From lions and tigers to trains and planes, free fun doesn’t get more exciting than this
Memory-making doesn’t have to break the bank. Head to Henry County, just 30 minutes south of Atlanta, for a variety of generation-spanning activities that are free or nearly free. From weekend getaways to spring and summer vacays, consider this quaint Southern destination–the perfect stopping point for those en route to Savannah or Orlando.
For an activity that is as much fun for the adults as for the kids, don’t miss Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, home to over 1,500 animals with over 100 species represented. This free attraction features exotic animal habitats. Open noon to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Nature center, playground and picnic area open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Train enthusiast? Pack a picnic and spend a few hours watching the more than 40 trains that pass through Locust Grove, all from the comfort of the new Locust Grove Train Watching Platform. Stroll across the street for some pizza from Lovin’ Oven Pizzeria or a to-die-for dessert from The French Market & Tavern.
Step back in time
For the ultimate history lesson, head to the Heritage Park Veterans Museum, which showcases more than 20,000 pieces of military memorabilia–some of which are incredibly rare. The true treasure is in the stories, though. Every uniform, vehicle, medal and piece of memorabilia tells a story and the military veterans who serve as volunteer guides bring those stories to life through tales of the solider who wore, drove or owned each piece. Admission is free and this incredible collection is supported solely on donations.
Additional military history, this time with an emphasis on army aviation, can be experienced at the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation. The hangars that serve as the home for the flying museum of Vietnam-era Huey and Cobra helicopters are located in Hampton at the Henry County Airport. Admission is free, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday.
Continue the history lesson at Nash Farm Battlefield & Museum, the meticulously preserved site of considerable military action during the Civil War. The park is open seven days a week and historical markers make for an easy self-guided tour. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, showcasing artifacts from the grounds on display and featuring a children’s room where kids can try on period costumes.
Take the family or meet up with friends at J.P. Moseley Park for a free round of golf…disc golf! The J.P. Moseley Park Disc Golf Course is a championship caliber 18-hole course. Make sure to bring your own disc.
If you go
These local parks are ideal for picnicking, or catching the last rays of the day with an incredible sunset:
- For the best sunsets, head to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Park in one of their parking lots or campgrounds and watch Mother Nature put on a show, no ticket required.
- Pay tribute to those who have served our country with a visit to the Veterans Wall of Honor at Heritage Park (99 Lake Dow Rd, McDonough, GA 30252), where you will also find a historic village, 1900 Steam Engine that children can climb on, a playground, a community garden and a picnic pavilion.
- Get your heart pumping on the Reeves Creek Trail, a three-mile concrete path trail through wooded areas of Memorial Park (106 Jennings Way, Stockbridge, GA 30281).
- Nearby, Panola Mountain State Park (2620 Highway 155 SW, Stockbridge, GA 30281) offers access to fishing lakes, walking, biking and hiking trails (including extensive PATH Trails), as well as birding, picnicking and geocaching. $5 parking fee.
- Forget Hollywood! Take a self-guided driving tour of Georgia-based film locations:
- Watch AMA members flying planes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Red Hawk Nature Preserve (143 Henry Parkway, McDonough GA 30253), home to the Henry County RC Club for Radio Controlled Airplanes. Lessons are available; flying here regularly requires AMA membership.
- New! Bud Kelley Park (1605 Kelleytown Rd, McDonough, GA 30252) offers walking trails with lake views, picnic pavilions and a playground.
Visitors can rest easy, choosing from a variety of lodging options including name brand hotels or sleeping under the stars at one of the beautiful campsites in the area. Whether looking for an adventure-packed trip or an easy-going escape, visitors will leave with lasting memories–and full pockets!