travel dates: October 6-9, 2017
As I mentioned in my campground review of Don Carter State Park, some bad weather cut our trip to the Gainesville area down to one full day from a planned two, so we didn’t get to everything on our list. But we did fit a good bit into our one day of favorable weather, and in this post I’ll tell you both about what we did and about what we would have done had the rain stayed away.
Glo-crest Dairy Tour
I signed us up for our Glo-crest Dairy tour months in advance, when I first booked the campground…and then I nearly forgot about it and had to go scrambling through my inbox at the last minute to find the confirmation.
Back when my older kids were little, there was a dairy very near our old house that gave tours, so they all had a chance to get up close and personal with the cows back then….but it closed before we got to take Abe. So we were glad to find this place, in Clermont, GA, just a few minutes from our campground, and get a chance to introduce Abe to where milk comes from just like we did with his big brothers.
Tours are $7/person and are offered for private groups several times a week (right now it’s Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays…but that might change seasonally), which we thought was a very good deal considering that the price includes ice cream at the end of the tour.
Our tour started in this building at the dairy:
They have a number of activities and displays to check out while you’re waiting for your tour to start (and you can also look through a viewing window to see the cows being milked):
The tour also starts in this area, with a video about the dairy and a lot of information from a tour guide about how the dairy operates. And, if things are timed right, you get to see through the viewing window as one batch of cows leaves and another comes in to get milked. The cows line themselves right up in the milking stalls, so used to the whole routine are they.
Our only complaint about the tour–and I’m not sure there’s much to be done about it–is that this room was really noisy with assorted fans and machinery going, and it was really hard to hear the tour guide while we were in here (even though she had a microphone on). We found that getting closer to her helped a lot.
Next up you go outside to see baby cows! Baby cows! You can’t touch the baby cows, because germs, but you can get really close to them and take ONE MILLION PICTURES of them:
And then it’s on to the somewhat bigger baby cows! These you’re allowed to pet. Unless they go outside because they don’t want you to pet them. There were some of each kind.
And then grown-up cows! I don’t remember if there was any specific guidance about whether it was okay to pet them or not, but their stalls were a little less accessible. More pictures!
I should perhaps take a moment to note here that with every foray into agrotourism, Gus gets closer and closer to becoming a vegan. Which I would be supportive of, but which, I have to say, would be super inconvenient. These are pretty pampered cows, as far as such things go. They have stalls that are bigger than required and they spend some time on pasture every day. They seemed like happy cows. But seeing girl cows giving milk leads to inevitable questions from ethically minded 11 year olds about, say, where the boy cows go. And that sort of thing.
But back to the tour. After the dairy part of the tour is over, you get in your car and follow the guide down the road to the Mountain Fresh Creamery, where they sell some of the milk and turn some more of it into stuff like butter and ice cream. We got to sample some of the different kinds of milk–they sell it non-homogenized, so it’s different than what you likely buy at the store–including whole milk, chocolate milk, and buttermilk. The store also sells a variety of non-dairy local products; we picked up some honey.
And then, finally–ice cream! You can choose from vanilla or chocolate, or get a different flavor for a small upcharge. We all had chocolate. It was yummy.
Elachee Nature Science Center
We love a good nature center, so Elachee was our afternoon pick after the dairy tour. I’ll get my minor quibble out of the way first: we belong to a reciprocal network of nature centers through our membership at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, near our house. So does Elachee. However, when I asked about it, the woman at the front desk had no idea if our nature center was included in their reciprocal agreement and seemed at a loss as to how she could check. She eventually pulled out her phone and typed Chattahoochee into the search box on the ANCA website, and nothing came up, so she told us we’d need to pay admission ($5 for adults and $3 for kids). “Weird,” I thought, “I guess there are two different nature center reciprocal organizations?” So that’s all well and good, except that we found out later that we WERE supposed to get free admission. I’m guessing our nature center didn’t show up in the search results because the document that lists all the nature centers is a PDF, but when you view that PDF, it’s very clear that ours is on it.
Basically, we paid $18 that we should not have had to pay (Dave and a sleeping Abe both stayed in the car, so we didn’t pay for them). I’m sure it was an honest mistake, but it’s one that would be easy to prevent with something as simple as printing out a list of member nature centers and keeping it at the front desk.
ANYWAY, though–that glitch aside, we had a really nice time here. First we checked out the exhibits inside.
The guy who wrote Mark Trail lived in the area, it seems:
This snake has a really fancy house:
There’s this area upstairs and then a room downstairs with a whole mess of non-releasable animals:
And then there’s a network of trails outside. You don’t have to pay the nature center admission to use the trails, though there is a donation suggested for parking. We opted to hike out to the cool suspension bridge, using the East Lake trail on the way out and the Dunlap trail on the way back (starting from the lower parking area, not the one right by the nature center), for a total of a little over two miles, with some moderate elevation changes.
That night we planned to eat at the Re-Cess Southern Gastropub downtown in Gainesville. When we got downtown I remembered that the annual Mule Camp festival was going on that weekend, which made parking a little trickier than usual. I’d read about Mule Camp before our trip, but I hadn’t realized the scale of it. Turns out it takes over all of downtown for several days, with booth after booth lining the streets, plus live music and carnival rides. We probably would have planned to spend more time there if we’d realized what a big deal it was. As it was, we had a nice dinner and then headed back to the campground.
And then it rained. But, had we had another day of good weather, we were going to go to the Gainesville location of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and to the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids children’s museum (actually, this one would be a great rainy day activity, but it didn’t open until afternoon on Sunday, and we wanted to get going before the weather got bad). And, of course, if you’re in Gainesville in the right season, Lake Lanier offers all sorts of recreational possibilities.
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