LaGrange, Ga is full of surprises, from a Bible history museum to a grand Callaway estate, and from 90+ year old cherished hotdog restaurant to TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off winner of 2011. Here is where to play eat and stay when visiting LaGrange, Ga.
Things to do in LaGrange, Ga
Biblical History Center. The Biblical History Center was founded by Dr. James Fleming, a Christian archeologist who lived and studied in Israel. Through financial help from the Callaway family, Dr. Fleming was able to create a museum in LaGrange with the goal of putting the Bible into perspective via a “living history” exhibit.
A guide escorted us through the “city” as we saw authentic goat hair tents, replicas of tombs like those thought to hold Abraham and Jesus, and more. He spoke for about 90 minutes on the life and customs of those who lived during the time Jesus was thought to be alive.
After the tour, we were escorted into a room to share a Passover Meal much like that which the Bible reports that Jesus ate at the Last Supper. The meal was four courses, consisting of about 15 items including a main course of chicken (as many people are not keen on the traditional meal of lamb.) Our guide explained the ancient customs of the time, from the opening blessing to the incorrect depiction of da Vinici’s Last Supper painting. The meal is extra, but worth the cost if you plan to visit.
After the meal we were given a tour of the Archeological Replicas and the Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery with over 250 biblical period artifacts from the Israel Antiquities Authority. There is also a Kid’s Archeological Dig area. We didn’t get to experience this because it rained the day prior to our visit, but it is available for youth groups, birthday parties and more.
While we visited with our young children, I would not necessarily recommend it unless you are attending a children’s event, which Sue did and you can read about below. Our guided tour involved minimal walking…it is 90 minutes of primarily standing and listening. I’d recommend the tour and meal for children ages 10+ if they have an avid interest…older for kids with short attention spans. The meal also lasted an additional 60 minutes, with limited time for interaction; primarily eating and listening to the guide- great for adults; harder for kiddos.
Another question that comes up frequently about the Biblical Antiquities Center in whether it is just for Christians. Anyone and everyone are welcome to the Center without hesitation; no one is excluded. I will say, though, that the Center focuses on the Bible as more than a historical artifact, but as a document of record. The tour and meal are presented as if there is no question as to Jesus’ existence and role as God. There is an ancient blessing at the beginning of the meal, and it is ended with hand-holding, a prayer and singing of hymns. Again, while everyone is always welcome, a tour and meal here are much like attending church and could possibly be uncomfortable for someone who is not a Christian.
Kids Programs at Biblical History Center
As mentioned, the tours can be long, which is why Sue encourages families to book a children’s program like the bread making, or an archeological dig. These kid-friendly, hands on experiences include tour highlights, but also get kids involved.
To do these programs, you must make a reservation, and a minimum of 10 people is required, but don’t let that stop you if you have a smaller group. The Center will put groups together to ensure a program.
Since Sue was there to cover the Center for a blog post, she took an abbreviated tour. Th first stop, the goat and camel hair tent of a nomadic shepard family next to a desert oasis. The nomadic shepard’s life was difficult, but having a water source close by would make things easier. Shepards lived off the land, sending children to find berries, roots and other edible plants.
Her son, at age 10, would have been taking care of the sheep for several years. He examined the temporary sheepfold, as well as the example of a permanent one, but after a cursory look, he was off to explore the life of a villager and weigh purchases in the Roman market to ensure he had not been cheated, and try his hand at pushing the heavy stone grain wheel.
Making Bread at Explorations in Antiquity Center
Sue’s 10-year-old enjoyed the entire museum, but the bread making was his favorite part. The lesson took place outside the shepard’s tent and began by learning how to wear a keffiyeh, an essential and versatile dessert garment. It’s a hat, neck protection, sheep leash, sack.
Once dressed, they prepared the cooking surface, an open fire with a wide metal bowl. Since shepards are nomads and had to pack up often and carry everything, this instrument served as a cooking pot one way and a grill the other.
The guide Kayla explained about the everyday life of a nomad, while they pinched out balls of dough and dropped them on the hot smoking pan. It took only a minute or two to cook the ancient fast food.
While the bread cooked and cooled, Sue and her son made the butter. The nomads would have used goat’s milk, but there’s was heavy whipping cream in a container with a few rocks. They used rocks? The rocks intrigued her son. They also crushed tea leaves to the beat, one person pounding the leaves, the other echoing the beat with chimes. With no electronics available, music served as the entertainment, and made work more fun.
Once the bread cooled, they enjoyed a small feast. The bread contained no sugar, just flour, water and a bit of olive oil and salt, but it tasted sweet, like a pancake. The soft butter melted immediately on the warm bread, sliding off the surface and dripping down your hand. Sue’s son went for seconds and requested the recipe. They even brought a few home to the teenager, and the youngest was excited to share and tell him how he made them.
Tips for a Great Day at Biblical History Center with Kids
- As I mentioned, there are thousands of years of history displayed at the Biblical History Center. At each station there are explanation plaques and a walking tour guidebook is available for those that want to visit at their own pace.
- Guided tours are most popular and offer more in-depth information, but can be long for kids. I’d opt for one of the special programs where you’ll get hands on activities, as well as hour highlights. Then just spend some time exploring on your own.
- Do get a walking tour guidebook from the front desk. It will give you information on all the stops and is a great resource to refer back to afterwards, especially if you don’t get to each stop.
Don’t try to do too much. Our guide said that doing both the bread making and archeological dig could be a lot in one day for kids. Consider choosing just one activity
- Not every stop is on every tour, so if you’d like to cover specific areas (or not cover them) just ask.
- I would recommend the museum for elementary kids and up. This age group can participate in the activities and understand the information. Toddlers could be hard to wrangle. The garden area isn’t stroller friendly, although it’s small enough that you wouldn’t really need it.
More Things to do in LaGrange, Ga
Azalea Storytelling Festival. Each year LaGrange hosts the Azalea Storytelling Festival at the local college; this year marked the 20th anniversary of this amazing event. Four storytellers gather over the weekend to share their stories through oral storytelling.
Once again, children are welcome, but it takes a special young child to sit through the stories – AMAZING as they are. If you read this blog regularly, you know my boys are rough and rugged – not this ‘sit-still’ type. So, I went to a few sessions of the storytelling on my own. I totally fell in love!!
I adored hearing stories like my granddad used to tell…stories of growing up and growing old. It’s an ancient art that is dying, unfortunately. I was so inspired by the storytellers that I jumped online and ordered a few books about how to stoke the fire in my own family.
I highly recommend this event for teens and adults! It was exhilarating. Don’t miss the Kiwanis Club’s annual pancake breakfast each year during the Storytelling Festival. It’s a great way to enjoy pancakes and sausage with the locals.
Horace King. I first learned about Horace King while visiting Albany a few years ago, and I have been following his legacy ever since. I am completely enamored with the genius and ingenuity of this man. Born in the early 1800s he learned bridge building as a slave, and quickly rose as a master bridge builder and architect. How great was he? White men would often change their construction plans entirely to accommodate the availability of this slave – something unheard of at the time. In 1846 his master (oooh- what an ugly word) secured King’s freedom and King went on to serve two years in the Alabama Legislature while continuing to work in towns along the border.
King and his sons are buried in the lower section of a cemetery in LaGrange. We were honored to visit his grave while visiting LaGrange recently. I’m currently researching more about his life and accomplishments, and I hope to bring you a tribute on him soon.
Hills Dales Estate. Hills and Dales is a grand estate in LaGrange that was built by the Callaway family. It rests within a garden that existed before the estate was built…crafted originally by Sarah Ferrell.
Fuller Callaway – textile mogul – purchased the land from the Ferrells after Sarah’s passing. You might be familiar with one of his sons, Cason Callaway, who opened the nearby Callaway Gardens. Fuller’s younger son, Fuller Jr, purchased the land which is now Hills and Dales. His wife Alice managed and grew the gardens as Sarah would have liked. When Alice passed, the gardens and home were bequeathed to the Callaway foundation and are now available for touring.
The home is a 30-room Georgian Italian Villa and is available to see through a guided tour. You’ll see the rooms decorated as they were when the home was lived in, including a gorgeous white sofa constructed to replicate a more comfortable version of the garden bench outside on which Alice and Fuller Jr fell in love.
The gardens include 175-year-old boxwood, a maze garden, greenhouse, herb garden and much more. Children under 6 years old are not permitted within the home, but families can visit the gardens for special events throughout the year such as an annual picnic in May and stories in the garden in Fall.
Wild Animal Safari. Technically, the Wild Animal Safari is not in LaGrange, but it is so close and so fun that we have to mention it here. Kids will ADORE this drive-thru animal park. My son said, “I love this more than the zoo because the animals can roam around, but WE are in the cage.”
We were brave and took our own vehicle within the park. You can do the same, drive one of the parks vans or go on a large group bus tour of the park.
You’ll follow a 3.5 mile paved road through the 220-acre park. You can even purchase food to give the animals as you drive through. You’ll see buffalo, pigs, zebra, emu, deer, giraffe and more.
Near the gift shop and concessions, you also have a chance to walk through their smaller zoo where you’ll see a peacock, lemurs and more. You can even pet an alpaca!
This is a MUST STOP next time you are in Pine Mountain or LaGrange. The kids will love it (and so will you!)
Where to eat in LaGrange, Ga
Mare Sol. Located in the historic downtown area of LaGrange, this neighborhood favorite is one of two sister restaurants owned by Charles Hudson, Jr. and his son Chase. Charles is the grandson of Fuller Callaway, mentioned above in the section about Hills and Dales.
Mare Sol is modern and comfortable, but I must admit to being nervous about visiting with the littles. We grabbed a seat at the window, with a lovely bench and view of the bustling square, and the boys were happy campers. They enjoyed a grilled cheese and fries from the kiddo menu, giving the experience two thumbs up.
I started with an AMAZING grapefruit basil martini served in a stainless steel martini glass; hubby enjoyed the local draft beer selection which changes on a regular basis. We also fell in love with the deviled eggs appy, topped with crispy prosciutto, tomatoes, olives and (secret delicious ingredient) capers. You’ll also want to try the lobster dip!
Hubs went for the Sicilian Flank Steak with pesto, caramelized onions and mozzarella. He’s a hard man to please when it comes to steak – and flank can be challenging. He gave it two thumbs up (and would have commented on how great it was, but his mouth was full!) As soon as I learned that the pasta was homemade, that’s what I went after…angel hair with a basil pesto cream sauce. It was completely on point…delicious!
Anytime you are in (or even near) LaGrange, I highly recommend a stop at Mare Sol!
Country’s Barbeque. Great BBQ right off the main square. The chicken fingers are delicious, as well. Families can feel comfortable here in a casual environment. Don’t miss the banana pudding for dessert.
Cakes by Debbie. Name sound familiar? She was the winner of TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off in 2010-11. Located on the square, visit Cakes by Debbie for cookies and cakes, boxed lunches (great for a picnic) and casseroles to go. Go early, though, as it closes at 1pm sharp.
Charlie Joseph’s Famous Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. Charlie’s has been serving hotdogs in LaGrange for over 90 years. Kids will love the snack bar atmosphere with Coca-Cola memorabilia. Grab a chili cheese dog, a burger, even a PB&J.
Where to stay in LaGrange, Ga
When in town with kiddos you can stay at the Holiday Inn Express. It’s only a few minutes from downtown, with easy access to all the attractions of LaGrange. The Holiday Inn has a pool for the kids and free breakfast. Rooms at the Holiday Inn were very clean, and they included a microwave and mini-fridge. We also enjoyed free Wi-Fi and a fitness center.
Its also within walking distance of the LaGrange LongHorn, which happens to be one of the top LongHorns in the southeast. We enjoyed a great dinner there, with superior service and a delicious porterhouse that you can split with everyone at the table.
Coming soon! The Great Wolf Lodge hotel and waterpark chain is planning to expand its operations by opening a new location in LaGrange, Georgia in the future. It’s not a done-deal…The Governor still must offer final approval, but he is expected to do so and to make the formal announcement in April (after the Masters.) According to sources, if the development gains full approval, the waterpark and resort will be open by Q3 2017.
Disclosure: Thank you to LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce for their generosity. Their southern hospitality did not impact my opinions here.