December 2012 News & Events from Georgia's State Parks

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December 2012

Red Top Mountain State Park

State Parks, Vets Team Up for Healthier Dogs

Shhhh.  Don’t tell Fluffy, but he’s a little – how do we say this? – too fluffy.  And no one wants to talk about it.  At least that’s the news from a recent study which found that many pet owners do not realize their dog’s obesity is a problem.  To motivate Fluffy and his human companion to get more exercise, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association has partnered with Georgia’s State Parks to encourage healthy walks in the woods.  Vets can now give their canine patients a “prescription” to visit a Georgia State Park, which can be redeemed for a daily ParkPass worth $5. 

Georgia has more than 40 state parks that allow leashed dogs on trails and in campgrounds.  Trails range from easy lake loops or paved paths, to longer and more challenging hikes.  Leashes must be six feet long or shorter and owners must clean up after their pets.  Dogs are also welcome in campgrounds and many cottages (by reservation).  Those who find that Fluffy loves his walks in the woods can save money by purchasing a $50 Annual ParkPass good for all Georgia State Parks. To learn more about this new program, visit GeorgiaStateParks/petsrxercise.


Richard Russell State Park Shelter

Family Reunions and Party Planning 

While visiting with family over the holidays, why not make plans to get together again during 2013?  We have group facilities that are perfect for reunions, birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations.  Group shelters with large barbecues and kitchens are great for parties and reunions. Family members can choose from a variety of accommodations, ranging from cabins and lodge rooms, to campsites and yurts.  Everyone can even stay together in more rustic group lodging.  Learn more at GeorgiaStateParks/gatherings.

Whatever event or occasion you are celebrating, Georgia State Parks has you covered.  Here are a few suggestions, to get you started. 

Enclosed Group Shelters:  Special Event Facilities
Open-Air Picnic Shelters:  We've Got You Covered
Hotel-Style Lodges:  Banquet Facilities & Restaurants
Group Camps:  Summer Camp Dorms
Group Lodges:  Your Own Private Retreat
Pioneer Camping:  Roughing It in the Woods
Suwanee River Eco-Lodge:  Private Rooms & Gathering Space
SAM Shortline Excursion Train:  Private Rides by Reservation


Cloudland Canyon State Park Yurt

Go “Glamping” in Cloudland Canyon’s New Yurts

One of Georgia’s most beautiful state parks has opened 10 new yurts for those wanting a scenic getaway.  Yurts are like a combination of a tent and a cabin – hence the new term “glamping” – or glamour-camping.  Inside you’ll find furniture and electrical outlets; outside are picnic tables and fire rings.  The park’s 4.8-mile West Rim Loop Trail runs right behind the yurt village, meaning great views of the canyon are a short walk away.  Yurts rent for $70 and are also available at Red Top Mountain, High Falls and Fort Yargo state parks.  Learn more at GeorgiaStateParks/yurts.


Reed Bingham State Park Paddle In Campsite

Paddlers Can Camp on Private Island

Private islands are usually reserved for the rich and famous, but with the opening of a new campsite in south Georgia, anyone willing to paddle a canoe can stay overnight on their own small island.  Reed Bingham State Park near Adel has opened a primitive camping area on Eagle Island, a small tract of land in the middle of the park’s 375-acre lake.  Campers reach the island by paddling just 15 minutes from a dock.  

Visitors can either rent canoes and kayaks from the park, or they may bring their own.  Reed Bingham State Park’s new Eagle Island campsite rents for $60 (capacity 30 people), and rental canoes or kayaks are $25 for the duration of stay.  Reservations are required by calling 229-896-3551.  Visitors can also enjoy fishing, a sand swimming beach, hiking trails, mini-golf, geocaching, bike rental, ranger programs and more.  Learn more at


Vogel State Park Gift Shop

Gift Ideas from Georgia's State Parks

Want an excuse to avoid mall traffic and visit a park instead?  Finish your holiday shopping with us!  Georgia State Parks have affordable gift ideas for all types.  Many parks and historic sites even have gift shops filled with books, hiking sticks, clothing, toys, fishing supplies and more.  Click here to learn more. 

  Annual ParkPasses
  Friends Memberships
  Golf Passes
  Books, T-shirts and Toys
  Historic Site Passes


Chief Van House Historic Site

Historic Holidays

Looking for some quality family time this holiday season away from the over-commercialism and crowds?  Round up the family and head to a Georgia State Park or Historic Site to spend time delving into our rich history and culture. Many of the sites offer festive events this holiday from candlelight tours, Colonial craft demonstrations and caroling to living history programs and musket firings.  Christmas is an especially inviting time to visit as many of the homes are festively decked out  in greenery and decorations as they would have been in earlier times. Many of the special holiday events are listed in the December calendar below.  For more information, visit 


December 2012 Events

Divided By Region

Below are just some of the many programs happening in December.  Check for a full calendar.   


Spice Up the Holidays for your Health
Saturday, December 1, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen
Enjoy the aroma of cinnamon wafting from a pot of apple cider. Explore traditional and modern uses of common holiday spices like cinnamon and ginger for medicinal purposes. This class is a treat for the senses. Take home a tea preparation for yourself or a gift. $20 if paid before November 17 or $25 after. $5 parking. (706) 878-3087.

Deck the Halls
Saturday, December 1, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Unicoi State Park and Lodge – Helen
This holiday celebration includes making holiday crafts, hayrides (weather permitting) and live music in the beautiful decorated lodge. $5 parking. 800-573-9659 ext. 305. 

Christmas Candlelight Tour
Saturday, December 1, 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
New Echota Historic Site – Calhoun
Luminaries will light the pathways, traditional decorations will welcome visitors to the historic buildings and Christmas carols, hot apple cider, refreshments and Christmas cheer will kick off the holiday season at the historic Cherokee Capital. Grab your candle lantern and dress for the weather as we welcome in the holiday season. 3/4 mile walk required to see all buildings. $5-$7. (706) 624-1321.

Christmas Open House
Saturday, December 8, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge – Dawsonville
Enjoy musical performances and meet our visiting artists. Kids can join the park's volunteers in the craft room to make seasonal ornaments to take home. View gingerbread house creations and vote for your favorite. Get cozy by the fire and visit with Santa, then wind down with a holiday story or two. $5 parking. (706) 265-1969.

Christmas for Travelers
Saturday, December 8, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Travelers Rest Historic Site – Toccoa
Visitors will enjoy live music and period dances by the 1860s Civilian Society. Craft demonstrators will show their skills in blacksmithing, knitting, crocheting, spinning and more -- all in an 1800s seasonal setting created by the Friends of Traveler’s Rest. Cider and tea cakes are served. $2.50-$4.00 (706) 356-4362.

Christmas Tree Lighting
Saturday, December 8, 4 p.m.
Vogel State Park – Blairsville
Join us for the tree lighting, caroling, hayrides, Santa Claus visit, bonfires, hot chocolate and cider. Also help support the "Give A Gift Toy Drive" sponsored by the Union County Sheriff's Department, bring an unwrapped gift for kids of 0-12 years of age. No toy guns, knives or dangerous items. (706) 745-2628. 

Dahlonega Gold Museum Christmas Open House
Sunday, December 9, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site – Dahlonega
Enjoy living history demonstrations in the lower lodge lobby. Explore the magic of handmade folk toys, and try your hand at churning butter. Reservations required for the lodge's very popular Thanksgiving Buffet. $5 parking. (706) 344-1505.

Cherokee Christmas by Candlelight
Friday, December 14 through Saturday, December 15, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Chief Vann House Historic Site – Chatsworth
In 1805, Cherokee Chief James Vann opened his new brick mansion to the Moravian missionaries to hold one of the first Christmas celebrations in the Cherokee Nation. To honor this tradition, visitors are invited to enjoy the sights and sounds of a 19th century Christmas in one of America’s best-preserved Cherokee Indian homes. $3.50–$6.00. (706) 695-2598

Carols Through The Park
Saturday, December 15, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Victoria Bryant State Park – Royston
What's better than Christmas Parties? How about Caroling Hayrides, Homemade Ornaments & Sugar Cookies? Caroling Through the Park will have that and much more. It will be $1 per person for the hayride, $5 per photo for Pictures With Santa. $5 parking. (706) 245-6270.

Holi-Day Camp for Juniors
Tuesday, December 18, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen
Kids, give your parents time to buy more presents while you enjoy almost winter in the great outdoors. Outdoor playtime is mixed with indoor craft-time to keep noses warm and spirits high. Kids ages 6-8. Register in advance. $25 or $30 if paid after December 4. $5 parking. (706) 878-3087.



31st Annual Plantation Christmas
Saturday, December 1, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site – Brunswick
This magical experience will demonstrate how Christmas was celebrated on a Southern rice plantation during the 1850s. Take a candlelit stroll down the old carriage road and enjoy candlelit tours of an antebellum plantation house, hot wassail and cookies, Civil War reenactors, Christmas carols and a special appearance by Santa Claus. $4-$7. (912) 264-7333.

Sunset Swamp Tour on Billy’s Lake
Saturday, December 1, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Stephen C. Foster State Park – Fargo
Watch the sunset, listen to owls, see bats fly overhead and observe herons coming in to roost. Once the sun goes down, see the stars come out and catch a glimpse of our neighboring planets. We'll even look for alligator eyes to glow red. $15 - $20 plus $5 Refuge Fee. (912) 637-5274.

Colonial Christmas at Fort King George
Saturday, December 8, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Fort King George Historic Site – Darien
Join the garrison for a traditional dinner in the soldier's barracks and an evening of colonial-style Yule Tide jollification. $35 for dinner. Reservations required. (912) 437-4770.

Winter Muster & Battle at Fort McAllister
Saturday, December 8, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Fort McAllister Historic Park – Richmond Hill
Watch Confederate troops prepare for their final battle. The fort will be open with the battle taking place around 5pm. A self-guided tour will be held right after the battle at which time visitors will learn about the destruction of war. $3.75-$6.50 (912) 727-2339.

A Colonial Christmas at Fort Morris
Saturday, December 8, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Fort Morris Historic Site – Midway
Get away from the over commercialization of the holidays and visit Fort Morris for a more peaceful celebration. Join park staff for colonial refreshments, a yule log, bonfire, 18th century music, caroling, dance and firing of the Christmas guns. (912) 884-5999.

Colonial Christmas at Wormsloe
Sunday, December 9, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Wormsloe Historic Site – Savannah
Participate in activities such as caroling, burning of the yule log, dancing to live period music, and other holiday observances of the colonial period, including games and refreshments. $4.50-$8. (912) 353-3023.

Luminary Night with Santa
Saturday, December 15, 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Skidaway Island State Park – Savannah
Bring your children and pets for pictures with Santa. Enjoy a walk along our enchanted luminary trail and take a hayride around the park. Sip on hot chocolate while decorating cookies and making holiday crafts. $2 - $5 photos and hayrides. $5 parking. (912) 598-2300.



Bells Over Plains: Train Ride
December 6, 13 and 14, 10 a.m. – 2:20 p.m.
SAM Shortline Excursion Train – Cordele
Take a train ride to Plains from Ga. Veterans State Park. You will experience a trip from Santa and 1 hour in Plains. Remember to purchase lunch and activity kits ahead of time so you can enjoy. 1-877-427-2457.

Liberty Hall Candlelit Tour
Friday, December 7, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
A.H. Stephens Historic Park – Crawfordville
Hosts in period costumes will lead visitors through the beautiful, candlelit home of the Confederate Vice President. Enjoy the house with no electric lights on for the night and walk in the footsteps as they did back then. $2.50 - $4.00 (706) 456-2602.

General and Mrs. Robert Toombs:  An Evening At Home
Friday, December 7, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Robert Toombs House Historic Site – Washington
A progressive living history program will be presented at both the Robert Toombs House and the Washington Historical Museum, once the home of the Barnett Family. The date is December 1880. General and Mrs. Toombs sent and invitation to the Barnett family to attend the wedding reception of their grandson. Free. (706) 678-2226.

Rudolph’s Favorite 
Friday, December 7 and 21, 6:30 p.m. – 9:10 p.m.
Friday, December 21, 6:30 p.m. – 9:10 p.m.
SAM Shortline Excursion Train –  Cordele
Enjoy a relaxing ride from Georgia Veterans State Park into Cordele. Vendors will be awaiting your arrival to show you all the exciting things for Christmas. Games, music and reading of The Polar Express await younger ones.  1-877-427-2457.

Colonial Log Cabin Christmas
Saturday, December 8, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Elijah Clark State Park – Lincolnton
Join us as we recreate the first Christmas of Elijah and Hannah Clark in the year of 1773. Colonial refreshments to be served. You will also be able to enjoy mountain dulcimer music, tractor pulled hayrides, pictures with Santa, and pioneer toys will be given to the children. $5 parking. (706) 359-3458.

Christmas On The Lake
Saturday, December 8, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Florence Marina State Park – Omaha
Make Christmas decorations out of natural ornaments such as pine cones, sweetgum balls, magnolia seedpods and seashells. We provide all the materials you will need. Then from 1 to 3, be sure to bring your wish list as pictures will be taken with Santa Claus. $1 - $3 $5 parking. (229) 838-4706.

A Jarrell Plantation Christmas
Saturday, December 8, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Jarrell Plantation Historic Site – Juliette
Traditional Christmas in the country. Natural greenery decorations, candles, and refreshments, folk craft demonstrations, and stories. $4-$6.50 (478) 986-5172.

Christmas Crafts With Kids
Saturday, December 8, 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Mistletoe State Park – Appling
Parents, use the morning to do holiday shopping while kids have their own time to make special gifts for the family. Kids ages 6-12 will have fun making key chains, jewelry from recycled paper, strings of popcorn, angels, and more Christmas and nature crafts. Register in advance. $20. (706) 541-0321.

Heritage Festival
Saturday, December 8, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Magnolia Springs State Park – Millen
Enjoy a living history encampment, full-scale replica of the Hunley, crafts, and archaeology. This festival commemorates the anniversary of General Sherman's "March to the Sea" during the American Civil War. $5 parking. (478) 982-1660.

Christmas on the Park
Saturday, December 15, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Reed Bingham State Park – Adel
Celebrate Christmas with Friends of Reed Bingham and staff at our beach pavilion with lights, decorations, hot chocolate, refreshments, Christmas crafts, music, a silent auction, and a guest appearance from Santa. $1 for crafts. $3 for picture with Santa. $5 parking. (229) 896-3551.

Reading of the Polar Express
Saturday, December 15, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site – Warm Springs
A real train conductor will read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg to children in the cozy living room of Mustian Place. Children will be given tickets to take a seat as we celebrate the season with refreshments and a visit from Santa. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas will receive a reindeer bell as a gift. $8-$12. (706) 655-5870.

Christmas on the Pond
Saturday, December 15, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
General Coffee State Park – Nicholls
Join us to usher in the holiday season. Visit with Santa, enjoy storytelling, hayrides, a marshmallow roast and homemade refreshments. Donations appreciated. $5 parking. (912) 384-7082.

Tour of Lights Festival
Saturday, December 15, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Seminole State Park – Donalsonville
The festivities begin at 3pm and will feature live bands, vendors, activities for the kids to enjoy, and of course, the Christmas lights. We will announce the winner of the Christmas light contest, followed by the Christmas Boat Parade. We may even get a visit from Santa himself! $5 parking. (229) 861-3137.

Moonlight Hike
Saturday, December 29, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge
Join a park ranger on this guided hike under the full moon. Wear comfortable shoes, insect repellant, and bring a camera to record the journey, as we listen for insects, frogs and other nocturnal creatures. Meet at the Hard Labor Creek Trading Post. $5 plus $5 parking. (706) 557-3001.



Christmas at the Cabin
Saturday, December 1, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Red Top Mountain State Park – Cartersville
Yuletide celebrations of the 1800s come to life at the Vaughan cabin. Experience the sights and sounds of the holiday with music, cooking, toys and games. Bring the family and a camera to get a picture with Santa. $5 parking. (770) 975-0055.

Candlelight Hike to the Mill
Saturday, December 15, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs
This mile-long guided night hike is easy to moderately difficult and goes inside the Civil War era textile mill ruins of New Manchester. Candle lanterns will be provided. No children under 6 years or dogs permitted. Space is limited and is on a first-come first-serve basis. Meet and register at the Interpretive Center. $5 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871. 

Full Moon Night Hike
Saturday, December 22, 4:30 p.m.
Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge
Listen to whippoorwills and owls as the sun slowly sets and the moon begins to rise. Panola Mountain is one of the best places to see the wildlife of the night. Bring flashlights and hiking boots. Meet at the nature center 15 minutes before each program. Register in advance. $7 plus $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

“Ruins to Rapids” Full Moon Hike
Friday, December 28, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs
This 1.5-mile hike is moderately difficult and goes inside the Civil War-era textile mill ruins of New Manchester and follows the lovely rapids (up to class IV) of Sweetwater Creek. A flashlight and sturdy, closed-toe shoes are required. No children under 6 or dogs. Meet inside the Visitor Center. Register in advance. $6 plus $5 parking. (770) 732-5871.

Basic Fly Fishing Clinic
Saturday, December 8, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Panola Mountain State Park - Stockbridge
The clinic covers casting, safety issues and other tricks of the trade. If time permits participants may stay to catch the Fish of Fish. Instructors suggest wearing long pants/shorts and hiking shoes, and bringing snacks, water and sunscreen. Georgia fishing license required. Register in advance. $15 or $12 with own gear. $5 parking. (770) 389-7801.

Check for a full calendar. 



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