Just in time for Thanksgiving, Georgia State Parks are making it easy and affordable to enjoy time with family this holiday season, without the stress of houseguests and cleaning. Families can celebrate the holidays in Georgia’s great outdoors with a cornucopia of festive events, diverse recreational opportunities, and hotel-style lodge rooms with lower winter rates.

”Georgia’s State Parks are a practical choice for all types of holiday celebrations, from family reunions and getaways, to office parties and church retreats,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Clark. “After the Thanksgiving feast is complete, our park guests can burn off those calories with an array of recreational opportunities. From hiking and biking trails to championship golf and playgrounds, there is something to fit every interest and fitness level.”

Affordable Family Entertaining & Recreation
Large families interested in a casual affair can take the holiday reunion outdoors and rent covered picnic shelters or enclosed group shelters, allowing more time for connecting and less time in the kitchen. For those interested in leaving the food preparation behind, full-service catering and restaurants are available at five of Georgia’s State Park Lodges. Catering services accommodate banquets, receptions, private parties and even special food requests such as restricted and budget-friendly diets.

Diverse Lodging Options for Every Lifestyle
Families travelling for an extended holiday can choose from a variety of lodging options at Georgia State Parks. Accommodations include modern campsites, fully equipped cottages, memorable yurts and even hotel-style lodges, so those not excited about sleeping under the stars can still hit the trails by day and sleep in a comfortable bed by night. Lower winter Lodge-ical Rates begin at $59 at George T. Bagby State Park on Lake Walter F. George, Little Ocmulgee State Park in McRae and Red Top Mountain State Park on Lake Allatoona, and $69 at Amicalola Falls State Park near Dawsonville and Unicoi State Park near Helen. Some blackout dates apply. Guests can call 1-800-864-PARK (7275) to book their vacations with the Lodge-ical Rate.

Traditional Holiday Events & Fun in the Great Outdoors
Families looking for budget-friendly activities during school break can participate in array of holiday events, from visits with Santa to Christmas tree displays. Below is a sampling of the holiday festivities, and a complete calendar is listed at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/events.

· Appalachian Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 26, 11 a.m.
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge – Dawsonville
Experience a traditional Thanksgiving buffet with old-fashioned fun. Displays and Appalachian cultural demonstrations will be presented at the lodge. Reservations for the Thanksgiving buffet are required (space fills quickly). Ask about lodge room availability. $5 parking. (706) 344-1505.

· 2009 Festival of Trees
Friday, November 27 through Saturday, December 12,
Unicoi State Park and Lodge – Helen
View beautifully decorated trees throughout Unicoi Lodge. This event is hosted by White County Chamber of Commerce. $5 parking. 800-573-9659 ext. 305.

· Christmas Open House
Saturday, December 5, 4 p.m.
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge – Dawsonville
Enjoy musical performances and gingerbread house creations, and then go for a winter hayride. Afterwards warm up by the fire and visit with Santa. Save time for a meal in the park’s mountain-view restaurant. $5 parking. (706) 265-1969.

· Deck the Halls of Unicoi
Saturday, December 5, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Unicoi State Park and Lodge – Helen
This celebration includes making holiday crafts, hayrides (weather permitting), visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a special meal in the park’s restaurant, and an evening of live music in the beautifully decorated lodge. $5 parking. 800-573-9659 ext. 305.

· Christmas on the Pond
Saturday, December 12, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
General Coffee State Park – Nicholls
Storytelling, hayrides, refreshments and Santa himself will usher in the holiday season. $5 parking. (912) 384-1581.

· Plantation Christmas at Jarrell Plantation
Saturday, December 12, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Jarrell Plantation Historic Site – Juliette
Take an afternoon stroll through two of the Jarrell family homes with traditional decorations and natural greenery. Stories, music and refreshments included. $3.50-$5. (478) 986-5172.

· Luminary Fun Night with Santa
Saturday, December 19
Skidaway Island State Park – Savannah
Bring your kids and pets for pictures with Santa, then walk our enchanted luminary trail, do holiday arts and crafts, and enjoy caroling on hayrides. There will be holiday treats, hot chocolate and warm cider while you explore our nature museum with wildlife, fossil exhibits and live animals. $3 picture with Santa, $5 parking. (912) 598-2300.

ReservationsFor help in planning a holiday staycation, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 1-800-864-PARK (7275). Ask about Lodge-ical Rates starting at $59 per night. Georgia’s 48 state parks are operated by the Department of Natural Resources.

“Go For The Holidays, Georgia” is the latest in a series of outdoor adventure tips from DNR Commissioner Clark that highlight affordable getaways and outdoor activities close to home. The series is part of DNR’s “Get Outdoors, Georgia” initiative, which encourages citizens to lead healthy, active lifestyles in the great outdoors and includes hiking, biking and paddling clubs, as well as outdoor events.