Fall for Family Fun
It’s time to get outdoors for an adventure with the family.
Leaf Watching and Hiking
Set your sights on North Georgia towns such as Dahlonega, Ellijay, Helen and Hiawassee to enjoy all the fall foliage.
Time your visit to attend special fairs and festivals. Dahlonega has Gold Rush Days Oct. 16-18. Ellijay has its annual Apple Festival Oct. 10-11 and 17-18. Helen’s Oktober Fest happens daily through Nov. 1, and Hiawassee’s Georgia Mountain Fall Festival is Oct. 9-17.
Georgia State Parks have great trails and views of fall leaves. Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia’s highest state park; Amicalola Falls State Park has the Southeast’s tallest waterfall; other options are Tallulah Gorge State Park and Cloudland Canyon State Park. Check out a free parking pass at your local library and save the $5 parking fee. The “leaf watch” web page: gastateparks.org/leafwatch; 800-864-7275.
Try one of the Top 10 trails recommended by AtlantaTrails.com such as the Appalachian Trail from Woody Gap to Big Cedar Mountain, about 2.5 miles, or the Yonah Mountain Trail near Helen, about 4.4 miles. Both have spectacular views. If hiking’s not an option, take a drive on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway between Helen and Blairsville.
Take the family to an apple orchard and pick apples right off the tree.
Mercier Orchards, Blue Ridge. Sat. and Sun. in Oct., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. This orchard is the largest in the state. The do-it-yourself apple picking starts with a tractor ride to the orchards and a brief talk about Mercier’s history. The tractor ride is $3 per person, ages 2 and younger free. A peck of apples costs $12. One peck can be split so each child can have their own bag for picking. 8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge. 706-632-3411; mercier-orchards.com
Hillcrest Orchards, Ellijay. Sat. and Sun. in Oct., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. “Apple Pickin’ Jubilee” is this orchard’s apple picking festival with a petting farm, pig race, and the chance to milk a cow. Small children will enjoy picking from Hillcrest’s dwarf trees with apples hanging well within reach. Seven varieties of apples are available to pick. All admission is $10 with apple picking bags costing $7 for a half-peck, $11 for a peck. 9696 Hwy. 52 East, Ellijay. 706-273-3838; hillcrestorchards.net
Pick a stable and take the reins to see some beautiful scenery.
Sunburst Stables, Clarkesville. Enjoy guided trail rides into the Chattahoochee National Forest on mountain trails for any experience level, with one- to four-hour rides available daily. A family adventure ride is a half-day trip where you ride the trail to the miniature animal farm, stop for fishing at three stocked ponds and meet the animals up close. Also see a blacksmith demonstration on a forge and ride a train through a gold mine cave. Ages 6 and younger must ride with a parent. $50-$115 per person. 706-389-9544; 251 Sunburst Lane, Clarkesville. sunburststables.com
Gold City Corral & Carriage Company, Dahlonega. For the beginner that wants to go horseback riding – take a one-hour guided tour with a beginner riding lesson before the ride. Ages 8 and older, $35-40 per rider. Other ride options, $70-150. 706-867-9395; 49 Forrest Hill Rd., Dahlonega. goldcitycorral.com
Scenic Railway Fun
Enjoy some spooky railway fun on the Halloween Eerie Express or the Great Pumpkin Patch Express or sit back and relax and just watch the leaves changing color on other daytime train rides.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad (Chattanooga, TN) has the Halloween Eerie Express Oct. 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 and 30, a 90-minute ride featuring an evening of storytelling, petting zoo, indoor blacklight mini golf, coloring contests and a walk through the Fun House. All children holding a Halloween Eerie Express ticket can pick out a mini pumpkin and a goodie bag. Adults and children age 2 and older, $22 each; trains depart at 5:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 423-894-8028. tvrail.com
Take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City, NC) for the Great Pumpkin Patch Express. Kids can pick their own pumpkin, meet Charlie Brown, Lucy and Snoopy and enjoy a campfire, bouncy house, hayrides and more. Don’t forget to wear your costumes. Oct. 3-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25 and 30-31. Fri. departures, 3:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. departures, noon and 3:30 p.m. Pre-register online at gsmr.com. Adults, $55; ages 2-12, $31; younger than 2, free. 800-872-4681.