Family Friendly Must-Sees in Georgia (page 3)
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Whether you're looking for music, museums, or just a slice of old Southern majesty, the Peach State has something for every family. There are small, quiet coastal communities whose citizens are directly descended from slaves and who still speak an African dialect. There are gleaming modern cultural centers in Atlanta, lovely green “pocket parks” in Savannah and porch banjo sessions in the Appalachian foothills. It’s all Georgia; a mix of the old and the new. So buckle your seat belt and hit the road! Here are 20 top destinations for family fun and learning.
1. Savannah - This gracious neoclassical Southern city still has room for kids. Take your Scouts to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, where the US Girl Scouts were founded in 1912. Have a Southern meal at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse, Paula Deen’s The Lady & Sons or the Pirates House (the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.) Walk off your meal on the antebellum Factor’s Walk promontory along the Savannah River, or perhaps in Forsyth Park’s special fragrant Garden for the Blind. The Telfair air museum and SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) both have family-friendly programs.
2. Mountainous northeast Georgia – To explore the southern part of the Blue Ridge and the foot of the Appalachian Trail, make Dahlonega a base. It’s the site of a gold rush that beat the California 49ers by two decades, plus arts-related events at the Holly Theater and a busy live Appalachian music scene. The “Wild and Scenic” Chattooga River has excellent whitewater rafting for families (try the Nantahala Outdoor Center.) Area high school students documented their families’ mountain crafts and stories, creating the back-to-the-land Foxfire phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s – the Foxfire Museum helps Southern Appalachian heritage live on today.
3. Sapelo Island and Hog Hammock – Fans of the children’s television program “Gullah Gullah Island” already know a little about the unique Gullah/Geechee African-American culture in this part of the South. Today, the remote Sapelo Island and its only town, Hog Hammock, are still inhabited by the descendents of slaves who preserved their language dialect and food thanks to that isolation. Get here on a state-operated ferry from Meridian and take the guided tour, or contact writer and island resident Cornelia Bailey about her Geechee tours and lodging.
4. Roosevelt’s Little White House – The polio-ridden President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to come here to Warm Springs for the therapeutic waters; it’s now a state park and visitors can see his home and many artifacts of the New Deal era. There are numerous living history and interactive programs geared to families, and for one special weekend in late August, visitors can swim in FDR’s pool.
5. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site – The site includes several Atlanta properties, including Dr. King’s birthplace, which can be seen in small groups on ranger-led tours only (so reserve early). The Visitor’s Center has a variety of exhibits including “Children of Courage,” about the youngest participants in the Civil Rights movement. The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change is located here, along with the Ebenezer Baptist Church (home to three generations of King preachers) and the historic surrounding Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
6. Savannah Music Festival – Over two weeks of programming, this is Georgia’s largest musical arts festival. It features one show after another of diverse musical styles and talent, staged in theaters and venues all over a beautiful city. Cajun, classical, Latin, bluegrass, folk, jazz, world – something for all ears.
7. Agrirama– Georgia’s Museum of Agriculture is a living history museum located in the south-central village of Tifton. Numerous historic 1870s-1890s structures have been restored and furnished, then staffed with costumed interpreters. A grist mill, turpentine still and blacksmith shop hum with activity, fields are plowed and a steam train runs through the entire complex. It’s particularly lively during the Victorian Christmas celebration and springtime Georgia Folklife Festival.
8. Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge– The Creek natives called it “land of the trembling earth,” and the best way to see it is to stay overnight in one of the Stephen C. Foster State Park cabins and paddle through the blackwater and cypress on a guided boat tour with Okefenokee Adventures, Inc. The water lilies, slider turtles and gators are teeming March through May, and the Okefenokee Festival is held in October in the historic Chesser Island “swamper’s” home.
9. Atlanta History Center – The Center includes a museum, two restored period homes and extensive gardens, but it’s noteworthy for special programs and events. The Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind) House is also part of the complex and sponsors a writing camp for kids, there are weekend family programs, history summer camps and a July Civil War encampment.
10. Explore Georgia music – Macon’s beautiful historic district houses the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, featuring the history of state musical notables like Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, TLC and Trisha Yearwood. The University of Georgia’s hometown, Athens, has a busy live music scene and is home to R.E.M., the B-52s, Indigo Girls and Widespread Panic (plus the North Georgia Folk Festival.) Grab a bite at R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe’s favorite local vegetarian restaurant, The Grit.
11. SAM Shortline Excursion Trainfont> – The Savannah, Americus and Montgomery (SAM) is part of a rail system that used to connect Savannah and Montgomery, Alabama. Nowadays, it’s a good way to visit President Jimmy Carter’s home and museum at Carter National Historic Sitefont> in Plains, and Habitat for Humanity’s headquarters in Americus. Visitors can tour u>Habitat’s Global Villagefont>; 15 representative Habitat houses from around the world, including Papua New Guinea and Ghana.
12. National Civil War Naval Museum – See an ironclad up close; the largest surviving Confederate warship and only remaining Confederate gunboat are both housed in this museum. There is a replica of the famous turret from the Union’s “Monitor,” multimedia exhibits, summer weekend “Cool History” events (in the air conditioning!) and the annual RiverBlast naval reenactment to bring the Civil War to life on the Chattahoochee River.
13. Center for Puppetry Arts – Since 1978 (and an opening ceremony ribbon-cutting with Kermit the Frog and Jim Henson) the Center in Atlanta has taught thousands of adults and children about the magic of all sorts of puppetry. Participate in “Create-a-Puppet” workshops for K-12 or learn something new in the “Discovering Puppetry in Other Cultures” workshops. There are family, teen and even adult puppet performances.
14. Callaway Gardens – The Pine Mountain vacation resort has many attractions that appeal to children. The free-flight Birds of Prey show features a daily live raptor show, visitors can (carefully) walk through over 1,000 butterflies that inhabit the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and there are several pretty walking trails suitable for young children. The workshop schedule usually includes at least one kid’s gardening project.
15. Georgia Aquarium – The world’s largest aquarium has been a major attraction since it opened in Atlanta in November 2005. The Georgia Explorer exhibit highlights the rich marine life just off of the state’s coast, like loggerhead turtles and right whales. The rest of the world’s waters and creatures are well-represented in Cold Water Quest, Tropical Diver, Ocean Voyager and River Scout (which does include Georgia rivers.)
16. Fernbank Museum of Natural History – Exhibits include sixteen galleries worth of “A Walk Through Time in Georgia” (complete with massive dinosaurs, regional dioramas and a mini-Okefenokee) and artifacts from the First Georgians, starting at 10,000 BC. Everything is housed in a striking modern building that is full of light and surrounded by forest with walking trails, and nature-based workshops and extensive children’s programs keep everyone busy.
17. Golden Islesfont> – Large portions of these coastal barrier islands and marshes are private and/or protected from development. Tybee Island east of Savannah has a museum, lighthouse and the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. Fort Frederica National Monument is on St Simon’s Island; it was once the largest fortification in the British colonies and kept Georgia from being taken by the Spanish. Visitors have to leave the Cumberland Island National Seashore at nightfall, unless they’re staying there at the low-key Greyfield Inn. The Sea Island Festival in June celebrates Gullah/Geechee cuisine & culture.
18. Inside CNN Studio Tour – Children of all ages are welcome during a behind-the-scenes look at how the news is delivered worldwide to billions of viewers of the Cable News Network. The tour at the CNN Atlanta headquarters has interactive kiosks, a replica Control Room, video interviews with key news personalities and a bird’s eye view of the actual newsroom in action from the studio’s Overlook.
19. Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway – A nationally-designated scenic route in northwest Georgia, this byway includes the Appalachian cultural legacy of Prater’s Mill (especially during their annual Columbus Day weekend Country Fair) and New Echota, the Cherokee Nation capitol in 1825 and the site of the first Indian language newspaper office. Cabins and camping are available in Fort Mountain State Park along the route.
20. Atlanta Botanical Garden – The two-acre Children’s Garden invites curious wandering. Its tree house teaches about woodland habitats, you can watch bug-eating plants in the Soggy Bog and see a real hive in the Beehive Meadow. There are Saturday morning programs in the Children’s Amphitheater April-October (except during steamy August) and drop-in family classes with seasonal themes. Stay until 10 pm Thursday nights during the summer and watch the Garden transform in the dark, with different sounds and critters than in daytime.
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