Summer Destination Spotlight: Columbus, GA

Our next fun summer adventure might come as a little surprising. This town has not always been known as a place to go visit, but it has really turned a corner in the past few years...COLUMBUS, GA! Columbus is a quick trip, only taking a little over 2 hours to reach from our Moultrie office. 

Photo via Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Photo via Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

The downtown part of Columbus, which is referred to as "Uptown", sits on the glorious Chattahoochee River. Visitors can walk along the 20 miles of the "RiverWalk" and enjoy watching the river flow, adventure activities, and wildlife along the way. Bike rentals are also available along the River Walk, as well as fishing. The atmosphere is very inviting, and you'll find tourists and locals alike enjoying the water.

Photo via Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau

Photo via Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau

For the more adventurous ones, Columbus offers a 2.5 mile stretch of whitewater rafting entertainment. It was recently named one of the Top 12 Man-Made Adventures in the WORLD by USA Today!

There are options ranging from mild to wild, a lazy river to Class V rapids...something for everyone! Flat water lovers can enjoy a more relaxing kayak ride or give stand up paddle boarding a go. Little Bitties can cool off in the heat by enjoying Uptown's Splash Pad while Mom and Dad enjoy the scenery of Woodruff Park. 

For a new venture, try geocaching around Columbus-it's like a treasure hunt using your phone as a GPS or "treasure map!" Unique birds have come back to the area since the restoration of the Chattahoochee River, also making this a hotspot for those bird watchers out there! 

Photo via Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Photo via Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

After a day full of activity, enjoy the city with a wide range of restaurants to choose from. Columbus hosts live music, different stores and boutiques, coffee shops, breweries, and unique food! 

Live it up with some fine wining and dining or cheaper eats - whatever fits your fancy. Enjoy sitting outside with a river view or appreciate the air conditioning after a long day!

This trip can be done in a day, but for the overnighters, there are plenty of hotels to choose from based on your budget.

Give us a call and let us help you plan a lively or laid back weekend in lovely Columbus, Georgia! 

Summer Destination Spotlight: Cumberland Island

Credit: NPS Photo

Credit: NPS Photo

Full of rich history and untouched wildlife, Cumberland Islands rank high on our list of places in Georgia to explore. The Cumberland Islands are Georgia's very own barrier reef islands that are now protected as a National Seashore by the National Parks Service. The island is only accessible by ferry via St. Mary’s, Georgia, and personal vehicles are not allowed. This destination is ideal for either a day trip or weekend trip depending on your desired level of intensity. We'll elaborate more, but let us explain why we love the Cumberland Islands so much.

History

While historians are unsure of when people first began to inhabit the area that is Cumberland Island, there is evidence of aboriginal peoples that made their home in this costal Georgia region as early as 2000 BC. 

Cumberland Island is not mentioned prominently is historical records until the Spanish mission days of the 16th century. James Edward Oglethorpe is credited with the building of two forts on each side of the island, along with a hunting lodge. In the days following the Revolutionary War was when the light began to shine on Cumberland Island due to its natural resources. Nathanael Greene, a major general in the Continental Army, and his wife Catherine, are credited as the first to build a home on the island, which she named Dungeness. The home was lost to fire in 1866

The next shift in the history of Cumberland Island began in the 1800's with the Carnegie family began to establish their presence on the island, eventually owning up to 90% of the island. Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy selected Cumberland Island as the location of their winter retreat. The Carnegies rebuilt a new Dungeness on the mansion’s original foundation, along with several other dwellings. After Thomas Carnegie’s passing, Lucy built Greyfield, now an inn still owned and operated by Carnegie descendants, Plum Orchard, a 20,000 square foot mansion now overseen by the National Park Service, and Stafford Plantation, remaining privately owned by the Carnegie family.

The fate of the islands was uncertain in the 1960’s as Carnegie descendants began to sell off portions of their land holdings. Eventually, Cumberland Island was established as a national seashore on October 23, 1972, with parts of the island still remaining under private ownership.

Plum Orchard. Credit: NPS Photo

Plum Orchard. Credit: NPS Photo

To this day, you can visit some of the original, remaining fixtures of the island, such as the Dungeness Ruins, the Plum Orchard Mansion, and the First African Baptist Church on the Settlement, which was the wedding location of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Wildlife

Cumberland Island is home to several unique animals that visitors may encounter first hand. Most noteworthy, this includes the island’s population of wild horses, rumored to have been remnants of the previous Spanish occupancy. Wild hogs can also be found on Cumberland, along with loggerhead sea turtles and a collection of diverse birds.

Activities

Credit: NPS Photo

Credit: NPS Photo

Make memories to last a lifetime by participating in hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, and bird watching. Participate in a guided tour of the island in “Lands and Legacies”. Take in the sites and shoot some awesome photographs.

Ways to Visit

To experience Cumberland, you have two lodging options: rent a luxurious room at the Greyfield Inn, or reserve one of the National Park Service’s many camp grounds. This is what we meant by desired level of intensity. Choosing a campground option is not for the faint of heart. You’ll need to carry all of your supplies needed for the weekend – food, water treatment, equipment, etc. (Don’t worry – these items are available at Big Adventure Outfitters). Camp ground reservations must be made prior to arrival online, as you’ll need a printed copy of your campsite permit.

If you’re more interested in a day trip, keep in mind that there are entry and parking fees. The park entry fee is $7 for adults, with children 15 and under free. The ferry fee will cost you $28 per adult and $18 for kids 15 and under, but is well worth it to experience this wonder. 

For additional information about Cumberland Island, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm or http://cumberlandisland.com 

Summer Destination Spotlight: Atlanta

Don't disregard this close-to-home destination. Sitting at just over 3 hours from our travel office, Atlanta is one of the hubs of the Southeast United States. Full of southern culture with urban influences, Atlanta offers a little something for everyone. Consider trading the slow pace of the south for the faster pace of the city in a end-of-summer getaway!

Here are our top 10 must-do's:

1. Take in a Braves game at the new SunTrust Park 

2. Try sodas from around the globe at the World of Coke

Photo courtesy of World of Coca-Cola

Photo courtesy of World of Coca-Cola

3. Visit the Georgia Aquarium or the Atlanta Zoo (or both!)

Photo courtesy of Kanyon Bollinger

Photo courtesy of Kanyon Bollinger

4. Take in a show at the historic Fox Theatre

5. Enjoy the florals and greenery at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

6. Immerse yourself in the rich tradition of football at the College Football Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of College Football Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of College Football Hall of Fame

7. Relax and take in the skyline of Atlanta in Piedmont Park 

8. Learn more about the city at the Atlanta History Center - also home to a filming site of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Photo courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Photo courtesy of Atlanta History Center

9. Enjoy high thrills or chills at Six Flags Over Georgia and Hurricane Harbor

10. Soak in the atmosphere and shopping at Ponce City Market

Photo courtesy of Ponce City Market

Photo courtesy of Ponce City Market

 

*Big Adventures often offers discounted ticketing to these popular attractions when booked through our agency. For information on rates, please email bookings@bigadventures.us.

 

Travel Stories: Historic Banning Mills

The following is an account from our Travel Coordinator and her experience on Big Adventures' featured Fall Break trip to Historic Banning Mills.

Five south Georgia middle-aged adventure seekers just returned from a great weekend at Historic Banning Mills, which is located between Newnan and Carrollton, Georgia. It sits on a beautiful gorge with Snake Creek river flowing below. The Historic Banning Mills is an ideal place for those who are looking for adventure, or those who are looking to just soak up nature at a more relaxed pace.   

We all decided to try their most famous adventure, the world’s longest zip line course.  After stopping in downtown Newnan for a quick lunch at Rednexican Restaurant for our choice of great Mexican dishes or BBQ, we checked in for Level 1 & 2 of the zip line course. I had previously done these same 2 levels with my Big Adventure Travel co-workers, so I was able to assure my other baby boomer friends that, “YOU CAN DO IT!”

After a very thorough training, we headed to the start of the course by walking across a slightly intimidating obstacle, a suspension bridge over the parking lot! I think they intentionally built this at the beginning to make sure people don’t get into the middle of the course and panic. This way, if walking on the suspension bridge is too much for you, then you shouldn’t start the course anyway! Everybody made it across, some with more reservation than others. Then one by one, we launched off the 1st platform, zooming above the green, yellow, & red fall canopy of leaves to the other end. Everyone’s confidence increased by the end of the 9 runs in Section 1, we were thinking, “We've got this!”

After a short break back on the ground, we climbed up the steps of the platform for the start of Section 2. This section only has 3 zip line runs, but they are longer, faster, & just more of a thrill than section 1. Our favorite was one with 2 cables so that partners could race. I was ahead of my husband the whole way, but he claimed since he touched the ground 1st he was the winner. I couldn’t see him touch since I was so far ahead still crouched in the air towards the end of the cable! Plus, there is a section of 10 sky bridges in what I would describe as an obstacle course in the air. Everyone is attached to a cable above, so if you should fall, you wouldn’t fall to the ground. We navigated on wooden slats irregularly spaced on 2 big parallel cables as we held on to other cables on each side. Each layout was a little different within this course so it stayed challenging & fun.

It took about 2 ½ hours to complete Levels 1 & 2, so afterwards we checked into our rooms and just chilled for a couple hours. Some couples stayed in the Romantic Creekside Rooms that have front & back decks and overlook the river below. They have a very nice rustic feel on the inside with a beautiful king size poster bed, mini-fridge & a nice corner Jacuzzi for 2.  Other couples stayed in the more basic lodge rooms just uphill, but still with a pretty view of the gorge below.

Friday night we drove to Newnan to eat at the Meet ‘n Greet Restaurant on the square. We were so glad we made reservations as the entire square was packed for their Oktoberfest. We loved the downtown vibe of the packed square that night so we walked to the other side of the courthouse for coffee & dessert before heading back to Banning Mills for a much needed night of sleep.

Saturday morning we all had a hearty country breakfast in the lodge, which is included with our lodging. The men, who are avid golfers, had reservations at Oak Mountain Championship Golf Course, only 10 minutes away. They said it was a good course, with lots of hazards. The rest of us went to the Birds of Prey Show with Master Falconer Dave Arrowhead. It was very entertaining and very informative too!

Then we headed out for the hiking trail that borders the river running through Banning Mills. We all had a blast on this hike, especially walking out onto the many large rock ledges & boulders in the river. One of us even accidently took an unintentional dip in-between the rocks! There are also several remains of the various mills that operated along the river in the old days that make great backdrops for pictures. Several of us decided to try to make our way across the river, so that we could walk back on the other side. It made for a great, but very tiring adventure since we saw no trail at first and had to walk uphill through the brush before we came to a horse path that led us back. After having a picnic lunch on the deck, we headed back across the river, but this time we went over on the 500 ft. high suspension bridge. It was a thrill, but we didn’t see the sign until afterwards that there were surveillance cameras and no bouncing or rocking side to side was allowed. OOPS! On the other side, we peeked into one of the vacant tree house cabins which had their own little suspension bridge entry. Perfect for a romantic getaway! Then we went to the lake where the kayaks were waiting for us to take them out.

After a full day of activity many of our group relaxed the rest of the afternoon, but 2 of us headed to the tennis court. It was covered with leaves, but they called maintenance, who came within 5 minutes to blow it off. There is also a swimming pool in season, putt-putt course, beach volleyball, & the Aerial Adventure Challenge Course close by.

We finished off our great Saturday with a gourmet dinner that we each had pre-reserved at the lodge. It was a nice, intimate setting with excellent service. I was even able to talk to the chef about my dietary restrictions the night before, and he was very willing to accommodate me.

Everyone in our group had a wonderful time at Banning Mills and I believe would like to return. I personally want to come back and do all 4 levels of the zip line as they progressively get longer and more exhilarating.  One especially, called Flight of the Falcon, is up high and travels the length of the gorge. It’s exciting to just watch and listen from the river below as people that look like giant birds screech overhead!

 

If you'd like more information about Banning Mills, please email us at bookings@bigadventures.us/

 

 

Travel Stories: No-Plan New York

**Big Adventures loves to feature real life travel stories from our friends. Following is an account from one of our BA Explorer's Club members and their experience and highlights of a recent trip to New York.


New York City. Those three words elicit thoughts of skyscrapers, bustling cabs, art, culture and fashion. It makes complete sense that NYC makes most people’s travel wish list. I had my first experience in New York City during winter while in high school, and was fascinated by the bright lights and fast pace of the Big Apple. Flash forward several years - and there I was posed with the opportunity to spend five days in July exploring the city again with some of my best friends. There was one catch though.

No plans.

We did very little planning before departing, other than lodging, because we wanted the chance to just wander, explore and appreciate the charming qualities of New York City. Our group had visited most of the tourist-y sites on previous trips.

I wanted to share several highlights from our No-Plan New York Trip that may inspire you for your next adventure in the city.

The High Line

This is by far one of the most interesting linear parks I have ever set foot in. The High Line, located on the West side of Manhattan through the Meatpacking District, was repurposed from train tracks that ceased operation in 1980. The park began development in the 2000’s, with sections opening starting in 2009. The High Line is characterized with an industrial garden feel – sections are still lined with the original railroad tracks, wooden plank walkways and a large variety of greenery and flowers. You can also enjoy a variety of art installations that are spread along the path. Located in the depot are fun stops for coffee, popsicles and other goodies. If you’re interested in great city and water views, and don’t mind a leisurely walk, the High Line is a must see. 

Governor’s Island

It’s amazing to me how undiscovered Governor’s Island still is. Located in New York Bay, Governor’s Island was used as a military base dating back to 1663. For a period of time, the British exclusively used it for New York's royal governors. It homed residences, forts, chapels, a public school and a YMCA, many of which are still standing on the island. The island now serves as a park and has been open to the public since 2003. They have space for bike riding, art installations and exhibits, parks, children’s play areas and festivals. Governor’s Island is accessible during the summer months (May-September in 2016) via Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan by ferry. We caught the ferry below Battery Park for a couple of bucks, and spent the afternoon walking the trails of Governor’s Island. I’m fascinated by history, so visiting the old homes and the fort present on the island was a neat experience. There’s also a hammock park (yes, you read that correctly), which is a great place to lounge if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, get some killer Lower Manhattan, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge views while you’re at it. 

New York by Boat

If you want to see some of the best view that New York has to offer, I recommend you check into a dinner or dessert cruise around the Hudson River, New York Harbor, and East River. You’ll see landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges and the highlights of various boroughs by sea. Choose evening time sailings for beautiful sunset and city light photos. 

Chelsea Market

New York City is world renown for its food. We happened upon the Chelsea Market on our last day in the city. The building, reclaimed from the National Biscuit Company factory, stands a staggering block long and block wide – full of various restaurants, food vendors and shops. The ultimate foodie paradise. You can find just about anything your heart desires – from coffee, wine and cheese bars, to Indian cuisine, sushi and vegan options, with everything in between. Our choice of the day was Takumi Taco, an incredible, unique fusion of Japanese and Mexican food. We were definitely not disappointed. In fact, I highly recommend their rice bowls and peach iced tea. For dessert, check out the Doughnuttery for delicious, bite-sized doughnuts in a variety of flavors.

Other Food Highlights:

The Butcher’s Daughter. Delicious vegan food and cold pressed juices. Very refreshing food and atmosphere. Locations in Nolita and West Village.

Black Tap. Burgers and shakes. We tried 3 times to visit Black Tap before we managed to get a table, but it was well worth the wait. Locations in Soho and the Meat Packing District.

Birch Coffee. Did someone say cold brew? Stop by for entertaining door signs and a chance to make new friends + sip amazing coffee. Located in the Flat Iron District.

Tappo. New York Pizza. Need I say more? Formaggio Bianco and Big Pineapple were our top two slices. Located in Chelsea West.

 

If you would like more information about adventures in New York, contact us at info@bigadventures.us.