Spend a day with your kids among tractors, trains and bales of hay, and you’ll have experienced “agritainment.” The Rock Ranch, located in the Upson County, Georgia, town of The Rock, offers an assortment of family activities under the agritainment umbrella during its annual Fall Family Fun Days events, Saturdays through Nov. 13.
The Rock Ranch is a 1,250-acre working cattle ranch owned by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, who bought the property in 1989. This year marks the fifth season of Fun Days.
Each Fun Day event has a different theme, but core activities including a corn maze, fishing pond, petting zoo, paddle boats and train, pony and wagon rides draw tourists from around Georgia and neighboring states to this tiny town of 600 or so. Live entertainment and hands-on activities are part of the fun, too. You won’t have to compete with cattle for play space, though – activities are spread out over a generous expanse of rolling farmland, giving youngsters plenty of room to stretch their legs.
Besides its annual activities, the Rock Ranch features new attractions this fall. Tiny Town village features 14 pint-sized playhouses, and Truett’s Barn includes 24,000 square feet of convertible museum and theater space.
Accommodations on the Rock Ranch grounds are limited but include Conestoga wagon camping and tent camping sites that are available by reservation.
The town of The Rock is said to have earned its unusual name because of the huge piece of granite where postal carriers used to stash mail for farmerse; that rock has since been demolished.
Nearby Thomaston, the seat of Upson County, is about 7 miles away from the Rock Ranch and rounds out your stay with historical sites and the natural beauty of the Flint River valley.
Selected Fall Family Fun Days events
Hot Air Balloon Rally, Oct. 16: Children and adults may take a tethered balloon ride and watch the balloon competition flight around 5 p.m. A fee is charged for the balloon rides.
“Not SO Spooky” Halloween Fest, Oct. 30: Youngsters can trick-or-treat, enter costume contests and get lost in the corn maze.
Pumpkin Destruction Day, Nov. 6: Leftover Halloween pumpkins get blasted 800 yards out of a pumpkin cannon.
Incorporated in 1825, Thomaston has several historic structures to see and tour, including the Thomaston-Upson African American Museum, housed in a modest shotgun house, and the majestic 1908 courthouse with its lovely stained-glass skylight.
Stroll through the 120-foot-long Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge. The original bridge dated to 1892 but was mostly washed out during flooding a century later; another bridge was later built with sections of the old bridge. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Thomaston-Upson County Chamber of Commerce, 706-647-9686, www.thomastonchamber.com/.
Sprewell Bluff State Outdoor Recreation Area
Spend the day on the Flint River in this scenic, 1,372-acre park. Hike 3 miles along the river and up its bluffs, or enjoy fall colors from the picnic areas. The park has a boat ramp; canoe and kayak rentals are available nearby. The recreation area is popular with birders, who come to view impressive birds of prey including osprey and eagles, and to hear warblers sing as they pass through the state. 740 Sprewell Bluff Road, 478-825-6354, www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/SprewellBluff.
The Rock Ranch in The Rock is about 69 miles south of downtown Atlanta, a 90-minute drive. From Atlanta, take I-75 South. Thomaston is about 7 miles from The Rock.
Where to eat
Piggie Park Drive-In. Carhops deliver sandwiches and sides to your car door at this old-fashioned Thomaston drive-in. Try the local specialties – the scrambled burger, a shredded ground-beef sandwich, the barbecue plate, or Brunswick stew. Sandwiches are $5 or less; plate dinners to $10. 1420 U.S. 19 North, 706-648-3330.
Riverbend Restaurant. Fried catfish, french fries and coleslaw are accompanied by a dramatic overlook of the Flint River. Entrees $9.49 to $15.49. 202 Riverbend Road, 706-647-9738.
Where to stay
Woodall House. Spend the night in a 1910 B&B that’s walking distance from Thomaston’s historic buildings. Four guest rooms are available, two with two queen-sized beds each. $74-$84. 324 W. Main St., 706-647-7044, www.woodallhousebb.com/
Jameson Inn. The Rock Ranch recommends the Thomaston Jameson Inn as a convenient and family-friendly lodging choice 6 miles from the ranch. Continental breakfast is included with the room rate. $69.99-$74.99. 1010 U.S. 19 North, 706-648-2232, www.jamesoninns.com/
Rock Ranch admission: $14 each for adults and children; children 3 and younger admitted free. Discount coupons are available at Chick-fil-A locations (while supplies last). The Rock Ranch, 5020 Barnesville Highway, The Rock. 706-647-6374, www.therockranch.com/.