Keep Your Cool
Georgia’s summers are known for being sultry. So it’s not a coincidence that we spend the season finding creative ways to beat the heat. From biting into fresh watermelon to splashing down the Chattahoochee, try these tactics for keeping cool during the dog days.
Get ahead of the heat wave by hitting the waterways. Float down the Chattahoochee River in Sandy Springs via tube or paddleboard. Chattooga, a National Wild and Scenic River in the northeast, offers one of the longest free-flowing stretches in the South, or take the family to soak in the fun at Statesboro’s Splash in the Boro.
If your idea of a water adventure is pulling your lounge chair back a few feet to beat the rising tide, then retreat to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Or take the ferry to Cumberland Island National Seashore to admire wild horses along the undeveloped beach.
Feel the wind in your hair as you zoom by on the thrill rides at Six Flags Over Georgia in Marietta or Wild Adventures in Valdosta. For a scenic ride, zip through the treetops at Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, or head to Rising Fawn to take to the skies with a solo or tandem flight at Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding.
Once you’re recharged, refresh by partaking in the fruits of the summer harvest. Take home a bushel of peaches and try the peach ice cream at Dickey Farms in Musella. Spit seeds in Cordele, the watermelon capital of the world, during the month-long Watermelon Days Festival in June. Also in June, don’t miss the Blueberry Festival in Alma, Georgia’s blueberry capital.
There are memories to be made across the state this summer, as you find your favorite ways to chill out.
Summer Bucket List: Classic South
Explore the historic Augusta Canal, the only industrial power canal still fulfilling its intended purpose, at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Center. Take a tour with the clan on a Petersburg boat, or walk, bike, canoe, or kayak along this locally beloved waterway.
Make a Splash
Experience the rich, natural beauty of the cypress-lined Watson Mill Pond on a Mill Pond Kayak tour. This two-and-a-half-hour tour will take you through the blackwater trails on the pond to appreciate the scenic beauty and admire the local wildlife.
Walk on the Wild Side
Get ready to get muddy at the adrenaline-pumping Durhamtown Plantation ATV park. Truck through 150 miles of trails, which accommodate all levels of riders, novice to expert, by dirt bike or ATV. Vehicles and gear are available for rent, and the property offers lodging, including cabins, RVs, and a campground.
Pull over at the roadside Ripe Thing Market in downtown Greensboro for locally grown produce, grass-fed beef, hand-scooped ice cream, and, of course, Georgia’s favorite summer snack, boiled peanuts. 706-454-2155
Whether you are a seasoned survivalist, a newbie to nature, or your idea of camping is Holiday Inn without a hairdryer, Georgia’s state parks offer a number of programs and opportunities to help you and yours get outside this summer and enjoy Georgia’s unique range of natural beauty.
1. First-Time Camper Program
This program is a great way to introduce your family and friends to camping. For $50, you’ll get two nights at a campground, a family-sized tent, and other gear, plus a helping hand from park rangers and volunteers.
2. Go Glamping
If you’re one who would enjoy Georgia’s outdoors much more if it were climate controlled, the State Parks have you covered. In addition to regular campsites and campgrounds for tents and RVs, the parks have funky yurts—like a dolled up tepee—available for rent so that you can enjoy the outdoors with the comfort of a cabin.
3. Ranger and Junior Ranger Programs
Be sure to talk to the park rangers during your visits to Georgia’s state parks. Throughout the summer rangers offer guided hikes, animal demonstrations, campfire sing-a-longs, and more family-friendly activities. You can also get the kids involved in Junior Ranger programs for children ages six to twelve, where they earn badges for learning about nature and history.
4. Cool Off
Many state parks have lakeside, sandy beaches where families can cool off. The newest is at Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier, which opened last summer. A handful of parks have swimming pools and splash pads as well, like F.D. Roosevelt State Park’s Liberty Bell Pool, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
This outdoor treasure hunt is the perfect combination of technology and trails. Use a GPS to find hidden “caches” in Georgia State Parks and answer questions about state history at historic sites to break the code. This is a great way for parents and kids to combine family time with educational fun.
These are just some of the ways that you and yours can enjoy Georgia State Parks this summer. Whether you discover a park near you or explore one a little further away, you’re sure to see the state in a new way.
Summer Bucket List: Magnolia Midlands
Have an up-close encounter with real raptors and reptiles at Georgia Southern University’s Center for Wildlife Education in Statesboro. After petting an alligator and watching a hawk in flight, your clan won’t even realize how much they’ve learned.
Make a Splash
Boat, jet ski, or paddle the mighty Altamaha River during Baxley’s River Rat Run, slated for June 7 this year. This ten-mile excursion draws paddlers from across the state for the scenic float and includes lunch at Davis Landing.
Celebrate summer’s great culinary art during grilling season with the pros at the Georgia Great Steak Cook-Off in Hazelhurst. In addition to mouthwatering slabs served up by the grillmasters, young chefs will show off their skills in a hamburger challenge.
Walk on the Wild Side
There’s no better time than summer for a camping trip at Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park. This park offers dockside and boat fishing, great hiking, pedal boats, and an eighteen-hole golf course. There are cabins available for rent, in addition to traditional campsites.
Summer’s not the same without smoked, juicy barbeque. For more than thirty years, Stinson’s Old Fashion Bar-B-Que in Lumber City has been cooking it up for a packed house, using oak and pecan to smoke its savory pork, ribs, and chicken. 912-363-4788
WEEKEND ROAD TRIPS
There’s plenty to see and do in Georgia this season. Take advantage of summer break with the kids for long-weekend road trips to see all the different experiences that are available across the state, from the mountains to the coast.
To the Mountains: Blue Ridge Beauty
Get a new perspective on Georgia in Blue Ridge and Fannin County by flying over the Blue Ridge Mountains or floating through a river valley. Hike the Aska or Benton-MacKaye trail systems for a remote trek through the wilderness, or take a breathtaking treetop, zipline tour from Firewire Ziplines. Then, relax with a tubing excursion on the Toccoa River, or cast a line in Rock Creek or Cooper Creek for serious trout fishing in the trout capital of Georgia. Ride the rails through north Georgia on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Dine fireside at Christy Lee’s Grille—the bacon-wrapped scallops are a local favorite—and satisfy your sweet tooth at The Sweet Shoppe. Try RV or primitive camping at the Morganton Point campground, the only developed campground on Lake Blue Ridge.
To the River: Conquer Columbus
A visit to Columbus may start off relaxing and slow-paced, but by the end, it’ll have your heart pounding. Through late fall, the city closes a street block on Saturday mornings for Market Days on Broadway, where you can find everything from organic produce and baked goods to handmade jewelry and soaps. Get your body moving on the banks of the Chattahoochee River at the CutBait Music Festival June 13–14, a cross-genre event featuring more than forty acts. Then, invade that river and enjoy the rush of rafting the rapids at Whitewater Columbus, named one of the “Top Twelve Greatest Man-Made Adventures on the Planet” by USA Today. The shoot lets you off steps from fabulous dining and shopping in the city’s vibrant Uptown district. You’ll want a comfy bed to sleep in after your thrilling expeditions, and there are no shortage hotel accommodations in Columbus.
Summer Bucket List: Northeast Mountains
Head to the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center to learn about life on this early twentieth century family farm. Explore the five farm buildings, and see the beauty that inspired some of the work by Reece, a Georgia poet and novelist.
Make a Splash
Relax and take in the scenery as you float down the Chattahoochee at Cool River Tubing in Helen. You can also enjoy a watery rush on the park’s duel waterslides, or take on the ziplines and canopy walks for fun above the water.
Walk on the Wild Side
In addition to exciting canopy and ziplining tours, North Georgia Canopy Tours offers outdoor accommodations. Enjoy primitive camping at fifteen rustic campsites, as well as comfortable, air-conditioned tepees, which also feature lighting and electrical outlets.
Take in the tastes of summer at Fender’s Diner in Cornelia. This retro hamburger joint is known for its old-fashioned milkshakes and bananas splits. Afterwards, hike down to Panther’s Creek or climb Chenocetah, the forty-foot stone fire tower.
Fishing is a pastime that’s as relaxing as it is exhilarating. At the Go Fish Educational Center in Perry, experienced and budding anglers learn how to enjoy in this tradition responsibly. Learn about Georgia’s watershed, native fish populations, and what it means to be a good steward of the state’s aquatic resources through hands-on activities and a working fish hatchery.
To the Beach: Tybee Time
No summer break is complete without a trip to the beach. For fun with the whole family, a romantic couples retreat, or a getaway with good friends, head to Tybee Island—the breezy beach town twenty-five minutes east of Savannah. Sunbath on the sandy shores; take refreshing piña coladas to go; and enjoy the fresh, local seafood at shoes-optional joints, like The Crab Shack or Marlin Monroe’s. Find your center with paddle boarding on the Back River or test your endurance by kayaking to Little Tybee—the payoff is having the beautiful island essentially all to yourself. Tybee offers hotel accommodations by the beach, but we suggest a charming stay at Surf Song Bed & Breakfast or a colorful cottage rental from Mermaid Cottages.
For a Day Trip: Inspired Georgia: 28 Works from Georgia’s State Art Collection
For a day trip or an itinerary item along a Georgia road trip, this exhibit, curated by the Georgia Council for the Arts, is a great way to appreciate and learn about the Georgia’s arts and artists. Dublin is one of the nine communities selected to host this esteemed new exhibit. The exhibition will be on display at the Dublin Carnegie Library from July 26–September 11 and features twenty-eight significant pieces of artwork from the state’s extensive collection. These pieces represent a variety of styles and mediums as well as the tradition of art and culture in Georgia. It includes original works by renowned Georgia artists like Benny Andrews, Lucinda Bunnen, Herbert Creecy, Howard Finster, Ruth Laxson, and Nellie Mae Rowe. exploregeorgia.com