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!
Want the kids to keep on learning while having fun this summer? Combine vacation with field trips in the North Georgia Mountains, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate 575 and an hour and a half from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Exploring Blue Ridge, Georgia, and surrounding Fannin County is like an extended summer field trip, combining geography, biology and nature “classes” into outdoor adventure and discovery. There’s so much fun to be had that … (the kids will never know it’s all about education).
Geography and biology lessons
To adults, Blue Ridge is an exquisite North Georgia mountain gateway town with wineries and craft breweries, art galleries, downtown shopping, delectable restaurants, a scenic railroad and getaway cabins on mountain ridges, in peaceful valleys and on scenic waters. For the family, geography and biology lessons are all around. Fannin County lies in the Appalachian Mountains, 90 miles north of Atlanta, bordering on North Carolina and Tennessee. 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 the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center for a prize. (152 Orvin Lance Drive, Blue Ridge, GA 30513, right behind CVS Pharmacy across from Ingles on Highway 515. 706-632-5680 1-800-899-MTNS (6867) ).
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.
Here are just a few more entertaining educational experiences in Blue Ridge and Fannin County:
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 (241 Depot Street; 877-413-8724). 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 Deep Roots Orchard
Only one mile from Blue Ridge on Georgia Highway 5, Mercier Orchards has tractor tours and u-pick strawberries, blueberries--and apples in August. Stop in the store for yummy fried pies, apple cider, apples, peaches, jams and preserves. At Deep Roots Orchard enjoy U-pick, wagon rides, fried pies, the mercantile, movie nights and other events.
Families with varied 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 at 24 Adelaide Drive). Pets are welcome, and fishing poles and bait are provided.
Don’t let Mother Nature rain out your adventure. Blue Ridge’s indoor mini-golf course at 2nd Story Entertainment (733 East Main Street) 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. You can also have lots of fun at Vertigo, 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. They also serve food and craft beer.
Take a break at 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-fashioned way at the Swan Drive-In, one of Georgia’s few remaining drive-ins. Established in 1955, the Swan features first-run movies and a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.
That’s just a few of the in-depth “lesson plans” for summer fun in Blue Ridge. More than 30 Fun Things to Do with Kids is filled with fun activities that are natural and unique. You can 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.