3 Cities in Georgia for a Family Vacation

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, brought to you by the Hotel Planner campaign.

As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia is a state with a rich history. It’s reflected in the cities that are prime spots for a family vacation. While Atlanta, the state capital, usually makes it on any list of best cities in the state, there are other cities in the state with their own beauty and community activities. On that note, here are three cities that deserve a closer look. 

St. Mary’s, Georgia 

St. Mary’s was hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but it still has seasonal activities. If you are thinking about visiting St. Mary’s with your family between April and July, consider making a stop to the Harriett Bluff Organic Blueberry Farm. If that doesn’t interest you, your family could take part in kayaking or visit St. Mary’s Aquatic Center. You could also enjoy Express Train rides or go fishing.

Other places in the city show its commitment to preserving its rich history. For example, the city has antebellum architecture and a Peace Garden that commemorates the War of 1812.

If you’re looking for good food in St. Mary’s, there are well over 20 places for you and your family to dine. You’ll find local tastes and flavors inspired by Japan, Thailand, and Mexico. The downtown area alone has three cafes, like the Riverside Cafe.


If you would like to take your family on a simple, quaint vacation in Georgia, Senoia is the place. The city is the 4th safest in the state and it is where several movies, like “Fried Green Tomatoes,” were filmed.

When you visit Senoia, make sure to visit the Senoia Welcome Center and Marimac Lake. The fishing policy at the lake is “catch and release.”

While staying in Senoia, you have a least 10 options for good eating. For example, you and your family can enjoy some burgers at Nic & Normans or visit Matt’s Smalltown Pizza.


Alpharetta is an affluent city that is dedicated to fitness, sports, and recreation, so there is plenty for your family to do there during your stay. Wills Park is open to the public, as is the city’s greenway system along Big Creek. There are numerous trails for biking and jogging. You could visit some golf clubs or go to the shopping district at Avalon. If you’re looking for a place to eat in Alpharetta, you have over 200 options, with flavors from around the world. For example, you could eat at AJ’s Country Cooking, which offers a buffet with Southern favorites, or you could also eat at Aomi Japanese Restaurant.

Before staying in Alpharetta — or any of these fine cities — make sure your find the best deals for hotels in the area. Who says that you can’t vacation in comfort without breaking the bank?

When visiting Georgia, you will find numerous cities that are strikingly beautiful and quaint. That is true of St. Mary’s, Senoia, and Alpharetta. Consider visiting any of these three cities as you plan your next family vacation.

Image via Flickr by RobBixbyPhotography


5 Best Things to Do in Alpharetta With Kids

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, brought to you by the Hotel Planner campaign.

Alpharetta in Fulton County, Georgia, has both the vibrancy of a big city and the down-to-earth, accessible charm of a smaller community. Nestled between the Georgia mountains and the city of Atlanta, it’s well situated to offer exciting yet convenient things to fill any traveler’s visit. Plus with many family-friendly hotels near these activities, Alpharetta just might be the perfect destination for that family trip you’ve been planning to take. Here are some things to do in Alpharetta that the whole family can enjoy together.

Adventure at the Big Creek Greenway

If you’re looking for some outdoor fun, the Big Creek Greenway is a great place for both high activity and relaxing downtime. Bikers will enjoy the off-road mountain bike trails, which are easy for beginners and kids. Big Creek Greenway also offers trails that are well-suited for running and rollerblading. What makes the Greenway such a favorite, though, is that all of these activities are enjoyed in nature. The trail under the tree canopies is followed by a gentle stream and stretches along picnic sites, swamps, and ponds where you can bird watch, feed the fish and ducks, or sit down for a picnic.

Outdoor Movies at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

The beautifully landscaped Encore Park, which houses the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, is just the place to set up for a family movie night. The amphitheater is one of Northside hospital’s locations to host Movies in the Park, a free outdoor movie

initiative to show family-friendly movies at kid-friendly times. Carry extra layers for the evening chill, load up on snacks, and watch a film at sundown, which is usually around 6:30 to 7 p.m. What’s more, kids get free face-painting inspired by the movie of the day.

Indoor Fun at Main Event Entertainment

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Main Event Entertainment is the “ultimate fun for people of all ages.” With a wide range of activities such as bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, rope climbing, and video games, we don’t see how anybody wouldn’t enjoy themselves. With this indoor play park open from 11 a.m. daily, rainy days don’t have to be spent cooped up in a hotel room with the great escape that is Main Event.

Shopping at the North Point Mall

If you want to get a little shopping in while in Alpharetta but still want to make a day out of it, then the North Point Mall is the perfect place to tow everyone along. Apart from the thrilling shopping options for all, the young ones can enjoy a ride on the North Point Carousel. Catch your meals at any of the numerous restaurants at the Food Court and wind up your trip with a movie at the mall’s theater.

Fun in Nature at the Webb Bridge Park

Webb Bridge Park is a big park with many sections, including a kids’ play zone that has a great variety of playgrounds with swings, slides, music, and even a covered sand area. Older children can play in the soccer and baseball fields while parents walk the serene trail through the forest of about 1.5 miles.

Who said family travel can’t be entertaining for all? With the above favorites and much more, Alpharetta is sure to change any such opinion.

Image via Flickr by atlnature

Dear Jack: For the 2nd Year in a Row Now, You Received the Certificate of Excellence in Mathematics Award

7 years, 6 months.

A year ago for the 2016-2017 school year, out of all the other students in your class, your teacher chose you for the Certificate of Excellence in Mathematics Award. And a year later, as you finished up 1st grade, you won the same award again; this time for the 2017-2018 school year!

I find this quite impressive. Only one student per class can win this award- and you’ve won it both times since you’ve been in school.

Yeah, this is amazing, actually.

It’s interesting because my brain doesn’t work that way. I am horrible at math. I got my college degree in English, by default; as doing so required the least number of math courses possible.

I am so happy for you. You have so much potential. You have many options for a career.

Something I’ve mentioned over the past couple of years is my understanding that I have a very smart boy for a son. I realize I am responsible for guiding you in this talent you have.

I am totally aware that the next decade ahead will determine your decisions for college; as well as your career goals. I take this very seriously.

At the same time, I also place a high value on you getting to be a kid. It’s important to me that you have a well-balanced childhood.

It’s that perfect mix of doing your best in your academics as well as your social development.

As your father, I am responsible for help training a future man. I’m taking all that my own dad taught me, and combining it with what I’ve additionally learned from my own manhood so far.

And from there, I add all that information on top of your own interests and talents, to build on top of your own identity.

My son, the math whiz. I am so proud.



Dear Holly: Your Brother Taught You a New Word… “Sarted”

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

It’s so great that you are now able to begin repeating and remembering words. Your speech abilities are getting better and better everyday. I love that even if you can’t express certain things to me, you are usually able to understand the general message I am trying to convey to you.

It definitely makes life a bit easier when you are able to communicate your wants and needs, so I don’t have to learn by instant trial and error.

But… you do have an older brother, who happens to be 7 and a half, who happens to like teaching you some of his own favorite words. And he likes to use words that I don’t use with you.

So more than once now, I have walked into the room, sensing that your brother was teaching you something sneaky. And each time, my senses have been correct.

This past weekend, after the two of you got buckled up in my car, I had to run back in the house real quick to take care of something.

When I returned to the car, it was as if your brother had prepared you for you to do a presentation:

You looked up at me with a proud look on your face, and you announced to me, “Daddy sarted!”

At that point your brother immediately began chuckling, giving away that he had coached you on what to say.

It was difficult not to laugh, but with a straight face, I reminded your brother, “We use the word pop, instead.”

I suppose if it truly bothered me that you were using your brother’s default word for passing gas, I’d stop it. But really, it’s pretty adorable to hear a little innocent 2 year-old girl mispronounce such a stinky word!

And you’re just so proud to say it; not necessarily knowing what it means, just knowing your brother thinks it’s funny.

I’m just waiting for you to say, “Daddy sarted!” in public. Because even though you are randomly saying it, unconnected to any action of mine, who are they going to believe?

Probably the cute little girl. Not her Daddy.



Dear Jack: Slumber Party at Your Cousins’ House!

7 years, 6 months. 

Dear Jack,

During your first week of summer vacation, which you spent in Alabama at Nonna and Papa’s, you asked your Aunt Dana if you could spend the night at her house one night.

Not only did you get to hang out with your two cousins, but you were specifically excited about getting to sleep on the floor. You saw it as a “slumber party”.

And because a storm was coming through the Friday night that Mommy and I were planning to pick you up, we weren’t able to arrive from Tennessee until the next morning.

So for your final extra night, you chose to stay with your cousins again and sleep on the floor.

I think it’s great that you’re getting to the age where you think it’s fun to spend the night with your aunt and uncle and cousins.

It’s good for your growing sense of independence. I think to some degree, it actually challenges you, as you have to adjust to a slightly different family culture; as each individual family has their own, though the differences may not be noticeable from the outside looking in.

After all, I wasn’t there with my many rules. Hopefully you didn’t keep everyone in the house up too late.

So you were proud to sleep on the floor, among pink kittens and unicorns.

Now I am wondering at what point your sister will be old enough to join in on the “Cousins’ Slumber Party”. I’m sure that would be a lot of fun! As long as I’m not there, with all my many Daddy rules, of course!

Because if I were in charge, it would be, “Okay, light’s out at 8:00. Don’t get up for anything. Just go straight to sleep!”

It’s obvious I’m reflecting my constant need for sleep onto you.



Dear Holly: Being the Youngest of the Cousins, You Just Have to Go Along With Whatever’s Going On!

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

After your brother spent his first week of summer vacation in Alabama with Nonna and Papa, you rode back with Mommy and me to go pick your brother up, as we spent Memorial Day weekend there.

Once reunited with your brother and your two cousins on my side of the family, the four of you quickly formulated into your own version of The Little Rascals.

It’s funny because often when this happens, as long as there’s another adult somewhere near you, I’m okay with just learning in hindsight the ways you had fun.

So when I saw this picture of your steering Papa’s homemade racecar, while your brother and older cousins rode along, I simply thought to myself, “Yep, that sounds about right!”

Out of the four of you, your brother is the oldest and the only boy, and therefore, the boss. And you are the youngest, and therefore, the littlest rascal.

As you all grow up, these dynamics will remain the same. It’s quite similar to the way that a child’s birth order among their siblings typically helps have a major role in shaping their own personality.

But to reinforce this concept further for both you and your brother, your “birth order” among the cousins remains the same; whether as my own children or among your cousins.

You will always be the baby. Your brother will always be the oldest.

I can already see how you have a sense of fearlessness because of your role: You’ve already been able to see three other kids who are older than you test some limits out first.

From there, you get to build on top of their experiences.

So while you are the baby, you are also brave.

Even just the way you are able to scarf down salt and vinegar potato chips without flinching is probably proof of this.



Dear Jack: You Lost Your Other Front Tooth This Week While Getting Your Teeth Brushed

7 and half years old.

Dear Jack,

You managed to accidentally lose yet another tooth this week; your other front tooth. This one came with the least anticipation. Tuesday night as I was putting you to bed you briefly mentioned that another tooth felt sort of wiggly.

My response was to tell you to leave it alone so it didn’t keep you up too late.

The next morning, as I was brushing your teeth, I kept this in mind. I was very careful not to even brush that one tooth.

But as I was pulling your toothbrush from the back of your upper teeth and attempted to pull it around to the other side, apparently I unknowingly barely grazed the edges of the bristles of your toothbrush against the edge of your lose tooth.

That’s all it took.

I saw your tooth hit the bathroom sink and fall into the stream of running water. It was like I had the ability to move very quickly as time passed by extra slowly, like Quicksilver of X-Men.

Amazingly, I was able to snatch your tooth up with my pointer finger and my thumb, on the first try, saving it from being washed down the drain.

If I had the chance to try it a second time, I probably wouldn’t have been successful. It was that moment in time I wasn’t prepared for, yet I still managed to accomplish the mission.

Minutes later, as I took a picture of you with your tooth, and also a close-up of your mouth, your sister assumed that she was supposed to pose as well.

So I got a picture of her pretending to show up her missing tooth, even though she’s still several years from even losing her first one.

As for you, I told you to take a break from losing anymore teeth for now.