Offering Outdoor Fun for All Ages
Published: January 31, 2019
By: Carol Muse Evans
Banning Mills may not yet be on your family trip radar, but it should be. If you love the outdoors, adventure and relaxation, Historic Banning Mills and the Lodges at Banning Mills Retreat & Conservation Center is a fabulous destination just a short trip from Birmingham. In fact, it could be a “camping” trip for the whole family!
When I headed to Banning Mills in Whitesburg, Georgia last fall with my childhood best friend, Cathy, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. We were going to stay in a “treehouse” and go ziplining, which I had never done before. We did all that and more in a beautiful, secluded area with fantastic food, scenery, accommodations and more. But I stretched my bravery and came home with a few bruises – all worth it.
This is a great getaway for a family, a group, or even a couple or team-building group that won’t “break the bank” and offers something a little different from the beach or mountain getaway. In fact, since Banning Mills is a non-profit conservatory, you can feel good about where you dollars are going for your visit.
To begin with, Banning Mills is most well-known for ziplining – 10 miles of aerial adventures on six levels of zip lines for the novice (like me) to the more accomplished. Go up to 60 miles per hour! Walk across the 600-foot Sky Trek Bridge. Instructors/guides are patient, instructive, and will take almost any age. They offer a number of packages for those just wanting a taste of it, to those who are much more adventurous. They’ll teach you what to do, supervise and help you every step of the way.
In fact, Banning Mills holds two Guinness World Records, including one for the World’s Longest Continuous Zip Line Course and Eco-Canopy Adventure Tour and the World’s Tallest Freestanding Climbing Wall. Thrill seekers could literally spend eight hours without having to repeat any parts of the course.
If you are traveling with little ones, there’s plenty for them, too. Check out Crazy Squirrel Village, a lower tier course featuring obstacles and zip lines that allow little ones to enjoy the rush of flying through the air on a smaller scale. Children as young as four years old can participate in this level one course.
The upper tier course is a must for children nine and up. The new course utilizes the Smart Snap relay system to ensure maximum safety and features four zip lines and 35 different aerial elements with heights of up to 60 feet off the ground. These courses are a great way for your little one to learn team building skills in a unique and fun way.
But there are activities for people who want to remain on the ground. We traveled in September, and it was still quite warm mid-day, so we got lunch from the restaurant and enjoyed it by the Olympic-sized pool, then went for a swim. There are two miniature golf courses.
For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Banning Mills offers activities like live Birds of Prey shows (Banning Mills is home to Liberty, their live Bald Eagle). You can also book horseback riding and kayaking on the ‘Hooch.” Moms, there’s even an on-site spa, so you can go relax with a facial, hot stone massage, other packages and even a spa lunch.
There are a number of accommodation options at Historic Banning Mills, but maybe the highlight of our trip was staying in one of their “treehouses,” a “room in the air.” Think a fully-supplied yurt suspended among the trees. Treehouse rooms include a king bed, gas log fireplace, jetted tub for two, private bathroom and a covered deck overlooking the gorge below. Listening to the rain on the tin roof made for a special cozy night of sleeping, but you will feel some movement with the wind! I want to do it again.
If you’re looking for a more grounded sleeping experience, spend the night in one of the cozy cottages, full-size rustic cabins or pine log cabin rooms at the Historic Banning Mills. They are right next to the main lodge, with gift shop, museum and a wonderful restaurant serving breakfast buffet, lunch and special reservations-only dinners with amazing scenery right out the picture windows that flank the dining room. All rooms are non-smoking, and they do not have roll-away beds or cribs.
Historic Banning Mills Adventure, Retreat and Conservation Center is a 501c3 non- profit organization located in the beautiful Snake Creek Gorge of Carroll County, Georgia, and is approximately 19 miles south of Douglasville and 45 minutes west of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Proceeds from the retreat and adventure treks are used to subsidize the educational, leadership and conservancy programs. Banning Mills is located in Georgia’s only hidden gorge on Snake Creek in Carroll County. It was once a mill town, and one of the first towns in Georgia to produce its own electricity.
For additional information, reservations or lodging options, visit www.historicbanningmills.com or call 770-834-9149.
Good to Know
Check their website for pricing, as it is subject to change based on seasons.
- The world-record CLIMBING WALL starts are $30 per person for one hour and requires a minimum of two people. Reservations required.
- Zipline packages start at $49 and go up, especially if combined with accommodations. Check out the website for a number of package that also include breakfast, Little Vine Vineyard tours and wine tasting, spa packages, kayaking, horseback riding and even a gourmet dinner on Tree Terrace, the lodge dining room.
- Lodging at Banning Mills ranges from $99-$209 per night. Choices include the “treehouse” mentioned above, as well as cabins and cottages, Inn side economy rooms and a variety of packages that combine lodging, food and activities. Contact them or visit the website for more information.