Grilling burgers in the shade, watching fireworks over a lake and camping under the stars are just some of the July 4th activities offered by Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites. Want to learn about our nation’s beginnings and watch cannon firings? Visit Fort Morris near Darien for their Colonial Faire. How far can you spit a watermelon seed and how big can you blow a bubble? Join the old-timey games and potluck at Black Rock Mountain near Dillard. Whether you have just a few hours on the 4th or the extended weekend, Georgia’s State Parks make for a festive holiday destination.
July 4th weekend is always one of the busiest holidays in Georgia’s state parks, so visitors are encouraged to reserve picnic shelters, campsites, cabins, lodge rooms and yurts. Reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance by calling 1-800-864-7275 or online at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org. Because some accommodations fill up quickly, savvy park enthusiasts are making plans now for next year’s holiday.
Can’t get away for the whole weekend? State parks welcome visitors to come for just the day as well. For a $5 parking fee, guests can cool off at lakeside beaches, boat across lakes, explore hiking and biking trails, and even fish for their dinner – all for free. Some of the state’s historic forts will showcase America’s history with musket firings, military drills and displays. Historic site admission ranges from $3.50 to $10 per person.
Park rangers encourage visitors to bring picnics, but to leave fireworks at home because sparklers and explosives are not allowed in Georgia’s state parks. For those who want to see fireworks, Georgia Veterans in Cordele offers a professional display on Thursday evening. Also, Panola Mountain near Atlanta will offer a guided hike to the mountaintop for great views of metro firework displays.
Want more ideas on affordable July 4th activities? The State Park System has these suggestions:
• Dozens of Independence Day events are posted at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/events. Top picks include old-fashioned games at Jarrell Plantation near Macon, guided kayak paddles at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, and bicycle parades at Reed Bingham in Adel and Tugaloo on Lake Hartwell.
• Covered picnic shelters and enclosed group shelters can be reserved for family reunions and parties. All offer pretty views, and grills and restrooms are nearby. Reservations should be made in advance for these popular shelters. Individuals can use picnic tables scattered throughout all of Georgia’s state parks for free.
• Lakeside swimming beaches are free once visitors pay a $5 parking fee. Popular spots include Reed Bingham in Adel, Indian Springs near Jackson, Red Top Mountain on Lake Allatoona, Tugaloo on Lake Hartwell and Hard Labor Creek near Rutledge. Laura Walker in Waycross just opened a new swimming area this summer. More sandy beaches are listed at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/swimming.
• Swimming pools are available at F.D. Roosevelt, High Falls, Magnolia Springs and Victoria Bryant state parks. An admission fee is charged and lifeguards are provided. Little Ocmulgee in McRae has a “splash pad” for the little ones.
• Sliding down the rocky shoals at Watson Mill Bridge State Park in Comer or at Tallulah Gorge State Park near Dillard is a popular activity for children. Be sure to wear shorts that can resist wear-and-tear.
• Too pooped to pack a picnic? The lodges at Amicalola Falls, Unicoi, Little Ocmulgee and George T. Bagby all feature restaurants inside the parks. Boaters on Lake Walter F. George can even use the courtesy dock right behind the restaurant.
To learn more about Georgia’s state parks and historic sites, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org or call (800) 864-7275. Dozens of events are hosted throughout the year, such as guided hikes and paddles, snake shows, Civil War enactments, outdoor concerts and children’s nature crafts. Programs are listed at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/events.