Top 10 things for kids this summer

Telegraph correspondentsMay 5, 2013 

Whether you’re here for summer vacation or here to stay, here are the top 10 things you must do with the kids while you’re in the midstate.

Explore the Ocmulgee National Monument

A peek into life thousands of years ago awaits those who visit the Ocmulgee National Monument.

The area is a preservation of the Early Mississippian mound-builder culture, though archaeological evidence indicates the site was continuously inhabited for nearly 17,000 years.

The centerpiece of the Ocmulgee monument today is the reconstructed Earth Lodge, which is believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes by the Mississippian people, who are the ancestors of the Creek Indians. The mound builders lived about 900 A.D.

Visitors can follow a narrow tunnel to the inside of the Lodge and see the original 1,000-year-old floor, which is ringed by seats and includes a bird effigy in the center.

There are several other mounds on site, including the Great Temple Mound, which offers spectacular views of Macon and the surrounding area. There also are funeral mounds, smaller ceremonial mounds, remnants of defensive trenches and the remnant of an old trading post.

The 702-acre park also boasts more than five miles of trails and includes a boardwalk over some wetlands.

Ocmulgee’s Visitor Center includes some of the site’s history and more than 2,000 artifacts unearthed during excavations.

There is also a theater showing a 17-minute movie and a gift shop.

Ocmulgee National Monument, 1207 Emery Highway, Macon; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Free. www.nps.gov/ocmu or (478) 752-8257.

Visit the Museum of Aviation

More than 90 aircraft on display at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins offer visitors a chance to see everything from the earliest fighter jets and bombers to spy planes and utility aircraft.

The museum is one of the largest aviation museums in the country and has a number of historically significant aircraft in its collection.

This includes a C-140 once used by President Lyndon Johnson and a specialized helicopter used by General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm. The museum also houses the SR-71 “Blackbird” spy plane that set a world record for aircraft speed in 1976 when it hit 2,193 miles per hour.

The museum has a cafeteria on-site as well as picnic tables on the grounds.

Museum of Aviation, Ga. 247 at Russell Parkway, Warner Robins; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except for holidays. Free. Guided tours can be arranged in advance for $3. www.museumofaviation.org or (478) 926-6870.

Check out the Museum of Arts and Sciences

Art, science and kid’s stuff all come together under the roof of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon.

The museum, which is a Smithsonian affiliate, features a mini-zoo, planetarium, observatory, nature trail and standing exhibits of art, reptiles, mammals and insects. These are supplemented by art and science exhibits that change throughout the year.

The museum was started as a way to enhance educational opportunities for local school children and has grown from a one-room rental to a 55,000-square foot building surrounded by woods, gardens and trails.

One of the museum’s biggest draws is the state-of-the-art planetarium, with the only projector of its caliber in Georgia.

Museum of Arts and Sciences, 4182 Forsyth Road, Macon; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, $7 for students and $5 for children ages 3-17. www.masmacon.org or (478) 477-3232.

Visit the Go Fish Education Center

Middle Georgia has its own aquarium experience at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry.

The center, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources, opened in October 2010 and is designed to teach visitors about Georgia’s watersheds and provide information on fishing.

Go Fish has a number of large aquariums that showcase a variety of freshwater fish as well as aquatic wildlife. A highlight of the center is a stocked fishing pond where visitors can try their hands at fishing. Rods and bait are provided as part of the admission price.

Go Fish also features a number of interactive exhibits, including fishing and boat simulators and a shooting room.

Go Fish Education Center, 1255 Perry Parkway, Perry; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and p.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-12. Local libraries carry a pass that can be checked out for free admission. www.gofisheducationcenter.com or (478) 988-6701.

Visit the Sports Hall of Fame

Middle Georgia boasts the country’s largest state sports museum, complete with memorabilia and more than 3,000 artifacts. The old-style ticket booths, large brick columns and green roof give visitors the feel of a 20th century ballpark. Built in 1956, the museum was originally known as the Georgia Prep Sports Hall of Fame and was moved to Macon in 1999.

Various exhibits that chronicle the progression of high school, collegiate, professional and Olympic sports in Georgia are on display year-round. A highlight of the museum is the Hall of Fame corridor that recognizes more than 300 inductees including baseball great Hank Aaron and Macon-native Norm Nixon.

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, 301 Cherry St., Macon; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; Mondays by reservation only. Admission is $8 for adults, $3.50 for children 16 and younger, and $6 for seniors, college students and those with military I.D. www.gshf.org or (478) 752-1585.

Explore Amerson River Park

Bask in the Georgia sun while picnicking and enjoying the captivating views of the Ocmulgee River and its bluffs at Amerson River Park. Formerly Water Works Park, the outdoor recreation center is located off of Interstate 75 at Pierce Avenue in Macon.

Visitors will enjoy roaming the forests and relaxing by the meadows that make up the 180-acre park. Among its many features is an extensive playground area for children, a canoe launch, fishing pond, a picnic pavilion and hiking trails. The park is set to receive more amenities this year with the completion of additional trails, pavilions and a public boat launch.

Amerson River Park, 2600 Riverview Road, Macon; 9 a.m-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Free. www.newtownmacon.com/projects/amerson-water-works-park.

Check out the Georgia Children’s Museum

Children will love the interactive history, art, music, science, math and business exhibits at the Georgia Children’s Museum in downtown Macon. The Kids­Towne USA exhibit gives children a chance to experience life as a lawyer, doctor, banker and journalist as they work together to make KidsTowne a success. The exhibit features a “working” ATM that distributes Kid Kash to guests wanting to make store purchases.

The museum’s international exhibit recognizes Macon’s sister cities from around the world and explores Japanese, French, African, Russian and Korean cultures. From there, visitors can explore different instruments at the Music Factory exhibit or create an experiment at the Science Connection exhibit.

Georgia Children’s Museum, 382 Cherry St., Macon; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. the first Friday of each month. Admission is $4 per person. Children ages 2 and younger are free. Macon residents receive free admission from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and on the second Saturday of each month. Admission is free during First Friday celebrations from 5:30-7:30 p.m. www.georgiachildrensmuseum.com or (478) 755-9539.

Explore Dauset Trails in Jackson

Spend the afternoon hiking and exploring the more than 1,400 acres of scenic woods, creeks and rivers at Dauset Trails Nature Center in Jackson. Home to many native mammals, reptiles, birds of prey and more, Dauset Trails offers various educational opportunities to learn more about wildlife preservation.

In the 1980s, the nature center served primarily as a rehabilitation center for injured wildlife. Now, the center is home to many different wildlife, including cougars, alligators, snakes, ducks and turtles.

The easily accessible Animal Trail stretches about half a mile through the woods and features native birds and mammals such as the bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, gray fox and black bear. At the barnyard exhibit, patrons can explore a 19th century style working farm, complete with a blacksmith shop, cane syrup mill and smoke house. Alligators, turtles, snakes and more animals can be found in the center’s Wonder Room. Visitors who are interested in the scenic landscape can hike or bicycle the extensive trail system or enjoy a quick walk through the Woodland Garden.

Dauset Trails Nature Center, 360 Mount Vernon Road, Jackson; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and noon-7 p.m. Sundays. Free. www.dausettrails.com or (770) 775-6798.

Pick fruit at a local farm

Several local farms offer opportunities to buy fresh, seasonal produce on site or even pick your own.

Elliott Farms, which is located off Holley Road in Lizella, has a variety of produce all year long. Visitors can pick strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, pole beans, scuppernongs, muscadines and pumpkins as the produce is in season. Elliott also sells ice cream. The farm lets visitors wander around and check out the farm animals, including goats, peacocks, donkeys, horses, chickens and cows.

Deer Creek Farms in Forsyth offers fresh produce and allows visitors to pick strawberries and pumpkins when they are in season. The farm, which is off Jenkins Road, specializes in strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, garden vegetables and fresh jam and jellies.

Lane Southern Orchards, off Ga. 96 in Fort Valley, is known as a peach powerhouse, but it also offers opportunities to pick strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the fall. The fall also brings a corn maze.

During peach season, Lane packs up to a million 25-pound cartons of peaches and offers tours of the packhouse and farm. The nearly 5,000-acre farm also runs a yearlong gift shop and restaurant, which are both open daily.

In the summer months, Dickey Farms, another large peach grower, is open for visitors.

The farm, located off Old Highway 341 in Musella, sells fresh peaches and ice cream at the packing house’s retail store. This is generally open from May until Aug. 1.

For more information and hours of operation: Elliott Farms, (478) 935-8180; Deer Creek Farms, www.facebook.com/deercreek farms or (478) 365-4688; Dickey Farms, www.gapeaches.com or (478) 836-4362; Lane Southern Orchards, www.lanesouthernorchards.com or (800) 277-3224.

Play at Rigby’s Entertainment Complex

Fun for the entire family is the main objective at Rigby’s Entertainment Complex in Warner Robins. The 40,000-square-foot entertainment center, which was expected to open in mid-April, will provide a variety of activities for children of all ages, including bowling, in-line and quad skating and two-story laser tag.

Children as well as adults will be able to take a swing in the center’s batting cages or take a quick lap around the track in the go-carts. A food court offering pizza and a variety of carnival-style foods and healthier food options also will be available.

Rigby’s Entertainment Complex, 2001 Karl Drive, Warner Robins; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-midnight Thursdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. All activities are available on a pay-as-you-go system. www.rigbysec.com or (478) 287-6465.

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