Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back-To-School? Stay Active

 Just because the kids are heading back to school doesn’t mean families need to shelve their fitness regimen for next year. Georgia State Parks makes it easy to stay on track with challenging heart-pumping recreational programs and outdoor activities for every age and fitness level. Fall is the perfect time for families to re-energize and resolve to keep outdoor recreation an ongoing part of the weekly itinerary.

Outdoor recreation is just as important to living a healthy lifestyle as eating an apple a day! Pack a picnic lunch and head to a different state park every weekend for affordable adventure and quality time together that gets kids off the couch and moving in nature’s playground. Here are a few popular ideas based on age level. For a complete list of recreational opportunities and parks, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org.

·    Playgrounds, Swimming Beaches, Spray Park (Toddler and up)
Georgia State Parks feature fun for all ages, even those still sporting diapers and sippie cups. Parents with toddlers in tow can pack the beach pail and swimming suits for a fun-filled day of splashing and sandcastles at one of 18 state park swimming beaches. Some of the most popular lakeside beaches are at Vogel, John Tanner, Seminole, Unicoi, Hard Labor Creek, Fort Mountain and Richard B. Russell state parks. For even more water fun, bring the kids to Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge and enjoy the park’s splash pad where they can tire out by running through the fountains. The beaches and splash pad are open through Labor Day. Or for weekday fun, skip the indoor soft play and head to the state parks for safe, clean outdoor playgrounds perfect for the next toddler play date. And, for even more of an incentive to take the kiddies outdoors, Wednesdays are free days in Georgia’s state parks, allowing parents to skip paying the parking fee.

·    Kid-friendly Trails, Mini-Golf, Camping (Kids age 6 and up)
With technology such a big part of everyday life, kids need to unplug and connect with nature, especially during the school year when scheduled time is at its peak. Make outdoor play something to look forward to every week. Elementary age kids can explore the “real Georgia” and expend energy on a variety of state park hiking trails. Popular choices for kids to enjoy nature’s wonders include Fort Mountain (lake loop), General Coffee (farm animals), Reed Bingham (gopher tortoises), Skidaway Island (fiddler crabs), Sweetwater Creek (follows large creek) and Watson Mill Bridge (covered bridge and shoals). Young golf enthusiasts can also enjoy mini golf at 15 Georgia State Parks. Or, learn how to play disc golf, where a Frisbee-style disc is tossed into a metal basket. Disc courses are found at Cloudland Canyon, Fort Yargo, Georgia Veterans and Richard B. Russell state parks. This is also a perfect age for camping. With more than 2,700 campsites, Georgia State Parks have plenty of opportunities for everyone and rates average as low as $23 per night. Get the kids involved in preparing the site, carrying the wood, cooking food the old fashion way, and build lifetime skills and family memories.

·    Clubs for Mountain Bikers, Hikers and Paddlers (Kids ages 10 and up)
Parents with middle school-age children can keep them motivated all year long with three heart-pumping clubs at Georgia State Parks. Upon completion, members receive a bragging-rights t-shirt, as well as the personal satisfaction of accomplishment. For hiking enthusiasts, the Canyon Climbers Club invites families to explore four state parks. Hikers can experience breathtaking vistas and cascading waterfalls, more fun than any gym Stairmaster, at Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon and Providence Canyon. Mountain bikers and cyclists can tackle the Muddy Spokes Club and challenge their skills across 11 state parks and 68 miles of trails for their bragging right t-shirt. Trails vary in difficulty, so riders have the chance to improve their skill as they move from park to park. The easiest trails are the paved path at Panola Mountain State Park and pine-needle trail at Magnolia Springs. The most difficult mountain bike trails are at Fort Mountain, Fort Yargo, Tallulah Gorge and Unicoi state parks. And, finally canoe and kayak fans will love the Park Paddlers club. Members explore six state parks by waterway, ranging from quiet lakes to the famed Okefenokee Swamp. Paddlers are challenged to complete 22 miles at Crooked River, George L. Smith, Magnolia Springs, Reed Bingham, Stephen C. Foster and Sweetwater Creek state parks.

To join any of the state park clubs, park visitors simply purchase a $10 membership card at any of the club parks or call (770) 389-7401. Members get their card punched at each participating park office and receive their official bragging-rights t-shirt upon completion. What a fun way to get the whole family moving and inspired throughout the year, as well as enjoy the diverse park landscapes and wildlife while getting fit. For more information, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org.

Families interested in planning a weekend staycation at their favorite Georgia State Park can choose from a variety of affordable accommodation options including camp sites, fully-equipped cottages, yurts and hotel-style lodge rooms with restaurants. For help in planning a staycation for your family, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 1-800-864-7275.

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