After Thursday’s long day at the Georgia Aquarium and Atlanta Botanical Gardens, we woke up exhausted. We originally planned to go to Stone Mountain but then we started thinking maybe we should just take it easy. After everyone slept in (E didn’t get up until almost 10!), we got dressed and headed out the door with no real plan in mind.
I’d read that Buckhead was a cool place for shopping and restaurants. After navigating our way there, we quickly realized that it wasn’t the quaint area I’d been imagining. It was a lot more commercial (I mean there are TWO huge malls right next to each other) than we’d been anticipating.
We made a game-time decision and set our course for Stone Mountain. Less than 30 minutes later, we were pulling up to the front gates:
For those of you unfamiliar with Stone Mountain, it’s the “world’s largest piece of exposed granite.” And on its side, are three huge carvings of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. I mean, this is Georgia, people! I actually camped here with my family in 1979 during our drive from Pennsylvania to Florida. I don’t really have many memories of it but someday I’ll get around to scanning in some images of me standing naked on the picnic tables (unfortunately, that’s a true story).
The mountain itself is pretty impressive.
Fun fact: the carvings are actually 70 feet taller than the carvings on Mount Rushmore. Take that George Washington! Who needs to travel to middle of nowhere when we’ve got our own kick-ass mountain carving in the South!
Our first order of business was to take the cable car to the top of the mountain. There’s actually a 2-mile hiking trail that you can hike up or down the mountain but it was a cold, blustery day and as I mentioned, we were ill-prepared for such temperatures. Bad Mommy! And here’s your first shot of Day 2 of DadJovi in the long-sleeved yellow shirt!
Much sooner than I would have liked, we were heading back down the mountain. DadJovi was cold and E. was getting bored. I guess barren granite spaces aren’t too exciting for someone too young to soak in the view. Even though it was really chilly up there, I could have sat all day just staring out onto the horizon. I don’t know what it is about being on top of a mountain. Maybe I’ve lived in Florida too long, but my eyes ache for hills, mountains and forests. It never fails to make me homesick for Pennsylvania. There’s just something so wild and, well, American about looking out over the landscape and plotting your next adventure.
But down the mountain we went.
The park service has done a good job of building a whole park around the main attraction.
There’s a ropes course for the older kid; small craft shops with glass blowers and candy; a 4-D theater showing “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (is Brandon Fraser always in mortal danger? I bet he misses when he used to get to play smart prep school/college students); face painting and inexplicably island-style hair braiding; and several restaurants.
After the Summit Skyride, we headed toward the Great Barn, which is four stories of games, slides and rope climbs. It took us awhile to figure out that we were supposed to gather all the foam balls in the canvas bags and use them for the games.
Listen, I’m not an overprotective mom. I’m always the parent that lets her climb as high as she wants at the playground. I believe in giving her as much free reign as possible. But do you SEE what that “trampoline” is — woven ropes. Look down:
That’s a two-floor drop underneath us. As evidenced above, I’m not scared of heights. But E. jumping wildly up and down on these ropes frankly freaked me the hell out. So we quickly headed for the slides.
At last it was time to head to the event we’d been promising her all day — the baby animals show. OK, let me share the brochure description of the show and you tell me what you think: “Meet and greet cute and cuddly animals. From fawns to bunnies to a joey kangaroo, our animal experts are happy to introduce you to some sweet and adorable animal babies.”
Doesn’t that sound like we’re going to get to pet a baby roo and at least see a bunny? I’m saying this because when, obviously, neither of these two things came true, I was the bad guy for lying. You can’t win, can you?
Now that I’ve ruined the end of this story, on with the show. Up first was a “cuddly” lizard. Luckily E loves reptiles. Me, not so much. I passed on the chance to stroke his scaly back:
Next, it was time to cuddle a baby hedgehog. Still waiting on the bunny …
Just as all the kids leaned forward for their big chance to pet a kangaroo … cue the sad horns. No petting! The nice animal ranger tucked the roos back into bag and thanked us for coming to the show. What the??
I thought E was going to be a lot more upset but we tempted her with a train ride around the park. That cheered her up.
Then it was time to head out of the Crossroads area and over to the Antebellum Plantation area. OK, disclosure time. Back in the day, I was a HUGE “Gone With the Wind” fan. Like mega-huge. I read the book something like 16 or 17 times in high school, saw the movies dozens and dozens of times, have all the collector’s plates, oodles of Christmas ornaments, etc. It was an illness. Looking back, I can’t even understand the obsession.
Need more proof? Check out that Twitter column on the right? Tweedle Dee Dee is an obvious rip-off of Scarlett’s famous “Fiddle dee dee.” Issues, people.
In college, I minored in American history, and I know this will sound naive, but it was then and only then, that I truly began to grasp the true horrors of slavery. Of course I knew that in high school but high school history glosses over so much that you really can believe that there may have been some “not so bad” slave experiences. OK, this is coming out wrong. What I mean to say is that I was still young and naive enough to fall for those old myths and stories that glorified the South and the supposed “loving” and “kind” relationships between some slaveowners and some slaves, as described in “Gone With the Wind.”
Not true. EVERY.SINGLE.SLAVE incident is a nightmare that none of us can imagine. Every single African-American from pre-Civil War to today has lived through things that a white person like myself can never understand. (as a side note, if you are a GWTW fan, I highly recommend Alice Randall’s “The Wind Done Gone,” which is told from the perspective of Cynara, the daughter of Scarlett’s father and Mammy. Fascinating re-interpretation of the novel.)
I apologize for the digression, but these were the conflicting thoughts swirling through my head as I walked around the plantation. On one hand, from a historical buff standpoint, it’s pretty amazing. They gathered some of the oldest buildings that they could from around Georgia and moved them to this place.
But on the other hand, I just kept thinking how much of these homes and the farms they represented were built upon the backs, blood, sweat and tears of human beings.
Despite this, it was like stepping back in time and it was a chance to get a lot closer to history than you normally can in places like Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C. area.
It was really cool. You could walk into most of the rooms and they were full of period furniture, textiles, dishes, and other furnishings. And you could walk around at your own pace — no tours. DadJovi was also a history major so we both geeked out on it a lot. E. just liked the fact that she could run free because hardly anyone else was there.
And then, we headed into the farm area and oh boy … we FINALLY got the animal experience we felt robbed of earlier:
We had the whole petting area to ourselves and the animals were so frisky because it was their normal feeding time (5 p.m.) but the caretakers were in the process of moving feeding time to 7. So those were some pissed off sheep, goats and pot-bellied piggies! But it made them a lot of fun and lively.
After finally tearing E. away from her new barnyard friends, we had one more stop — the main house. Seriously, is this not a Tara look alike?
It was pretty amazing. The rooms were HUGE and there were all sorts of clever design features like a downstairs dining room/living area for the summer months (it was cooler down there) and something that DadJovi thinks we should institute — a separate children’s dining room where they had to dine until they could learn manners. Pretty tempting idea. If only we had the space. And oh yeah, a nanny.
So that was our trip to Stone Mountain. It really was like stepping back in time and much more entertaining than I thought it’d be. I guess I just didn’t realize how much there would be to do and see there, and since it was cooler, we didn’t even get to tackle some of the other stuff like the Duck tour, the swimming areas and more. It’s definitely worth getting out of the city for a day!