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Atlanta Thanksgiving Fun

Things to do when you’re finished with the feast BY SHAWNE TAYLOR

The Atlanta Botanical Garden lights up for the holidays on Thanksgiving.

After the big meal has been eaten and the dishes cleared away, you can still hold on to your sweet family together time with a little indoor or outdoor fun.



Family board games are a great way to connect and have fun together. And what better time than when you’re all still sitting around the table, digesting? 

Decatur-area comic shop, Challenges Games and Comics has a nice selection of interesting board, card, and role-playing games for all ages. And your local Barnes & Noble will have a great selection too. Some of our family favorites include Sushi Go, Apples to Apples, Dungeon, Machi Koro, and Trivial Pursuit Family Edition.

If you’d rather take your game time outdoors, why not try a Turkey Hunt (draw pictures of turkeys on index cards, have one person hide them around the yard, and the others “hunt” to see who can find the most turkeys), play a game of freeze tag or flag football, or set up an obstacle course in the back yard? 



Having a Thanksgiving snuggle and read aloud post-feast is one of life’s simple pleasures and may quickly become a family tradition. You can stick with the Thanksgiving theme by reading books like The Thanksgiving Story, or Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, or choose any family favorites to read together.



If a Thanksgiving Day family movie marathon is more your thing, you’re in luck! Amazon has classic holiday movies such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, A Christmas Story, and more available for streaming. 

And Netflix is now showing a variety of holiday movies and specials for all ages, as well as the Walt Disney Short Films Collection (which we love so much, we’re planning to watch it again). 


Holiday fun around town

For families who want to wrap up Thanksgiving by getting out of the house for some fun, Atlanta has a lot to offer:

The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s annual must-see Garden Nights Holiday Lights is open nightly from 5 P.M. to 10 P.M. (including Thanksgiving!) until January 9. Tickets should be purchased in advance and range in price from $17 to $26 per person, with a discount for members. There is an additional fee for parking. 

The Rink at Park Tavern offers outdoor ice-skating in the comfort of a climate-controlled tent starting Thanksgiving Day and running through Presidents Day. The cost is $15 to $20 for all ages until 8 P.M. After 8 P.M. the rink is open only to visitors who are 18+. Be sure to check out their website for times, tickets, and parking information.

Legoland Atlanta at Phipps Plaza is open Thanksgiving Day from 10 A.M. to 7 P.M. Tickets range in price from $14.95 to $27.95, with online tickets being the least expensive, and there are 15 different attractions for Lego-lovers of all ages including rides, a mini-land, and a 4D cinema.

Stone Mountain’s Snow Mountain is back, better than ever, and open Thanksgiving Day. Families can purchase tickets and make their reservations online for a two-hour block of fun time that includes tubing, sledding, snowball fights, hot chocolate, and s’mores. It’s real snow, so dress warmly and be prepared to get cold and wet. Prices start at $28 per person and can be combined with tickets to Stone Mountain Christmas, which is also open Thanksgiving Day.


Take a Hike!

Five Great Fall Hikes in Atlanta and Beyond  BY SHAWNE TAYLOR


Fall in Atlanta is beautiful. The trees are bursting with color, the oppressive heat of summer is gone, and the pollen count is lower than what we find in spring. To me, this makes fall the perfect time to get out of the house and explore the many hiking trails in the area. And, as homeschoolers, we not only get to hike (this counts as PE as well as family time, right?), we can do so during the week when other families are at work or school, making for very peaceful treks into the woods.


Here are five favorites for families who want to take a hike:


Stone Mountain ::  Stone Mountain Park offers six different hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty, including three that they list as “family friendly.” If you’re new to hiking, you may want to start off with the lovely Nature Garden Trail or the Kings Trail at Indian Island.


Arabia Mountain ::  The hiking trails at Arabia Mountain have a lot to offer, including rare plant life, beautiful forests, and patches of exposed, cratered granite terrain that is almost otherworldly. One of their newest trails is the 2.3-mile, moderately difficult Mountain View Trail, located at the base of the mountain. Though not especially long or strenuous, this may not be the best trail for beginners, as it requires extra attention and some experience to even stay on the trail. But those that do make the trek are rewarded with a stunningly diverse landscape of forest, lakeshore, rock, and meadow.


Sweetwater Creek State Park ::  The popular Sweetwater Creek State Park, located west of Atlanta, boasts 2,500 acres of creek side landscape, with over seven miles of hiking among four different trails. The most popular trail is the 2.3-mile Sweetwater Red, which takes hikers through forest, across the creek, and through the ruins of the historic Manchester Mill (which fans may recognize from the Hunger Games films). Parts of this trail can be difficult due to slippery boulders, so be prepared.


Sawnee Mountain Preserve ::  The Sawnee Mountain Preserve, just 40 miles north of Atlanta, is home to 900 acres of coniferous and deciduous forest, with more than five miles of hiking trails. The Indian Seats Trail begins at the visitor’s center on Spot Road, and winds up an over the mountain, looping around on the hike down for a total of four miles. Though the trail is lengthy and moderately strenuous, the terrain is interesting (hikers will pass mine entrances that are now blocked off, and deep depressions in the rocks that were once used by local Indian tribes), and the view from the summit is spectacular.


Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area ::  If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife on your hike, the 3.5-mile Gold Branch Trail along the Chattahoochee River and Bull Sluice Lake may be your best bet. Here you’ll find beautiful terrain rich with marshes, cattails, and bog grasses. And it’s not unusual to see blue herons, geese, turtles and deer frequenting the mud flats along the river’s banks. At the 2.5 mile mark, the trail begins to ascend steeply, so those wanting to avoid the more difficult part of the hike, could double back at this point instead of completing the entire loop.




Honorable Mention ::Frazier Rowe Park, Lavista Road

The trails here in this hidden gem of a park are more for walking than hiking, making it perfect for families who just want to spend a little time walking or playing in the woods. Located next to a small shopping center in the Oak Grove neighborhood of North Decatur, it’s hard to believe that there could be anything worth seeing along these trails. But actually the fact that it is nestled in a busy residential area is what makes the park so wonderful. Volunteers have done a great job with cleaning up the woods here, marking the plant life, creating meandering trails, and including benches and picnic tables. As visitors cross the wooden bridge that marks the halfway point of the main, looping trail, and head deeper into the forest, all goes silent except for birdsong, the crunching of leaves, and the scurrying of squirrels, and it’s easy to forget that Lavista Road is just steps away.




Georgia History: Creek Nation Field Trips

This August marks the 201st anniversary of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which forced the Muscogee people, better known to Georgians as the Creek Nation, to surrender all its territory in Georgia. But the Muscogee legacy lives on in these historic sites.


photo by Herb Roe/www.chromesun.com | via Creative Commons

CARTERSVILLE :: The Creek weren’t even a nation when Columbus first landed in new World — back then, the Mississippian mound-builders were the dominant native American culture in the Southeast. Ultimately, the mound-builders would join forces with the woodland tribes to form the Muscogee, but you can get a vivid picture of what life was like for the Creek people before they officially became the Creek at the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, the most intact Mississippian site in the southeast.


SAVANNAH :: It’s kind of sad that the only memorial to Mary Musgrove in the city she helped establish is a historic marker about a mile from the site of her long-gone home. Mary, or Coosaponakeesa, as her Creek family called her, was the daughter of an English father and Creek mother, and she used her dual cultures to help James Oglethorpe negotiate with the Creek to establish the city of Savannah. (To learn more about Mary Musgrove, add An Angry Drum Echoed: Mary Musgrove, Queen of the Creeks to your reading list.)


MACON :: Fort Hawkins Archaeological Park was the site of a brand-new structure during the Creek Wars of 1813-1814. During the 18th century, the Creek had thrived in Georgia — in fact, it was common for European traders (and runaway slaves) to settle down in Creek towns and marry Creek women. But after the Revolutionary War, Georgia planters began to dream of plantations stretching across the state — which couldn’t happen as long as the Creek were living on such prime real estate. With the deerskin trade waning and the plantation culture growing, violence was inevitable.


WHITESBURG :: General William McIntosh, one of the half-Creek, half-Scottish sons of European traders, was popular with Georgia’s post-Colonial government but not so popular with his own people, who felt so tricked and sold out by their then-leader that they murdered him in 1825. The remains of one of McIntosh’s two plantations, Lochau Talofau, can be seen at the McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County. McIntosh’s death signaled an escalation in the still-contentious relationship between the new United States and the Creek nation.


ROANOKE :: There’s nothing to see in Roanoke, Ga., anymore: The charred remains of the once bustling river town are now buried beneath the waters of Lake Eufala in Stewart County. Furious at the forced removal of their lands, a group of Creek tribes banded together to attack the town of Roanoke in 1836, one of several prosperous towns that had sprung up on former Creek land along the river. They burned the town to the ground, leaving only six men alive. The Creek made their point, but they would never get their land back.



This article was originally published in the summer 2014 issue of Atlanta Homeschool magazine. It has been updated and expanded for publication online. Some links in this article are affiliate links — if you purchase something through them, the merchant pays Atlanta Homeschool a small percentage of the sale price. We use these fees to pay for web hosting, photos, and writers.



Field Trip: Foxfire Museum

photo courtesy of the Foxfire Museum
Explore Georgia's living history


It’s the kind of story that makes a homeschooler’s heart sing: Back in the 1960s, an idealistic young English teacher wanted to get his students excited about learning so he took the novel approach of asking them what they wanted to do. Their answer: Creating a magazine to preserve the history of the Appalachian South where they’d grown up.


That high school project ultimately morphed into the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center in the North Georgia mountains, where more than twenty different log cabin structures (including a blacksmith shop, church, and grist mill) recreate what life was like for Georgia’s mountain villages around the turn-of-the- century. For the last thirty-eight years, the Foxfire students (and their teachers) have worked to create this 110-acre trip back in time. Mountain life in the nineteenth and twentieth century meant hard work in the fields and in the kitchen, but the Foxfire Museum captures the joy and beauty of that life, too.


Open: Monday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; admission: $6 for everyone age 11 and older, $3 for ages 7 to 10; free for ages 6 and younger; reservations required for guided tours.


5 things you shouldn't miss:
1:: The Zuraw Wagon was used on the Trail of Tears.
2:: Test your balance on stilts, a traditional Appalachian amusement.
3:: Work by the Village Weaver (artist-in-residence Sharon Grist) is on display at the Tiger House.
4:: More than 150 different plants and flowers grow along the Nature Path.
5:: Homemade toys in the Moore House show how mountain children entertained themselves.


Insider tip: Schedule a tour rather than just strolling the grounds alone. On a tour, you’ll get to go inside many of the cabins, but you can only peek through the windows on the self-guided tour.


Required reading: The Foxfire Book, a collection of articles, recipes, and living history from the magazine that started it all.


Fun Fact: The sled on the front porch of one of the cabins was for working steep fields (where a wagon might not be able to safely go), not for snowy days.


This article was originally printed in the fall 2012 issue of Atlanta Homeschool magazine and was updated in August 2015.


August Best Bets

Our picks for the best out-of-the-house homeschool fun this month  BY ERIN FLY

Learn what happens when a dragon moves into the neighborhood, frightening the neighbors, in this elementary school puppet show.

Curious about coding? Kids between ages and 15 can learn how to write simple drag-and-drop codes to produce their own games, animations, and songs at this hands-on workshop.

Sing along to "Do-Re-Mi," "Climb Every Mountain," "My Favorite Things," and all your favorite songs from The Sound of Music at this special movie screening. 

Learn more about the ways people fought back against the Nazi initiatives at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education’s first homeschool day of the academic year, focused on Resistance in the Holocaust.

Homeschoolers can get discounted tickets ($10 for outer box seats and $18 for pavillion seats), plus free admission to the Braves Museum and Hall of Fame. There is also a pre-game parade along Turner field. Arrive at the Hank Aaron Ramp across from aisle 125/129 by 5:30 P.M. to participate in a pre-game parade.

Paddle along the lake at twilight and look for water birds with a park ranger-guide during this activity, designed for . This event is for adults and children ages six and and older who know how to swim. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet the ranger at the bait shop. 

The Chattahoochee Nature Center hosts homeschoolers on the second Monday of each month, with science and nature programs designed especially for homeschoolers. See what you can expect in 2015-16 at this open house.

Check out the museum and grounds at the History Center, plus get a sneak peek at what's coming up at their monthly homeschool days during the 2015-16 school year. 

Learn about Aesops's most famous fables with puppets — including classics such as "The Lion and the Mouse," "The Fox and the Mouse," and "The Tortoise and the Hare." 

Take a fishing trip to Buck Shoals, and fish for catfish, bream, and bass. Take your catch home for dinner. Participants should bring their own bait and rod. Buck Shoals (an unopened state park) is located near Smithgall Woods in Helen; call for directions.

Experience live animal encounters, crafts, games, and butterflies at this event. The highlight is two tents filled with hundreds of live butterflies.

View over 200 pieces of art, photography, crafts, and sculptures at the Piedmont Park Arts Festival. This festival also includes food trucks and live music. 

Homeschoolers get free admission to check out Seriously Silly: The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems and the High's other exhibitions and to learn more about the museum's monthly homeschool days. (Bring a copy of your declaration of intent with you to take advantage of the free admission.) 

Hike with your dog and a park ranger on this moderate, one-mile hike. This hike will also give a view of the historic Civil War-era New Manchester mill ruins. Best for ages 6 and older. Close-toe shoes only. 

Celebrate the 14th anniversary of Giants of the Mesozoic by partying like a dinosaur. Enjoy dinosaur-themed activities with crafts, hands on projects, and games. Kids can come dressed as a dinosaur. 

Stap on a headlamp to run a nighttime marathon with an otherworldly theme at Riverside Park. This race is 3.5 hours long. Finishers of this race will receive an alien headband medal. Aid and water stations avaliable every mile. No jog strollers are allowed. 

The Georgia State University Observatory's monthly open house includes tours and a slide show. View the night sky through an observatory telescope starting at one hour after sunset, weather permitting. 

Enjoy family friendly activities, arts and crafts, and live music at the largest multicultural event in the southeast. 

During this park ranger-led experience homeschoolers will be allowed to participate in physical fitness and natural science activities. Come prepared to be active outdoors.

Learn about local birds and their habitats and about the Aubudon Society, which promotes bird conservation, during this guided nature walk. Meet up at the Park office/trading post. Feel free to bring your own bird seed to donate to the park's bird feeder. 

Homeschool parents get free admission (with a copy of your declation of intent) to check out the Zoo's educational offerings, and if you stop by the educator lounge in the Ford Tent between 10 A.M. to 3 P.M., receive a coupon for 10 percent off at the zoo's gift shops and resteraunts. There will also be education vendors. Registration required. 

There are family friendly free activities, including art and theater workshops, performances, games, and more every Sunday at the Woodruffs Arts Center. 

Get your silent movie fix with this 1927 classic about two men who become World War I fighter pilots. Definitely show up early for the organ sing-along before the film begins.