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Georgia parks great places to gather

POSTED: April 3, 2007 5:14 a.m.
Gone are the days of backyard potlucks. Groups today are choosing to travel, sometimes planning entire weekends of activities, for their gatherings.  From family reunions to spiritual retreats, Georgia's 48 State Parks provide the perfect setting for social get-togethers.
Group planners appreciate the peaceful, natural backdrop that comes with Georgia State Parks. In addition, a wide array of facilities and locations will meet the needs for almost every event. Perfect for all preferences and budgets, the parks offer a host of bonding opportunities and the chance to create lasting memories.
Accommodation choices range from rustic wilderness retreats to hotel-style lodges.  Those needing space for larger crowds, such as church gatherings, may prefer group camps. These secluded areas consist of small “cabins” with dormitory-style bunk beds, commercial kitchens, dining/assembly rooms, restrooms with hot showers, activity areas and swimming facilities.  Rental rates for group camps range from $100- $530, with a two-night minimum.  
A.H. Stephens, F.D. Roosevelt, Fort Yargo, Hard Labor Creek, Indian Springs, Kolomoki Mounds, Laura S. Walker and Magnolia Springs state parks each offer this type of setting.
Another affordable option is group lodges. These facilities include dormitory sleeping quarters for 12 to 50 people, restrooms with hot showers, and a kitchen and dining area. A favorite for extended families or sporting groups, these lodges are found throughout the state at Cloudland Canyon, John Tanner, George T. Bagby, General Coffee and Magnolia Springs state parks with rates ranging from $95-$200, with a two-night minimum.
Adventuresome groups, who enjoy “roughing it”, such as scouts, will want to book pioneer camps. These primitive spots include water spigots and pit toilets and will not accommodate RVs or trailers. However, these sites offer a chance to experience spectacular scenery, such as lakes, trails, swimming pools and lakeside beaches, with locales at 37 state parks. A fee of $1-$5 per person or a flat fee of $15-$75 is charged for pioneer camp rental.
For those who prefer hotel accommodations, yet still want a secluded setting, Georgia State Park Lodges offer meeting packages starting at $130 per person. Getaway planners appreciate the natural environments, comfortable lodging, tasty cuisine and affordable rates at seven locations, scattered throughout some of the state's most scenic locales. Lodges are convenient to many major Southeastern cities, provide a variety of activities such as golf, fishing, boating, hiking, and also boast traditional gathering spaces amidst the retreat-style settings.
Coordinators are equipped to plan all types and sizes of functions from banquets to receptions and everything in-between.
Lodges in northern Georgia are found at Amicalola Falls, Red Top Mountain and Unicoi state parks, while lodges in southern Georgia are found at George T. Bagby and Little Ocmulgee state parks. More luxurious accommodations are available at The Lodge at Smithgall Woods, a private mountain retreat, while The Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island, an architectural gem isolated on an island, is open to exclusive reservations only. For more information on Georgia State Park Lodges, call the regional group sales office at 770-975-4291 or visit www.naturallybusiness.com.
A truly unique venue for group outings is the SAM Shortline Excursion Train, where parties can rent a car or possibly charter the entire train. Custom trips for a variety of events from reunions and birthday parties to social group meetings can be designed, including meals and entertainment. Groups can choose from many exciting day trips with layovers for shopping and tours.
A day's itinerary may include stops in the quaint cities of Cordele, Leslie, Americus, Archery and Plains, and visitors can explore nearby attractions such as Georgia Veterans State Park, The Rural Telephone Museum, Habitat for Humanity's Global Village, and former President Jimmy Carter's boyhood home and campaign headquarters. Group rates are available for all types of parties with special discounts offered for tour and travel groups, school field trips and Scout groups.  
Special rates are also available to reserve an entire car, with two premium cars offering elegant surroundings and an added knowledgeable car host. Also, groups can arrange to rent the entire stationary train or get the party moving for an excursion for a half hour up to a full day (10 hours maximum). For more information and rates, call 1-877-GA-Rails or visit www.samshortline.com..
For those who prefer their family members or friends in shorter doses, there are many facilities available at Georgia State Parks for day use. Enclosed group shelters can host up to 250 people and offer kitchens, restrooms, barbeque pits and heat and air conditioning, with rental fees ranging from $40 to $200 per day.
All Georgia State Parks, with the exception of Sprewell Bluff and Sapelo Island, have covered picnic areas that may be reserved up to 11 months in advance.  These open-air shelters include several tables and often barbecue pits and grills. All feature fantastic scenic backdrops such as lakes or mountain vistas.
With so many parks within driving distance of many major cities (both in and out of the state), Georgia State Parks offer groups the perfect place to connect at affordable prices, with parking fees only $3 and facility rentals far below competing venue prices.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources operates the Georgia State Parks system.  
From the north Georgia mountains to the Colonial Coast, 48 parks and 15 historic sites are scattered throughout the state's most scenic locales. Natural environments, comfortable lodging, affordable rates and exciting recreational activities await guests year-round.  
For more information or reservations, call (800) 864-7275 or visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org.

 

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