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Road Trip III 2011: Georgia's Stone Mountain Park

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Road Trip III 2011: Georgia's Stone Mountain Park

This is officially called "The Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain".  It's the largest relief carving in the world...at least until the Crazy Horse Monument is finished.  We all know who the guys are...who knows the horses' names?
As I'd mentioned in yesterday's post about The Varsity, the only truly scheduled activity we had coming into Atlanta was a Sunday afternoon Braves game.  So we had the entire city of Atlanta at our disposal for sightseeing.

What to do...what to do...

Most families staying in downtown Atlanta would have considered the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Center tour, and/or the World of Coca-Cola.  Zoo Atlanta would have been a good option too...if it weren't for the incredible heat.

Dave, in his typical train-fan fashion, knew of a tourist scenic railroad in the area.  So that's what we sought to do.  We decided to grab some same-day tickets to the Saturday night Braves game, and then headed out for the day to Stone Mountain Park which is about 15 miles east of Atlanta.  We weren't quite sure what to expect -- several folks at the hotel breakfast area told us we'd have a good time and that there was "so much to do!".

Those folks were right!  Stone Mountain Park is very beautiful and there was no shortage of things to do!  We didn't quite dress for hiking up the mountain (and Dave's back wouldn't have been to happy with it either), but we were able to enjoy the scenic train, the skytram right to the top of the mountain, a ferryboat ride, and a fun -- touristy -- lunch where our yeast rolls were thrown to us by our servers!

Dave and I really enjoyed the Civil War history that's been memorialized at the park -- of course there's the beautiful bas relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (and their horses!).  There is also an antebellum mansion to tour, and a Confederate Museum.

One could visit the park and make a complete vacation experience out of it -- from campsite to the Stone Mountain Inn, you can stay on the property.  If you want to do outdoor activities, there's hiking, biking, golf and boating to be had!  If you prefer indoor air conditioned stuff, there are the museums, the shops and lots of exhibits and demonstrations.

Stone Mountain is a fascination in and of itself: the dome of cooled magma, which soon became granite rock, poked up over the surrounding geology, rising over 800' above the surrounding area.  There are gentle rolling hills around Atlanta, but Stone Mountain sticks up pretty high...

While you could pay individually for each of the activities we did, we instead took advantage of the one-day "Adventure Pass".  This let us do just about all the theme-park activities (there's this "Ride the Duck" attraction that wasn't included, but that's okay).  We had a military discount of $3 off each ticket, yay!

Perhaps because it was August in Georgia, who knows?  The park was not crowded at all even on a Saturday, there were little-to-no lines for any of the activities we wanted to enjoy.

First, the 5 mile train ride around the base of the mountain.

The engine that pulled us.


This is the walking trail up to the top (as seen from the train) -- it's straight up the sheer rock surface so it can get quite dangerous if it were rainy.


Next we enjoyed a touristy Southern comfort food lunch at an in-park restaurant called "Miss Katie's".  They're known for throwing the yeast rolls at you.  I didn't get a picture of this gimmick, but here's a picture I found off the web of a Miss Katie's server throwing a roll, from the Epicurean Family Blog:

We enjoyed southern fried chicken and chicken and dumplings for lunch.  Along with free tossed rolls, fried dill pickles, fried sweet potatoes and free fried onion petals...we were glad we ordered 2 entrees and 1 kid's meal for the 4 of us!
The lunch was yummy, but unfortunately was priced for tourists and our lunch for 4 was over $50.

After lunch we visited the air conditioned Yogi Bear's 4D Adventure.  This was merely a stitching-together of 12-minutes worth of scenes from the 2010 movie Yogi Bear...the 3D version.  But we were in a theater that added in real water and wind effects.  We had seen Yogi Bear this past spring but it was fun to experience the water and wind effects.

This is what I usually get from Jacob these days when I say "Smile for the camera!"
Next we visited the Summit Skyride, which was the gondola ride to the top of the mountain.  The gondola has a capacity of 13,000 lbs., and when we were loading up, it was rather freaky seeing the load weight - displayed in tons - get higher and higher.  Luckily, everyone fit on board at 5.1 tons.




We enjoyed the views from the top of the mountain.

Can you see the Atlanta skyline out there?  Trust me, it's out there!

I have a lot of peak pictures of Dave: here and here.  I have one of him on North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain too...but that'll have to wait till I get home and dig into my photo archives.

I think this is the very peak of the mountain.  But I could be wrong....

Timmy was very curious about these circular depressions in the granite.  It's from rainwater "soaking" some of the softer minerals in the rock...when the water evaporated, the dissolved minerals would go with it.

This is the very pretty -- and very rare -- Confederate yellow daisy.  There's a festival in September to celebrate it's full bloom, but they were just starting up about this time of year.

Jacob took this nice picture of Dave and me...I like the rainshower on the left side of the picture, in the background.

This black swallowtail butterfly was fluttering among the yellow daisies.  Way up on top of the mountain.  Love how my 12x zoom captured even the detail of the granite of the mountain top.  There was a tiger swallowtail, too, but he wouldn't land anywhere for me to photograph him.



We cooled off at the air conditioned Memorial Hall Museum, which has exhibits about the geology of the mountain...and a lot of the Native American and early American artifacts found nearby, as well as exhibits about the making of the bas relief sculpture and the Civil War history in the area.

Did you know?  The original sculptor of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial was Gutzon Borglum...his design wasn't used due to differences the artist had with his financial backers in the mid-1920s.  Borglum smashed the models of his designs and left Georgia in anger in 1925.  He went to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota to design and oversee its construction from 1927-1941.

The Memorial Hall Museum.

A view of the "Memorial Lawn" - laser light shows are held every night at 9:30pm during the summer.  We'd have loved to have seen one; apparently their lightshow rendition of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is pretty well known.
Finally, and by this time we were all tired and sore from the walking around, we ended our day at Stone Mountain Park with a ride on their riverboat Scarlett O'Hara.



Dave might actually be sleeping here...we were all pretty tired by this point.

View of Stone Mountain from the riverboat.
We were very glad we chose a day at Stone Mountain Park over the more common tourist destinations in Atlanta!  It was nice to get some fresh -- albeit hot -- air, and learn more about Georgia's nature and history.

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3 Comments:

At Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6:12:00 AM CDT , Blogger Bengela said...

love this post--i thought SM was just a big rock in the middle of nowhere with some carvings...didn't realize it had a theme park attached to it and that it was that close to ATL...Ben and I will have to add this to our list of things to do next time we are up that way :)

 
At Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 2:36:00 PM CDT , Blogger Jeanine said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your trip to Stone Mountain Park! I enjoyed looking at all of your photos on your adventure in the park. We are so glad that you and your family enjoyed your day with us! Thank you for serving our country!
Jeanine Jones
Stone Mountain Park
PR Manager

 
At Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 5:18:00 PM CDT , Blogger Major Mom said...

Bengela -- for sure, you have to visit! The geology and history are both fascinating! You guys can make the hike easily!

Jeanie - thanks so much for the kind words! You'll be pleased to know that this morning I mirrored this post on GeekMom.com, a website for which I'm a contributor: http://www.geekmom.com/2011/08/summer-travel-fun-georgias-stone-mountain-park/

 

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