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We Heart: Serenbe – Things to Do on a Day Trip to Serenbe

June 26, 2016
things to do at serebe

If you’ve never been there, you might know Serenbe as the place where your friends had their engagement photos taken, or the place where all the rich tree-huggers live. Perhaps you met a friend there years ago for a nice dinner. Or, maybe you’ve never heard of it at all.

Located about an hour south of Atlanta, Serenbe is a little hard to describe. It’s a neighborhood. It’s a farm. It’s a vacation destination of sorts, with an inn and lots of activities. There are restaurants and shops to explore.

The first time I stopped at Serenbe, it felt eerily quiet and perfect — almost like that town Spectre from the movie Big Fish. While some have called Serenbe pretentious and creepy, I think that’s because it’s such a change of pace. You can park your car for free, without worrying about getting towed or booted for crying out loud. It’s the only place I’d want to move, that’s OTP.

You could easily drop a bunch of money on dinner, with wine and even a bed & breakfast stay (which is probably where you’ll find us on our anniversary in a couple of months.) But Serenbe is also an affordable day-trip for Atlanta families! There’s something about it that makes you feel so far away from the city, even though you’re really not.

Wandering around Serenbe in itself, with its many walking trails, shops, restaurants, open houses, and things to see, is enough to fill a day. But, here are some more of our favorite things to do.

Things to do at Serenbe

Petting zoo (free)

Stop by the visitor’s center (near the Farmhouse restaurant) for a free bucket of animal feed, and take a stroll over to the farm. You’ll find friendly goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, bunnies, donkeys, llamas that are eager to say “hello.” The animals are mostly enclosed (some inside a low-voltage electric fence), but you can easily pet and feed them.

petting zoo at serenbe

Ken’s new friends at the Serenbe petting zoo.

In-ground trampoline and rope swings (free)

Just outside the Farmhouse restaurant, there’s a grassy knoll with several free activities for passers-by. Our daughter loves to bounce on the trampoline. There are some quaint, wooden rope swings to lounge on, and a little spot to shoot some hoops.

Serenbe Playhouse ($$)

We just saw our first Serenbe Playhouse performance — Charlotte’s Web. The small acting troupe puts on several performances per year, and while there is a permanent playhouse venue at Serenbe, they actually move the location around based on what the play is. For Charlotte’s Web, they actually had the performance inside the petting zoo/farm, so the backdrop was the animals and animal noises. How cool is that?

serenbe playhouse charlottes web

Meeting the stars of “Charlotte’s Web” at Serenbe

We loved Charlotte’s Web and found it to be the perfect venue for Lucie’s first play. It was interactive, informal, and they had special spots set out in front so the children could be closer to the action. They also sell refreshments and souvenirs at these. Highly recommended!

Open Houses/Dreaming (free)

It’s not just us who likes to pretend to be rich and go to open houses that are way too expensive for us…right? There are always open houses and model homes to walk through, for daydreaming and inspiration. You can search Serenbe properties and open houses here.

Farmers & Artisans Market (free)

Saturday mornings from May-October, local farmers, artists and other vendors gather at Serenbe. They often feature chef demos and other activities. They also offer farm tours for $8 per person.

As the community continues to grow, I’m sure there will be more family activities to explore. We love visiting Serenbe, and say it’s definitely worth a day trip — especially for in-town folks looking for an inexpensive escape.

What are your favorite day trips from Atlanta?

Kids Outdoors

Best Hiking in Atlanta With Dogs And Kids

March 23, 2016
best hiking in atlanta with kids and dogs

Can you FEEL it? Spring, y’all!

We love being outdoors when the weather’s nice. Luckily, so does our little diva. When I ask her, “What should we do this weekend,” she’ll usually say “Go on an adventure!” That’s what we call going on a hike.

The past few years, we have been trying to check out as many new hiking trails in Atlanta as possible. It’s hard to believe there are so many cool trails to explore, so close to home. Here are our picks for hiking trails around Atlanta that are great for both dogs and kids.

East Palisades Trail

east palisades trail hiking in atlanta

The dogs’ favorite spot to hang out at East Palisades

This network of trails just Northeast of Atlanta runs alongside beautiful Whitewater Creek. The views are pretty spectacular and there are lots of critters for the kiddos to spot, like beavers, turtles, and ducks.

There is plenty of shallow water for wading, which both humans and dogs are sure to love (just bring your water shoes.) The boat launch area is a popular place for folks to gather with their water-loving pups and picnic.

There are 2 entrance points here, both with ample parking. The Indian Trail trailhead is at the top of a hill, if you’re looking for a more challenging hike (especially on the way back up.)

The Whitewater Creek entrance it at the bottom of the hill, near the “boat launch,” and closer to the more leisurely trails that run alongside the river.

Note: both entrances require a $3 parking fee, and neither of them have restrooms.

Cochran Shoals Trail

Try to spot the infamous “Chattahoochee Alligator” at Cochran Shoals! Located off 285 just outside the perimeter, it feels like a world away. The scenic (and relatively level) trails offer beautiful views of the Chattahoochee — and sometimes, playful river otters (though we’ve never managed to catch a glimpse of the gator.) Along the way, you can learn all about the Chattahoochee (via educational stations) and the ongoing clean-up efforts.

There is a wide, paved trail that is great for biking or trail running, and a series of smaller trails close to the water.

Conveniently, the parking lot (which requires a $3 fee) also has restrooms. It connects to Sope Creek trail (below.)

Sope Creek Trail

sope creek trail hiking in atlanta

This isn’t too far from Cochran Shoals (also off New Northside), but tends to be less crowded. The trails are also more hilly and challenging, but you can choose your own adventure. Take a more leisurely stroll around a large pond, or venture through the woods and down to the creek (where our dog loves to hop across the boulders.) You can also spot ruins from an old paper mill.

We also love the drive to Sope Creek, winding up Paper Mill road and past some gorgeous and HUGE houses (one can dream.) On the way back, we like to also hit up the Abernathy Greenway and “art” playground. See our post about other best playgrounds in Atlanta here.

Parking at Sope Creek is $3, and there are no restrooms.

Murphey Candler Trail

murphey candler park ducklings hiking in atlanta

New ducklings at Murphey Candler

This is our go-to, close-to-home hiking spot. We affectionately call it the “duck pond.” I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer out – this is when we love to visit, and see all the little fluffy baby ducks and geese.

The trail is a moderate, 2-mile loop encircling a pond — great for trail running. Along the way, you can spot ducks, geese, turtles, herons, and more. Just don’t feed the ducks, or approach the geese (mean little things!) There’s also a small playground (with equipment for different age ranges), and plenty of picnic areas.

There is no charge for parking here, though the parking lot is pretty small. There is lots of street parking available in the neighborhoods. It’s also very close to a public pool (Murphey Candler pool), for those hot summer days where you need to cool off.

Arabia Mountain Trail

arabia mountain hiking in atlanta

Top of Arabia Mountain, during winter

You don’t have to venture far from Atlanta to feel like you’re far away. Arabia Mountain trail is one of our newer discoveries, and it’s breathtaking. We visited in winter, but during warmer months the “mountain” (actually a monadnock, similar in geology to Stone Mountain) is covered in gorgeous red diamorpha blooms.

There is so much to discover as a family here, that we didn’t even scratch the surface. There is a geocaching program, tons of free educational events, and a wild animal rehabilitation center that offers free tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

But the hikes alone are worth the drive – especially the unique plant growth and views of the city. Conveniently, there are restrooms at many points along the trail (we parked at the nature center, and there was a public restroom there.)

Dunwoody Nature Center

Ok, this isn’t so much a hardcore hiking spot as it is a fun place to explore. I think it would be perfect if you had really little ones, and didn’t feel like doing a ton of difficult hiking, but wanted to give the older kids hours of outdoor entertainment.

Among the things to explore on the outdoor trails:

  • Wildcat creek & boardwalk
  • A bird-watching treehouse
  • A teepee
  • Gardens
  • One of the coolest playgrounds EVER
  • A really chill spot with a bunch of hammocks
  • Bee hives (from a distance, of course)

There are even more things to explore inside the nature center. We actually signed our daughter up for a week of summer camp there, starting in a few months. More on that later!

So, those are our favorite family hiking spots close to Atlanta…for now. Tell us: what are your favorites?

Holidays Kids Outdoors

A New Atlanta Christmas Tradition – Christmas Tree Farm!

December 17, 2015
christmas tree farm atlanta

After a whirlwind year and spending nearly the entire month of October being sick with flu and pneumonia, I was happy we decided to keep it low-key over Thanksgiving break: almost no traveling, and lots of time to just have fun together! The day after Thanksgiving, we decided to “opt outside” – but with a little holiday twist. For the first time as a family, we ventured out to an Atlanta Christmas tree farm to choose and cut down our own tree.

We were looking for somewhere toward the south side, so that Ken’s family could join the fun. We found Sugarland Farms (in Stockbridge) online, and I’m so glad we did. This place was a total gem, and just the thing to get us all in the holiday spirit.

First, can we talk about how amazing this place smelled? I mean c’mon, what is better than the smell of hundreds of Christmas trees out in the fresh country air? It wasn’t crowded at all, which made for awesome photo ops (even though it was unseasonably warm – in the high 70s).

photo at atlanta christmas tree farm

Santa himself was there! And since it wasn’t crowded at all, we got lots of 1-1 time with him (though it took Lucie quite a while to warm up). He was such a great Santa, too – definitely better than any mall Santa I’ve seen (except for my late Grandad, of course).

After hanging out for a little while with Santa and perusing the gift shop (which included snacks like popcorn and boiled peanuts for purchase), we began hunting for the perfect Christmas tree.

santa at sugarland farms

Each tree available for sale had a color-coded tag attached, with each color representing a different price. They start at around $25. We picked out a 6’ Cedar, which ran us about $55. They give you a cart and a saw for cutting down your own tree, but there are also plenty of guys on staff who can do it for you. Ken wanted to cut it down himself, but he did admit it was quite the workout 🙂

cutting down christmas tree at sugarland

After your tree is cut down, the staff will help you trim it, prepare the base, wrap it up, and tie it to your car. Then all that’s left to do it put it up in your living room and decorate 🙂 Our tree always tends to look a little gaudy, with big, colorful bulbs and mismatched/handmade ornaments. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What’s your family’s favorite outdoor holiday tradition?

Kids Outdoors Parties & Celebrations Summertime

A Piedmont Park Birthday Party

August 19, 2015
Splash Pad Birthday Party

My baby girl, Lucie, is turning FOUR in exactly one week. Not only that, but she started Pre-K on the 10th. It just doesn’t seem right to see my little not-quite-four-year-old walking up and down the halls of an elementary school, with kids that look 3 feet taller than her! I’ll write more about our Georgia Pre-K experience in a later post.

We aren’t planning on having a big birthday party for her this year, since things have been so hectic for us and she just switched schools. However, since her Piedmont Park birthday party last year was absolutely epic and I never blogged about it, I thought I’d relive that day now.

Piedmont Park Birthday Party Invitation

Invitations by Shutterfly

We really wanted to do something where we could invite all of her friends from preschool, and their families. It’s a little tricky finding a venue for an August birthday in Georgia. Since it’s sweltering outside, it either needs to be indoors or somewhere that guests can cool off in the water. I detest indoor playgrounds and arcades, and we didn’t feel like forking over the big bucks to rent a pool, so we decided on Legacy Fountain (the “Splash Pad”) at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park .

Piedmont Park Splash Pad Map

After we sent out the invitations, I was a little nervous for a few reasons (besides the fact that I’m just a nervous wreck in general). The space around the splash pad can’t be reserved, so we’d have to get there super early to claim a spot. The parking in the deck (near the Botanical Gardens) can also be unpredictable, since they sometimes close it off for a private event. Of course, weather is always a wildcard, too.

But the birthday party ended up being all-around awesome. The kids loved playing in the splash pad. We kept the decorations and food pretty simple, with Publix platters, beach balls, and a few balloons. Almost all of her friends showed up, which is still the biggest thing I remember from that day.

I’d recommend the location to anyone who’s looking for a cheap and convenient location to host a kid’s birthday party. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Arrive early. I dragged my poor sister out there at 6 a.m. to start setting up, and make sure we reserved a table. That may have been a little extreme, since no one else showed up for a few more hours. But there was one other birthday party there that day, so I was glad we did arrive a few hours so we could get a spot.
  2.    Bring trash bags (and probably cleaning gloves). While there are cleaning crews that occasionally pick up trash around the splash pad, there will likely be lots of debris left on the ground from yesterday’s party/crowds. They don’t clean it all that thoroughly. You might want to do a sweep before the party starts, to make sure the area looks presentable.
  3.    Have extra sunscreen, swim diapers and fans for guests. There isn’t a ton of shade, even under the awning. We picked up some dollar store sunscreen to have available for anyone who might have forgotten theirs, and left some battery-powered fans around for guests (again, the party was in August). They also require babies/toddlers to wear swim diapers, so go ahead and bring some in case anyone forgets.
  4.    No dogs. The guards at Piedmont Park won’t allow dogs in the splash pad area. You may want to let your guests know, in case they’d planned to bring their dog along for some dog park fun afterward.
  5.    Bring a wagon or cart to haul your stuff. It’s a little bit of a walk from the parking deck over to the splash pad. Not a bad walk in itself, but you won’t want to be hauling everything by hand to and from the party. Bring a cart of some sort. That said, if you have young kids, be sure to bring the stroller.
  6.    Bring TP & hand sanitizer. Conveniently, there are public restrooms right there at the splash pad. But as you might expect at a public park, they aren’t always stocked with toilet paper or soap. Bring some for you and your guests.

piedmont park birthday party

 

We loved Lucie’s birthday party at Piedmont Park. We came away with lots of memories, awesome photos, and our budget still intact.

Have you done an outdoor birthday party at a park? What other tips do you have?

Kids Outdoors Summertime

Ultimate Guide: Top Free Playgrounds in Atlanta

July 17, 2015
The Best Playgrounds in Atlanta

6. The Playground @ PDK (Peachtree Dekalb Airport)

What kid wouldn’t love a continuous show of planes taking off and landing

Why kids <3 it: What kid wouldn’t love a continuous show of planes taking off and landing, while enjoying a recently-constructed playground complete with swings, slides, monkey bars, & more?

Why parents <3 it: In the airport office park/hangar right next door, you’ll find a “dive” restaurant called Downwind Restaurant & Lounge that’s perfect for catching lunch (and maybe a drink), complete with a cool view of the PDK runway. There’s also a covered structure close by with picnic tables, perfect for gatherings or parties. If your kid (or you) is a total aviation geek, you’ll love that there is a speaker where you can hear communication between pilots and air traffic control.

Tip: Downwind doesn’t allow kids on Friday evenings after 7 p.m., and they’re closed on Sundays. For the full experience (lunch with a view + playground time), go on a Saturday.

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms? Yes, located inside the office building next door (same building as Downwind), on the second floor.

Get there: 2000 Airport Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

 

5. Riverside Park in Roswell

During peak months, there is always something going on here

Why kids <3 it: This is a sprawling park with tons of things to do, from the multiple playground structures to the huge splash pad area.

Why parents <3 it: During peak months, there is always something going on here during the weekends. Hit up this park on most weekends, and you can expect to find a festival, food trucks, and more. During the summer, Roswell hosts its free concert series here, and patrons are welcome to bring coolers with food and beverages (yes, adult beverages too).

Tip: Admission to the splash pad is $2 per person. It’s a closed off area, and pets/food/drinks aren’t allowed.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: 575 Riverside Road, Roswell, GA

 

4. Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park

The only playground in the WORLD designed by world-renowned artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi

Why kids <3 it: Lots of funky shapes, colors, and textures to explore (and climb all over). And since it’s Piedmont Park, there are lots of doggies to see, too.

Why parents <3 it: The architecture. This is the only playground in the WORLD designed by world-renowned artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Combined with the beautiful city skyline, it makes for wonderful scenery and photo ops.

Tip: The playground is also very close to The Nook, a kid-friendly and laid-back spot to grab some grub and perhaps a bloody Mary (trust me, you’ll want to try this one: it has all kinds of goodies).

Free Parking? Depends on how far you want to walk. You can park for free in some of the neighborhoods surrounding Piedmont, or pay about $5 to park in the paid lot adjacent to the Botanical Gardens, which is also a little bit of a walk.

Restrooms: Yes, but just warning you – they’re “squatty potty” style, not always the cleanest, and there isn’t always TP available. Be prepared with some wipes and hand sanitizer.

Get there: Piedmont Park, 1432 Worchester Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30306


3. Abernathy Greenway Playable Art Park

The most whimsical, imaginative play structures you’ll ever see.

IMG_2342

Why kids <3 it: These are the most whimsical, imaginative play structures you’ll ever see. It’s technically art, but it only looks like you’re not supposed to touch it.

Why parents <3 it: The same reason the kids do!

Tip: For us, this playground is right on the way home from Sope Creek park. We like to do a little hike in the morning, and then stop by here to let our daughter play.

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: Abernathy Greenway, Abernathy Rd. NW, Sandy Springs

 

2. Brook Run Park

A concrete ‘stream’ encircles the park.

Why kids <3 it: This playground is huge. They have several different sections, with something for every age (from young toddlers to teens, who can enjoy the skate park next door). During the summer, they turn on the water feature – a concrete “stream” that encircles the park.

Why parents <3 it: This park will keep your kids busy for hours. Even if you have a younger kid (or one who’s timid, like ours), there are smaller structures that are more at their comfort level. There are also plenty of shaded areas.

Tip: There is an awesome dog park close by! Let Fido play for a while first, and then hit up the playground (your fur baby can join you here, too, on a leash).

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: Georgia Way South, Dunwoody, GA 30338

 

1. Historic Fourth Ward Park

This is a playground outing that you can really make an afternoon of.

Why kids <3 it: This park has so much going on! The playground offers new twists on play structures, including swings shaped like giant saucers. During warm months, kids of all ages can cool off at the free splash pad, with neat water features.

Why parents <3 it: This is a playground outing that you can really make an afternoon of.

Tip: When the kiddos are tuckered out from playing, take a stroll through a beautiful park and residential area to the new Ponce City Market, and grab lunch or a gelato at the food hall (opening soon).

Free Parking? Yes, but it’s street parking.

Restrooms? Yes.

Get there: 680 Dallas St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308