Written by David Rice
Sometimes all it takes is a little planning to have a great family outing. When routine exploits just aren’t cutting it anymore, shake things up by exploring new terrain, taking in an exhibition, or visiting a landmark and learning a little something about our local history. Here are awesome events to attend and places to visit around town before fall ends. Best part? All of them can be done on the cheap and on one tank of gas—or less!
1763 Tugaloo State Park Rd
Lavonia, GA 30553
Why Go? Nestled along the scenic shores of the 55,590 acre Lake Hartwell, Tugaloo State Park offers incredible views and some of the best camping in the state. Hiking trails wind through a beautiful array of walnut, oak, cherry and mulberry trees.
If you and your family are looking to step away from land, bring the boat and make use of the six-lane mega boat ramp to start a day of fishing—you may even come home with a largemouth bass.
“We’ve just opened our Yurt facility which offers a nice, kind of different camping experience that we really want to encourage families to take advantage of,” Tugaloo State Park Manager Scott Hudgins said. “This is a great park to come and enjoy some of our nature programs or just come and experience Lake Hartwell. The lake is full this time of year and there is a lot of activity out on the water.”
Insider Tip: Be sure to bring along a ball or some horseshoes and take advantage of the park’s many amenities including a horseshoe pit, tennis and volleyball courts, or even play a round of miniature golf for a small fee.
Must Do: Don’t miss Harvest Happenings this Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. when park staff will celebrate the coming of fall with hayrides and stories around the campfire inside the amphitheater.
The Fine Print: Parking at Tugaloo State Park is just $5. Geocaching with a smartphone app is becoming increasingly popular in Georgia state parks and Tugaloo State Park is a great location for this trendy new family activity.
241 Depot Street
Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Why Go? A great family getaway, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway takes passengers on a four-hour trek through history, winding along the beautiful Toccoa River. During a short layover in the bordering towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN, families can grab lunch or just enjoy the view.
“Blue Ridge is such a unique town,” Railway General Manager Tim Griffin said. “We like to say it’s Mayberry on steroids, because it’s just a great little town with a cozy atmosphere. The railway is wonderful experience because it’s such a beautiful part of the state that this 13-mile ride goes through, and everyone knows that kids love being on a train.”
Insider Tip: The total trip is 26 miles long and an hour worth of travel before you get to the layover point and a chance to get something to eat, so you may want to bring a snack or some games to help occupy the time on the journey.
Must Do: Fall Foliage trips offer breathtaking views and great opportunities for photographs. They run from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. with a second trip departing at 2:30 p.m. Be sure to book in advance, as these trips fill up quickly.
The Fine Print: Due to high demand to see the picturesque views on this train ride, fall fares see a marked increase over summer rates. Adult tickets cost $46, while it’s $25 for children age 2-12. Senior citizens 65 and over cost $39. Advanced booking is encouraged.
325 Chapel Dr, Campus of Toccoa Falls College
Toccoa Falls, GA 30598
Why Go? Located on the campus of a Christian college, Toccoa Falls is one of the beautiful natural wonders on Northeast Georgia and is an easy walk to get to, providing an enjoyable experience for the whole family regardless of age or hiking capability.
At 186 feet, Toccoa Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The word Toccoa is believed to translate to “beautiful” in Cherokee.
“The falls is breathtaking because it’s six feet higher than Niagara Falls,” said Helen Gentry, Director of Business Services for Toccoa Falls College. “People are always surprised by it because it’s nestled away on our campus. We’ve also added a museum of natural history to the campus which is a lot of fun for the kids. I think the combination of the falls, the museum and our gift shop makes for a great way to spend a Saturday.”
Insider Tip: Currahee Mountain is just a short drive up the road from Toccoa Falls and is a great place to have a relaxing picnic, do some climbing or explore some caves. From the rock ledge, you can get a beautiful view of the surrounding areas.
Must Do: Currahee Military Museum inside a restored train depot in downtown Toccoa is a great place to learn some World War II history, as it’s the site where 17,000 paratroopers trained. Able and Easy companies, two of the regiments that carried the heaviest burdens during the war, trained here.
The Fine Print: Each of the attractions mentioned is a short drive from one another and doesn’t have any admission charge, making both great options for a family day trip.
5625 Anderson Highway (U.S. Hwy 29)
Hartwell, Georgia 30643-5259
Why Go? Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the 1950s and 1960s, Hartwell is one of the southeast’s largest and most popular recreation lakes. Each year, millions of people use the parks, marinas and campgrounds that border the lake.
Completed in 1963, Hartwell Dam’s primary function is flood protection. The Seneca, Savannah and Tugaloo Rivers all pour into the man-made lake, making it home several varieties of fish.
Insider Tip: Hartwell Lake comprises nearly 56,000 acres of water with a shoreline of 962 miles providing plenty of room for any kind of boat, water skiing, tubing, swimming and rafting, so be sure to bring your swim trunks and make the most of all Hartwell Lake has to offer.
Must Do: The Hartwell Dam walking trail provides an up close look at the dam and is a great hike at just under three miles long. It runs from the Big Oaks recreation area to the concrete portion of the dam on the Georgia side of the border with South Carolina. If you’re lucky to plan your visit at the right time, you might see water being released through the dam or catch a glimpse of some local wildlife along the trail.
The Fine Print: Individual tours of the dam and power plant have been cancelled but limited group tours can still be arranged in advance.
Lexington Avenue - Highway 78
Washington, GA 30673
Why Go? Callaway Plantation is a historic restoration project that brings back to life the homes, farm fields and structures that made this one of the south’s most beautiful plantations in the 19th century.
“Callaway Plantation is a wonderful place for families to visit,” said Erinn Pollock, Tourism Director for Washington-Wilkes County. “Adults and children can gain hands-on learning experiences about Georgia’s history.”
Insider Tip: Be sure to visit “The Brick House”, a Greek revival style mansion made of Georgia red clay, completed by the Callaway family in 1869. The family lived in the house until 1910, and in the time since it has never been modernized to include indoor plumbing or electricity and is decorated to reflect the time period in which the plantation thrived.
Must Do: Step back in time and see what plantation life was like by viewing primitive crafts and touring plantation houses. The Great Manor House was the focal point of the 3,000-acre plantation and survives in remarkably good condition, just as it was two centuries ago.
The Fine Print: Admission to the mansion is $4 for adults and kids over the age of 13. Kids 5-12 cost $1 and children under the age of 5 are free. The plantation is closed on Mondays and holidays, but is normally open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2-5 p.m. on Sundays.