Extend your summer

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Ditch the mountains and head south

by Jackie Watson

The calendar may indicate soon there might be some leaves falling outside, but that doesn't mean it”s time to bundle up by the fire. If you”re looking for a great place to vacation this fall, ditch the traditional cabin in the woods retreat and extend your summer by heading south.

There”s still plenty of summer fun left down there – even when the temperature gauge begins to plummet up here. Dust off your flip-flops, because if you”re like most people, you”re not ready to let go of summer just yet. It might be crisp and cool in Gwinnett, but a short plane or car ride can put you back in balmy weather pronto.

Why settle for the usual, when you can take a twist on the traditional fall getaway? Don”t hang up your boogie board just yet! There”s plenty more summertime fun to be had. Head south, and make a few stops along the way. We”ll show you where to go and what to do to heat up your fall vacation.

Take a drive to the wild side!

Don”t let Pine Mountain fool you. The location of this small town isn”t in the north Georgia mountains. It”s about an hour south of Atlanta and approximately five miles from Callaway Gardens, where the weather is always several degrees warmer. When you get there, take a walk on the wild side and visit Wild Animal Safari, a unique up-close encounter with animals – including rare breeds of spotted hyenas, alligators, the largest collection of ligers in the United States, and other critters.

Wild Animal Safari is a drive-through 200-acre park that brings you face-to-face with more than 1,700 free-roaming exotic animals from all over the world. According to park officials, Wild Animal Safari has twice as many animals as Zoo Atlanta. And unlike other animal parks, you can feed all of the animals – except the ones who would like to feed on you.

Animals will walk right up to your car in search of a tasty snack, which the park sells in its gift shop. You can touch a giraffe, get up close and personal with buffalo, and see many other lesser-known animals – like Yakatusi, Nilgai, Rhea, Black Buck Antelope, Watusi, and North American Elk. Animals from all over the world roam free in a natural setting.

You can go through the safari in your own car, rent a zebra-painted SUV, or take the tour bus offered by the park.

The park”s walk-through zoo environment, called Old McDonald”s Farm, is home to monkeys, tropical birds, bears, wolves, and other animals. The Georgia Wildlife Museum, housed inside the park, features wildlife native to Georgia in a natural setting and entertains young and old with a live snake show, cow milking demonstrations, and alligator feedings. Under new management, the park will soon be adding additional attractions.

Ready to go wild? For more information, call 1-800-367-2751 or go to


Head way down south

If you”re looking for something truly unique, head far south to the longest island in the Florida Keys. A short plane ride will have you in this tropical paradise in no time. Key Largo is bordered on the west by Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its location, there is an abundance of opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, sport fishing, eco tours, and dolphin encounters.

But if what you seek is a white patch of sand to lay your weary head on or a clear ocean to splash around in, Key Largo has you covered. The island also offers numerous shore-side activities including nature trails and a rehabilitation center for wild birds.

Key Largo is best known for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the United States. There you can dive, snorkel, k