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Hot fun in the summertime
Mini vacations close to home and on a budget
W Cumberland Dungeness
The Dungeness ruins are a great site on Cumberland Island. - photo by Special

      Let's see, according to the calendar, the official beginning of summer is Monday and there's still six weeks before school starts and ... you have no plans for a family vacation yet!
       Don't worry if you can't afford the time or the expenses to travel far away or spend a week at a big theme park. I'm not saying don't have a vacation, I'm suggesting to look a little closer around you. There are lots of fun, educational things to do right here in our area, and you don't even have to spend one night away from home. Unless you want to!


A little area history

      Maybe your family is full of history buffs. If so, then visit Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. It is an early colonial period fort. Also visit Fort Pulaski, a Civil War-era fort, in Savannah on the road to Tybee Island. Both forts have interesting displays and ruins. They are open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer. To find out more about the forts, Google them.
Another great place to learn about our history is the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum on Highway 80 in Pooler. The museum has tons of exhibits, including actual aircrafts, Fly Girls, Hall of Valor, Combat Gallery, Escape & Evasion and Memorial Gardens. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.


So you like water?

      First of all, you can't go wrong with a watery day at Splash in the Boro. There are lots of water slides, a kiddie area, a Flowrider surf ride, a lazy river and many more ways to stay cool at Splash. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can check it out on the web at
       You could also spend a day at Summer Waves on Jekyll Island. It is a fun, watery way to spend a hot, summer day, even if it is more expensive. It has many of the same features other water parks have, and it's on an island! Summer Waves is also open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Look at the website,, to find out admission prices and directions.
       Of course, you can always spend a day at one of the many beaches in our area.
       We all know about Tybee, so, for a change and a little more adventure, take the family to Cumberland Island.
Begin your adventure at the reservation office in St. Marys where you will pay the fee and board a ferry boat. After a 45-minute ride, you arrive at the dock at the south end of the island. From there you can walk through the woods and over some fairly big dunes to a beautiful beach. Or you could head to the ruins of Dungeness, the former home of Thomas and Lucy Carneigie. Look for the feral horses as you go.
       Be sure to load your beach bag with bug spray, sunscreen, lunch, snack, and lots of water. Also, ferry reservations are required. Call (912) 882-4335 or (877) 860-6787, Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


For Nature Lovers

      If your family enjoys learning about nature there are many places within easy driving distance you will want to experience. Georgia Southern University's Wildlife Education & Raptor Center has water fowl, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, raptors, and of course, eagles. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Come early to see the animals in their natural habitats. The center also offers daily themed programs. You can call (912) 478-0311 for more information.
       The Georgia Sea Turtle Museum on Jekyll Island has great educational exhibits about the life of sea turtles and what we can do to help them. One of the main attractions is the very active rehab center. You can visit here on Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to the website for more information.
       Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah has many animal exhibits including Wolf Wilderness, Alligator Wetlands, Hoofed Animals, Predators of GA, Birds of Prey and GA Farm. The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information on fees and special programs go to
       Tybee Island Marine Science Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Here, your family may participate in beach discovery walks, marsh treks or turtle talks. The center also has a gallery. Click on for directions, events, and fees.
       Perhaps your family is looking for a nice place for a walk, at no cost. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta boasts six trails and six boardwalks with observation decks where you may see various swamp creatures. The park is open from noon to dusk Monday through Friday, and dawn to dusk on the weekend. For directions to the park, go tot
       A little further away, but not too far is Waycross - the home of Okefenokee Swamp Park. Your family can experience some of the park's history at Pioneer Homestead, Turpentine Sit, and Seminole Indian Village. You can learn about bees at the Honey Bee Farm. There are also wilderness walkways, wildlife shows, train rides, and boat tours through the swamp. The park is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. You can visit the website at for more information.

Fun with science

       Does science sound like fun to you? If not, then you haven't been to Ft. Discovery in Augusta. This "fort" has many interactive exhibits where your family can learn about electricity, motion, communication, robots, and more. There is even a special area for the younger family members. Ft. Discovery is visited by hundreds of children on class field trips during the school year. I'm sure your family will have fun there! To learn more, go to
       Well, I'm exhausted just writing about all these fun places, and there are so many more to discover close by. Just gather your family, hop in your car and go!

Diane Harrell lives in Pembroke and loves to take trips with her family.


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