of Fort Pulaski, Ga…the fort hoisted the white flag at a quarter before 2 o’clock this afternoon…a practicable breach in the walls was made in eighteen and a half hours’ firing by daylight.”[4] The fort would remain in Federal possession during the balance of the war, and later served as a prison, which held captured Confederates.

Today, the National Park Service manages the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Please visit http://www.nps.gov/fopu/index.htm for details in planning your next visit to historic Savannah, and Fort Pulaski!

 

[1] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, reprint 1899 ed., Series I, vol. 6 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971), 389. (Hereafter listed as O.R.)

[2] Casimir Pulaski, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/fopu/learn/historyculture/casimir-pulaski.htm (accessed May 28, 2015).

[3] J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann, Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2004), 254–57.

[4] O.R., 139.

 

MikeMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at: www.civilwarhistorian.net.

 

Summer Reading Takes a Field Trip

Make Summer Reading Fun: Bring it to Life!
Getting lost in a good book is wonderful, but sometimes, you don’t want to just read about it, you want to experience the amazing places, and have adventures of your own. You don’t have to travel far to experience your favorite book. In fact, you can do it pretty close to home with pretty much any book.  Below are three ways we’ve experienced the young adult series about Percy Jackson by Rick Riordon.

Once you see how we did it, think about your favorite book. Where do the characters go? Is there someplace near you that looks or feels similar? What do they eat? Can you have a meal or a snack similar to the characters? What adventures do they have? You may not be able to swing through an Amazon jungle, but you could swing through the trees on a local zip line.

Dualing Zipline North Georgia

Dualing Zipline North Georgia

Come face-to-face with Gaea: In the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordon, the Goddess of the Earth Gaea is causing havoc in the world and confusing the gods. Come face-to-face with Gaea at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens where she is immortalized in a giant topiary statue that looks as if at any moment she will raise her eyes and ask in a dreamy voice “what is it you wish from the Goddess of the Earth?” While there, check out the Children’s Garden. Bring a bathing suit and towel during the summer months for young kids to splash in the ‘flower shower’ as my children always called it.

Find Saltwater: In Mark of Athena, Percy and his friends arrive in Atlanta in search of salt water. Not an easy task in a landlocked city. However, their quest finally brings them to the Georgia Aquarium where they get a backstage tour from a strange creature. A behind the scenes tour of the Georgia Aquarium doesn’t showcase mythical creatures, but it does give you a better idea of how the Aquarium works and what it takes to keep such a large operation going. If visiting Atlanta isn’t on your itinerary, you can also visit the Flint RiverQuarium in Albany, or the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Savannah.

Under the Sea (Georgia Aquarium)

Under the Sea (Georgia Aquarium)

Captain Your Ship: Also in Mark of Athena, Leo captains the Argo II using a Wii remote. You probably have a Wii remote at home, or you can visit a local arcade like we did. Across the street from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a restaurant arcade called Game X. You won’t find Wii’s, but you will find a pirate ship to captain, as well as pop-a-shots, a giant Connect Four game and multi-puck air hockey to name just a few games. Games X has a kid-friendly menu and a full bar for the adults.

How do you bring summer reading to life? I’d love to hear your stories via Field Trips with Sue on Facebook. Your kids can also earn prizes for summer reading through numerous summer reading incentive programs.

 

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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A Guide to Georgia’s Homestyle Restaurants

The Dillard House

The Dillard House

For Breakfast

Not all homestyle restaurants in Georgia serve breakfast, but when you’re looking for the combination of the two, you’ll need to visit the Dillard House in Dillard. The Dillard House serves up a bountiful breakfast of meats, eggs, potato hash, fresh fruits, homemade preserves, freshly baked pastries and so much more. My favorites are the proteins, and I always have to have seconds of the pork tenderloin. The Dillard House is one of those “food for the soul” kinds of places, and besides breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so start your day right by feeding your soul well here. Go with high expectations because you’re sure not to be disappointed.

Buckner's

Buckner’s Family Restaurant

For Fried Chicken and Dessert

One common menu item at all homestyle restaurants in the South is fried chicken. I doubt it’s written law that they have to have fried chicken (and lots of it) on the table, but I’m pretty sure it’s understood. Believe me, I’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken at a lot of great restaurants, but the best fried chicken I’ve eaten in Georgia to date is at Buckner’s in Jackson. Buckner’s is just off I-75 exit 201, and they serve up some of the most delicious Southern classics you can find. While normally I’d go for a leg or thigh, you’ll only find breast on the table at Buckner’s. Breast meat tends to be dry, but Buckner’s keeps its white meat juicy, tender and perfectly crispy. There’s a slight sweetness to it that I’ve not found duplicated anywhere else in Georgia. To top it all off, their dessert is fantastic, too. They only serve one dessert, but they do it right. Buckner’s Georgia peach cobbler is the perfect finish to one tasty meal.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

For Sides

You can expect a wide array of incredible veggies and carbs at the homestyle table, but no one cooks sides as well as Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room in Savannah. Mrs. Wilkes’ showcases all sorts of fresh veggies like green beans, rutabagas, butter beans, peas and more. They’re even getting cornbread dressing right; it’s incredibly moist and super delicious. Mrs. Wilkes’ cabbage was some of the finest I’ve ever eaten. This homestyle restaurant is one of those places where you could definitely fill up on sides alone. Expect to wait in line for up to a couple of hours, but you and your taste buds will be glad you did.

For Extras

Once you’ve had the best breakfast, the best chicken and dessert, and the best sides, what’s left on the table? Well, the Smith House in Dahlonega is taking the table extras to a whole new level. You’re going to consistently get great chicken, great sides and dessert, but you’re also going to get some great extras. One of my favorite accompaniments to Southern fare is relishes and pickles. The Smith house makes and serves up the best pickled squash you’ll find. It perfectly pairs with the savory veggies and offers a slightly tangy, sweet crunch that you just can’t find elsewhere. You’ll want to take some home, too. Look in the gift shop before you leave to make sure you can have this “secret” treasure at your home table.

Head shotLori Hennesy is a self-proclaimed foodie and author of delisghga.com, a Georgia only food blog.  Lori is on a constant search for unique eats, great Georgia products, delicious restaurants and anything food related.  For Lori it’s all about the bottom line, “what’s the next meal going to be?”