How I Staycation: Athens, GA
“Staycation” may seem like a made-up word for people who don’t have the time or energy to plan an actual holiday, but hear us out: A vacation in your hometown doesn’t have to suck. In fact, it can be pretty wonderful. Consider: You save on airfare and transportation, you don’t have to worry about outsourcing care of pets or plants, and you can sleep in your own bed (if you want). Win-win-win!
This month, we’re exploring how five different people staycation. Read on for ideas and inspiration for planning a few days off without leaving your area code.
I met Paige French through Facebook and I was immediately taken with her gorgeous photography, an intriguing mix of rustic-looking furniture, frayed yarns, hand-woven textiles, and candid shots of her young family. Through her work, she captures the mood of living in the American South, so I knew she’d be just the right person to tell us how to take a small-town staycation to the next level.
Here, she shares how she uses her time off not only to relax and recharge, but also to find family-friendly activities that keep her brood engaged.
Introducing the French Family
We are a family of five: me; my husband, John; and the girls, Piper (7), Larken (4), and our littlest, Faeren (6 months). For us, it’s unusual for both me and my husband to not be working, so we cherish every opportunity to spend that time in ways that are low-stress and comfortable for every member of the family.
Athens, Georgia, where we live, is rich with places we love to frequent, and the comfort of knowing what to expect with the children is priceless. Being able to simply head home when the girls are tired is another plus.
John and I are both very aesthetics- and design-oriented folks and we have had the gift of cultivating a space that is light-filled, cozy, and visually appealing while still accommodating the children gracefully. We love retreating to our home as needed, rather than searching high and low to find lodging that is both beautiful and suitable for small children.
Last, but not least, we have a network of trusted friends who love watching our kids so that we can sneak away for some time together.
Getting the Right Mix
We always try to end up with a combination of exploring, indulging, and relaxing. Exploring gives us a chance to get out of the house, enjoy this beautiful part of Northeast Georgia, get some sunlight on our faces, and stretch our legs. There are so many local parks and farms to visit.
Indulging is easy with so much amazing food in this town — it’s truly a gem for foodies, both with and without kids. We also have not one but two amazing farmers markets. You can find everything from sustainably and organically grown flowers in season from 3 Porch Farm (and always, always get the kids a honey pop!), to tons of beautiful produce from so many of our local farmers, to coffee from Jittery Joe’s or Thousand Faces, both local roasters who make exceptional coffee. The West Broad Market is a world unto itself. It’s hosted by a community garden project and has everything from ready-to-eat/drink yummies to their very own produce to pottery from local artist Regina Mandell of Forged & Found.
Relaxing is a crucial element for all five of us, and again, the comforts of home make this so enjoyable.
Assembling a Family-Friendly Plan
We typically approach time off with loosely structured goals. We have places we’d like to go, we plan for a meal or two out, and the rest we leave up to how the kids are doing. We also try to find something that each member of the family will love. It can help the littles feel appreciated and treated.
A typical staycation for us almost always includes some time spent in Winterville, our neck of Athens. Winterville is just outside of Athens proper and is perfect for families. We’ll eat brunch at Little City Diner, then head to see animals ranging from Alpaca to peacocks and everything in between at Sweet Olive Farm.
In Athens, an ideal day consists of lunch at Ted’s, which is legendary for delicious pizza and a giant sand pit, which was once intended to be a bocce court but is now a kid’s paradise.
After lunch, we might head to the Georgia Museum of Art, which is full of compelling, carefully curated exhibitions and where our own local donut shop, Ike & Jane, has a cafe if you can catch them before they close at 2 p.m. And no Athens staycation would be complete without an excursion to Sandy Creek Nature Center & Park and Condor Chocolates — a tasty excursion for the whole family.
After all that running around, White Tiger Gourmet would be a great fit for supper — the food is amazing, the atmosphere is laid-back, they’re super kid-friendly (complete with toys and all!), and it’s BYOB, which is always a plus.
Setting Aside Time for Date Night
Another big thing from a planning perspective is childcare for dates — a must! Time alone as a couple can help you refresh and relax, so you can be ready to greet the family again with renewed love. And being able to have the girls cared for by dear friends is important to us, so we try to respect their time by planning ahead.
For date night, there are so many possibilities, but our favorites are The National and Seabear. The food is spectacular every time, the environments are beautiful and welcoming, and the cocktails are perfection. The Branded Butcher is the best spot for house-cured meats, pickled veggies, cheeses, oysters, and snacks. (Get the scotch egg and thank me later!)