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Heading home for the holidays: travel tips to to make the season brighter
For many, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, well, they’d rather fast-forward to 2020. Whether you’re thinking about the holidays with anxiety or anticipation, we have some tips that can, hopefully, make your holiday season a little happier.
If you’re packing for an extended stay, a little planning now can keep you from hauling a mountain of luggage through the middle of a crowded airport. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them up. Also, stuff your socks inside your shoes. You’ll be surprised how much more you can fit inside your suitcase just by taking these two steps. If you’re carrying a backpack, place the heavier items lower in the pack for better balance and less strain on your back. Most important, before packing anything, make sure you’re really going to need it. Overpacking is the most common mistake. Plus, the airlines will hit you with a fee or make you repack your bag if it’s over a set weight limit.
Don’t break the bank
If you’re a college student or young professional, your budget may already be tight. The closer you get to the holidays, the higher airfares climb. Before you assume the amount you see on the airline’s website is final, explore some of the online search engines that are designed specifically to find lower fares. Some airlines even offer student discounts. Another idea is to bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle to the airport. The cost of food and drinks at airports is crazy expensive because they know they have a captive audience. Although traveling by train or bus will take longer, they can be much more affordable. Both Amtrak and Greyhound offer student discounts. Think of it this way: a leisurely train or bus ride may be just what you need to get in the holiday spirit.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be all napping and eating. If avoiding the holiday bulge is important to you, use part of your downtime to get some exercise. Ask a family member or old friend to take a walk with you—this a great way to burn calories and catch up with what’s been going on in your lives. You’ll both have more energy and won’t feel quite as guilty about enjoying a glass of eggnog or a delicious slice of pecan pie. After all, that’s part of the holiday experience—enjoy it! Also, we know that the holidays can be stressful at times. Just 20 minutes a day of physical activity can bring those stress levels down, which is good for your physical and mental health. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, three or four half-hour sessions per week can lessen stress significantly.
What if you can’t get away for the holidays? Despite these helpful tips for holiday travels, we realize that it’s just not realistic for some people. But don’t fret—we have a few suggestions for you as well.
Host a “Friendsmas” party
You’d be surprised how many college students will be spending the holidays around campus. Why not get together and celebrate? You can even enjoy many of the same traditional holiday activities together, such as cooking meals and exchanging gifts. Look at it as an opportunity to begin your own holiday traditions. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to get closer to your friends or even make some new ones. And, if you start missing your family members, technology has made it easy to connect via video chat (Skype, FaceTime, etc.).
Nothing will take your mind off of being away from home during the holidays like a nice paycheck. Many employers are in desperate need of seasonal, part-time help. You’ll earn money, make new friends, and possibly gain valuable experience, depending on what career path you’ve chosen. And when everyone comes back from the holiday break complaining about how broke they are, you can smile and enjoy your stack of cash.
So whether you’re heading home or staying put, we hope these tips will help you enjoy the season. Happy Holidays from your friends at Georgia’s Own Credit Union!
Take a hike: four North Georgia gems to try this weekend
It’s Fall, ya’ll—time to trade in the sweltering heat and humidity for the fresh, crisp air and the great outdoors. Our Georgia mountains are full of winding trails that lead to adventure, and they’re practically in your back yard. So, drop the TV remote, grab your hiking gear, and let’s GO!
Whether you’re living life in Atlanta or settling down in suburbia, you could be hiking up a mountain in no time. Here are four of our favorite five-star trails, all within an hour or two of the city:
1. Blood Mountain summit is the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and one of the most popular hiking destinations in North Georgia. At 4459 feet, it towers above the peaks of the surrounding southern Appalachians and delivers far and wide views that are simply spectacular.
Blood Mountain is a 4.3-mile view-packed hike that follows the Appalachian Trail to the summit. It begins on the scenic Byron Reece Trail at Neels Gap, leads southwest, and meets the Appalachian Trail at Flatrock Gap. At the trail intersection, the hike heads west and gradually intensifies. Overall, the relatively steep climb is a heart-pounding workout to the summit.
The route’s business season is Fall, mostly because the North Georgia hardwoods explode in color, making the views even more beautiful. Our advice is to grab a cup of coffee and hit the trail early on weekends and during peak season.
2. Ravens Cliff Falls Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in North Georgia. Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, it boasts the Raven Cliff Falls, 400 feet of cascading water that slices a massive, towering cliff in half.
The 4.9-mile hike through the waterfall-filled valley begins at a gravel trailhead near Helen, Georgia. It gradually gains elevation along a short incline, levels at about .25 mile, and then descends toward Dodd Creek. The moss and wildflower-lined trail leads over the creek via a wooden bridge, through the hemlock forest, and over several small tributaries.
At the two-mile mark, the hike climbs as you quickly approach a blocky cliff. At the base, you’ll see the creek cascading through the walls of the fractured granite slab, creating the beautiful Ravens Cliff waterfall.
Generally, this hike is appropriate for all skill levels, although it gets slightly steeper at the end. There are lots of areas along the trail to rest, relax, and enjoy the scenery. It’s a popular destination too, so get an early start.
3. Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail leads to the summit of Sawnee Mountain, one of the best views in North Georiga. It hikes over and around the sheer face of Sawnee Mountain, offering breathtaking long-range views of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail is part of the 5+ mile network of running, walking, and hiking trails at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
The hike begins at the park’s visitor center on Spot Road in Cumming. You’ll start on a short trail that quickly meets the Indian Seats Loop. Turn left, and the counterclockwise, gradually elevating trail will take you through 1.9 miles of evergreen and deciduous forest, swinging south of the mountain’s summit. It follows a well-marked and well-maintained side trail as it takes you past a gated gold mine entrance that’s carved into the rock outcrop at just over the 1-mile mark. At the summit, there are several natural depressions in the rock, which are said to have been used by local tribes as seats for meditation and lookout centuries ago.
The expansive views of the valley below are incredible, and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the distant horizon is breathtaking. You can linger as long as you like and will often see people reading, writing, or enjoy the view.
Indian Seats is an easy, fun hike and just 40 miles north of Atlanta. It’s great for the entire family.
4. Panther Creek Falls is one of North Georgia’s favorite waterfall hikes. The 7-mile campsite-studded trail leads through the Chattahoochee National Forest, past several smaller cascading falls, to arrive at the famed Panther Creek Falls. This group of broad, multi-tiered waterfalls cascades into a deep pool on a sandy flat below, creating a view that can only be described as hypnotic.
The trail begins at Chattahoochee National Forest near Tallulah Gorge on the opposite side of Historic 441. It follows the waterway downstream and ventures deep into the forest. Once the trail crosses a small tributary creek at .5 mile, it begins to climb before it reaches a massive rock overhang. The hike crosses over a large wooden bridge at 1.5 miles. At the second bridge, the hike continues to climb along extremely narrow paths and includes some sudden, unexpected drops. You’ll scramble over some chiseled rock outcrops and a few more tributary crossings before you reach the Panther Creek Falls at 3.4 miles. At the base, large boulders line the sandy shoreline, which is an ideal spot for soaking up the beauty of the rushing water…and, of course, resting.
The trail is very popular with day hikers, backpackers, and campers, especially in the summer months when they can spend time relaxing on the warm, sandy beach. It will still be busy in the fall, especially when the leaves are changing, so plan ahead.
6 ways to save on holiday travel
We try to fit a lot into our holiday budgets, and travel can account for a pretty big slice of the pie. But even if you’re just beginning to think about the costs of visiting loved ones this holiday season, it’s not too late to save.
About half (49%) of American adults plan to spend money on flights and/or hotels this holiday season — that’s 123.5 million travelers, according to a new NerdWallet study.
And though 36% of these travelers say they’d skip buying gifts for friends and family if they were spending a lot to visit them this year, that level of sacrifice may not be entirely necessary.
If you’re scrambling for last-minute ways to save on holiday travel, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Start watching rates, like, yesterday
Those who travel over the holidays book their flights 7.7 weeks before their departure date, on average, the NerdWallet survey found. You may be able to beat other travelers to the punch by buying before that peak booking time.
Also, set up alerts through popular booking sites like Kayak or Google Flights to keep an eye on rates. If they start creeping up as your travel dates near, you’re better off buying earlier than holding out for a last-minute deal and getting caught with astronomical fares.
2. Get serious about freeing up more money
More than 7 in 10 (71%) people who travel for the holidays start saving in advance, the NerdWallet study found. But even if your budget is tight and your travel dates are coming up soon, you can still look for easy ways to free up money.
Limit all optional expenses, such as meals out and entertainment, for several weeks. After all, holiday travel is one big optional expense; sacrificing drinks after work with friends for a few weeks could cover the price of your checked bag and a rideshare or two.
3. Make your credit card work for you
Three-fourths (75%) of holiday travelers will put some or all of their travel expenses on a credit card, according to the survey. Depending on their card and how long it takes to pay off those expenses, they could be earning as they spend — be it cash on a cash-back card or points toward future travel on a travel rewards card. Also, they could be using already-earned points and rewards to help pay for this year’s travel.
Use the card that stands to benefit you the most — one with decent rewards rates or other travel benefits like trip protection or no foreign transaction fees.
4. Don’t pay interest
Credit card interest can quickly negate any benefits from using a rewards card and can make your travel even more expensive. Still, 5% of people who put last year’s holiday travel on a credit card are still paying for it today, according to the survey.
If you know it’s going to take a few months to pay off your holiday travel, make a plan to minimize the impact of your credit card transactions. Opening a card with an interest-free introductory term is one option. But if time or your credit doesn’t allow for a new card, budget for higher-than-mandatory-minimum payments until you can pay it off.
5. Keep shopping after you book
After you’ve booked your flight, your deal-hunting doesn’t have to end. Most airlines will issue a full refund within 24 hours of purchase, even on nonrefundable tickets. The specifics vary by airline — so read up on your airline’s 24-hour cancellation policies — but you may be able to cancel and rebook if you find a lower rate within that first day.
A similar strategy can be used on hotels: If you make a cancellable reservation, keep checking rates. If they go down, you can cancel and rebook at the same hotel (or a different one, if the opportunity arises). Again, know the specifics of your reservation — if you try to cancel too close to arrival you could lose money.
6. Let your presence be their present
If travel is your top priority and you’ve done what you can but are still coming up short, don’t be afraid to skip traditional gift-giving. You wouldn’t be alone — 36% of travelers said they’d consider doing the same thing if they were spending a lot to visit friends and family. You’ve worked hard to get there; maybe they can come to you next holiday season.
10 tips for booking a VRBO or Airbnb summer vacation
The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and you’re ready for some long-awaited rest and relaxation. Yup, it’s time for summer vacation.
Wherever you go, renting a hotel room is the most convenient option. You can check in any time you want, order room service 24 hours a day, and someone makes your bed each morning.
That may be your happy place, but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, whether that’s at the beach or overseas, booking your accommodations through a third-party booking site, like VRBO or Airbnb, is the way to go.
These services allow you to rent a shared space or an entire apartment, condo, extra freedom they give you, these rentals are more relaxed–and they can translate to lower costs. They often come with fully-stocked kitchens, washers and dryers, and all the other conveniences of home. You will, however, have to turn down your own sheets before bed and supply the chocolate truffle for your pillow.
Airbnbs and VRBOs are generally operated by the property owner, although some use a management company to take care of the reservations, cleaning, and maintenance services. While a hotel generally comes with some standard expectations, the requirements, services, and rules of a VRBO or Airbnb vary from property to property. No need to worry, though. Here are some tips that will help ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay:
1. Know what you want
VRBO and Airbnb both have thousands and thousands of listings, and it can be a little overwhelming. You’ll find a property that meets your needs and requirements much more easily and quickly when you use the filters on each of the sites. Decide whether you want an entire home, a private room, or a shared space. Do you want three or four bedrooms, an ocean view, or a pool? Do you need a washer and dryer on site? The more detail you provide, the more you’ll be able to narrow down the field and find a property that’s a great match.
2. Read all the reviews
A lot of the detail can be skirted in the property description. “It’s a fabulous four bedroom, three bath townhome with an amazing view of the ocean.” Generally, reviews from past renters will give you the honest truth, and whether it was good or bad, they’re happy to share their experience. “The dishwasher didn’t drain properly; the air conditioning didn’t work; the bathroom could have been cleaner.”
While you may run into issues that need to be addressed while you’re there, learning that it took two days for the management company to fix the clogged garbage disposal, or the host never returned the renters’ calls is not what you want to hear. Take note of common issues that have been mentioned multiple times.
Keep in mind, though, that there are grumpy, picky-un renters and things do happen. But, overall, the vast majority of the reviews should be highly complementary.
3. Check out the pics
Photos of the rental property should be current, clear, of every room, and from multiple angles. If not, that’s a red flag. If there are five bedrooms, you should see all five. Does the listing indicate that the kitchen appliances have been recently upgraded? Make sure you can reasonably assume that’s true from the photos.
Check out the picture of your host, too. Is it a silhouette or an actual person? A silhouette may lower your comfort level. After all, everyone wants to be able to put a face with a name, or in this case, a property.
4. Scope out the neighborhood
If this is your first trip to a particular destination, you don’t want to take a chance on having to spend a week in a less than desirable location. It can, after all, make or break your entire vacation.
How close are you to your next-door neighbor? Is the property located next to a late-night karaoke bar or a makeshift petting zoo? “Centrally located” can mean different things to different people, as can words like amazing, great, wonderful, and awesome.
An easy way to evaluate the surrounding area and estimate travel time to some of the attractions you plan to visit is to use Google Maps. Enter the address or the vicinity and you’ll get a 360 degree, street level view of the property and everything around it.
5. Communicate with the host
With many third party sites like VRBO and Airbnb, conversations typically begin through email or text message. This is your chance to learn a little about the host. It’s also a way for them to learn about you, their potential renter. You can initially check availability for the property, but also use this time to tell them a little about yourself and ask questions. Offer information like whether you’re planning a business trip, a girls’ weekend, or a family vacation. Ask questions like, How far is the beach? Do we need to bring boogie boards or beach chairs? Do you supply sheets and towels? Can I bring my pet iguana?
Take into account how quickly your questions are answered and how courteous the reply. Some owners or hosts can be exceptionally accommodating, while others may stick to the standard. This is the point at which you can catch a glimpse of their commitment to customer service and their attention to detail.
6. Read the fine print
No one wants or even expects to have to cancel their vacation plans, but it happens. Make sure you’re clear about the cancellation policy because no one wants to give up their vacation and forfeit the cost of it, too.
Read the house rules, take note of the included amenities, the check-in and check-out times, if there are any noise restrictions, and any other particulars. Many times the less favorable details are buried in the fine print.
7. Beware of extra fees
Most people budget for their vacations and have a specific amount of money earmarked for the trip. That’s an ideal plan, but when your bill includes some unexpected fees, you’re caught in a pinch.
Some online rentals come with additional service fees, so make sure you know exactly how much your lodging will cost in advance. While they’re not always charged with every reservation, the most common surprise fees are for cleaning, extra guests, booking services, and taxes. You should be able to see the total cost of your stay including a breakdown of all fees before you book.
8. Ask your host for around-town tips
Vacations are the perfect time to try the local cuisine, visit the most interesting attractions, shop at the best boutiques, lounge at the least crowded beaches, hike the most challenging trails, or find the best fishing spot.
Hosts are typically residents of the community and have the inside scoop on what to do and when to do it. So, don’t be shy, just ask! They’ll be more than happy to share their best advice and recommendations.
9. Be an ideal guest
Remember that, with an Airbnb or a VRBO, you’re responsible for your own housekeeping. That’s cooking, cleaning, laundry, and dishes, among other things. If you’re staying for more than just a few days, it’s helpful to have a washer and dryer on site.
House rules vary from host to host, so make sure you read them as soon as you arrive. You’ll find a list that will include things like, be considerate of neighbors when it comes to noise, run the dishwasher before you leave, refrain from smoking inside the house, and report any accidental damage. Most hosts are reasonable with their rules. Simply treat the property like it was your own and all will be well.
On the flip side, if things are not what you expected or something is not working, let your host know as soon as possible. They’ll want the opportunity to make it right. After all, they want you to enjoy your time there and leave as a satisfied guest.
10. Write a review
Within 14 days of your departure, take a few minutes to write a review of your stay. Remember that this feedback, whether positive or negative, helps both the host and a prospective renter. Be polite, but also honest.
Was the property as described? Was it clean? Was the host friendly, responsive, or exceptionally accommodating? These are details that only a previous renter would know, so be sure to share it with the rest of the community.
Feedback goes both ways so you’ll also receive comments from your host about your stay. Were you easy to work with? Did you adhere to the house rules? Did you leave the property in order?
Other hosts are able to view these comments and use them to decide whether or not to rent to you in the future. So, be polite and courteous, skip the wild pool party, and take the trash with you on your way out. But, most importantly, take time to relax and enjoy your stay!
Disney on a Dime: An insider’s perspective on how to stretch your Disney Vacation dollars
Disney World–it’s the most magical place on earth. With it’s flying elephants, princess palaces, and dancing cast of characters, it’s a child’s paradise and a dream vacation. Who wouldn’t want to visit Cinderella’s castle, bump into Buzz Lightyear in the park, or have dinner with Mickey and Minnie?
Disney World is almost a right of passage for kids these days, and many young-at-heart adults eagerly head back every year. So how do you swing a sweet vacation without breaking the bank? We’re not gonna lie—it’ll cost you a pretty penny, but there are ways to save money without sacrificing fun. We spoke with Erin Sistar of The Vacation Wizards travel agency to find out just how you can experience the magic of Disney without blowing your budget. Check out these money-saving tips:
The majority of vacationers are diehard believers that booking a hotel close to, but not inside the park, will help save big bucks. Surely any accommodations on Disney property would be more expensive, right? Often times, that’s not true.
While Disney does have several premium hotels located on property, they also have four more reasonably priced value resorts: Pop Century, All-Star Sport, All-Star Movies, and All-Star Music. With a reservation at any of these hotels, you’ll enjoy the on-property conveniences, but avoid the $20+ daily parking fee at the park. It will also include Magic Bands for the entire family, a $20 per person value.
Your magic band is a virtual backpack of conveniences that you wear as a bracelet. It electronically holds your room key, park passes, fast passes, dining reservations, pictures, and more, right there on your wrist! It also syncs with your My Disney Experience account, an app that you’ll use while you’re in the park.
If the value resorts are still too steep for your budget, you might choose one of the many Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels are held to the Disney quality and standard of service, have a Guest Services desk that can assist you with your Disney vacation planning, are convenient to the Disney resort and provide transportation to all the parks. Many of the hotels also offer complimentary breakfasts and evening receptions.
Unless you’re a Florida resident or active or retired military, you’ll rarely find a discounted Disney park ticket. So how do you stretch your entertainment dollars? Book your room and your tickets together in a basic package. While you’ll still pay full price for the tickets, a package will include a discount on the price of your room. It will also protect you from falling prey to scammers who sell “discounted” tickets that you’ll eventually find are expired or have been previously redeemed.
One of the simplest ways to get the most bang for your buck is to book your Disney vacation with as much lead time as possible. Did you know that you’re able to book a Disney hotel room 499 days in advance? If you want the most economical price, your reservation should be made no less than seven months ahead of your departure date and ideally closer to one year. It will also afford you the greatest variety and availability for specialty dining, character dinners, and other limited space activities during your stay.
Everyone has to eat, but should you buy a Disney Dining Plan? Food can eat up a lot of your budget, especially when you’re eating on the run. The dining plan is a fabulous option, but it’s not for everyone.
If you’re a family of four and have two tweens or teens that are eating you out of house and home, buying a meal plan is a no-brainer. And, it gives you the added convenience of a now all-inclusive trip. But, if you have two little ones who live on goldfish and eat a few bites from Mom or Dad’s plate, it’s not worth spending a few hundred dollars.
Disney offers three different dining plans so you can choose the option that works best for your family:
This is the least expensive meal plan. For each person and for each day of your visit, it includes:
- Two quick-serve meals where you order at the counter and seat yourself
- Two snack credits that can be used to purchase items like a coke, popcorn, pretzel, or ice cream
- One refillable mug, which may be used at any of the resorts, but not at the park
- One alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink credit to be used at your meal
Disney Meal Plan
This mid-level plan replaces the two quick-serve meals from above with one quick-serve meal and one table service meal, which includes character dining.
Deluxe Disney Meal Plan
This is the most inclusive and most expensive meal plan. It replaces the two meals above with three meals, which can be any combination of quick-serve and/or table service meals.
If the meal plan isn’t for you, there’s no need to worry. Disney will allow you to bring food into the parks, within reason, of course. They’re generally more lenient when you have little ones afoot. Grown teenagers carrying a full-sized cooler, however, probably won’t get by so easily.
Be sure to bring your own water bottles into the park, too. It’s hot, it’s busy, and you’ll undoubtedly get thirsty running from ride to ride. You’ll find water fountains everywhere, so fill up those bottles and go! You can also go to any quick serve, snack counter, or cart and ask for a cup of water. And yes, it’s FREE. Finally, if you’re in the park during your table service meal, you can kindly ask your waiter to refill them with cold, icy water.
Another way to stretch your dining dollars is to bring some of your favorite food from home. Well, sort of. There’s no need to pack those pop-tarts and oatmeal packets in your suitcase when there’s Amazon Pantry. Place your order online and ship it to your hotel so that it arrives on the day you check-in.
Our last no meal plan, money-saving food related trick has to do with those magical character meals. If you’re planning on making a reservation, opt for breakfast or lunch. The dinner option is much more expensive.
Lunch is a great time because you’ve been in the park all morning and you’re likely ready to put your feet up and enjoy some AC. Your little one might even take a quick nap.
Breakfast, on the other hand, lets you enjoy the rest of the day and leave the park when you’re ready. You won’t feel pressure to stick around for later reservations if the fam is ready to go.
A trip to Disney World is one of the most fun and memorable vacations you’ll take, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Use these tips and your smart spending will help make your Disney vacation even more magical!
Georgia’s Own Road Trip: St. Simons Island
The early mornings might still be a little brisk, but by noon, you know Spring has sprung in Atlanta. Sunny skies and warmer weather make us all want to get up and go!
Whether you’re looking for a week-long holiday or a weekend getaway, a short car ride can take you anywhere from the Georgia mountains to its sandy beaches. In fact, some of the best vacation spots are here in the Peach State!
One of our favorite destinations is St. Simons Island. The Golden Isles of Georgia are just five hours from Atlanta but a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its majestic oak trees, historic landmarks, and quiet beaches, the St. Simons Island is an ideal place for a little R&R.
Places to go, things to see
Long lazy days on the beach and walks along the ocean are popular pastimes on the island, but so is fun!
Neptune Park is located in Pier Village and, throughout the year, its the most happening spot on the island. Events like Memorial Day’s Taps at Twilight, Music and Movie Nights Under the Stars, and their July 4th celebration are just a few.
Take a stroll along the oceanfront walking path, enjoy the view of the crashing waves from the benches that overlook the water, or pack a lunch and have a picnic beneath the oak trees. Neptune Park is family friendly, too. With its 18-hole mini golf course, Fun Zone pool, and children’s playground, it’s hard to beat!
If you’re looking for the sand and waves head for East Beach. It’s a great location for shelling, extreme kite surfing, and swimming. You can bike, fish, or just relax and soak up the sun.
The surf and the sand aren’t for everyone, so if the beach isn’t your thing, there are lots of other attractions, like Gasciogne Bluff. Overlooking the Frederica River, it was a Native American campground at one time. The Bluff has something for everyone with its 24 acres of green space, a fishing pier, a fitness trail, a disc golf course, and a picnic pavilion.
It’s also the home of Epworth by the Sea Christian Conference and Retreat Center, which is owned by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. On its 100-acre campus, they offer accommodations and facilities for guests attending retreats and conferences, and for vacationers as well. Lovely Lane Chapel, the oldest standing church building on St. Simons, hosts Sunday services, too.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit the archaeological remains of Fort Frederica. It was a military outpost initially established in 1736 by James Oglethorpe to protect the southern boundary of Georgia from the Spanish in Florida. Fort Frederica’s troops defeated the Spanish, ensuring Georgia’s future as a British colony. Today, the archeological remnants of Frederica are protected by the National Park Service.
Jekyll Island is one of the smaller barrier islands and a short 20-mile drive from St. Simons Island. One of its most unique attractions is Driftwood Beach where the constant erosion has created stunning driftwood and trees that resemble a tree graveyard.
According to the Golden Isles site, it’s due to the north end of the island slowly being deposited on the south end of the island. It’s created both a beautiful and haunting scene of sun-bleached driftwood that attracts artists, photographers, and other seeking-to-be-amazed visitors. It’s a short walk east from the big fishing pier on the north end of Jekyll Island, but you can see it from the pier. If you have time to make the drive to Driftwood Beach, it’ll be well worth it.
The best places to eat
You won’t go hungry on your visit as St. Simons Island has a wide range of memorable restaurants.
One of our favorites, Southern Soul BBQ, was named “The South’s Best BBQ 2018” by Southern Living Magazine. Founded by Harrison Sapp & Griffin Bufkin in 2006, it’s grown to be one of the most famous BBQ joints in the world. They smoke slow and long on Lang smokers with wood from the local Live Oak, and always follow one rule: Respect the pork!
The oldest privately owned restaurant on Saint Simons Island, Bennie’s has been a favorite of locals and tourists since 1954. At the Red Barn, you can enjoy steaks grilled to perfection over an old-fashioned open oak flame, fresh local seafood, and more in a classic setting. Their combined food and hospitality makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
At Tramici, you’ll find fresh, passionately prepared Italian neighborhood cuisine. In their mammoth brick oven, they create delicious chicken and veal dishes, spaghetti and lasagna, and the most perfect pizzas. Interested in a cooking class? You can join Chef Dave during his monthly hands-on instruction. Check it out here.
Wake Up Coffee Company is not only a coffee shop, it’s a place that works to build community and a company that wants to foster change in the world. They only source coffees that they believe in and then roast them to showcase their unique flavor profiles. They serve certified Fair Trade or direct relationship coffees, teas, and retail goods produced by artisans and farmers in developing countries. Grab a cup of joe and have a seat!
At Sal’s Pizza, they believe that nothing’s better than food made by family and friends. If you’re looking for that neighborhood feel and pizza and dinners that are prepared from generations-old recipes, you’ve found it. Mangia!
St. Simons has tons of great restaurants and a myriad of fun things to do, but these are some of our favorites. If you’re headed there for some hard-earned vacation time, let us know which ones you liked best. Enjoy!