Tuesday
Apr022013

Southern Soul Barbeque - St Simons Island, Ga


Seen on both Food Network and TLC, as well as being featured in pages of Southern Living; Southern Soul Barbeque serves up it’s celebrated ‘que’ without excessive flair. Pull up a picnic table; the kiddos will be spellbound watching planes descending into the local airport, while the adults bask in a relaxed ambiance complete with ‘soul’ music.

Southern Soul Barbeque
2020 Demere Road
St. Simons Island, GA
(912) 638-7686
www.southernsoulbbq.com
 
Dining Type Sandwiches, barbeque plates, and ‘southern’ sides; full service bar with beer on tap

Ambiance Casual and easy-going

What’s to Eat
Their approach to food mimics the ambiance - simplicity that works. Their barbeque is cooked on smokers adjacent to the outside seating. You will not find meat that is overpowered with seasoning. If you are diabetic though, proceed with caution because these boys use lots of sugar and honey on their products. The sweetness cooked on nothing but wood is moist perfection.
Our pulled pork portion was HUGE. We are talking chunks of yumminess, as opposed to the shaved variety. There are 4 choices of sauce to personalize your grub, including a hot & spicy that is appealing to the masses; a perfect layer of taste with just the right amount of kick.
As a good ‘southern gal’, I have had my fair share of greens. While novices often try them ‘virgin’ style, I was raised knowing you added peppered vinegar sauce for a palatable experience. Just for giggles I opted for a virgin bite here. Shock and surprise!! Southern Soul uses their pork rub in their concoction of greens, making them preferable without pepper sauce.
In lieu of french fry sides, opt for the more unique offering of fried green beans. Their size and shape made for the perfect carrier to sample the variety of sauces on site.

Location, Location, Location
Occupying an old 1940s gas station and situated at the corner of Malcolm McKinnon Airport, this joint oozes ambiance.

Peek Inside
A walk inside this ‘hole in the wall’ style joint yields a bar-like counter to order at with minimal inside seating. If you have a large family or party, then just go ahead and know in your mind that you will be seating yourself outside. Sitting outside is not a banishment, but rather the optimal place to soak up the environment.
Outside you are greeted by three rows of wooden picnic style seating; flanking one end is the side parking lot and the other by the black, hot metal smoker from which the meat of your order was cooked to perfection.
Oddly-situated road-side at a round-a-bout, the noise from cars is minimal. Any noise is drowned out by the sound of Johnny Cash on the sound system.

Kid Focus
Often the hardest thing with kids is keeping them entertained when they are not actively eating. Here that is solved. On the other side of the round-a-bout is McKinnon Airport. Your vantage on the picnic tables allows you to watch as planes come into view just before clearing the tops of the trees and making their landing on the runway just out of view. Our boys cheered with delight each time they spied one of these small planes.
Only caution is on a windy day, the smoke from the giant smoker can whip around and irritate sensitive eyes. Opt for a seat towards the end opposite, which will also cut down on the mommy paranoia of little hands touching the hot smoker.
We have a grilled cheese aficionado is our posse. Even though it was not on the menu, they whipped up a fantastic specimen for him.  

Customer Service
The girls brought our order out with a smile, amongst the throng of our boys clamoring for their edible treasures. One of the joys of this place is its simplicity, so don’t expect a lot of fawning over your party. You will not have a waiter hovering every five minutes to see if you are happy. All our needs were met and questions answered with minimal interaction after our order.
   
Disclosure
Thanks to the Southern Soul Barbeque for our complimentary meal. Our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.

by Lori McMillen Brown

Tuesday
Mar262013

The 4th of May cafe -- St Simons, Ga


Named for the shared birthday of the three friends who founded this restaurant, 4th of May is full of charm, sweet-southern simplicity, and a damn good pimento cheese. This cafe has something for everyone and caters to making you feel comfortable and welcome. Grab a seat outside to soak up the ambiance of the Village Pier area.

The 4th of May cafe
321 Mallory Street
St. Simons Island, GA 31522
(912) 638-5444
www.4thofmay.net
 
Dining Type All day southern comfort: sandwiches, southern staples, pot luck specials,and seafood. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ambiance Casual and easy-going

What’s to Eat
Expect traditional coastal southern fare, but with attitude: Shrimp & Grits with blackened shrimp and shiitake mushrooms; or Flo’s Burger that is dressed with pimento cheese, fried green tomato and dill pickle aioli. Spiced pecans make an appearance with dried figs and house-made boursin cheese atop artisan lettuce, as a notable appetizer.
Southern cuisine just isn’t traditional without a wide array of vegetables and other side-dishes, and 4th of May does not disappoint. Along with menu residents such as squash casserole, sweet potato fries, black-eyed peas, and tomato pie, be sure to ask about their daily special sides.
We happened upon 4th of May at brunch time. Two mommies traveling with three kiddos were ecstatic to learn that they also had a full bar, allowing for therapeutic mommy-morning MIMOSAS!
While the kiddos opted for more traditional breakfast offerings, we couldn’t help but partake in a pimento cheese plate. While our travels to the Golden Isles offered pimento cheese sampling in plenty, 4th of May was our hands-down, island favorite. The cous cous-like texture was the quintessential balance for pimento cheese consistency. Paired with pickled okra and perfectly toasted points of wheat bread, near perfection was attained. Add the mimosas to the equation and you have found heaven on earth.

Location, Location, Location
4th of May is conspicuously positioned on the corner of Mallery Street and Kings Way. Heralding the turn down the quaint strip of shops to the pier, it provides a perfect place to people watch and take in the ambience of St. Simons.

Peek Inside
Walking in the door, families immediately know that they are not just tolerated but welcomed. The seating area in the entryway has a larger than normal selection of children’s reading, coloring and activity books.
While the inside is inviting and casual, the outside seating is the paragon for your dining experience. Grab a seat towards the railing corner and have some breathing room for the kiddos to be up and about a bit, without fear of invading other customer’s dining space.
Fido bowls conveniently placed outside the railing signal that a well-behaved family bowser could join in the right circumstance.

Kid Focus
The kid menu includes go-to’s such as grilled cheese and chicken fingers. For the ocean-going munchkins, there are smaller portions of grilled or fried shrimp.
Be sure to look past the posted options on the “For the Kids” section, and take advantage of the expansive side dishes. Unlike other Southern restaurants, they don’t label the entire list, including mac and cheese, as vegetable.

Customer Service
The staff was as enjoyable and flavorful as the food. We even had the opportunity to speak to Flo. She is one of the best friends for whom the name sake of the restaurant makes a reference. After the other ‘friends’ retired, Flo’s son joined on. Flo now runs the Fourth of May Catering Company.

Disclosure
Thanks to the 4th of May Restaurant for our media discount. Our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.

by Lori McMillen Brown

Thursday
Mar212013

Membership has it’s privileges - CMA Toddler Book Club


In A Nutshell
Atlanta’s only hands-on museum for kids, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta , continues to bring learning to life by offering a 10-week toddler book club series. Each week, toddlers and their caregivers will gather to enjoy an interactive story time, complete with songs and an art activity. And the best part? Your kiddo gets to keep the book featured that day!

We had an opportunity to visit during the current 10-week program (you know, to give you the KNOW before you go!). While this one is ending, a new 10-week session will be starting soon. Stay tuned for more information so that you can also enjoy the fun.

You’ll begin with an art activity to get your toddler engaged in the theme of the day while you wait for all of the kids to arrive. Not only does this get their little wheels turning, but also it’s a great distraction if you have a little one that is wondering why mommy ushered them through the museum without stopping. Following the art activity and book reading, an Imaginator will help bring the theme to life with songs and role-playing. Our book was The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. We acted out what you do to prepare for bed, and the kids got to use their energy and cute personalities to answer questions about going to bed. Kids are free to roam the room and express themselves any way that they would like. It can be challenging to get young ones to stay focused, but they enjoyed the activities. The program lasted about 30 minutes.

Let’s be honest, this program is a little pricey if you do not have a membership with Imagine It! already. This is designed as an adjunct opportunity for members; the program charge only covers their cost for 10 books (1 book for each session). As of the writing of this post, there is a membership sale going on RIGHT NOW! Woot!

If you are NOT a member, you can still participate (it just costs more – about $35 per visit over the 10 weeks).

Whether you are a member or not, you can try out a class by dropping in on a class - based on availability. The cost is $10 (plus museum admission) for non-members or $7.50 for members (who already get free museum admission). Just a note, they are expecting the 15-member class to fill to capacity in the upcoming second session, which means 2 things: Drop in option will be very limited, and you should get a membership and sign up right away!

Stay tuned for information and dates for the next Toddler Book Club. We will let you know, but you can also find out more information by checking out the website.


See our general Children’s Museum of Atlanta Adventure Guide



 -- Melissa, Ambassador

        Disclosure
Thanks to Imagine It! for our complimentary program visit. While our entrance was gratis, our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.
Tuesday
Mar122013

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Lighthouse and Keeper's Museum
For the best view of Pier Village and St. Simons Sound, all it takes is 129 steps...up that is! Make the ascent of this working lighthouse, tour the Keeper’s Dwelling Museum, and take in the surrounding history. Don’t be alarmed if you hear something strange. Many people have reported hearing footsteps in the tower, said to be those of the head keeper who met an untimely end during an altercation with his assistant.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum
101 12th St. (at corner of Beachview Drive)
St. Simons, GA
912-638-6609
http://www.saintsimonslighthouse.org
 
Age Appropriateness
To fully experience it all, you have to be able to climb up 129 stairs and then back down 129 stairs. Should this not be in your ability, there is still the Keeper’s Museum and grounds to see. Admission also includes the Maritime Museum at the Historic Coast Guard Station, located on East Beach at 4201 1st Street.
Caution must be used with younger children. If you have babies/toddlers, then a sling or backpack would be the wisest choice. If utilizing a sling, be sure to wear it on your back so you can still see your feet.
4 years old is our suggested minimum age for climbing. Even with our boys being 4, they were closely supervised on the way up and hands were held tightly on the way down.

Parking
Parking is free.

Accessibility
Terrain
Even though the lighthouse saw a renovation in 2010, the spiral staircase has typical steps known as winders. These steps are narrower on one side than the other. The same way you go up, is the path that others came back down.
Gear Needed
If it is the least bit breezy on the ground, then it will be blustery at the top. For kiddos with sensitive ears, consider a hat or windbreaker. Leave your flip flops for the beach and opt for tennis shoes here.

Time Management
Visiting Hours
The last chance to climb the lighthouse is at 4:30pm. They are very strict about this time for the last climb.
The Maritime Museum, located down the street at East Beach, keeps the same general hours. Be aware thought that they close daily from noon - 1 pm, for lunch.
Exploring the Lighthouse and Keeper's Museum
Don’t expect to sprint up the lighthouse steps. If you are in a hurry, then this is not your cup of sweat-tea. The same steps you are heading up, are the ones that others are coming down. Caution and patience has to be exercised when passing.
Your prize is the view from the top. Take some time to really take it in. This vantage really lets you see that the buoys out in the sound make a "road" for ships to follow.

Money Management
Tickets
Children under 6 years are free. Admission is discounted for ages 6-11, and Coastal Georgia Historical Society members are free.
Admission also includes the Historic Coast Guard Station, located on East Beach at 4201 1st Street.

Restrooms
Clean restrooms are available just outside the gift shop area. These are actually gorgeous restrooms with massive wooden stall doors that look as though they were made for a giant.

Eats and Treats
There are no concessions located at the Lighthouse Museum itself. Use the time up top to scope out Pier Village, where a mutltitude of eating options exists. Crab cakes at Barbara Jean’s, our favorite Golden Isles pimento cheese at 4th of May, or the most deee-lish ice cream at St Simons Sweets.
Should you have a sudden sugar plumet after your climb, there are some packaged southern sweets in the gift shop by the cashwrap area.

Don’t Miss
Picture Opportunities
Who doesn’t love iconic lighthouse pictures?? Don’t forget to get a picture of your family at the top with the high-altitude scenery in the back, like we forgot to do!
Gift Shop
Their gift shop has a wonderful collection of local history books, and eclectic souveniers with southern charm. This is not the best gift shop to have little kiddos in without you nervously clinging them close. Best to let them play outside with Daddy, and let Mom have a few minutes to gander. Our kiddos loved purchasing a lighthouse pin to put on their backpacks, after conquering their first lighthouse climb!

Kid’s Comments
“Look!! We can see our car from up here!” – Connor, 4 years old. The view afforded a nice vantage of Neptune Parl, Pier Village, and St. Simons Sound.
      Disclosure
Thanks to the Golden Isles CVB and St Simons Lighthouse/Coastal Georgia Historical Society for our complimentary tickets. While our visit was complimentary, our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.


by Lori McMillen Brown

Thursday
Mar072013

St Simons Trolley Tours -- St Simons, GA

St Simons Trolley
The history of St Simons is often upstaged by stories of the "new rich" of Jekyll Island, but St Simons possesses a colorful past in it's own right. See the site of the Battle of the Bloody Marsh, Fort Frederica, Retreat Plantation, and more. Take a walking tour of the grounds of historic Christ Church, and learn about the characters buried there. St Simon's Trolley Tours unravels this history in a fun manner with a ride on a vintage trolley and a humerous (and amazingly informative) driver!

St. Simons Island Trolley Tours
St. Simons Pier Village
St. Simons, GA
912-638-8954
www.stsimonstours.com
 
Age Appropriateness
Kids who are not yet walking will do fine on this trolley and will enjoy the shade and breeze delivered in the summer heat. Older kids will enjoy it as much as the adults. It's the ages in between that you must consider. Toddlers and preschoolers must be able to handle a 90 minute tour without a restroom break. There are no seatbelts in this vintage trolley, so our kiddos were thrilled to sit on their knees and look out the window as we drove around. Having a few snacks on hand made it more smooth as well. There is a stop at a church, which has a nice yard to let out some energy before heading back to the Village Pier.

Parking
Parking is free at Village Pier, which is where the trolley leaves from.

Time Management
One Tour Per Day - 90 Minutes Long
There is only one tour per day (11am), so plan your itinerary around it so you don't miss out. This tends to be snack time for most kiddos so pack a few morsels to munch while you are touring. You'll be back at the Pier at 12:30, and luckily there are several outstanding restaurants to walk to for lunch.
Even in "off" season, the trolley was full (probably because there is only 1 per day). Consider arriving early to secure your ticket. There is a playground and pier only a few yards from the loading location, so your kids can let off some steam while waiting for the trolley to depart.

Money Management
Tickets
Children under 4 years are free. Children's rates apply to kiddos age 4-12. It is not necessary to buy tickets ahead of time, which is helpful since parents never know if their younger kiddo is going to be in a mood that makes a trolley ride a "doable" activity for the day.

Restrooms
There are public restrooms on Village Pier for use before you leave and once you return, but there are no restroom stops on the trolley ride so plan accordingly.

Eats and Treats
There are a dozen or so places to eat at Pier Village, the place where the trolley takes off and returns. There is no vending on the trolley or at the trolley stop, Christ Church, a little more than half way through the ride. As a simple rule of etiquitte, I would not suggest eating on the trolley. However, non-messy snacks worked well for our kiddos (cheese bunnies, raisins, etc). Remember, this is a beautifully maintained vintage trolley, and they want to keep it that way. I would leave the yogurt and meatball sub for afterwards.

Don’t Miss
The Trolley Itself
The vintage trolley with its honey-gold wood is a remarkable site to behold. The kids were able to ring the old trolley bell (our driver/guide assisted them in this fun feat). Once everyone has disembarked from the trolley, get your kiddos to walk all the way to the back and look out. If you are standing outside the trolley, this makes a great picture!
The Rich History
Our tour guide shared a wealth of information about the island and its history. I couldn't soak it in fast enough! Situating the yonger kids on the side seats, allowing them to sit on their knees and look out the window helped me to be able to listen to the driver; you might consider the same.
Trolley bell
The trolley bell is there for more than just your kiddos enjoyment. Each time we passed a fun attraction or recommended restaurant or shop, the driver rang his bell. This made it easier to remember the location for returning later.

Kid’s Comments
“This trolley is coooooool.” – Cooper, 4 years old. He enjoyed the magic of the trolley ride, and mom enjoyed the break from her feet, the beautiful scenery and the rich historical commentary.
      Disclosure
Thanks to the Golden Isles CVB and St Simons Trolley Tours for our complimentary tickets. While our ride was complimentary, our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.


by Lesli Peterson

 

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