Save Money at Georgia’s Theme Parks

Nothing says ‘summer’ like a visit to a theme park, and Georgia has quite a few. Whether you want to scream through a loop-de-loop on a roller coaster, spin around and around or just ride up and down on a merry-go-round, there’s a place for you and it’s closer than you might think. Here is what’s new this summer at three theme parks in Georgia, as well as a tip for how to save money on a visit.

Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta:Six Flags Over Georgia

This is probably the largest of Georgia’s theme parks and perhaps the most well known. New this year is The JOKER Chaos Coaster which rockets seven stories in the air, soaring through a bedlam of loops, suspending riders upside-down for a ravaging thrill; and Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a spinning, twisting and rolling ride through a cycle of classic family fun. Don’t forget your bathing suit for Hurricane Harbor, which was introduced in 2014.
Money Saving Tip: Do as much as you can in advance. Go to www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia and purchase your tickets, parking pass, Flash Passes, meal plans and/or season passes. You’ll save the most money for your visit by purchasing in advance. Also, plan your trip using suggestions from this post Tips for a Great Day. The advice is valid for any theme park visit, not just Six Flags Over Georgia.

Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta:Stone Mountain Park

The fun at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t need to end when the park closes. All new this year, stay in one of three Stone Mountain Park yurts, nestled lakeside in the park’s popular campground. This is glamping at it’s finest with yurts made of wood and canvas, featuring outside decks, picnic tables, charcoal grills, a fire pit and large water spigots for camping convenience. Inside each smoke-free yurt, are all the comforts of home with log furniture, heat and A/C, electric outlets, large windows, skylights, ceiling fans, lockable doors and sleep space for up to five guests. Just bring a sleeping bags and personal items.
Money Saving Tip: Visit Stone Mountain’s free attractions early in the day, like the covered bridge, outdoor granite museum, and the hike up the stone mountain. Plan to visit the paid attractions after 4 pm when prices go down with the sun. A Sunset Adventure Pass includes all your favorite attractions like the 4-D Experience, SkyHike, Geyser Towers, and the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, as well as terrace seating for the Laser Light show and unlimited popcorn until the start of the show, and an ice cold Coca-Cola beverage.

Wild Adventures, Valdosta:Wild AdventuresWild Adventures’ new ride, Jungle Rumble, takes guests swinging, swooping, climbing and dropping. Like a monkey swinging through the trees, the ride has no shortage of screeching and screaming. Riders swing back and forth before reaching four-stories high then plunge back down to the ground to do it all over again in reverse. The ride is designed for families to enjoy together with thrills for adults and kids. Once you’ve gotten your thrills on the roller coaster, head over to see the new squirrel monkey exhibit in a rejuvenated area of the theme park.
Money Saving Tip: Purchase your tickets at least 7 days in advance online and save $10. If you don’t have that much time, you can still save $8 by purchasing at least two days in advance. For those that can’t plan that far ahead, grab lunch at a nearby Subway in Valdosta, Albany or Columbus and pick up an $8 off coupon.

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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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.

Click here to order Sue’s book, 100+ Things to Do in Atlanta.

Click here to follow Sue on Facebook.

Click here to follow Sue on Twitter.

Click here to follow Sue on Pinterest.

Click here to follow Sue on Google+

Click here to follow Sue on Instagram.

5 Easy Waterfall Hikes for Georgia Families

Fall Branch Falls

Fall Branch Falls

Summer is a time for exploring in nature. Add these five easy waterfall hikes to your adventure bucket list.

Anna Ruby Falls. Two falls are visible from the observation deck, merging into a beautiful creek. The paved walk (stroller-friendly) is lined with boulders and flowering shrubs. Bring change for the fish feeder just outside the visitor center; my kids could not get enough of the jumping trout. You’re adjacent to Unicoi park, offering hikes, a beach and canoe rental.

Amicalola Falls. Little legs will likely not enjoy a climb from bottom to top, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. Drive to the middle of the falls and take a short walk to the bridge overlooking the falls. My son was about 4 years old before we decided to climb the stairs from middle of the falls to the bottom, and then back up.  I carried the baby in a sling. Advanced hikers can also climb up from the middle falls.

Helton Creek

Helton Creek

Fall Branch Falls. This gem is tucked away in Blue Ridge, Ga. The walk is wonderful, with towering trees and beautiful large stones greeting you. You’ll follow the creek all the way to the falls. There are an upper falls and lower falls here. Don’t miss the upper falls like I did. We visited the lower falls and played in the water, but didn’t learn about the upper falls until we were back home.

Helton Creek Falls. From the parking lot you are only about 1/3 mile from the lower falls. Wear your suite, there is a great water play area here. It is one of our favorite summer spots; we bring a picnic, books and shovels for a day of fun. Don’t miss a climb to the upper falls, also. I don’t recommend taking the kids out to the water in this area, but it is fun to view from the deck.

High Shoals Falls. There is a High Shoals Falls near Helen, Ga that is lovely, but this waterfall selection is in Dallas, Ga. Your GPS will take you to the parking lot of an old graveyard. Have no fear, just follow the trail about .25 miles to the falls. Have a picnic, play in the water and have a grand time. You can even climb to the top of the falls like we did!

 

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.

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?”  

Girls Day in Alpharetta

Alpharetta Farmers MarketAlpharetta, Ga., known for its year-round family-friendly events, welcoming community, delectable foodie experiences and exceptional shopping, is the perfect place to plan an adventurous weekend getaway with the girls. I had been trying to get my friends together for awhile for a girls’ day, but with our busy social and travel schedules, it is hard to find a day when everyone is free. Thankfully, the girls were free on an action-packed weekend in Alpharetta, so we decided to take advantage of the beautiful Georgia summer day to explore. We started off the day piling in my Camry in Buckhead around 7:30 a.m. and driving up to Alpharetta, a mere 22 miles north of Atlanta.

Our first stop was the Alpharetta Farmers Market, which was already bustling with couples on leisurely morning strolls and families planning their meals for the week. The vendors had that great Georgia hospitality and were eager to strike up conversations and to let us sample their specialties. We were blown away with the variety of goodies available, including everything from fresh fruits and veggies to homemade Bloody Mary mix.

Exploring Alpharetta Art in the Park in downtown AlpharettaAfter browsing the market and making a few unexpected (and very tasty) purchases, we made our way over to Milton Avenue just around the corner to browse the pieces at Alpharetta Art in the Park. The event happens the last full weekend of every month from April to October. Each piece of art on display was created by local artists, some of whom were creating art as we were strolling through.

The streets of Alpharetta were filled with people, and the doors of the downtown shops were propped open and ready for business. We dropped into Sis and Moon’s to browse the eclectic artwork, Gallery 35 to see pieces from local artists, and the Cotton House Antiques and Consignments to get some decorating ideas. Each store was filled with shoppers looking for great deals.

Having a fun time at Bucca di BeppoNext, we were off to lunch at Bucca di Beppo. The staff was exquisite; they led us on a tour of the kitchen (where the highly coveted “Kitchen Table” sits) and to the back room where we had our own private vintage setting to dine in. We all shared a bowl of apple gorgonzola salad and chicken saltimbocca topped with sage, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, lemon and capers. Authentic Italian fare was just what we needed to refuel for the rest of the day.

After filling up, it was time for the spa! We were greeted with warm smiles at the Youthopia Medical Spa, a world-class skin rejuvenation and total body wellness facility. We checked in easily with an iPad as we sipped coconut water and talked excitedly about what procedure we were having done. Each of the girls had a different service, including a pedicure, massage, teeth whitening and facial. We were beyond pleased with the staff’s service and have all vowed to return on our own for another spa day.

Then, we were off to Vino 100’s weekly wine tasting party, which takes place every Saturday. (They also offer complimentary wine tasting daily.) After sampling an excellent array of wines, we ventured to Alpine Bakery and Trattoria for dinner, where we were immediately greeted with friendly hosts who seated us in a quiet table toward the back of the restaurant. The lighting and soft music created the perfect ambiance. Our appetizer was a combination of a caprese salad stacked with mozzarella – my taste buds literally jumped with excitement! We continued our delectable meal with the grilled sea scallops and the lobster, alpine rustica (penne baked with shrimp, chicken, prosciutto, and gratinata sauce), lobster ravioli and baked fussili bolognese. Everything was delicious, and we were “forced” to end the meal with a slice of one of Alpine Bakery’s famous cheesecakes, which was enough to feed all four of us for a week.

Enjoying great company at Matilda'sIt was time to cap off the night at Matilda’s. There is something special about Matilda’s – maybe it’s the hospitable environment and the diverse crowd nestled around funky tables enjoying the company of friends as they share bottles of wine and goodies from picnic baskets. Or maybe it is looking up and seeing that you are comfortably settled under perfectly placed pine trees that make you feel like you are in your own little world as you sit back and sway to the funky tunes of the performing artists. Alpharetta is well known for its Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, but the smaller music venues are starting to set themselves apart and help pinpoint Alpharetta as a music lover’s destination. Matilda’s was the perfect spot to end our day. As we walked back to my car to head back to Atlanta, the planning was already in full force for the next girls outing in “awesome Alpharetta.”

See a video of our Girls Day in Alpharetta here.

Caitlyn BlizzardFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Communication Arts.  She is the communications manager with the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all the fun and unique things to do in awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.