Last chance for summer fun


THINGS TO DO BEFORE SUMMER ENDS

Not the usual hike

How about walking along more than 6 miles of trails through 34 acres of 4,500 old cars? Owner Richard Erickson bills Old Car City USA in Bartow County as a photographer’s paradise. Natalie Rosbottom of southeast Atlanta says her boys loved it, making it well worth the hour’s drive north of Atlanta.

Old Car City USA, 3098 U.S. 411 N.E., White, Ga. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Admission: $10 per person without a camera; $15 per person if anyone in the party has a camera. 770-382-6141, www.oldcarcityusa.com.

Not the same old back-to-school snacks

Boxes of granola bars from the warehouse club are one thing, but what about putting a few bags of octopus-flavored chips or Korean chili and lime drumstick crackers in your child’s lunchbox? A trip to H Mart in Duluth will yield a school year’s worth of exotic treats and the chance to try that Rosbottom family favorite, the “disappointed fish” ice cream sandwich.

H Mart, 2550 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth. Open 7 days a week, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. 678-543-4000, www.hmart.com/.

Ease the transition to “education”

How about a museum that gives you money for coming? The museum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta explores the story of money from barter to bullion. Rosbottom’s boys enjoyed seeing millions and millions of U.S. dollars being handled by bank workers and the chance to take home their own bag of shredded greenbacks.

Atlanta Monetary Museum, 1000 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Free. Bags of shredded money available at the lobby kiosk. www.frbatlanta.org/about/tours/museum.cfm.

Spend a night or two under the stars

Georgia offers camping at 41 state parks, with several within an hour's drive of metro Atlanta including Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan, High Falls State Park in Jackson, Indian Springs State Park in Flovilla and Red Top Mountain in Cartersville. Last-minute availability for weekend campsites, cottages and more is posted on the Web every week at http://gastateparks.org/availability.

Some parks offer a First Time Camper program. You can rent equipment there, get guidance on the basics and help setting up your tent. http://gastateparks.org/FirstTimeCamper.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources State Parks. Reservations: 1-800-864-7275, http://gastateparks.org/.

A last-minute “beach” trip

Didn’t get enough of the beach this summer? Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens may not have ocean waves, but it does have a floating playground, giant chess and checker sets and old-fashioned summer games like miniature golf and shuffleboard.

The Summer Beach Trip Package starts at $99 per night and is available through Aug. 29. Reservations required. Callaway Gardens, 17800 U.S. 27, Pine Mountain. 1-800-225-5292, www.callawaygardens.com.

Spend the day at a lake

Putnam County, about 70 miles from Atlanta, is home base for Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee. The Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce can help you get on a boat for a day or the weekend. Show the kids what life was like pre-Internet with a stop at the Old School History Museum with its restored early-1900s classroom.

Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce and Old School History Museum, 305 N. Madison Ave., Eatonton. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Docent tours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays, 2-4 p.m. Sundays. 706-485-7701, www.eatonton.com.

Lots of water, closer to home

The Georgia Aquarium offers Imagination Nights through Aug. 17. 6-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. (The offer excludes Aug. 3, 6 and 14.) $19.95 plus tax per person. Children 2 and under, free. www.georgiaaquarium.org/.

Take a step back into the past

On Aug. 3, 4, 10 and 11, the Atlanta History Center’s Smith Family Farm will host guests from the past — docents in period clothes playing the part of the Smiths and their neighbors. Hands-on activities include craft demonstrations and a chance to pet the barnyard’s new flock of sheep.

Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Road N.W., Atlanta. $16.50 adults, $13 seniors 65+ and students (13-18), $11 youth (4-12). 404-814-4000, www.atlantahistorycenter.com.

Where did the summer go?

Wasn’t it just yesterday the season stretched ahead with the promise of long days and unlimited possibilities?

Now the first day of school is just around the corner with homework, after-school activities and fixed bedtimes. But it’s not too late for one last summer fling, or maybe two.

Natalie Rosbottom of southeast Atlanta is fitting in some last-minute fun for her boys, Reid, 15, and Tait, 12.

“There’s still time to enjoy a few things at the leisurely pace of summer. We make sure we really fill up on all the treats we’ve been wanting like last-minute swimming, a camping weekend and lots of ice cream,” she said.

One afternoon might find the Rosbottoms cycling on the Beltline, taking in “Imaginary Worlds” at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and finally cooling off in the pool at Piedmont Park. On another day, they’ll head out to the H Mart, one of the region’s international markets, in Duluth.

“We love ice cream. It can be Morelli’s Ice Cream here in our neighborhood or the boys love what they call the ‘disappointed fish’ at the H Mart,” Rosbottom said. The market serves a fish-shaped red bean ice cream sandwich. The fish doesn’t look happy, said Rosbottom, hence the nickname.

Last weekend, the family went camping at Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville.

“We’re ending the summer on a high note. Other than backyard camping, there’s been no camping for us this summer, so we’re really looking forward to being at Red Top, one of our favorite state parks,” Rosbottom said.

Normally the family sets up one big tent, but this year they went for two “so the teenager can have his own room,” Rosbottom said. Two nights and one full day at the lake provided time for swimming, biking and hiking and cooking family favorites like skillet chili, hot dogs and roasted corn.

The boys help set up the camp and build the fires and might help with making the skillet scones, eggs and bacon for breakfast or s’mores for dessert, but they draw the line at cleanup. After all, it’s the end of their summer vacation. Right?

Up in Marietta, the Maciejewski family is also making time for last-minute fun.

Jennifer Maciejewski, mom of Katie, 11, and Liz, 8, is the writer of www.atlantaonthecheap.com/. She works from home in the morning, which gives her afternoons free for excursions.

“We’re waiting for the next rainy weekday to go to Legoland. The girls are really excited about getting back there to build something for the earthquake table and refine their Lego cars. And I’m happy because Legoland offers a discounted ‘Midweek Ticket,’ ” she said.

She and her girls are planning a few afternoons at Six Flags and White Water. A combined season pass means the family doesn’t feel they have to spend hours and hours at one of the parks. “We don’t have to make a full day of it because we know we can come back anytime. And we can combine a trip there with something else,” Maciejewski said.

“We buy our season pass in October so we can use it for Fright Fest and then we can go to the parks all summer,” she said.

The family finds memberships at the High Museum and Atlanta Botanical Garden also more than pay for themselves in unpressured family fun.

“I’d like to get us to the High to see the new exhibit before school starts and we might stop by Centennial Park for music at noon. We can see it all and still get out of Atlanta before the rush hour,” Maciejewski said.

“Back to school” also means shopping. Maciejewski has been doing her shopping for school supplies anytime she’s found a great deal. “One store offered $20 off a box of paper, so we stocked up on all their other deals at the same time,” she said. She uses a similar strategy for clothes shopping. But a planned computer purchase has her waiting for the tax-free weekend Aug. 9-10.

And sadly, “back to school” means getting ready to go back to school schedules and bedtimes.

“My 12-year-old didn’t get up until 11 today,” Rosbottom said. Yes, for Tait Rosbottom and thousands of other metro Atlanta kids, summer will be over all too soon.