Kids Outdoor Learning: Summer in Georgia's Blue Ridge
Blue Ridge, Georgia: Experiential Learning Takes Center Stage in this Mountain “Classroom”. Earn an A+ for a summer of outdoor learning disguised as fun!
Kids can keep on learning while having fun this spring and summer in Blue Ridge and Fannin County. Take an extended field trip, combining outdoor adventure and discovery in the North Georgia mountains, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate 575 and an hour and a half from Chattanooga, Tennessee. There’s so much fun to be had that (shhh! the kids will never know it’s also about education).
To adults, Blue Ridge is an exquisite North Georgia mountain gateway town with wineries and craft breweries, art galleries, delectable restaurants, downtown shopping and lodging as well as getaway cabins on mountain ridges, in peaceful valleys and on scenic waters. For the family, geography and biology lessons are all around.
Geography and biology lessons
From the county seat of Blue Ridge to the county borders north, south, east and west, more than 100 miles of trout streams and rivers wind through and across 100,000 acres of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This natural resource inspired the Georgia State Legislature to designate Blue Ridge and Fannin County as the “Trout Capital of Georgia.”
Create a do it yourself hiking and learning experience on the Fannin County Trout Adventure Trail®. Individual hikers, families and organized groups earn a distinctive commemorative award patch as recognition of their commitment to outdoor education, conservation and accomplishment. The Trail includes eight stops and hikes of 30 minutes to two hours beginning at the watershed of Springer Mountain, which is also the starting point of the famed Appalachian Trail. Waypoints include Long Creek Falls, over the 260-foot Toccoa Swinging Bridge (the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River) and a visit to the Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery which raises over a million rainbow trout a year for stocking North Georgia rivers. See trout exhibits, a large insect display and fish Rock Creek. (Open all year, Monday-Friday. Highway 60 South between Morganton and Dahlonega.) Maps and details on each stop can be found in these two documents: Trout Streams & Learning Adventure and The Trout Adventure Trail guide.
An accompanying program is the Trout Art Trail Name Finder Game, a fun treasure hunt to discover the colorful trout statues placed around town. Visit each, fill in the fish names after printing the worksheet, and take it to one of the three locations of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Center for a prize.
Some of the hiking on the Fannin County Trout Adventure Trail is best for the fit and active. Visit this link for the Blue Ridge Blog for tips on hiking with kids.
Trains, history and geography: Ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Chugga-chug up and down the 13-miles of rails comprising the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 45-minute (each way) excursion starts downtown at the historic 1905 depot. Ride in vintage climate-controlled or open-air rail cars alongside the Toccoa River, with a stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill/McCaysville is one town with two names because it is split by the GA/TN state line. On Toccoa/Ocoee Street, look for the Blue Line and take a selfie with a foot in each state.
Botany and Farming: Mercier Orchards and The Folk Collaborative Orchard
Only one mile from Blue Ridge on Georgia Highway 5, Mercier Orchards has tractor tours and and spring/summer u-pick strawberries, blueberries--and apples in August. Stop in the store for yummy fried pies, apple cider, apples, peaches, jams and preserves. At The Folk Collaborative enjoy U-pick, wagon rides, fried pies, the mercantile, movie nights and other events.
Please the Whole Pack
Families with varied ages or interests can mine for gems, go fishing, take a hike or play a round of mini-golf, all at The Lilly Pad Village (7.5 miles from Blue Ridge on Aska Road). Pets are welcome, and fishing poles and bait are provided. Tweens and teens give high marks to the high energy of Axe Throwing Therapy, Blue Ridge Paintball, and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. Haunted Blue Ridge Ghost Tours is a fascinating account of Native American early white settler lore, combined with history and shivers.
Don’t let Mother Nature rain out your adventure. Blue Ridge’s indoor mini-golf course at 2nd Story Entertainment features a variety of themes throughout nine rooms in addition to an arcade and games like giant tic-tac-toe, darts and checkers that guests can play as they move throughout the course. Vertigo offers fun, food, craft beer and a great collection of vintage pinball machines, no tokens or quarters needed, just buy a wrist band for the length of time you want to play.
Take a break at The Chocolate Express for homemade fudge, hand-dipped chocolates and ice cream, sodas, floats and more. Visit The Sweet Shoppe of the South, Winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars, for cake pops and chocolate dipped bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries and cherries. Take the kids to Huck’s General Store for snacks and a souvenir. This authentic general store is a step back in time, with barrels of candy from yesteryear. In the evening, catch a movie the old-school way at the Swan Drive-In, one of the few remaining in Georgia. This 1955 treasure features first-run movies and a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.
Intown, unique overnight options range from chic lofts overlooking the town to the upscale Hampton Inn Blue Ridge featuring balcony rooms and the city’s only rooftop bar/restaurant, Hook & Eye. In Georgia's Blue Ridge lodging choices include stunning mountain views, creekside retreats, riverfront lodges, treehouses, cabins on the lake and much more. Search for the perfect in-town hideaway or mountain retreat. For dining and itinerary ideas, visit www.BlueRidgeMountains.com
That’s just a few of the in-depth “lesson plans” for spring & summer fun in Blue Ridge. For more, read the Blue Ridge blog, 30 Fun Things to Do with Kids filled with fun activities that are natural and unique and the family-fun page on their website. Download or pick up The Family Fun Adventure Game in one of our Visitor Centers, it’s a great way to spend the day and explore, includes a coloring book and a prize when returned to one of our centers.