Life's Sweet Journey: August 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#TravelTuesday 7// 5 Great North Georgia Day Trips

Happy Travel Tuesday Friends!!
It's time for another #TravelTuesday Linkup!
 I can't wait to see where everyone has been! 

We just got back from a week in the North Georgia mountains and so this month I am sharing some of our favorite day trips when we are there!! We love Georgia and with so many great options it was hard to pick just 5, but here there are:
Big Canoe in Jasper
Ok, so this one may not be just a day trip, as you can't actually have access to the amenities unless you are staying on site or are a guest of someone who lives there. However, this would make for a great home base location for a week in the Georgia mountains! 
Big Canoe has everything that anyone could want! It wouldn't matter if you planned to go with a group of single friends, are a couple looking for an adventurous getaway, or have a handful of young kids that you need to keep entertained; this place has it all! There are endless amounts of hiking trails, a full gym, two awesome pools (one with a kiddie splash pad area and the other with access to a full array of activities), a lake open for kayaking/canoeing/SUP/paddle-boating, swimming and inflatable water slide play and a rock slide built for a true mountain experience. There is also a gorgeous golf course and tennis facilities to enjoy! You can rent one of the homes from an owner or one of the time share units owned by the management team. It is guard gated access and miles of mountain roads once you pass the gate, so you can also rest assured knowing you are tucked safely away from the rush of any main city. You could actually spend a whole week here and fill your time to the brim (I love this place so much, I just might retire here)! But, there are oh so many other great places to explore nearby...

Amicalola Falls State Park
This is the nearest attraction to Big Canoe, only being about 15 minutes away, but it is also one of the most noteworthy! Amicalola Falls is the tallest, flowing waterfall in the Southeast and makes for a beautiful site to spend the day. We typically make this a pre-lunch trip, before returning to Big Canoe to enjoy lunch and then spend the afternoon cooling off at the lake! There are tons of things you can do:
        - Hiking- There are tons of trails to explore that will lead you to the falls, you can even brave the many, many stairs! However, if you are traveling with young kids, learn from our first year mistake and simply plan to drive to all the stopping points that they have and walk just a small trail into the viewing area. You can stop the car at the base of the falls, at the access point to the bridge that lets you view it up close and at the tip top of the falls. We would have loved to hike it ourselves, but it's a lot more enjoyable to not have to hear, "pick me up!! My shoe has something in it!", the whole way up!
        - Playground- There is an awesome playground near the visitors center that will keep kiddos entertained for hours!!
        - Visitor's Center- The Visitors Center itself if a wonderful place to stop, not only to get trail guides, but also to see the neat little museum that has information on the falls itself and also has live snakes, frogs and other crawly things to take a peek at!
         - Other Amenities- Restaurant with beautiful views, lodge, rental cabins and camping...
And a huge perk is that it is only $5 a car load!!

Alpine Helen

In the last few years, we haven't taken a trip to Big Canoe without doing a day trip over to Helen. Helen makes for a full day of fun! It's just about 1.5 hours to get there from where we stay, so we just pop in a movie for the kids and take in some of the beautiful scenery on the drive there. Helen has something for everyone and here is why:
        - Tubing- Helen is where you go to tube down the Chattahoochee!   You pick one of the two spots to get your tubes and they drive you, by bus, up to the drop in spot. You then spend about 2+ hours tubing down the river and even over some small rapids. Since the kids were big enough to walk we have been going. When they were littler we just put them in the tube with one of us, but now we just get a cord that will allow us to attach together so that they have more freedom, but we can still stay in control if needed. There are often some pretty shallow parts where they can get stuck on rocks that we then need to help them off of. The older kids can do it on their own and enjoy getting to go off ahead of us. You get a good mix of a relaxing float with the added adventure of the little rapids every once in a while and it makes for a fun float!!
        - Water Park Fun- This would probably be what the kids would deem the shining jewel of the day! We choose to tube through Helen Tubing and Water Park and for the money it's a pretty great deal ($20pp; they charge by height so anyone under 42 inches is only $10; note: you can also just get a tubing pass for $12 a day or $5 for once down the river, but it does not include the water park). This year all the kids were tall enough to do the slides and even out youngest niece (age 5) took right too it and they kept going up and sliding down and gave us adults a chance to take a little break (before of course joining in for some sliding)!! The park has two slide choices; a twisty tube slide and a straight down, bump slide that can be done with or without a mat. The awesome thing about the straight down one, especially for littler kids, is that they don't go flying right off the end. Since the girls don't weigh much, the end of the slide is long enough that they stop before falling into the water. They then jump off and swim to the edge, which makes my heart feel more at ease. There is also a shallow lazy river that the girls love to go around in, because they can swim if they want, but they can also touch the bottom the whole way around. It really is a great park to allow adults to feel at ease if they want to get out of the water for a bit while the kids still play! (Note: the other tubing option also has slides, however those are accessed halfway down the river while you tube. Could be fun, we just haven't tried that option as the other park definitely offers more options.)
        - Chocolate Shop and Exploring- Helen is a cute little town set up to look like you are in the Swiss Alps. It makes for a great little place to just explore the shops and take everything in. After we get off the river we typically eat at one of the restaurants (usually the The Troll Tavern under the bridge, next to the river) and then head over to the chocolate shop to pick a treat for the ride home. Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen has a the best fudge, along with a huge assortment of other delicious treats!! If you ever make it to Helen you have to stop in a take a nibble. They offer samples and after one bite, you will be sold!!
We love Helen! It makes for a full day of fun (we typically get there about 11 and eat a packed lunch at the picnic tables before going into the water park to purchase our tickets) and then some super wiped out kids, who crash on the car ride back to Big Canoe! Typically one of our favorite days of the trip!!

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain might be the contender for best day of the trip depending on who you ask! We didn't get to go this year, as we had to cut two days off of our trip, and our littlest niece kept asking when we were going to go to the top of the mountain and play in the ball room. Sweet girl was sad she didn't get to do Stone Mountain! Honestly, so was I. It can make for a long day for adults, as there can be a lot of walking and kids wanting to be carried, but it is a lot of fun! Here are just a few of the things you can do:
        - Sky Hike Ropes Course- Get harnessed up and brave the heights and the balance beams as you go up the structure! There is a smaller, just off the ground version for those who don't meet the height requirements and our niece could have done that all. day. long! It made her feel so accomplished!
        - Gondola to the Top- There are two options to get to the top of Stone Mountain. We would love the chance to hike it someday, but with kiddos the gondola is the best option since even just walking up the hill to get on makes them ask to be carried. It's definitely a great way to see the whole park on the way up. The view from the top is awesome! You can see the Savannah skyline in the distance.
        - Plantation exploring- One of our favorite things, as the adults, is to visit and explore the old homes they have on site. You go across the street and go into the old plantation setup that they have. You can go in and out of the homes, explore the barn (complete with petting farm) and learn about some of the history. It's a great way for the kids to learn a little while we are gone!
        - The Ball Room- I would say this is one of the kids favorite places! A huge barn is a set up with three levels of play structure for the kids to run loose in. The slides are huge, there are climbing nets to challenge and then the whole place is filled with soft, sponge balls that the kids can collect and load into cannons or into the big ball drop. Though you do have to mind the noise, it is a great spot to get out of the heat for a while and for adults to rest their legs while the kids run around in a confined space (workers man the exits, so kids can not leave the building without the adult the came in with).
        - Laser Show- Once the sun goes down the night ends with a laser light show on the mountain itself. It is a really incredible show and we try to stay through the whole thing when we go! As long as the melt downs haven't begun we will push through, but sometimes we do end up leaving before it is completely over (actually a good way to beat the traffic out). There are fireworks and the show and songs they play are a lot of fun! (Note: Stock up on the glow bracelets at the dollar store and bring them with! They are always selling them there and we learned, after the first year, to bring our own. It keeps the kids entertained while we wait for the show to start!)
        - Other Amenities- 4D movie, mini-golf, train ride around the mountain, the list goes on...
This is always our most expensive day ($36 for adults/ $26 for kids with meal included), but it is totally worth it! You can also stay at Stone Mountain. There are hotels, as well as campgrounds! We can't wait to go and take Flo at some point and do some adult only exploring. There are a lot of trails we haven't gotten to explore! Another fun perk is that during the winter they have Snow Mountain and create snow for tubing and winter play!

Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls is on our North Georgia bucket list! While we haven't gotten to go yet, we pass the sign every time we drive to Helen and are itching to go explore. Our next North Georgia Trip will be with Flo and our plan is to stay at Unicoi State Park where we can go explore Anna Ruby Falls, hike into Helen for the day and finally get to drive down the Georgia winery highway!! Can we go now please?!

If you are planning a trip to North Georgia, I hope this was helpful!! If you weren't before reading this, I hope it has encouraged you to plan one soon!! Especially coming from Florida, it makes for a pretty easy drive and is nice to get a good dose of mountain air for a bit!!

Happy Travels!! 
Where have you been adventuring too?! 
Share your link below and let's travel together! 
~On the 2nd Tuesday of every month I will be sharing a new travel destination and would love to see where you have been exploring! 
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Excited to explore the globe with you all!!