Gardens near Orlando Florida

We just returned from a week in Orlando. We did the pool and parks, but had some time to explore a few gardens too. Bok Tower Gardens and Harry P Leu Gardens are both in and around the Orlando area. These are both worth a visit.

Here are a few of my favorite park photos. Our park time was spent different than usual, but we still had a nice experience.

Bok Tower Gardens is located at 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida. It’s about 45 minutes to an hour away from the Orlando area. There is a $15 per person entry fee. https://boktowergardens.org

Harry P Leu Gardens is located at 1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, Florida. It is nestled right near downtown Orlando. There is a $10 per person entry fee. https://www.leugardens.org

This trip was crazy and my blog post isn’t as thorough as I would like it to be, but I am completely drained. I did however want to quickly share these gardens to visit while in Orlando if you need a break from the amusement parks.

XOXO

-S

Perfect Gainesville Florida weekend

Thursday night rolled around and I didn’t have any plans for the weekend! I knew this had to be remedied immediately.

I started searching for somewhere that I didn’t think wouldn’t be packed with spring breakers, didn’t cost $400 plus a night for lodging and offered some type of hiking and adventuring. Some of the spots we had been wanting to go were coming up short; way too much for a last minute, budget trip.

We recently went to Disney World and I remembered all the state park signs on I-75 between Lake City and Gainesville, I had also seen some springs on Instagram, so I checked out Gainesville for hotels. I found Hotel Indigo in Celebration Pointe, Gainesville for… READY FOR THIS? Under $100 a night!!

I actually went to college for two semesters at University of Florida in Gainesville but spent all my time partying so I completely missed out on the goodness this part of the state offers.

Gainesville Here We Come!

My itinerary was very vague. I wanted to hike at Payne’s Prairie State Park and kayak at Gilchrist Blue Springs or Ginnie Springs. Also had found the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and Devils Milhopper Geological State Park that I was interested in as well. My husband and I both have ties to Gainesville and University of Florida, so we wanted to check out the campus as well. And of course, check out the food scene!

We arrived Friday night to Gainesville and were pleasantly surprised with our accommodations. The staff was very helpful, hotel was new and very clean, there was a beautiful hanging garden in the lobby, up to date decor and a hotel bar that was open! We were pooped though, so we showered and hit the hay, knowing that we had an early morning in order to ensure we made it to the park before it filled up. With COVID-19 still affecting everything, state parks limit visitors in order to maintain social distancing.

Saturday morning, we woke up, grabbed Starbucks and headed to Payne’s Prairie State Park.

Payne’s Prairie State Park

Payne’s Prairie State Park is located at 100 Savannah Blvd., Micanopy FL 32667; just south of Gainesville. There is a $6 entry fee per vehicle to enter the park. The park is normally open from 8 am to sundown.

Far from the Far West, herds of wild horses and bison roam the prairie in this surprisingly diverse preserve south of Gainesville. Paynes Prairie is unique in many ways. Nowhere else in Florida can visitors experience wild-roaming bison and horses. Nearly 300 species of birds also frequent the park along with alligators, deer and many other animals. The park’s eight trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, allow one to explore the park’s interior and observe wildlife, while a 50-foot high observation tower provides for panoramic views. You can hike the La Chua Trail, Bolen Bluff Trail, Wacahoota Trail, Cone’s Dike Trail, Chacala Trail, Lake Trail, Jackson’s Gap Trail, Gainesville Hawthorne Trail, and Savannah Boulevard.

La Chua Trail – Pets are NOT allowed on this trail.

During drought conditions, vegetation may limit wildlife viewing opportunities along the LaChua Trail. This is part of the natural fluctuation of water levels. Abundant water and alligators sightings will return when Mother Nature provides a wetter rain cycle.

The LaChua Trail is three miles round-trip from the north rim of the prairie to the observation tower. This trail provides scenic views of wet-prairie and marsh habitat including Alachua Sink and Alachua Lake. Main access is at 4801 Camp Ranch Road. LaChua Trail opens at 8 a.m., seven days a week. For safety and wildlife disturbance reasons, the trail closes one hour before sunset. Alternate access is from Boulware Springs at 3500 S.E. 15th St. (Boulware Springs is also the starting point of the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail).

  • Foot traffic only! Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Bolen Bluff Trail – Pets are NOT allowed on this trail.

The 2.6-mile round-trip trail is named after a family of pioneer settlers who lived on the south rim or bluff of Paynes Prairie. The trail leads to a wildlife viewing deck after it passes beneath the shady canopy of a hardwood forest dominated by large oaks – the most impressive of which are Southern live oak. Other species of oaks as well as sweetgum, hickory, palm, magnolia and holly trees flourish along the trail. In Florida, communities of broad-leaved evergreens or hardwood-dominated forests are called hammocks. This name probably originated from early Native Americans who inhabited the region. Hammocks grow on high well-drained soils and thus provide an ideal habitat for a large diversity of animal species including Virginia white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcat, gray fox, barred owl and raccoon.

Located halfway along the loop-trail is an open, grassy knoll – Bolen Bluff. The bluff affords the visitor a scenic vista of the low-lying freshwater marsh, wet prairie and open water of Alachua Lake. From the bluff a 0.5-mile spur-trail heads out onto the prairie basin along an old earthen dike. During the 1920-30s, the Camp family constructed an extensive system of dikes and canals into the vast wetland to reduce the flooding and thus create drier conditions for cattle ranching. In 1970 the Camp Ranch was sold to the state of Florida, establishing the first state preserve in the Florida Park System.

  • Today, upland areas once cleared for agriculture and cattle grazing are slowly returning to their previous hammock state.
  • The trailhead is accessed off U.S. 441 south of Gainesville. Open daily 8 a.m. to sundown. Foot and bike traffic.

Wacahoota Trail

About a quarter-mile round-trip. Begins at visitor center and loops through hammock to a 50-foot observation tower along the edge of the prairie.

  • Closes at sunset.
  • Foot traffic only!

Cone’s Dike Trail – Pets are NOT allowed on this trail.

This trail is an 8.25-mile round-trip hike from the visitor center parking area trailhead. The earthen dike trail travels into the center of the prairie creek waterway. The flat terrain of the basin is quite open and has limited shade for hikers or bicyclists.

  • Closes at sunset.
  • Foot and bike traffic.

Chacala Trail

A series of loop trails encompassing 6.5 miles in length, Chacala Trail is named after a small freshwater pond just outside the preserve boundary. The level trail winds through several distinct biological communities, including pine flatwoods, hardwood forest or hammock, baygall, open ponds and old fields. A quiet hiker might observe a diversity of wildlife, including Virginia white-tailed deer, bobcat, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, bald eagle and various woodpeckers.

  • Horse, bike and foot traffic.

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

The trail is 16 miles in length. Access from Boulware Springs at 3500 S.E. 15th St. Boulware Springs is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. November through April, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through October. Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, however, is open 8 a.m. to sundown daily. Horse, bike and foot traffic. 

Lake Trail

A little less than a mile in length from Lake Wauburg parking area to Savannah Boulevard.

  • Foot and bike traffic.

Jackson’s Gap Trail

This 1.3-mile trail passes through shady hammock and pine flatwoods to connect two of the longest trails within the preserve, Cone’s Dike and Chacala Trail.

Jackson Gap Trail was named after a pioneering cattle rancher from the turn of the 19th century, Archie L. Jackson, who moved cattle through a gap in the fence where the trail passes near Chacala Pond.

Jackson Gap Trail connects with Cone’s Dike Trail 0.15 mile down the trail. Wetland wildlife in the area includes sandhill crane, American alligator, egrets and herons, and rails. Occasionally, the Spanish horses or American bison may be seen grazing in the marsh.

Savannah Boulevard

Visitors also can enjoy walking down the paved park entrance road.

Our Experience at Payne’s Prairie State Park

When we got there, we checked out the observation deck, hiked a short Wacahoota Trail, and then began the Cone’s Dike Trail (8.25 miles). With such a light breakfast and no water with us, I figured we wouldn’t make it very far…maybe 2 miles in and then 2 out.

As we walked into the trail, we saw wild horses in the distance. There is a sign warning not to approach the horses, bison or gators. This trail takes you right out in the prairie and then through what I would call a swamp with tons of moss lined Cypress trees and gators, lots of gators. We saw plenty of birds and even a bald eagle. We made it all the way to the end of the trail. The weather was cool and we were enjoying it so much, we made it all the way. But now what? We had over 4 miles to get back. We decided to sit down up against the gate marking the end of the trail and take a break. After about 20 minutes, we were recharged and ready to head back. We saw very few people on the trail past the two mile out point, so it was very serene and peaceful. On the way back, we actually even got to see the Bison in the distance!

Make sure if you head to Paynes Prairie to take water and even a small snack, granola bar or something. We were very fortunate the weather was cool Saturday and we got an early start. Also a lot of the hike on Cone’s Dike Trail is not shaded; be sure to use sunscreen and a hat. Also bring some bug spray! We didn’t encounter any bugs, but I can imagine when it gets even warmer the mosquitos could be bad in the swampy area. Research the park and make sure you chose a trail to your fitness level and the current weather conditions.

We were almost to the point of being Hangry. I found a brewery, but my hubby didn’t like the reviews, so he found one. We got there and found out they don’t serve food, so plan B. He found a Thai restaurant; we made the drive there and they were closed. Strike Two. So I recommended we just go back to the hotel area and find food there.

Hotel Indigo is located in Celebration Pointe. There are a lot of options for food and shopping. You can see what Celebration Pointe has to offer here – Celebration Pointe. We decided on The Keys for our linner. It is a piano bar & restaurant that has an island vibe, tasty cocktails and delicious food. We started with the gator bites and cocktails; I must say this was the best gator we’ve ever had. I ordered the Cuban and my husband had The old man and the sea sandwich (basically a Cuban sandwich with shrimp). We were both pleased with our choices. Full bellies and tired feet took us back to shower and see what we were going to do next.

After a short rest, we decided to get ice cream at Kilwins. We have enjoyed Kilwins in Highlands, NC and Charleston, SC, so we knew it wouldn’t disappoint.

While we were enjoying our ice cream, I spotted Le Macaron, a French pastry shop. Since our trip to France in 2015, I have enjoyed French pastries especially macarons. The sign out front said they had wine too, so we decided to check it out. No room for anymore dessert, but there’s always room for wine.

I had a glass of Champagne and my hubby had some red wine. We checked out all the macarons and pastries and decided we would head back to eat breakfast there Sunday morning.

After the 9+ mile hike and having a full tummy, we were just ready to call it a night.

Sunday morning we packed up and loaded the car.

Breakfast at Le Macaron

Then we headed to Le Macaron for Pan Chocolate (chocolate croissants). We arrived before they opened, but as soon as we walked in, the worker was packaging up a large order of pastries; no more pan chocolate or croissants. While we waited for a new batch of pan chocolate to come out of the oven, my hubby enjoyed his coffee and we tasted a few macarons. The pan chocolate was amazing right out of the oven.

University of Florida

My husband wanted to go see one of his childhood homes. We explored the University of Florida campus and checked out Lake Alice. He got to see where he lived and went to daycare. I also got to see one of the dormitories I stayed in while there.

Gilchrist Blue Spring State Park

Gilchrist Blue Springs is located at 7450 N.E. 60th St., High Springs FL 32643. There is an entry fee from $4-6 per vehicle to enter the park. They are open daily from 8 am to sundown.

Gilchrist Blue Springs is the newest addition to Florida State Parks!

The park contains a collection of natural springs, including a large second-magnitude spring that produces an average of 44 million gallons of water per day. This spring, known as Gilchrist Blue, has outstanding water clarity and discharges water through a shallow spring run about one-quarter mile to the Santa Fe River.

The other named springs on-site are Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring, which provide scenic vistas and photographic opportunities.

The most significant ecological habitats include the spring run stream and floodplain communities. The main spring run is renowned for a diversity of wildlife species, including turtles, fish and invertebrates. Redbreast and spotted sunfish, largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish can be observed in waters with unparalleled visibility. 

Paddling, snorkeling and swimming are all popular at the park. Pavilions are available, and a concession stand provides food and beverage service plus paddling equipment rentals. Other popular activities include camping, hiking, nature study and picnicking. 

Our Experience at Gilchrist Blue Spring State Park

We stopped at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. Luckily they had room for us to enter and even still had kayaks to rent. We kayaked through the spring and up the Sante Fe River. Paddling up stream was tough, especially for my hubby as I was not much help. When I did paddle I sent us the wrong direction. We decided to head back downstream and just go relax in the spring floating in the kayak.

After our kayaking, we hit the trail. It’s marked with the blue blaze and is a little over a mile. There are some gems along the path, that are must sees. A smaller spring that is being preserved, that doesn’t allow swimming or kayaking was so undisturbed and absolutely stunning. There are also some massive cypress trees along the hike. The hike is very easy, but not one you want to miss.

By the time we finished exploring there, it was 3 p.m. and once again we forgot to even eat lunch, so we were starved. We also had a three hour drive to get home. There were some local spots, but with it being Easter Sunday, some places were closed. We decided on a quick stop at Five Guys for a burger and fries.

This was an absolute perfect weekend to get out in the convertible, hike in some new places and explore this beautiful world we live in. We will make plans to go back to explore some more of the area. Gainesville and surrounding areas really has a lot to offer; it’s not just a college town.

Where are you exploring and enjoying?

XOXO

-S

7 Best Botanical Gardens in Georgia ***PLUS BONUS RESORT WITH GARDENS!

For anyone that knows me, knows I get thorough enjoyment out of flowers and plants…maybe because I grew up with a horticulturalist as a dad, being a part of the Ornamental Horticulture team in FFA or just because they are so beautiful; either way, I truly enjoy the beauty in it all.  These gardens are some you need to visit when you are in Georgia.

Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta Georgia

Atlanta Botanical Garden is located at 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA

https://atlantabg.org/

Entry fees range between $20 and $25 per person depending on the day.  You have to reserve an entry time to come into the park (during COVID-19). 

Atlanta Botanical Garden includes 30 acres of outdoor gardens in the middle of Midtown Atlanta.  The Botanical Garden opened their doors in 1976 and has been ever evolving since.  The gardens mission is to develop and maintain plant collections for the purpose of display, education, conservation, research and enjoyment.  

There is something always blooming there, just depends on the season, what you might see.  For example in March, there are daffodils, tulips and orchids all in bloom.  Visit their website before you go to see what’s in bloom and what special events and exhibitions they might have.  As the garden evolves, each experience there will be unique.  There is a fantastic display of Christmas lights there as well.  In addition, Atlanta Botanical Gardens displays the largest collection of Dale Chihuly works in a Botanical Garden.

Please note: Earth Goddess is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. During this in-depth process undertaken every few years, you’ll see our horticulture team replacing her soil and performing other duties to have her ready, as usual, by mid-April 2021.

You can see the Alice and Wonderland exhibit, some of the Chihulu Displays and the scarecrow exhibit on one of my previous blog posts.  https://sosarah.net/2019/10/21/atlanta-botanical-garden/

Orchid Daze and Spring Blooms!  are featured in one of my recent blog posts. https://sosarah.net/2021/03/22/atlanta-explorations/

Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville Georgia

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville is located at 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville, GA

https://atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden/

Entry fee is $10 per person.  You have to reserve an entry time to come into the park (during COVID-19). 

The Gainesville Garden is more than just a garden.  Discover acres of natural woodland beauty on its multitude of maintained trails.  There are over 168 acres at the expansive garden with a Children’s Garden, Stream Garden, Overlook Garden and more.

The Gainesville location, opened in 2015, celebrates years of planning and development of one of North Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes. It is home to the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast.

Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground Georgia

1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground, GA  

Entry fees range between $10 and $20 per person

Gibbs Gardens was named 2020 “Best American Botanical Gardens”.  Gibbs Gardens is about 220 acres and features over 20 million Daffodils!  The gardens are composed of 16 gardens including 3 feature gardens – Manor House Gardens, Japanese and Waterlily Gardens.  There is so much to see, be sure to wear good walking shoes and plan to spend at least a half a day.  The day I went, it was raining and I was the only person in the garden.  It was a surreal experience as I explored with my umbrella in one hand and my camera in the other. 

Massee Lane Gardens in Ft Valley Georgia

Massee Lane Gardens is located at 100 Massee Lane, Ft.Valley, GA

https://americancamellias.com/massee-lane-gardens

Entry Fee is $5 per person.

Massee Lane Gardens is one of the world’s finest collections of camellias.  It fills a nine-acre area with brick walkways surrounding the camellia trees for easy viewing.  The Abendroth Japanese Garden, the Scheibert Rose Garden, and beautiful plantings of daffodils, daylilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, flowering trees, annuals and perennials add to the year-round beauty.

Massee Lane Gardens is one of the world’s finest collections of camellias.  It fills a nine-acre area with brick walkways surrounding the camellia trees for easy viewing.  The Abendroth Japanese Garden, the Scheibert Rose Garden, and beautiful plantings of daffodils, daylilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, flowering trees, annuals and perennials add to the year-round beauty.

UGA State Botanical Garden in Athens Georgia

UGA State Botanical Garden is located at 2450 Milledge Ave, Athens, GA.  

It is free to visit the gardens, but there is a donation box.  

There are trails and nature areas, Children’s Garden, Flower Garden, Heritage Garden, Horticulture Greenhouses, Hummingbird Trail, International Garden, Tropical Conservatory, Herb, and Physic Garden, and Shade and Native Flora Gardens.  There is plenty of variety here to suit everyone’s enjoyment.  

You can see my blog post from my visit there. https://sosarah.net/2020/03/08/a-mini-road-trip-around-north-georgia/

Smith Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw Georgia

Smith Gilbert Garden is located at 2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw, GA. 

Admission fees range between $5 and $10. 

Smith-Gilbert Gardens is 16 acres of serene setting with over 3,000 species of plants, several rare in American gardens. United by woodland paths, the Gardens consist of separate groupings with individual elements of fascination.  These include the Bonsai Exhibit, Palladino Camellia Garden, tea house and waterfall area, Rose Garden, and Conifer Display.  There are beautiful sculptures throughout the garden as well.

You can view my recent explorations there. https://sosarah.net/2021/02/16/valentines-weekend-getaway/

Columbus Botanical Garden in Columbus Georgia

Columbus Botanical Garden is located at 3603 Weems Rd, Columbus, GA

Admission to the garden is free, but they suggest a donation of $5. There is a donation box near the farmhouse.

You can come and visit their rose, cottage, herb, vegetable and camellia gardens. In 2020 had the new additions of a perennial wild flower collection, pollinator garden and ginkgo shade garden. Take a stroll along the tree shaded, mile long trail through the mixed hardwood forest. You can see a diverse array of native songbirds along their trails and at their feeding stations.

In March there were a ton of annuals blooming along with azaleas and camellias, some trees, lantana, with roses just starting their new growth awaiting the buds.

BONUS ***Callaway Gardens & Resort in Pine Mountain Georgia

Callaway Gardens has multiple entrances/addresses for entry. Please see their website to find the best address to use for your GPS.

Georgia’s Authentic Outdoor Escape

Also, I’m not counting it as one of my top botanical garden, it is more of a resort, but be sure to check out Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia as well. There are restaurants, lodging, zip lining, fishing, golf courses, water sports, spa, trails, and gardens all over. They have a butterfly center and birds of prey show. You can rent bikes or bring your own and ride on the bike trails or just walk the pedestrian trails. Be sure to check them out especially in March/April for azalea season and November/December/January for Fantasy in Lights and Christmas market.

It’s Spring Y’all! Get out and explore some of the gardens Georgia has to offer.

XOXO

-S

Atlanta Explorations

We ended a week in Orlando on Friday, drove home, unpacked and packed back up for an overnight in Atlanta. It was another volleyball weekend. After walking over 30 miles in the parks throughout the week, I decided to take it easy on my Saturday explorations.

First I headed to Piedmont Park to watch the sunrise. Not really the best place to watch the sun rise, but my plan was to go to the Atlanta botanical gardens when they opened at 9:00 am.

Piedmont Park and the botanical gardens share a parking lot, so it was perfect for me.

I walked around Piedmont Park and made sure to check out the Midtown Skyline over the lake. There were ducks, geese, and squirrels that came out in droves it seemed. I also caught a heron on the shoreline and then as it flew off.

As it neared 9:00 am I moved from the first level of the parking deck to the fifth…remember the less walking the better for my tired feet. The stairs were definitely not enticing me to use them.

I bought my ticket online, so at 9:00 am I was able to scan my ticket and walk right in. The tulips, daffodils and orchids put on a show for sure. There were some other random bloomers too.

After exploring the Botanical gardens, I went to IKEA for a little shopping and dreaming of tiny house living one day. Then I headed back to the venue to get a few photos of the teams and to watch my hubby’s team bring home the gold again; fifth gold this season!

Remember I said light on the walking…well once all was said and done, I put in over 4 miles. It was at a snails pace because I was snapping photos, so I was fine, but once we got home, I crashed.

Volleyball season will be over in a month, so I am just taking advantage of all our little overnights and opportunities to get out with my camera and wander.

Until my next wanderings, stay healthy and happy.

XOXO

-S

Georgia weekend explorations

You guessed it, another volleyball weekend and my random explorations…

We headed up to Suwanee, Georgia after work on Friday. I had made a dinner reservation for us at our favorite dinner spot there, Trattoria One 41. It is a very nice authentic Italian restaurant. Before dinner is served, they bring out a fresh bread with a tomato and cheese sauce that is delectable. I had the Short Rib Cannelloni and my husband had the lamb chops for dinner.

Short Rib Cannelloni

Both of us were ecstatic with our dinner choices. We were full, but made an attempt at dessert, a mascarpone cheesecake. Our attempt ended with a clean plate as the cheesecake was light, fluffy and delicious! It was a perfect end to a perfect meal.

We stayed in Suwanee because Saturday morning was an early start for volleyball and my husband had to be at the venue at 7:00 a.m. This also meant my explorations started early. I had researched good sunrise locations in Suwanee, but it was very foggy, so instead just went to a closer park to get out and get moving to start my day. I stopped at Sims Lake Park to walk. The park is located at 4600 Suwanee Dam Road. Sims Lake Park is one of Suwanee’s most popular parks; the 62-acre park includes a seven-acre lake and 1.2-mile looping trail.

My daughter goes to school in Dahlonega and our plan was to meet up for lunch, but I wasn’t sure when, so I decided to head closer to Dahlonega and see Amicalola Falls in the fog. Amicalola Falls never disappoints. It is a beautiful set of falls in Dawsonville, Georgia.

It is a magnificent 729-foot waterfall that’s the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. There was a slight mist and it was pretty early, so the park was relatively empty compared to how I have seen it in the past. Having the park mostly to yourself is always the greatest experience because you can just bask in the beauty, take all the photos you want, and just listen to the water cascading down.

Top of the falls

While I was hiking here, my daughter let me know lunch would be at noon after she finished a lecture; I headed to another set of falls, Cane Creek Falls. When I arrived, it was marked closed to the public. I did read that when camp is in session, the falls are closed, so camp must have been in session. So I regrouped and found Lake Zwener; it has a trail that runs all around the lake. I hiked there until my daughter let me know she was ready for lunch.

We ate at Shenanigan’s Pub in downtown Dahlonega, then I dropped her back off at her apartment to finish lectures and studying.  I was back on my way.  I had quite a few Historic Rural Churches to explore, but I only made it to a few.  The first one I visited was Rockwell Universalist.

The Rockwell Universalist Church near Winder Georgia is a rural church built in 1881 in simple Greek Revival style. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was deemed architecturally significant as a “good example” of its type of post-Civil War rural churches, being a one-room wood frame church with no ornamentation and Greek Revival styling. It was also deemed significant as one of few Universalist churches ever to exist in the Georgia.

Rockwell Universalist Church

My next stop was planned to be Omer Christian Church, but while I was driving there, I came up on Ft Yargo State Park, so I decided to stop.  I felt like I could use a hike at this point as I felt a little stiff and needed to stretch my legs. 

Ft Yargo State Park boasts a 260 acre lake, camping sites, yurts, cottages and over 20 miles of trails. The Fort is a remarkably preserved log blockhouse that was built in 1793.

I hiked for a few miles and then decided it was time to get back on the road…so many things still to see.

I headed to Omer Christian. Omer Christian was organized and constructed in 1883. It was then moved to this location in 1910. It is located on a dead end and it is fenced off with No Trespassing signs. I respected those wishes, took a few photos from outside the fence and headed to the next church, Prospect Methodist.

Omer Christian Church

When I arrived at Prospect Methodist, a church that is still in use, there were people in the parking lot. Prospect Methodist is one of the oldest churches in post-Revolutionary War Georgia and its origins can be traced to the earliest rise of Methodism right after the war. It was organized in 1788. I drove through the parking lot, looked at the grounds and then headed toward Athens. I do my best not to disturb anything when I visit these historic churches, to include attendees. If there is an activity or church in session, I respect that and do not get out or photograph anything.

I arrived in Athens to view some of the Antebellum Trail homes. The Waddel-Brumby House is the Athens Welcome Center. Once I arrived here, it was around 3:00 p.m. I had mapped out quite a few more stops for the day, but I knew it was getting close to the end of the volleyball tournament. I was very tired too, so I decided to head back to the volleyball venue to watch the championship game and to get my husband. His team won 1st place in the Gold Bracket; this was the fourth Gold championship that they have won this year (4 out of 4). We are all extremely proud of the team, coaches and volleyball club for this great accomplishment.

But our weekend wasn’t over yet, we planned on heading to Evans, Georgia to celebrate a few family members’ birthdays. It was a nice time to see the family and be able to celebrate with them. Late Sunday afternoon, we headed back home.

On to the next weekend and more explorations.

XOXO

-S

Valentine’s weekend getaway

Our Valentine’s Day weekend started out like all other volleyball weekends. After I dropped my hubby off at the venue, I headed out to explore. The weather called for rain up until 2 pm, but it was just a drizzle. I donned my rain coat and set out to see Smith Gilbert Garden in Kennesaw. Because of the rain, I left my camera in the truck and just used my phone. There were Camellias, Daffodils, Snowdrops, Darwin Barberries, Black Hellebores, and Algerian Irises blooming. According to their website, there is something that is in bloom all year round at the Garden. There are statues and art pieces throughout. I can only imagine what it looks like in spring and summer; I will definitely have to go back in the other seasons. I also bird watched for a while and observed some cute little chipmunks. The rain didn’t last very long, so it was quite enjoyable to get outside and check this garden out.

I returned to the venue to watch the rest of the tournament. The team brought home the Gold again. Three out of three gold tournament winners this year so far.

We booked a King City View Room with balcony at the iconic Hyatt Regency, Atlanta for 2 nights. I honestly was too impressed…I have other favorite spots in downtown Atlanta but they were booked up for Valentines weekend by the time I made reservations. It was nice, but for the price we paid, I would expect a lot more amenities and perks than what we received. The view from the balcony was a so-so view of downtown. I was expecting a more awe inspired view.

On Sunday, February 14th, I booked a Modern Southern Food and History Tour around Inman Park. I booked the tour through Viator using Food Tours Atlanta. We come to Atlanta quite a bit, so I wanted to see if a tour might open our eyes to a new cuisine right under our noses.

We met our tour guide Michael at One Eared Stag. Michael brought our first tasting with him from Revolution Doughnuts; it was called the Crunchy Mister, a savory ham with béchamel donut. Next up for the food was chicken wings with three sauces, spicy boiled peanuts and a cocktail at The Albert in the Park. Right around the corner we stopped at Beetle Cat Seafood for a valentines donut (this was my favorite of the day). Last, we headed down the belt line to Krog Street Market for the last three tastings. We had paani poori & pakoras from Jai Ho Indian. To close up the tastings was a cheddar apple turnover from Little Tart Bake Shop. This was a close second place for me of all the tastings. All the while, Michael was touring us, he was telling about the historic homes and places of Inman Park. We also got some history of some of the belt line while headed to Krog Street Market. The photos are in no specific order, but all are from the tour.

I also learned that there is a festival in Inman Park every April that started in the seventies. It is the largest neighborhood festival in Atlanta. I think we will have to check it out!

For dinner, I made reservations at Thrive in downtown. We have eaten here before and really enjoyed it, so we decided to check out some different dishes.

It felt as though, we ate and drank all day, but honestly, that is one of the things we enjoy most about traveling. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for an early relaxing evening.

My husband had been contemplating trading in his truck for a more fuel efficient vehicle. Earlier in the week he finally found a car he wanted to purchase in South Carolina. When we woke up, we grabbed breakfast and headed to Greer, SC. A few hours at the dealership and then we found a quaint little place for lunch called The Bleu Porch. Then we were back on the road headed home. It was a stormy day, so no pit stops besides Dunkin and to pick up some take out for dinner!

Always something exciting to live for!

XOXO

-S

Massee Lane Gardens

If you’re ever near Ft Valley Georgia, in February especially, you can not miss the Camellias in bloom at Massee Lane Gardens! I visited there today and there were so many varieties. It was nice to get outside for a while too.

One of my favorite spots there is the Japanese Garden.


The main reason for a February trip is its the season in which most camellias bloom and put on a beautiful show for our senses.


If you’re in middle Georgia, it is a must visit.

XOXO

-S