Monday, May 23, 2011

"Stand In the Place Where You Live .... " The Athens GA Staycation

Athens, GA is known for its musical heritage and college town feel. But did you know it is also rich in the area of fun-filled family attractions? Since we homeschool, we often take advantage of the many educational activities that are available throughout Athens and its surrounding communities as well.

Being on a single income budget and having my husband in grad school will make this year's vacation budget non-existent. We were already thinking of long weekends in place of our vacation, however, with gas prices like they are, the long weekends are quickly leaving us behind as well.

With a Staycation, you actually stay at home, enjoying your area's attractions and therefor spend a lot less money. Activities could be things you already enjoy doing or trying out something that you may not have done before. Go ahead, try that tourist-y thing you have always thought was cheesy. You may just enjoy yourself!

I have put together several days worth of Staycation activities in the Athens area. There are also lists of things to do by category such as rainy day activities and beat the heat ideas.

The Day Camping Trip
COST: $ plus gas and a picnic
When I think of camping, I think of hanging out with my boys and husband and maybe even our dogs – hiking, enjoying nature, eating food cooked over a fire and roasting marshmallows. But with camping also comes that very dreaded sleeping arrangement – a large “car camping” tent on a chilly ground waking up to an aching back and instant coffee, that is IF you sleep at all. Surely it has to be easier. Well, of course it can be, but I don't have the resources to outfit our adventure through REI at the moment. So I have come up with a much, much easier option – the DAY CAMPING trip.

Imagine the commercial of a well-known credit card ….
Gas for your car: $20
Picnic Supplies: $20
Sleeping in your own bed after a day in the woods: PRICELESS

Home to such recreation facilities as Sandy Creek, the North Oconee Greenway and Memorial Park, there are no shortage of trails from hiking and biking trails to horseback riding and anything in between. One of our favorites and an Athens "must-do" is Birchmore Trail in Memorial Park. There is so much history and quirkiness to that trail - much like Athens itself!

One of our favorite activities in the spring, summer and fall is to pack up a picnic and head to a park. Sometimes we choose a local park, but other times we venture out to a Georgia State Park. With ten parks and recreation areas within a 50-mile driving distance of Athens, there are plenty of parks with different amenities available. Most have grills available if you prefer to cookout rather than picnic – or spend the whole day and do both! Many Georgia State Parks have beaches on their lakes with designated swimming areas. At $5 per day (a yearly pass of $50,) visiting Georgia State Parks are truly a bargain! Playgrounds are available in most state parks as well as most of the community parks in Athens.

In addition to hiking, two of our favorite activities at a state park are geocaching and letterboxing. 
Think high tech treasure hunt. All you need is a portable (handheld) GPS and some coordinates to tell you where to look for a cleverly concealed box in the woods. Use the search tool to locate the are you are going to and seek out your treasure. My boys love treasure hunting because in addition to the logbook that you sign, there are often trinkets or “swag” to trade out of each treasure box. They love this part of geocaching, which they affectionately call "treasure hunting."
Letterboxing is a bit different than geocaching. This is the ultimate for Indiana Jones lovers. Letterboxes are hidden like geocaches but instead of using a GPS and coordinates, you must use written instructions or decipher a set of clues. Some are quite easy to find and others are more challenging.
Among our favorite local state parks is Hard Labor Creek  just southeast of Athens in Morgan County. Hiking on some of the 24 miles multi-use trails, swim at lake, grilling some burgers, fishing in the lakes and playing on the playground - that sounds like an awesome day to me! A few of the first geocaches I found were located at Hard Labor Creek and I have since found letterboxes there as well. There is even reasonably-priced golf for dad at The Creek at Hard Labor Creek Golf Course who lays claim to the “hardest starting hole in Georgia!”

Kayaking with The Sandbar
'Yak it Up on the Broad!
$$$ plus gas and lunch

Take a kayaking trip down the Broad River with The Sandbar

A few weeks ago we took our boys kayaking for the first time. Farm Boy loved it. Music Man asked to stay with grandma next time. :)

Make a day of it by taking your time, leisurely paddling down the river and enjoying a technology-free day! Pack a lunch and bring plenty of snacks and water (or grab some in their restaurant!)

The Sandbar is offering a special to readers of this blog!! On Tuesdays throughout the summer, kayaking is available for only $10 per person by mentioning this blog. 

Hang Out in Helen
COST: $$ plus gas and lunch (or a picnic!)
Anna Ruby Falls

Last year, my husband's parents took our family with them to their favorite cabin in the north Georgia Mountains near Helen. It was a wonderful weekend away and we enjoyed it immensely. It is, however, so close that we have been several times to just spend the day.

The boys got a huge kick out of the fact that we spent our honeymoon in Helen (almost fifteen years ago!!) Our family has hiked the same trail up to Anna Ruby Falls located in Unicoi State Park that my husband and I hiked the only afternoon it didn't rain on our honeymoon.

We love spending time at the Nora Mills Granary, an operational grist mill just outside of Helen. We pick up some incredible freshly milled flour and cornmeal. Stop in next door for a cup of java at JumpinGoat Coffee.

Mark of the Potter is an amazing craft shop featuring the work of 30 artists including four resident potters. It is worth the drive to visit the oldest craft shop in the same location. Fisherman will drool at the size of the trout who call that area home. Fishing is banned there but you can feed the fish. And dream about them. :) Skipping rocks is also a great past time for my boys.

On our list of things to do this year while in Helen is a visit to Helen Tubing and Waterpark. Each a bargain in and of itself, you can choose to “Tube the Hooch”or play all day in the waterpark (and tubing is included in the price of admission to the waterpark!)
Wonderful Watkinsville
COST: gas, lunch and "souvenirs"
Watkinsville is just a few minutes from Athens. This quiet little town has so many wonderful offerings from Harris Shoals to Heritage Parks, First Friday and the Oconee Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. The kids will enjoy playing on the wooden playground at Harris Shoals Park. Plan on playing in the shoals while you are there!
Take up a New Hobby or Rekindle an Old One

Fun with Man's Best Friend

Dog Parks are located at Memorial Park, Sandy Creek Park (closed Mondays,) and Wiggley Field at Southeast Clarke Park.

Splish Splash 
  • There are a variety of pools throughout Athens-Clarke County provided and maintained by ACC Leisure Servies. $1 per person per day or Family Pass $30 available for purchase at any ACC Pool. Please note all pools are closed on Mondays! Pools will be open this weekend, Saturday - Monday for the Memorial Day weekend and open for the regular season on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. The Memorial Park Pool is not opening this weekend and I was told it would be a while before it did open.

    This year they are offering a new Report Card Rewards Program!

  • Beach at Lake Chapman (Sandy Creek) CLOSED MONDAYS

Rainy Day Adventures or Beat the Heat!

  • Pump It Up Pop In Playtimes

    5 and under - Tuesdays/Thursdays - 9:30AM-11:30AM ($3.00 per person)

    11 and under - Wednesdays - 3:30PM-5:30PM (6.00 per person)

    Parents are FREE!!
  • Showtime Bowling
    M-F 8-6 12 and under one free game per Must rent shoes for $4

  • Carmike 12
    Twilight Showings are only $5 pp everyday 4:00-5:30

  • Carmike 12
    Summer Kids Series -Thursdays starting 6/9/11 $1pp
    There is a cute hint to the movies they are showing on the website, but check with the box office to find out what film is showing we week!

  • Beechwood Cinemas
    Tuesdays/Thursdays 1.00 per person 10:00AM

You're Only a Day Away! (Day Trips from Athens)
Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM Admission is $8 for adults or kids. Sundays from 1-5pm; $6 all day admission.

    NOTE: I originally wanted to include a places where kids can eat free or cheap, but decided to make it a separate post since this one was already so long. Tune in later this week for that post!

    Many thanks to The Happy Housewife for coordinating this series! Come back tomorrow for links to all the Staycation posts! I'm looking forward to seeing them as I will be utilizing them when we do go visit folks again!


    1. Wow! Great job putting this together. We're only about 20-30 minutes from Athens, making it the closest larger town/city to us. I didn't know about a lot of those opportunities! Thank you for all of your hard work! ~Michelle

    2. What a great list! A tip for those wanting to save even more money - GA Park passes can be checked out at The Pines Libraries. The checkout is for two weeks, so it makes visiting the State Parks a little more affordable.

    3. What a thorough job! Thanks for posting this!

    4. I was just browsing about Staycations and I was thrilled to see something from here in Athens, GA where we live! I was a little down about us not being able to afford a summer vacation but this makes me feel a lot better. ; )

    5. That looks an awesome place. I'm gonna try to visit it. I'm pretty sure me and my friends are going to love it. Check out the Hotels in Cebu City, you'll love it too. Anyway, Thanks for sharing!


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