Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fun in the Georgia Mountains

View from Top of Amicalola Falls
With the Red Bull Soap Box Derby happening just down the street and city temperatures in the mid-90's we decided to head out of the city and seek refuge in the North Georgia Mountains.

Bottom of Amicolola Falls
After picking up some Chick-Fil-A biscuits and Starbucks (see post on this new mom's need for caffeine) we hit the road with a sleeping baby in tow to Amicalola Falls State Park. We arrived early, which was good because by noon the place was swamped. On Saturday's make sure you stop by the visitors center for their live bird and interpreter programs. Today we were treated to a collection of Owls that have been hit by cars in and around the park and rescued by a non-profit organization associated with Amicalola Falls.  The small screech owl was our favorite!

Rangers are available to help you plan your day based on weather and your hiking ability. Its a short one mile hike to the bottom of the falls from the visitors center but the hike is steep with lots of stairs. We opted for the drive and short out and back rubberized accessible path to the bottom of the falls. There are 400 some odd steps from the bottom of the falls to the top - but again we oped for the drive around option. The view from the bottom of the falls is spectacular. The top of the falls view features the mountain range and provides a quite picnic ground and meandering creek. If you are looking for a longer hike Amaicolola Falls State Park is home to the Appalachian approach trails as well. We stopped at the top for snacks and H play time before packing back into the car and continuing on our adventure.

Shooting the Hooch
Next stop is the "alpine village" of Helen, GA. This place is as kitschy as they come but features some of the best tubing of the Chattahoochee that you can find. We did not tube this trip - mostly because of little H's inability to swim... or hold his head up. We did enjoy river and tuber views at lunch. Cafe International is perched over a portion of the river providing amazing people watching while you enjoy a beer and lunch. To be honest every place in Helen, GA seemed to have the same type of American fare on the menu - we picked this place for the views and lack of wait. It satisfied our appetite but was nothing special.

Enjoying lunch at Cafe International
Since you have ventured up to Helen, GA walking around the town is a must. You will find a wide variety of novelty and candy shops. A few bookstores are worth popping your head into and I felt inspired poking my head into a quilt store. The big "find" of the day though was Tim's Wooden Toys where we were able to see Time (presumably) hard at work carving the toys. A little wooden airplane and helicopter caught our attention and made their way home with us for little H.

Parking is Helen, GA is, strangely, all paid parking lots. You will think that $5 or $4 is about standard but if you venture just far enough down a few of the roads you will find a few $3 lots that are not much further away then the other paid lots.

After we had exhausted our entertainment options in Helen, GA we hit up Habersham Vineyards for their "second Saturday" summer arts festival. A variety of local artists gather outside the Habersham tasting room along with some local performers and a bbq food option. Habersham is the oldest winery in GA and they provide some really drinkable Chardonnays - the surprise of the day though is their table red, affectionately known as the "Scarlet" that is just a bit sweeter then a Pinot Noir. You could easily make a day of wine tasting in the Mountains. The wine trail is easily marked out and a brochure with vineyard locations can be picked up in any of the local hotels. Another personal favorite is the Three Sisters Winery. The only reason it didn't make the list today is because they were holding their own summer wine festival that would have been a day trip of its own.

Oldest Winery in GA
A few other excursions in the area that didn't make the itinerary for today's trip include Dahlonega, GA with its gold mining history. The gold mining museum is fascinating and there is ample opportunity to pan for gold yourself. Make sure you check the webpage before you head to Dahlonega though because there are always festivals going on that can swamp the town. Babbyland General Hosptial, the birthplace of the Cabiage Patch kid is also in the area, you can stop by to get a doll of your own.

Exhausted from our adventure we headed back toward Atlanta, making a quick detour to pick up a great jogging stroller we found on Craig's List to keep for future adventures. The snap'n'go has its uses but is getting cumbersome for our exploration - plus who can resist a great deal!

The bottom line is that today we snapped this little gem in Helen, GA so we know today must have been a success!

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