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Start Your Engines: Navigate Blue Ridge with Scenic Driving Tours

Peel back the curtain to unveil what makes Blue Ridge special: Hidden waterfalls, black bear sightings, foliage and more 

While thoughts of North Georgia’s Blue Ridge, located about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, conjure images of scenic hikes, waterfalls and breathtaking views from the expansive decks of well-appointed cabins, some of the town’s most charming treasures are best explored by car.

Try these four self-guided driving tours during your next trip to Blue Ridge.

Mountains & Countryside

Beyond the charming downtown, Blue Ridge is mountain roads and country churches. It’s pastoral valleys and river rapids, a place where history and nature sweep guests miles away from the ordinary. Catch a glimpse of a hawk or owl soaring silently above. Watch for woodpeckers, turkeys and mountain grouse near the forest edges. The flash of a white-tail deer is an everyday occurrence. Rarer, but not impossible, is sighting a black bear or bobcat.Follow this driving tour to discover it all. A word to the wise: do not try to drive on any rough forest dirt road in low clearance cars.

 

Nature in the Cohutta Wilderness  

In Fannin County the Cohuttas rise in the west and the Blue Ridge to the south and east. The Cherokee Indians considered the Cohuttas to be the “poles of the shed,” holding up the sky in this, their “Enchanted Land.” Although there were no Cherokee villages within the Cohutta wilderness, Cherokees hunted the area extensively and played their own version of field hockey on the ball fields at Little Bald Mountain, today’s group camping area. The Cohutta Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses 95,000 acres, 40,000 of which are within Fannin County.
Follow this tour to drive the Cohutta Wilderness, the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River inhabited by black bears and wild boars, along with smaller animals like bobcats, raccoons, squirrels. The changing seasons bring blooms to mountain laurel (May), rhododendron (June),  and a profusion of wildflowers (early spring), with ferns dotting the landscape all summer long. Averaging about 15 to 20 miles along the Forest Service Roads, this driving tour takes visitors on a three-hour trip through the forest. Make the drive a day-trip with stops along the way to enjoy the view; take a hike and picnic at beautiful Lake Conasauga. Vehicles need to be in good mechanical condition with adequate fuel; low clearance cars are generally a bad idea on these rough roads.

 

Daytrip to Dahlonega & Apple Alley

This day trip, originally produced by the U.S. Forest Service, is beautiful any time of year, but autumn highlights the fall foliage, presenting a particularly scenic drive. With great opportunities for stops along the way, this half-day drive begins and ends at the intersection of Georgia Highways 5 and 515 in Blue Ridge, with round-trip mileage at just over 102 miles. Covering a variety of North Georgia treasures, this tour takes guests to a swinging bridge, a vineyard, an apple orchard and more.

 

Fannin County Town & Country

Named for Col. James Walker Fannin, who fought for the independence of Texas and was killed in the Goliad Massacre after the fall of the Alamo, Fannin County was founded in 1854 from lands in Gilmer and Union Counties. Prior to that time, the land belonged to the Cherokee Indians whose fate was sealed when gold was discovered in Dahlonega in 1829. Georgia’s gold rush created more problems between the settlers and the Indians, and in 1830 the U.S. Congress passed the Cherokee Removal Act, which ultimately resulted in the tragic “Trail of Tears.”

In 1860, the first Fannin County census counted 900 families or 5,139 residents. When the Civil War began in 1861, most residents were small subsistence farmers, who had little interest in the slave issue and had mixed loyalties, some for the South, some for the North. Today, some of the unique and most fascinating features of Fannin County are its historic rural communities and settlements. Use this tour to find these “hollers” or coves, often in isolated and remote areas surrounded by mountains and nestled along the banks of picturesque streams or rivers.

FanninCounty Chamber of Commerce, www.BlueRidgeMountains.com, 1-800-899-MTNS.

 

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Website maps U.S. landmarks for road travel

East Cobber Karen Hallacy alerted us to this :

Want to drive across the U.S. and see all major landmarks? MSU computer scientist Randy Olson created a map for this purpose. To view the map, visit http://news.discovery.com/tech/gear-and-gadgets/how-to-really-drive-across-the-us-hitting-all-major-landmarks-150309.htm.

Do you have a travel tip? Email cynthia@eastcobber.com. Include “East Cobb Travel Tip” in the subject line. 

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Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate will begin accepting reservations on March 2

 

Biltmore’s newest lodging offering – Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate – will begin accepting reservations starting March 2, 2015, for stays beginning in late 2015.

Village Hotel joins the Inn on Biltmore Estate to provide a range of options for guests who want to stay overnight on the estate.

Village Hotel will be centrally located in Antler Hill Village, a convenient home base steps away from shopping, dining, the Winery, live music and outdoor activities. It offers a casual and inviting atmosphere, inspired by the eclectic mix of cottages and farm homes that dotted the property when George and Edith Vanderbilt lived here.

Village Hotel’s location is set in a lively atmosphere, while the Inn offers a luxurious private, hill-top setting, with elegantly appointed surroundings.

Each of the hotel’s 209 guest rooms and suites offers a cozy cottage setting with a window seat, 400-thread count linens, a 42-inch LCD-screen TV, refrigerator, Keurig coffee maker and walk-in shower.

Dining at Village Hotel will feature The Kitchen, a quick and easy stop for freshly prepared breakfast items and on-the-go lunches and picnics. The Village Social is the hotel’s casual restaurant and bar serving light breakfast, lunch and dinner emphasizing a small plate tasting menu featuring seafood, Biltmore Wines, craft beers and signature cocktails.

Hotel amenities include a fitness center, an outdoor pool and complimentary shuttle service around Biltmore estate.

Reservations may be made by calling 866-851-4668, or visiting www.biltmore.com.

 

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Spend a FREE night at a Bed & Breakfast in Kentucky

The Ashley Inn

The Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky(BBAK) is giving away a free overnight at member bed and breakfast inns. From February 15 through April 16, 2015, guests who book an overnight stay at a participating BBAK-member property will get one night free.

Plan a romantic getaway. Celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Gather your BFFs for a girlfriends’ getaway. Spirit the kids away for a spring fling. And book your good times at a BBAK-member inn, choosing from antebellum mansions, former churches, log homes, elaborate estates, charming cottages, farm stays – even Painted Ladies.

You will find bed and breakfasts tucked in historic buildings, perched at lake’s edge, sitting in the midst of hundred acre woods; in Victorian neighborhoods, on working farms, near Kentucky’s many themed trails, including the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and culinary and heritage trails. There are nearly 100 BBAK members, located in every region in Kentucky, each offering professional, quality-certified and licensed operations that provide fine Southern hospitality and service.

Enjoy luxury amenities, homemade gourmet breakfasts, antique-laden rooms, rolling countryside, sweeping vistas and unexpected goodies like special turn-downs, fresh flowers in the rooms or complimentary wine and cheese. Some inns offer spa services; others might have farm tours, wine tastings or onsite specialty gift shops. All have hospitable innkeepers who want nothing more than for your bed and breakfast experience to be everything you want it to be. Of course, complimentary beverages and snacks, free Wi-Fi and free parking are always part of the B&B experience.

The BBAK’s “Try Us, You’ll Like Us” Buy One Night/Get 1 Night Free offer requires a Sunday through Thursday reservation and is based on member availability and a consecutive nights stay. This offer may not be combined with other discounts, specials or redemption of gift certificates. Reservations must be prepaid. Use Promotion Code “B&B BOGO Offer” when making reservations.

Search BBAK members on the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky website at www.KentuckyBB.com. Choose your B&B. Then contact the innkeeper regarding availability for the nights of your choice, Sunday through Thursday, through April 16, 2015.

 

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Sandals Caribbean Night at Rosner Travel

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Rosner Travel presents Sandals Caribbean Night on Thursday, February 26, 2015, 7-8:30pm at La Madeleine Perimeter, 1165 Perimeter Center W, #330, Atlanta 30346.

There is no charge for this event but space is limited. Please RSVP to 678.860.2491 or email Marsha@RosnerTravel.com.

 

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Arts StreetFest Returning to Alpharetta

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Nearly 100 artists from around the U.S. will fill the downtown streets of Alpharetta on April 18 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to present their high-quality artwork at Alpharetta Arts StreetFest. This colorful festival is free to the public and features live jazz and acoustical music, cultural arts performances, children’s activities and festival cuisine.
Festival lovers and art enthusiasts from around the Southeast will enjoy two full days of strolling through outdoor galleries filled with fine paintings, mixed media, photography, pottery, jewelry, textile, glass, wood, metal and paper art. After browsing the amazing art, take a break to enjoy a variety of festival cuisine.

“The Alpharetta Arts StreetFest is a weekend filled with culture, food, activities and all kinds of artwork,” said Janet Rodgers, president and CEO of the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are excited to welcome the artists from around the U.S. and we hope the event will bring in art lovers who will stay overnight to enjoy the weekend’s festivities.”

Plan to stay the weekend to explore other activities and attractions in Alpharetta. Stop by Food Truck Alley on Thursday, April 16 for cuisine from a variety of food trucks. Visitors can also stop by Topgolf Alpharetta to tee off with friends throughout the weekend or visit one of Alpharetta’s locally-owned shops featuring local artists.

For more information about the event visit www.awesomealpharetta.com.

 

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King Cake, a Mardi Gras Tradition

King Cake Final

Photo Credit: Svywlch http://www.flickr.com/photos/27164521@N00/

Today is Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season and the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Fat Tuesday is the last day to enjoy a King Cake until Twelth Night next year. Share with friends and partake in a tradition almost as old as Mardi Gras.

King Cake recipe, Chef Emeril Lagasse (Courtesy Gumbopages.com)

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles

Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. (If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.)
Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn’t a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner’s sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

YIELD: 20 to 22 servings

NOTE! King Cakes are not prepared or served before Twelfth Night or after Mardi Gras Day!

Brides Against Breast Cancer Bridal Event & Trunk Sale

Bride and groom kissing.

Brides Against Breast Cancer Bridal Event & Trunk Sale will be held at Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter, 111 Perimeter Center West, Atlanta, GA 30346, on Saturday, February 21, 2015, 5-9pm. Admission to this VIP event is $20 per person.

Be the first to try on and purchase your dream gown, before general admission. Enjoy light bites, beverages, entertainment and giveaways. Limited Tickets Available!

The general admission event will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, from 11am-4pm. Admission is $5 per person. For more information visit http://www.bridesagainstbreastcancer.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=Atlanta%2C+GA+-+February+2015.

80 percent of proceeds go toward providing free services for families affected by breast cancer. The Health Support Network provides FREE cancer related programs and services to children, adults, families and caregivers.

Rosner Travel is proud to be a part of Brides Against Breast Cancer and this exciting event. Planning your dream Honeymoon or tropical Destination Wedding? Rosner Travel will be here to help you plan. Be sure to stop by our booth and register for their gift basket; and, we can even schedule an appointment to begin your stress-free Honeymoon or Destination Wedding planning. Rosner Travel’s services are complimentary. For more informaton or questions about this event or or travel planning, contact Marsha@RosnerTravel.com at 678-860-2491 or visit www.RosnerTravel.com.

 

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Building a Family Getaway that Really Clicks

Legoland trip28

School break season is here! For many East Cobb families that means it’s time for a quick vacation getaway.  To chase away the first chills of winter, many will head South to visit the world’s most famous mouse in Orlando.  There’s more to Orlando than Walt Disney World or Universal Studio’s; nearby Legoland Florida may well click and be a hit for your family!

An easy 45 minute drive from Orlando-proper, Legoland is located in Winter Haven at the site of the old Cypress Gardens Park.  Preserving the historical botanical gardens, Legoland Florida opened in 2011.  Since the opening of the amusement park, a Water Park has been added, allowing warmer-weather visitors the ability to spend part of their visit splashing away with water play.  The next big unveil for Legoland Florida is an on-site hotel complete with Lego-themed rooms.

There are many types of attractions; thrill rides (the Dragon, Lego Kingdom), interactive rides (Lost Kingdom Adventure, Land of Adventure), relaxing rides (The Grand Carousel, Fun Town) and breathtaking view rides (Island in the Sky, rotating platform).  For show-lovers, the 3D Theatre offers a variety of films throughout the day, while the Pirates Cove Adventure is a live-action water show, complete with some impressive water ski stunts.  The Ford Driving School is especially popular with children eager to earn their ‘driver’s license’ behind the wheel of a kid-size Lego car.

Miniland USA is truly a testament to the longevity and creativity of Lego. Visitors can “ooh and aah” their way around miniature replicas of Florida, DC, California, New York and Las Vegas before touring the expansive Pirate Shores displays.  Featuring many hard-to-find Lego Ideas (sets designed by Lego fans) The Big Shop or Studio Store are well with a visit.

Compared to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, Legoland is a much quieter and more laid back type of amusement park. With plenty of benches situated throughout the park, it’s easy for families to snag a spot to enjoy an ice cream cone or popcorn.  Take note, while every visitor is sure to enjoy their fair share of fun, the park seems to be geared toward ages 12 and under.

Know Before You Go:

  • If you plan on spending only 1 day at Legoland, Orlando offers more hotel, dining, shopping and entertainment options for the duration of your getaway
  • Shuttle service from Orlando to Winter Haven is an easy, inexpensive and relaxing alternative to driving; you’ll also avoid a the parking fee and enjoy curbside drop off / pick up service
  • Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and rain ponchos to avoid ‘amusement park prices’
  • Search online for promotions or discounts for additional savings
  • The healthiest dining options are located at The Market Restaurant near the entrance
  • Pack a towel that can serve to dry off after the water rides or for use as a blanket, if needed

(Written by Dana diLorenzo. As a life-long resident of East Cobb, Dana diLorenzo is proud to be a contributing writer for EAST COBBER. She has written marketing copy for Fortune 500 companies and contributed articles to various regional publications. Dana was selected to represent the state of Georgia at the Cooper Tires Super Mom Drive & Ride where she happily accepted the “Driving Miss Daisy” award as the slowest, yet safest driver in the group. She has also written for major hotel chains as a Travel Mom. When she’s not working on a writing assignment, you can find Dana and husband Rick at a local baseball field, swim team meet or basketball game cheering on their sons Clark and Connor.)

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New Camper Cabins Open at Fort Yargo State Park

One of Georgia’s most popular state parks, Fort Yargo, just opened 13 new camper cabins for overnight guests.  Located near Winder, the cabins feature two bedrooms, a sleeper sofa, one bath, a kitchen, television and screened porch. Outside, guests will find a picnic table and fire ring. Most of the cabins have views of the park’s sparkling lake.

Camper cabin guests bring their own kitchen utensils and linens; however, linen service is available for an additional fee.  Dogs are welcome in two of the camper cabins with advance reservations. Rates are $135, with an optional $30 linen fee and $45 pet fee. Reservations are accepted 13 months in advance by calling 1-800-864-7275 or going online at GeorgiaStateParks.org.

Fort Yargo State Park is known for exceptional mountain bike trails, hiking, disc golf, a historic fort, fishing and other lake activities. The sandy beach is a popular spot to cool off during summer. To learn more about the park, visitGeorgiaStateParks.org/fortyargo or call 770-867-3489.

 

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