Day One: Friday
Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit and steeped in history. In addition to the annual NASCAR race, they host summer racing series, driving schools and offer track tours. Track tours are an inexpensive way to get a taste of the speed and athleticism required to be a stock car driver. The tour includes three laps around the track in a tour van and a behind the scenes look at NASCAR Control, a suite, the garages and Victory Lane. If getting in the driver’s seat of a race car is on your bucket list, Atlanta Motor Speedway also provides several opportunities for that with one of the many driving schools that hold events at the track.
When you’re feeling a little wild, take a Walk on the Wild Side Tour at Noah’s Ark. You’ll be in good company with more than 1,500 animals who call the animal sanctuary home. This behind-the-scenes tour lets you go inside the first set of fences for a more face-to-face meeting with Doc the tiger or Anna Lou the young Grizzly bear. As you snap pictures and marvel at these beautiful animals, a trained guide will share each animal’s story and how they came to live at Noah’s Ark. Guided tours must be booked in advance.
After your tour you are sure to have worked up an appetite. Lovin’ Oven Pizzeria has cold craft beer on draft, gluten-free menu items and free entertainment in the form of high-flying dough. Watch as the dough is tossed into a perfect pizza, topped and baked in the oven. Along with great pizza, they also offer salads, sandwiches and pasta.
If things get too wild you may wind up at the JailHouse, but at least they have beer. JailHouse Brewing Company was Georgia’s 4th microbrewery and gets its name from their building’s history. While the property hasn’t been an active jail in a long time, the brewery pays tribute to its history not only with its name and the names of its beers, but also in the décor and fun photo stations. Get your mug shot taken or step behind the authentic jail cell door that hung in the jail. Tours and tastings are offered Thursday – Saturday and entertainment such as vinyl nights, music bingo and live music take place in the outdoor space known as “The Yard.”
Enjoy dinner and drinks at JailHouse, as Rutabaga’s Market & Cafe delivers their selection of soups, salads and sandwiches to The Yard. Just across the street from JailHouse is the patio leading to Tierra Mia which serves authentic Mexican cuisine or take a short stroll down the street to feast on sushi or hibachi dishes at Yumi Japanese Steakhouse.
Day Two: Saturday
Start the day off right with homemade biscuits and sausage gravy at Bridgeview Country Cooking. Darlene’s special gravy is so popular, plan to go early to ensure it’s not sold out. While biscuits and gravy are a favorite, you will find other traditional favorites like pancakes, French toast, hash browns and homemade cinnamon rolls.
Helicopter tours are great ways to get a different perspective, but what if you could fly in one of the most iconic aircraft of the Vietnam era flown by Vietnam War veterans? This is the experience that the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Museum offers. While you can visit the hangar and talk to the veterans who volunteer there for free, book a ride in either a Cobra or Huey helicopter for one of the most memorable experiences of your life. The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation has ride events at the Atlanta Speedway Airport once a month or you can find them at air shows all over the country. Better yet, get a group of at least 6 together and book a private ride event!
See where the Shane’s Rib Shack franchise started at The Original Shane’s Rib Shack on Highway 155. This little shack, complete with outhouse and screen porch was the first in what has grown to be a rapidly expanding franchise of 70 restaurants in 10 states. Try their famous BBQ pork, ribs and fried okra, but be sure to save room for their homemade peach cobbler and brownies.
Bring on the nostalgia with a modern take on the childhood past time of tree climbing. A certified tree climbing instructor will literally show you the ropes of tree climbing as he fits you with a harness and demonstrates how to climb into the canopy of a 200 year old willow oak using a pulley system of ropes and knots. Climb, swing and even hang upside down from your harness or reach a branch and take a seat to survey the surrounding area. Intro to Tree Climbing classes are usually taught at least once a month. For those who want to ratchet up the adventure, Panola Mountain State Park also offers a ZZZ’s in the Trees program where after the tree climb portion, you settle into your hammock, known as “tree boats” for a peaceful snooze up in the trees.
Food can be an adventure. Learn how to spice up old favorites using specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegar or learn to prepare a dish you have never tried before. Chef Marian Minugh offers monthly cooking classes at the Olive in a Bottle location in historic downtown Locust Grove. Classes include a meal, dessert, demonstrations, recipe packet and a small bottle of olive oil. Reservations are required.
Day Three: Sunday
Enjoy a leisurely brunch at the French Market & Tavern. This former hardware store, turned restaurant serves up southern favorites with a decidedly Cajun flair. While you wait for your food, browse through the market for home décor, candles, soaps and other items. Don’t forget to order one of their signature cocktails and delicious desserts.
Before heading home, stop at Southern Belle Farm to enjoy picking fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or peaches in the spring and summer. During the fall let the kids navigate the corn maze, play on the jumping pillow and cheer on the pigs during a pig race before taking a hayride around the farm. Finish your visit with a trip to the market for some of Mimi’s homemade poundcake, cobbler or ice cream. Enjoy the time savoring your sweet treat with your loved ones while rocking on the front porch in a rocking chair.
Check out more things to do while in Henry County.