Labor Day may be a federal holiday, but lots of the really fun ways to celebrate are courtesy of the state.
Georgia’s state parks are a fine example of that, with many in the Atlanta vicinity (or within about an hour's drive) offering a boatload of special ways to celebrate the Labor Day weekend.
Saying goodbye to summer in the great outdoors is also a great introduction to what the parks have in store for you when the leaves start turning color. It will be an easy segue into making good on that promise you made to yourself to get out in nature more this coming fall, and enjoy the de-stressing and health benefits.
While you're at it, if you decide to forget the workaday world (or you don't have the kind of kids who go back to school this time of year), consider taking Georgia state parks up on its Sept. 3- Sept. 8 post-Labor Day special, Promo Code LAB18. They're offering 50 percent off camping and 40 percent off cottages and yurts Monday night through Thursday night, two night minimum, some restrictions apply.
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But for the weekend itself, consider these Georgia state park events, from the old school to the "I dare you," extra-relaxing to potential shriekfest:
Labor Day Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf. Family life doesn't get any better than this in any season. About an hour's drive from Atlanta using I-20E, you can enjoy the park's mini golf course beneath the starry sky, complete with glow-in-the-dark accessories. Don't forget to enjoy being at "Hard Labor" park to celebrate Labor Day weekend. 8:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday Aug. 31, admission $5, parking $5, Hard Labor Creek State Park, 5 Hard Labor Creek Road, Rutledge. 706-557-3001, gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek
Chattahoochee Bend State Park Labor Day weekend festivities. This park, 38 miles from Atlanta proper, has a riveting river for waders and thrill seekers and wooded trails.
For Labor Day weekend, they add these family-friendly festivities:
The Campsite Decorating Contest lets visitors decorate their campsites with Labor Day-theme geegaws and vie for a prize basket. 4 p.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday Sept. 1, $5 parking
The Labor Day Scavenger Hunt involves concurrent fun, fitness and competition as playahs race to take their photo with everything on the list. Hint: look for Labor Day themes throughout. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2, $5 parking
Tails on Trails is designed for dog owners and the pups are invited to this 2-mile hike along the river trail, led by the Chattahoochee Bend naturalist and her dog. 1-2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, $3 plus $5 parking
Find the Flags and fireworks hidden around the park and bring them to the office to claim a prize. (Yes, that said fireworks!) 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday Sept. 1, $5 parking
The Labor Day Ducky Race entices you to rent a duck for the race at Wild Turkey Creek and then show off your duck-racing talents (okay, it's mostly luck, since they're plastic.) 2 p.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, $1 admission plus $5 parking
Chattahoochee Bend State Park, 425 Bobwhite Way, Newnan, GA. 770-254-7271,
Gorge Floor Hike at Tallulah Gorge State Park.
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday Sept. 1 or Sunday, Sept. 2, $15 plus $5 parking, Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive, P.O. Box 248, Tallulah Falls, GA. 706-754-7981, gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge.
Here's a Labor Day weekend pursuit for the adrenaline junkies, at a Georgia state park about an hour and half from Atlanta via I-85, I-95 and then 441 North. Even the park's rangers deem this a "very strenuous hike," but the reward includes stunning views of the gorge, cooling off in a natural slide and lots of boulder climbing and log-scaling for the adventurous. Hint: the hike begins with 535 steps down to a river crossing. Hikers are responsible for bringing water, lunch, snacks and a suit. Registration required and the space is limited. And both pets and kids under 10 are prohibited.
5 -8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 2, $5 parking, Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive, P.O. Box 248, Tallulah Falls, GA. 706-754-7981, gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge
This bash happens at the same place as the Gorge Floor Hike, but all levels of fitness will enjoy it. This is the inaugural Labor Day event of this sort, but the lake beach bash promises to be fun with a deejay, door prizes and games.
3 p.m.-4 p.m, Monday, Sept. 3, parking $5, Mistletoe State Park, 3725 Mistletoe Road, Appling, GA. 706-541-0321, gastateparks.org/Mistletoe
Had enough sun and cookouts over the Labor Day Weekend? Consider a sweet little side trip to Appling (about 2 hours from Atlanta) on Monday for some indoor fun. The Mistletoe State Park naturalist will have live snakes, furs and mounted animals to see in the Discovery Center underneath the Beach House.
Noon-3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, parking $5, Fort Yargo State Park, 210 South Broad Street, Winder, GA. 770-867-3489, www.gastateparks.org/FortYargo
Free for all and especially geared to ages 6-12, Fort Yargo is fun and games for Labor Day with giant building blocks, water games and a bag toss. Or, feel free to just enjoy the sand and paddling while others play, since soon swimming holes will be the only place to cool off.