Jeep Wrangler Road Trip with My Wife Along Lookout Mountain Brow: From Fort Payne, AL to Rising Fawn, GA to Chattanooga, TN

Owning a Jeep Wrangler means that suddenly, any drive immediately becomes an adventurous road trip. That definitely was the case Labor Day Weekend.

My wife and I drove from my parents’ house in Fort Payne, Alabama to downtown, Chattanooga; the while time with the top off the Jeep and the whole time along the brow of Lookout Mountain.

We traveled through 3 states in doing so: Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

About halfway through, we stopped for a hike along side of the mountain top, at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

From there, we stumbled upon some hang gliders who were flying all around us. This was quite a sight to see!

It was a fun date! I really enjoyed being able to spent time alone with my wife all afternoon, while my parents and sister watched our kids.

At age 38, having fun is still important. Having a cool wife and a cool Jeep helps make that possible!

Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia: Hiking the Trails Down to Hemlock Falls and Cherokee Falls

I was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama in the 1980s and 90s. My dad’s side of the family lived just an hour on the other side of Lookout Mountain; near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

At least half a dozen times each year, we would drive to see that side of the family for get-togethers. A little past halfway of the trip, I would always notice a brown government sign advertising Cloudland Canyon State Park; just 3 miles to the left.

But being that we already lived next to the Little River Canyon Preserve and DeSoto State Park, we were already quite exposed to the Alabama side of Lookout Mountain’s natural wonders.

So as a kid, I never visited Cloudland Canyon State Park. It wasn’t until 3 years ago when I took my 5 year-old son (at the time), that I finally realized how awesome that place is.

Last weekend during Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to take a fun backroads Jeep ride with my now 8 year-old son and my dad.

We had heard you could hike down in the the canyon and check out some waterfalls.

And is exactly what we did.

It had the appeal of a theme park… except, it is an actual real park.

One of the highlights for my son is when we he was able to catch a crayfish at the bottom of one of the waterfalls.

Granted, this isn’t a hike for the faint of heart. It’s a 2 mile hike, but it’s straight down… and then you still have to hike back up.

But I am already looking forward to going back!

Guest Blog Post by My Mother, Gina Metallo Shell: “Our Trip to Tybee Island and Savannah for Our 42nd Wedding Anniversary and Meeting Paula Deen””

It has been a goal of ours to visit Savannah, GA for over 20 years. I have been constantly encouraged to see the pre-Civil War structures each time friends and family returned from a trip there.
We discovered that 20 minutes was all it would take to connect from Tybee Island to Savannah. This would be the best of both worlds; touring Savannah and enjoying Tybee Island Beach. I always wanted to visit Tybee Island after our friend Holly Haney spent her Honeymoon there. She was so in love with Tybee Island that she named her son Tybee!

Planning “Vacay 2019” would be shared between Savannah and Tybee. Savannah Beach Raquett Club provided the perfect location for us. It is on the North side, secluded and quiet side of Tybee.

There are few places to eat close to there. It is perfect for us as we enjoy eggs and toast or overnight oats for breakfast on our balcony. Lighthouse Pizza provided great calzones with a quick walk two blocks down.

I have always loved Paula Deen and her restaurant was my favorite! Paula Deen’s Creek House is a quick 10 mile drive with plenty of parking places, friendly staff and delicious food! (I am still thinking about the Smoked Salmon Salad!) I had read the signs posted about Paula Deen’s book-signing for her new book, Paul Deen Cuts the Fat, scheduled for June 28th at 5 pm.

What were the chances that I would get to meet my most favorite southern cook who I have adored for two decades? We returned for another wonderful meal and waited to meet Sweet Paula, her husband Michael, and son Jamie. It was the icing on my cupcake!
We enjoyed the beautiful beach where the Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet, walking on the beach, collecting seashells and watching the dolphins.

This is the first time that I have ever seen so many whole seashells. There were plenty for everyone, especially since this beach is not crowded. We decided to Segway our way through Historic Savannah.

We used Adventure Tours in Motion Segway Tours and booked a 90 minute tour to view as much as possible. Chelsea was an amazing guide offering historical and fun facts. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful city and trees laced with Spanish Moss.

Do not let fear prevent you from stepping on a Segway like I almost did. I am ready to get back on and tour some more!

Our maps and brochures are ready to be filed so we can pick back up in a few years. There is no doubt about it that we will make every attempt to return. We loved Savannah and Tybee Island and they loved us back.

I will close by providing some helpful reminders that will make our journey smoother.

Walking and bicycling are highly encouraged with parking being limited. We plan to throw our bicycles in the back of our camper truck next time so we will be ready to ride. I currently do not own a bicycle so I hope to pick the skill back up quickly. I will soon find out if it is true about not forgetting how to ride a bike. At least for now I can navigate the Segway until I pick the cycling skills back up.
With parking being limited, I will need to remember to leave yourself plenty of time to find a parking place. When you find a place to park, you may need to walk a few blocks and need quarters and dollars for the parking.

My good New Balance Tennis Shoes were packed for walking and the Segway Tour. Somehow in all the excitement, I must have missed the memo on stretching your calf muscles before getting on the Segway. Our guide encouraged us to stretch our muscles every time we made a stop. It made it more comfortable for us and the other 60-ish couple we rode with.
Let’s pack the bikes, stretch the muscles, pack a couple rolls of quarters and dollar bills for parking.

Oh… If your parking meters runs out before you return from cruising the city on Segway, your windshield may be decorated with a parking ticket. Or, you may get lucky with a kind-hearted Parking Meter Attendant who just leaves you a Warning Ticket.

-Gina Metallo Shell (Nick’s mom)

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