A Fool’s Errand and Other Forms of Foolery on April Fools’ Day

I know your inbox is probably full of pranks today but…

April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.

—Mark Twain

Every year on April 1, the world turns into a minefield of pranks and deception—all in the name of a centuries-old holiday. But why and how did this Fools’ Day tradition start and what’s the significance of the date?

One of the oddest annual traditions on the modern calendar falls on the first day of April otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Once a day reserved for harmless pranks pulled on friends and family, April Fools’ Day now reaches into the furthest depths of the internet with multimillion-dollar brands and corporations getting in on the fun. Although the tradition is certainly an oddity, it’s strange still that no one is exactly sure where April Fools’ Day comes from.

Madera Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some historians think when France moved to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, those who still celebrated the New Year in April (having not gotten the memo, wilfully or otherwise about the calendar change) were labeled April fools. Others have tied the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria which took place in late March. A more modern version of April Fools’ Day took root in 18th-century Britain before evolving into the mischief holiday we know today.

The origins of the prank-lovers’ favorite holiday are murky. It’s possible that the entire concept of April Fools’ Day is itself a prank. Or is it?

The origin of April Fools’ Day is debated but its history covers centuries of April Fools’ pranks from family high jinks (like pranks to play on your parents or your kids) to office pranks (like having your co-worker call a funny number) and April Fools’ jokes at everyone’s expense.

Your pranking ambitions might be a little more modest but what gave rise to those ambitions in the first place? When is April Fools’ Day 2024? And why do we collectively try to pull a fast one on this day? Let’s look into the origin of April Fools’ Day.

Spring wildflowers, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

April Fools’ Day is an annual holiday that consists of practical jokes, pranks and hoaxes. Pranksters often unmask their joke by yelling a loud and proud, April Fools at their victim. This custom has been observed for hundreds of years.

April Fools’ Day always occurs on the first of April. In 1561, a Flemish poet wrote some comical verse about a nobleman who sends his servant back and forth on ludicrous errands in preparation for a wedding feast (the poem’s title roughly translates to “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April”). The first mention of April Fools’ Day in Britain was in 1686 when biographer John Aubrey described April 1 as a Fooles holy day.

It’s clear that the habit of sending springtime rubes on a fool’s errand was rampant in Europe by the late 1600s. On April Fools’ Day in 1698, so many saps were tricked into schlepping to the Tower of London to watch the washing of the lions (a ceremony that didn’t exist) that the April 2 edition of a local newspaper had to debunk the hoax—and publicly mock the schmucks who fell for it.

The April 2, 1698 edition of Dawks’s News-Letter reported that “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” This is the first recorded instance of a popular April Fools’ Day prank that involved sending people to the Tower of London to see the washing of the lions. The joke was that there was no lion-washing ceremony. It was a fool’s errand.

Back to the origin of April Fools’ Day and how did it become an international phenomenon?

The totally legit, not-pulling-your-leg answer to the origin of April Fools’ Day is: Nobody really knows.

Spring in the South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historians do have some clues, though. For one thing, we do know that April Fools’ Day customs date back to at least Renaissance Europe but it’s likely the tradition originated long before then.

Some historians have linked April Fools’ Day to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria where at the end of March people would come together to commemorate the resurrection of the god Attis. It was a celebration of renewal in which revelers would dress up in disguises and imitate others.

It’s also possible that the medieval celebration of the Feast of Fools where a mock bishop or pope was elected and church customs were parodied could have inspired the day.

In 1561, an early, clear-cut reference to April Fools’ Day appears in a Flemish poem written by Eduard de Dene. In the poem, a nobleman sends his servant out on a series of wild errands. The servant eventually realizes that these are fool’s errands because the date is April 1.

Scholars say one of the first mentions of an April Fools’ Day in English appears in John Aubrey’s 1686 book Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme which reads, in part: “We observe it on the first of April. And so, it is kept in Germany everywhere.”

Spring in the South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

April Fools’ Day is apparently an ancient enough tradition that the earliest recorded mentions including the following excerpt from a 1708 letter to Britain’s Apollo magazine ask the same question we do: “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?”

Even in 1760 there was speculation as to the origins of the holiday with a line in Poor Robin’s Almanac reading: “The First of April some do say. Is set apart for all Fool’s Day. But why the people call it so. Nor I nor they themselves do know”

One likely predecessor to the origin of April Fools’ Day is the Roman tradition of Hilaria, a spring festival held around March 25 in honor of the “first day of the year longer than the night” (to us, the vernal equinox which typically falls on March 20). Festivities included games, processions, and masquerades during which disguised commoners could imitate nobility to devious ends.

It’s hard to say whether this ancient revelry’s similarities to modern April Fools’ Day are legit or coincidence as the first recorded mentions of the holiday didn’t appear until several hundred years later.

While April Fools’ Day is not technically considered a national holiday, many countries have adopted the idea of playing pranks on or around April 1.

For example, France celebrates April Fools’ Day on April 1 by sticking a paper fish onto the backs of as many people as possible while yelling Poisson d’Avril! (Fish of April). This particular tradition is now mostly practiced by children.

Snowdrops, a spring flower © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This centuries-old name is linked to a 1508 poem by Renaissance composer and writer Eloy d’Amerval who used the phrase to describe the springtime spawn of fish as the easiest to catch; young and hungry. April fish were considered more susceptible to hooks than older fish swimming around at other times of year. Today, celebrating April fish in France—as well as Belgium and Italy—is akin to April Fools’ Day complete with pranks.

Prima Aprilis, uważaj, bo się pomylisz! is a phrase frequently spoken on April 1 in Poland. This translates to: “April Fools’ Day, be careful—you can be wrong!” Be wary of any appointment changes or news reports on this day if you don’t want to fall victim to a trickster’s trap.

A foolish person in Scotland is called agowk so it makes sense that the day is traditionally known as Hunt the Gowk Day. Scotland is unique in that they celebrate April Fools’ Day for the first two days of April. The first day is celebrated by pranking and hoaxing people while the second—known as Tailie Day—is when people place tails on each other’s backs.

On Första April (April 1) in Sweden many are out attempting to trick others as is the usual activity for April Fools’ Day. However, if you are successful at tricking someone, instead of screaming “April fools!” you’d shout the phrase “April, April, din dumma sill, jag kan lura dig vart jag vill!” before running away. This means: “April, April, you stupid herring, I can trick you wherever I want!”

In Greece, successfully tricking someone on this day is said to bring the prankster good luck for the entire year. In some parts of the country, rainfall on April 1 is said to have healing abilities.

Most of us don’t especially enjoy being pranked, tricked, or otherwise made to look like a fool but April 1 arrives all the same. If you’re dreading the shenanigans inherent in that most dreaded of holidays, it would behoove you to peruse the calendar for all the other days to celebrate. Here are five of them:

Although we may never know its true origins, April 1 has come to represent a day of joy and comedy as we move out of the darkness of winter and into the spring.

And no matter how you choose to celebrate the day, it’s best to be wary of what you read and what you hear on April Fools’ Day.

Except for this story, of course!

Spring along the Pacific Northwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numbers don’t lie

  • 265: Jokes included in Philogelos, an ancient Greek book dating to the fourth or fifth century
  • $50,000: Taco Bell’s donation for Liberty Bell upkeep after claiming the brand bought it in a 1996 prank
  • 2000: Year Google released the mind-reading MentalPlex search tool, its first April Fools’ prank
  • 3,900+: Age of the world’s oldest known joke written by ancient Sumerians in 1900 BC

Worth Pondering…

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.

—Charles Lamb

An Ode to Spring: 20 Quotes to Welcome the Season

Nothing says new beginnings and second chances quite like spring

Ode on the Spring

Lo! where the rosy-bosom’d Hours,

Fair Venus’ train appear,

Disclose the long-expecting flowers,

And wake the purple year!

The Attic warbler pours her throat,

Responsive to the cuckoo’s note,

The untaught harmony of spring:

While whisp’ring pleasure as they fly,

Cool zephyrs thro’ the clear blue sky

Their gather’d fragrance fling.

—Thomas Gray (1716–1771)

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring, that season of warmer weather, flowers blooming, birds returning, and longer days (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). The new season brings a revival of the body and spirit and proof that Mother Nature has this four-season routine on lock.

Writers have long waxed poetic about the bountiful nature of spring and how its arrival signals everything from new life (think: baby chicks and bunnies for Easter) to the dutiful purging of our personal belongings (see: spring cleaning). Shakespeare has paid homage to the season, as have Virginia Woolf, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and others.

Our positive associations with the season might seem obvious—more daylight, a reprieve from the long winter months, an embarrassment of holidays—but humans’ long love affair with spring has roots in several different cultures and belief systems. The English name itself is believed to have replaced the word Lent, an Old English way to describe the season before the 14th century. Lent is derived from lencten or lengthen; the season’s original name referred to how days begin to lengthen with the arrival of spring.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Iranian and Chinese cultures, spring marks the real beginning of the New Year according to their respective calendars and is commemorated with a thorough home cleansing to get rid of negativity and lingering spirits. Hence, some believe in the advent of spring cleaning. (Other historians believe spring cleaning is tied to the soot left in 19th-century houses at the end of a winter of kerosene lamps and coal fireplaces.)

In the Jewish tradition, spring marks the annual celebration of Passover, the occasion when persecuted Jews were liberated from slavery in Egypt. It is therefore a time of rebirth and a chance at new ways of being. In the Bible, spring symbolizes a time for growth and renewal; there is an undercurrent of awakening and revival that is tied to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There’s also the philosophical take on spring as a metaphor for life on a grander scale—spring is when new life emerges from the cold of winter, when new ideas and projects begin to take root when we’re allowed to stretch our limbs and turn our faces toward the sun.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The seasons have been used to describe the stage of growing older: Summer is a time of youth and movement and languishing in sensual delights; autumn turns folks inward as a symbol of maturity and transition; and winter is of course a time for reflection and dormancy, of preparing for deep sleep.

As a result, then, quotes about spring—as opposed to the other three seasons—are largely upbeat, hopeful, and bursting with the language of possibility and vivacity. Philosophers have heralded the return of spring as proof that there is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel and that there is much to learn from nature’s unwavering adherence to the four seasons.

Here, I’ve rounded up some particularly resonant quotes about spring gathered from a wide range of cultural and generational sources proving that our obsession with clean slates and new beginnings, while universal and deeply felt, is nothing new.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Earth laughs in flowers.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hamatreya

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Nobody can keep spring out of Harlem. I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face. Sunshine patted me all over the head.

—Langston Hughes, The Early Simple Stories

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.

—Anne Bradstreet

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.

—Jim Carrey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright.

—George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.

—Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.

—Author Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

—Poet Pablo Neruda

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

—Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
—Lao Tzu

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor: Winter is dead.

—A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where flowers bloom so does hope.

—Lady Lady Bird Johnson

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

What a strange thing! / to be alive / beneath cherry blossoms.

—Kobayashi Issa

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; fresh violets open every day; to some new bird each hour we listen.

―Lucy Larcom

I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.

—Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

8 Rituals and Traditions to Welcome Spring and Say Goodbye to Winter

Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

The first day of spring (March 19 in 2024) for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere is an eagerly anticipated event around the world. Although the Northern and Southern hemispheres celebrate the start of the season at different times of the year, both share in observing the equinox—which comes from the Latin words aequus and nox meaning equal and night—with unique customs.

Spring represents rebirth and rejuvenation and many of the celebrations reflect this: Homes are cleaned, blossoms are admired, and, in some cases, the dark winter months are sent off in dramatic, flaming fashion. Here are some of the most interesting winter-into-spring rituals and traditions.

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sugaring season

The tail end of winter isn’t exactly renowned for bountiful harvests—unless, perhaps, the crop is maple syrup. In the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, the weeks before and during early spring are known as sugaring season when syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. The season typically starts around mid-February and lasts through early April; during this time, syrup is made, served, and sold at buildings in the woods known as sugar shacks.

Locals and visitors alike flock to these cozy shacks, eager to pour warm maple syrup on fresh, powdery snow to make a deliciously sweet treat. In New England, the taffy-like candy is known as sugar on snow while French-speaking Canada calls it tire sur la neige (pull on the snow).

Making or eating sugar on snow is a simple and satisfying way to mark the changing of the seasons but making the amber liquid is a much longer labor of love. It begins in the fall when maple trees store starches in their trunks. As early spring temperatures begin to rise, the starches convert to sugars and the above-freezing days and below-freezing nights create the pressure needed for the sweet liquid known as sap to flow from holes drilled in the tree’s trunk. The extracted sap is then boiled to reduce it to its familiar concentrated, syrupy texture. Not every tree is sugaring season material, though—it needs to be about 40 years old to be big enough to tap.

Spring at Hee Hee Illahee RV Park in Salem, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherry blossoms

One of the best things about spring is all the new flowers it brings. Without a doubt, some of the most breathtaking blooms can be seen on cherry trees. Before the trees produce fruit, their elegant limbs erupt in pillows of white and pastel-pink flowers. Japan’s cherry blossoms—known as sakura—are especially notable producing a spring spectacle known around the world. The blooming season is dependent on weather but generally happens for about two weeks in April when it is celebrated with festivals that draw millions of spectators every year.

The springtime cherry blossoms hold special significance in Japan where people host picnic parties under the trees as part of a centuries-old tradition called hanami—meaning, literally, flower viewing. The custom originated during the Nara period and was popularized as an aristocratic gathering under Emperor Saga in the ninth century complete with sake, poetry, and other refined activities. Today’s hanami celebrations are decidedly less formal but no less festive: They’re enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and often go well into the night with food, drinking, and dancing. Similar cherry blossom festivals take place in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Prep the RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring cleaning

If spring’s longer days and warmer breezes have you wanting to throw open the windows and wipe every corner of your house (or RV) clean, you’re not alone. The age-old tradition of spring cleaning isn’t just a feel-good practice—it has roots in some cultural customs and was even once a necessity because of how homes were kept warm in the colder months.

During the 1800s, people primarily heated their homes with wood- or coal-burning fireplaces and used kerosene lamps for light in the long winter months. This often led to traces of soot and grime on just about every surface in the house requiring a deep cleaning come spring when people would take everything outside to literally shake off the dust. Modern conveniences have made these original reasons irrelevant but the tradition of spring cleaning persists anyway.

In some places, the ritual also has cultural or religious significance. In Iran, for example, the practice has its name: It’s called khane tekani (or shaking the house) and it’s tied to the Iranian New Year, Nowruz which coincides with the spring equinox.

Groundhog? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a full month and a half before the official first day of spring but it has become a familiar marker in the slow transition of the seasons for people in the US and Canada. Each year on February 2, a groundhog is coaxed out of its underground burrow to provide a weather forecast for the coming weeks. If it sees its shadow, the rodent is scared back into its hole for six more weeks of winter. No shadow means warmer spring weather will arrive earlier than expected.

The decidedly unscientific ritual has been taking place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania since 1887 but its origins date back to the fourth-century Christian holiday Candlemas. During Candlemas, clergy members would distribute candles representing how long and cold the winter would be. German Protestants later put their spin on this by introducing a hedgehog as their seasonal prognosticator and when German settlers arrived in America they continued the tradition using a groundhog. Now, the event is not only a major local affair but also a global news story every February.

Eggs, a symbol of new life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Egg painting, cooking, and eating

Eggs are everywhere in spring, thanks in large part to their association with Easter and resurrection in the Christian faith. But their significance isn’t limited to just one religion or culture: Eggs have symbolized new life and reproduction throughout most of history dating back to Pagan sun-worshipping rituals and are important parts of many spring traditions to this day.

In Bosnia, residents of Zenica celebrate with Cimburijada (the Festival of Scrambled Eggs), a tradition that honors the renewal of life that comes with the season. At dawn on the first day of spring, locals gather to make and share giant dishes of scrambled eggs typically prepared in the open air using hundreds of eggs, butter, and other secret ingredients.

In Iran, during Nowruz, decorated eggs represent fertility for one’s family and are considered among the most important items on the ceremonial haftseen table. And no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere one of the most well-known spring equinox traditions involves standing an egg on its end. A long-running legend purports that this feat can only be achieved on the first day of spring since the Sun and Moon are equidistant from the Earth, the pull of gravity is equalized and therefore an egg is less likely to fall over.

This is simply not true. There is no gravitational change during the equinox that would help an egg balance.

Fields of spring wildflowers in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burning effigies

Fire is used as a comforting (and sometimes necessary) heat and light source throughout the winter. So what better way is there to send off the cold months than with raging hot flames? Many cultures around the world incorporate effigies and bonfires into their spring celebrations upholding old rituals that are as lively and fun as they are dramatic.

In Poland and some other Slavic countries, many people commemorate the arrival of spring with a Slavic tradition known as the Drowning of Marzanna (the Slavic goddess of winter). On the first day of spring, Marzanna’s likeness made of straw and dressed in traditional local clothing is set on fire and tossed into the water in an attempt to defeat winter’s icy last gasp and ensure a good harvest in the season to come. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the sacrificial effigy is a life-sized, cotton-stuffed snowman, the Böögg who is filled with fireworks and lit on fire. The faster the Böögg burns the warmer the upcoming spring and summer will be.

Spring wildflowers in Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holi

Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire takes place on the eve of Holi. The day is also popularly called Chhoti Holi or the Small Holi. The bigger event—play with the color takes place on the next big day. Holika Dahan is an extremely popular tradition and is symbolic of triumph of good over evil. This ancient Hindu celebration also known as the festival of spring or the festival of colors has become one of the most popular and well-known equinox experiences in India and beyond. What started as a religious holiday has turned into a larger cultural celebration of the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

There are numerous legends associated with this ancient tradition and it is difficult to pin-point as to when actually the tradition started.

Holi is typically held every March and is most widely known for its joyous explosions of colorful powder which revelers use to douse each other in vibrant hues. Holi celebrations also include lively public gatherings and a ceremonial bonfire on the night known as Holika Dahan which takes place the day before the main event.

King cake symbolizes Mardi Gras season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday falls annually on the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The word Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in the French language. Celebrations include festivals, parades, dancing, and feasting before the fasting starts on Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Worth Pondering…

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does no matter what not being singular or particular but one of the forever gifts and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver

Spring into the History of the Names of the Four Seasons

Why do we call the seasons spring, summer, fall, and winter?

In 2024, the first day of spring lands on March 19. It marks the vernal equinox—the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere as it tilts closer to the sun. With warmer temperatures and more daylight, the conditions are perfect for April showers and May flowers. The origin of the word spring is deeply rooted in this idea of new growth bursting from the earth.

As is the case for all four seasons, the history of springtime began thousands of years ago as ancient cultures sought to name different periods of the year based on weather patterns. The word season itself came into English as the Old French word saison derived from the Latin sationem meaning “time of sewing” relating to the natural connection between farming and the seasons. Let’s take a closer look at the etymology of the names of the seasons, beginning with spring.

Spring in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring

The season after winter and before summer is when vegetation appears in the Northern Hemisphere from March to May and in the Southern Hemisphere from September to November.

Astronomy: The period from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice.

The earliest use of spring dates back at least 1,000 years to the Old English verb springan which had a few meanings including “to leap, burst forth, fly up, or to spread, grow”. Other Proto-Germanic languages adopted similar words such as the Old Norse springa and the Old High German springan both of which came from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root sprengh meaning “to move or hasten.”

Spring’s journey to becoming the name of the vernal season began in the 14th century in Middle English with the phrase “springing time” referring to a period of the year when plants began to sprout. Spring wasn’t used exclusively for the season, though. The noun also described the moonrise (spring of mone) and the sunrise (spring of dai).

By the 1520s, the phrases “spring of the leaf” and “spring of the year” were common ways to describe the season of lencten, the Old English word relating to Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter in the Christian calendar. By the mid-16th century, the name for the time period called “spring of the year” was shortened to “spring.” It had officially become the most common word for the season of budding flowers and new beginnings.

Summer in Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer

The season between spring and before fall comprises the warmest season of the year in the Northern Hemisphere from June to August and in the Southern Hemisphere from December to February.

Astronomy: The period from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox.

Summer has been in English for over a millennium though it’s spelled a little differently now. The word somor described “the hot season of the year” in Old English. Other Proto-Germanic languages had similar words for this season such as sumar used in Old Saxon, Old Norse, and Old High German. These words came from the PIE root sm- which led to the first words for the summer season in other ancient languages (even older than Old English’s somor) including the Armenian amarn, Old Irish sam, and Old Welsh ham.

The word somor eventually transformed into summer (a noun for the season) sometime before the 12th century. Middle English words were often spelled differently than their Old English counterparts because of foreign language influences. Summer also has been used as an adjective (as in “summer vacation”) since the beginning of the 14th century and as a verb (as in, “They summered at the country house”) since the 15th century.

Fall in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Autumn/Fall

The season after summer and before winter is the third season of the year when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall in the Northern Hemisphere from September to November and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May.

Astronomy: The period from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice.

Autumn and fall are used interchangeably to describe the season between summer and winter though fall tends to be more popular in American English and autumn is favored in British English. Marked by colorful foliage, harvest festivals, and pumpkin-spice-flavored everything, this season was first called autumnus a few millennia ago but the origins of this Latin word are not very clear.

Fall in Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What can be traced is the adoption of autumnus into other languages such as the Old French autumpne in the 13th century. Autumpne was pulled into Middle English in the late 15th century and the spelling changed to autumn in the 16th century. Before this adoption of autumn, the season was called harvest in English from the Old English hærfest from Proto-Germanic harbitas (source also of Old Saxon hervist).

Fall has been used interchangeably with autumn since the mid-17th century in British English (though it’s not that popular across the pond anymore). It came from a shortening of the mid-16th-century phrase “fall of the leaf” which used the Old English noun/verb fall to describe “a drop from a height” from the Proto-Germanic word fallanan.

“To put it more pretentiously, there was always something transient, unstable, mysterious, emotionally undefined about autumn and fall, unlike the other seasons which are so well defined,” said Tony Thorne, a lexicographer at King’s College London. “Maybe that’s why people could not easily decide on one permanent name throughout our history.”

Winter in British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter

The fourth and coldest season of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is from December to February and in the Southern Hemisphere from June to August.

Astronomy: The period from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox.

The Old English word winter came from the Proto-Germanic word for the season, wintruz. Other languages also borrowed their words from this source including the Danish and Swedish words of the same spelling, vinter. Wintruz likely comes from the PIE wend, nasalized of the root wed- meaning “the wet season,” a fitting name for a season characterized by dreary rain showers or blustering snow.

This is also the root that gave us the Old English word for ​​wæter. Both the noun and the adjective “winter” (as in “winter vegetables”) have been around since at least the 12th century while the verb (as in, “They wintered at the beach”) appeared in the 14th century.

As an adjective in Old English, the Anglo-Saxons counted years in “winters” as in Old English ænetre “one-year-old” and wintercearig which might mean either “winter-sad” or “sad with years.” Old Norse Vetrardag, first day of winter, was the Saturday that fell between October 10 and 16.

Worth Pondering…

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

―Yoko Ono

10 Intriguing Facts about the Ides of March

As the word ides refers to the middle of the month, the Ides of March is on March 15. But, is it? Contrary to popular belief surrounding its origins, ides simply marks the first day of the full moon in every month.

From 44 BC onward the Ides of March would be remembered as the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated. Here are a few facts you may not be aware of on this infamous day.

The Ides of March, (mid-March in the earliest Roman calendar) was forever set in history as the day Julius Caesar was murdered. In 44 BC, Brutus, Cassius, and over 60 members of the Senate led a mutiny against Caesar who they feared was gaining too much power on his quest for a permanent dictatorship.

As mid-March approaches, you’ll no doubt hear the oft-repeated saying “Beware the ides of March.” It’s a strangely archaic phrase that doesn’t make much sense to modern ears without knowing some important historical context and the ins and outs of ancient moon-based calendars —what are ides, anyway? Here are six interesting facts about this famous phrase and its relation to arguably one of the most important moments in ancient history.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The phrase comes from William Shakespeare

In Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Roman politician (and future assassin) Marcus Junius Brutus and the play’s eponymous character are approached through a crowd by a soothsayer who has a warning—“Beware the ides of March.” The two Romans dismiss the fortuneteller as a dreamer and go about their business as usual. Of course, the warning proved deadly accurate; for the Romans, the ides was the middle of the month and Julius Caesar was famously assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.

Roman historians say that in reality (not just Shakespeare’s fictionalized version), the soothsayer’s name was Spurinna. He was Etruscan, an ancient people often associated with divination and served as a haruspex—someone who inspects the entrails of sacrificed animals for clues about the future.

However, there’s no record of Spurinna pinpointing the ides of March specifically; instead, he warned Caesar to be wary of the next month generally, a period that would end on March 15. Scholars believe this was likely just a calculated guess as Roman politicians were already turning against Caesar who had been named dictator for life and the famed military leader was leaving the capital for another military campaign on March 18. If Caesar was going to be assassinated, it would likely be in the month of March.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The ides were part of Rome’s archaic Lunar Calendar

Although the phrase “the ides of March” carries with it a sinister connotation because of the bloody business done on that day two millennia ago, the ides—along with the nones and calends—are simply ancient markers of the moon’s phases that were part of Rome’s lunar calendar. Kalends referred to the new moon (or first of the month), ides meant the middle of the month (the 13th in some months and the 15th in others), and nones referred to the quarter moon. For a time, the ides of March was actually the beginning of the New Year in Rome.

3. March was time of rebirth and renewal

While the Ides of March are remembered as a tumultuous time during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire, it is also time of the year for rebirth and renewal. In early Roman times, March was actually the first month of the year and ides fell on a full moon and was the official New Year’s day of ancient Rome. It was a time to celebrate the coming of the new season and the official end of winter.

This was also likely an important time for planting. In fact, the deity who was honored during the ides celebrations was called Anna Perenna. The two names make linguistic reference to the year: anna means “to live through a year” while perenna means “to last many years.” This corresponds with the English words annual and perennial which are now associated with planting and gardening.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Caesar himself got rid of ides entirely

Although the ides of March is closely related to Julius Caesar, the famous Roman leader was directly responsible for tossing out the old, lunar-based calendar entirely. In 45 BC, Caesar—after consulting top mathematicians and astronomers—instituted the solar-based Julian calendar, a timekeeping system remarkably similar to the calendar we use today.

To implement the new system, Caesar created what has since become known as the year of confusion in which the year 46 BC lasted for 445 days so the new Julian calendar could begin on January 1. One scholar even argues that this drastic change could’ve been seen by conspiratorial senators as an attack on Roman tradition and the assassins might’ve purposefully selected the ides of March as a symbolic gesture against Caesar and his reforms.

5. Every year Romans reenact Caesar’s assassination on March 15

Every year (barring worldwide pandemics) Romans reenact the murderous drama that unfolded near the Curia of Pompey two millennia ago. (A curia is a structure where Roman senate members would meet.) However, it wasn’t until 2015 when members of the Roman Historical Group got the chance to recreate Caesar’s final moments on the exact spot where it happened after finally getting access to the ruins of the curia itself.

The reenactment generally unfolds in three parts—first with the senators’ accusations, followed by Caesar’s actual assassination, and then concluding with speeches from both Brutus and Mark Antony justifying their actions. In an interview with NBC News, the Caesar impersonator said this annual bit of theater is about honoring the ancient leader because “Rome wouldn’t have been as great without him.”

Skagit Valley, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Caesar was deified as a Roman god

Although the Roman pantheon was largely borrowed from ancient Greece, Rome added a few deified originals of its own. One of the most important was the two-headed Janus, the god of doorways and transitions and the namesake of the month of January.

But Rome also deified many of its most important leaders and named months after some of them. After Caesar’s death on the ides of March, a Roman cult known as divus Julius pushed for Caesar’s official divinity. Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian (known to history as Augustus), later became Rome’s first emperor and similarly received the divinity treatment. The effects of this Roman imperial cult can be seen in today’s calendar as July and August are named for the two ancient rulers.

7. The location of Caesar’s murder is now a cat sanctuary

The ancient Largo di Torre Argentina square used to be home to the hustle and bustle of toga-wearing senators going about the business of empire but it’s now the domain of cats. Largo di Torre Argentina was excavated during Mussolini’s rebuilding attempts in 1929 and consisted of four Republican victory temples located 20 feet below street level. Moreover, there is also part of the portico of Pompey upon whose steps Julius Caesar was killed in 44 BC.

In 1993, Silvia Viviani and Lia Dequel founded the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary (in Italian, Colonia Felinia Torre Argentina or Torre Argentina Feline Colony). Today, volunteers at Largo di Torre Atgentina care for about 100 cats at the cat sanctuary.

After the site’s excavation, cats started moving to these ruins and locals fed them. Despite the city being full of cats, Torre Argentina is a trendy place for them.

Port Aransas, Texas

8. Ancient traditions of the day

Historically, this day was originally the date on which Romans settled their debts. Other ancient traditions on this day included the slaughter of a sheep, the ides sheep by Jupiter’s high priest; the feats of Anna Perenna, the goddess of the year to celebrate the first full moon of the year with drinking, picnics, and lively festivities; and in the holy week of festivals during the Imperial Period which celebrated the goddess Cybele and the god Attis.

9. How to observe Ides of March

Repay a debt: In honor of the ancient Roman tradition of paying debts on the Ides of March or of any month, repay a debt. You’ll get some feel-good mo-jo in return from the friend who loaned you money that you somehow have managed to not yet repay.

Plan a Roman holiday: Turn the Ides of March into a living history lesson. Plan a trip to Italy to explore ancient Roman ruins of the city where Julius Caesar once ruled as the Emperor of the Roman Empire and perished at the hands of his trusted advisors.

Toga Party: When it comes down to it, the Ides of March was basically a huge argument about politics. Is there any political issue that you feel extremely passionate about? Contact your local government official. In honor of Julius Caesar exercise your right to participate in politics.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. By the numbers

  • 15: Date on which the Ides fall in the months of March, May, July, and October
  • 2003: Year that actress Thora Hird died on the Ides of March
  • 1970: Year the song Vehicle was released by rock band The Ides of March
  • 2001: Year the movie The Ides of March was released
  • 60: Number of senators present at the time of Caesar’s assassination
  • 1913: Year that Woodrow Wilson held the first presidential press conference in the Ides of March
  • 1493: Year that Christopher Columbus arrived back in Spain after his first New World voyage on the Ides of March
  • 23: Number of stab wounds on Julius Caesar
  • 1917: Year that Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar abdicated on the Ides of March
  • 1971: Year that the Ed Sullivan Show was canceled on Ides of March

Worth Pondering…

“The Ides of March are come.” The prophet said, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1

The Best Things to do this Spring in Georgia

Spring in Georgia is the perfect time to bask in perfect weather at festivals celebrating music, art, food, and local traditions

Spring in Georgia brings blooming flowers, warmer days, and activities of all kinds. Spring is an undeniably beautiful time of year to visit Georgia. From March to May the average low of 65 degrees F and an average high of 80 degrees F is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, camping, and strolling through the state’s many parks and botanical gardens. Spring break trips offer perfect opportunities to explore new places and attend events throughout the state.

From outdoor adventures that take advantage of the great weather to favorite events that only happen once a year, here are nine of the best things to do around the state this season.

Beach on Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Go to the beach

Georgia’s beaches are among its best resources. Plan a getaway to explore some of Georgia’s 15 barrier islands, including…

Golden Isles

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four barrier islands―St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. 

The port city of Brunswick is laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah’s with city streets and squares still bearing their colonial names. Explore the historic area which is enjoying a renaissance and features shops, restaurants, and beautiful homes reflecting a variety of styles dating from 1819.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive to St. Simons Island. Check out Fort Frederica National Monument, the archaeological remnants of the island’s first European settlement or make your way to Neptune Park, an oceanfront park next to the St. Simons Island Lighthouse that offers a playground, picnic area, casino, and pool. Cannon’s Point Preserve features 660 acres of greenery and Late Archaic shell rings dating back to 2500 BCE.

Since 1928, Sea Island has been known as an exceptional destination featuring five miles of private beach, a Beach Club, tennis center, Yacht Club, and Shooting School as well as three championship golf courses including the home of the PGA TOUR’s RSM Classic.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 10 miles of sandy beaches, four golf courses, a 250-acre Historic Landmark District and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island has been a family-favorite state park destination for 75 years. 

In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat known as the Jekyll Island Club. It soon became recognized as “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world.” Club members included such notable figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic structures. The Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark is one of the largest restoration projects in the southeastern United States.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip with these guides to the Golden Isles and Jekyll Island:

Tybee Island

Tybee Island is a family-friendly beach town 20 minutes from downtown Savannah. Rent a cute cottage, go on a dolphin tour, dig into fresh seafood, and much more. Those traveling with RVs and tents can stay at River’s End Campground and RV Park which is a few blocks from North Beach. There are more than 100 sites with full hookups, cozy cabins, and primitive sites. Campground guests will enjoy convenient amenities and comforts of home like a 24-hour laundry room, a fully equipped fitness center, the island’s largest swimming pool, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island National Seashore is the largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia offering visitors more than 17 miles of secluded white, sandy beaches. Wild horses and other island wildlife roam freely throughout the ruins and along the beach. Glimpses of the Carnegie lifestyle can be easily imagined throughout the ruins of Dungeness, Plum Orchard, and Greyfield Inn.

Cumberland Island is accessible by ferry only. Reservations for the 45-minute ferry ride are recommended. Board the ferry to Cumberland Island in St. Marys, a historic small town located on the Georgia coast approximately midway between Jacksonville and Brunswick.

Dungeness Ruins, Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip with these guides to Cumberland Island:

2. Attend a spring arts or sports event

Just as daffodils, dogwoods, and azaleas flourish in the spring in Georgia so do outdoor arts and sports events. Pick any city and you’ll likely find a spring event to enjoy.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

International Cherry Blossom Festival

Each March, Macon becomes a pink, cotton-spun paradise as over 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom in all their glory.The International Cherry Blossom Festival is a perennial favorite held March 17-26, 2023 that features art exhibitions, rides, and performances. 

The Creek Indians were the first inhabitants of the area that would later become known as Macon, settled by Europeans in 1809. Celebrate the Native American tribes that called the Macon area home at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, a site dating back 17,000 years. The site has North America’s only reconstructed Earth Lodge with its original 1,000-year-old floor as well as the Great Temple Mound.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1960s, Macon was ground zero for the music industry thanks to Capricorn Records and artists like the Allman Brothers Band and Otis Redding. Learn about the band that called Macon home at The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House, the Tudor-style home that Berry, Duane, and Gregg lived in with their family and friends. It has a large collection of guitars and band memorabilia.

The Blessing of the Fleet

Each spring, Darien holds The Blessing of the Fleet Festival for the captains of local shrimp boats. The largest event of its kind on the East Coast, it’s also a great time to get some exercise with the 5K run, admire arts and crafts, watch fireworks, and salute seagoing ships during the maritime parade. The 55th Annual Blessing of the Fleet on the beautiful, historic Darien Waterfront is set for April 21-23, 2023.

Savannah Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah Music Festival

The annual 17-day springtime festival (March 23-April 8, 2023) is Georgia’s largest musical arts event featuring up to 100 productions. Established in 1989, Savannah Music Festival features artists from all genres including classical, jazz, folk, country, and rock. 

Savannah’s Historic District is sprinkled with 22 historic squares, stunning period architecture, and beautiful cobblestone streets, each with unique elements and stories. Take a walk down America’s Most Beautiful Street, Jones Street, take photos in front of the iconic Forsyth Fountain, and stop at places like Chippewa Square, best known as the site of the bench scene from the movie Forrest Gump.

Plan your trip with this Guide to Savannah.

Hank Aaron, a Braves legend

Atlanta Braves

Take in an Atlanta Braves game at Truist Park. The Braves open at home on April 6, 2023 against the San Diego Padres. The Braves’ first homestand of the season will continue with three more games against the Padres and a three-game set against the Cincinniti Reds. 

The Braves baseball team was moved to Atlanta in 1966 from stints in Boston and Milwaukee. It’s the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball. In their years as an organization, the team has won four World Series (most recently in 2021). Legends like Hank Aaron helped make the team what it is today.

In March 2017, the Atlanta Braves officially moved to their new home at Truist Park (formerly SunTrust Park). It’s surrounded by The Battery, an entertainment complex with restaurants, stores, concert venues, and a hotel.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Masters

Tickets to the legendary golf tournament in Augusta are hard to come by but even if you don’t have tickets there is plenty to do off-course during Masters Week April 3-9, 2023. 

Established along the Savannah River in 1736, Augusta was once home to cotton production which helped it become the state’s second largest city. These days, much of the city’s industry surrounds the medical fields and technology thanks in part to nearby Augusta University. The city is home to Augusta National and the Masters Golf Tournament as well as the birthplace of legends like James Brown. A thriving arts community, plentiful outdoor exploration, and locally owned restaurants only add to its appeal for travelers.

Spring blossoms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Delight in spring blooms

Spring color pops out early in Georgia especially sunny yellow daffodils and cheery pink cherry trees and tulip magnolias. Trace the season’s progression through the rainbow of colorful flowers, trees, and bushes that burst onto the scenery from their winter slumber. From the North Georgia Mountains to the coast you can explore a gorgeous array of gardens expertly created to showcase the season’s best.

See the largest daffodil display in the nation at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground in early March. More than 200 varieties of early, mid, and late bloomers cover 50 acres of hillsides and valleys.

Experience the beauty of 20,000 azaleas in bloom at Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain during Spring FlowerFest March 25-May 7, 2023.

Spring blossoms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrate Mother’s Day weekend at the 16th annual Picnic in the Garden in the Pecan Groove at Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange on May 13, 2023 featuring a picnic spread contest, live music, pony rides, and yard games. Explore the historic Ferrell Gardens which are one of the best-preserved 19th-century gardens in America.

The Savannah Botanical Garden includes nature trails, a picturesque pond, and an archaeological exhibit among the formal and natural displays. Enjoy the Southern charm of the historic Reinhard House, the sweet sounds of songbirds, and wander along a path that explores camellias, ferns, and a children’s garden. Admission is free.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Take a culinary tour of the state

You can’t say we don’t eat well in Georgia! Go in search of fresh flavors this spring on a culinary trip across the state.

Food Festivals

Georgia’s spring food festivals offer a huge menu of options. A few choices include:

  • Georgia Strawberry Festival, Reynolds, April 22, 2023
  • Vidalia Onion Festival, Vidalia, April 20-23, 2023
  • Hiawassee Highlands Wine Festival, Hiawassee, May 13, 2023
  • Taste of Alpharetta, Alpharetta, May 11, 2023

Pick-your-own Farms

Grab a bucket and head to one of Georgia’s many pick-your-own farms for a true Southern springtime tradition. The whole family will have fun picking their favorite springtime treats fresh from farms throughout the state.

Springtime in Georgia means warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and…strawberry season. The official strawberry season can stretch from late April to July 4th in Georgia with the best picking from May to mid June.

Adairsville Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Food Tours

Eat your heart out in Georgia where restaurant and dining options range from casual to fine dining and you’ll find all types of cuisines—especially Southern. Dig in to the South’s best barbecue smoked to perfection and matched with mouthwatering sides like baked beans and macaroni and cheese. Peel and eat sweet, wild Georgia shrimp served with a basket of warm hush puppies while a sea breeze carries away the cares of the day.

Check out one of the many food tours like Atlanta Food Walks, Taste of Thomasville Food Tours, or Savannah Taste Experience.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Taste of Thomasville is a three-hour progressive lunch though downtown Thomasville that starts in the courtyard of The Gift Shop. Participants and the tour guide walk to award-winning food establishments in the downtown area. Between the food establishments, the participants learn the history, culture and stories that make Thomasville a unique town. 

Take a three-hour walking and tasting tour through the gardens and historic, cultural landmarks of the squares of Savannah, the Hostess City of the South. Savannah Taste Experience food tours will open your palate through bites and tastings at distinctive restaurants, extraordinary specialty food stores, and other notable eateries while providing a local’s perspective on culture, history, and architecture of Savannah. 

Getting out on the water at Stephen S. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Get out on the water

Enjoy the great outdoors around Georgia, especially the lakes, rivers, and ocean.

Lake Life

Georgia’s Lake Country boasts two expansive lakes with more than 15,000 acres of water (Oconee and Sinclair) and more than 10 golf courses nestled in the neighboring communities of Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, and Milledgeville.

Closer to Atlanta, Lake Lanier welcomes boaters and fishermen. Lakes Burton, Rabun, Hartwell, and Blackshear are also worth exploring.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring the Okefenokee Swamp

Take a walk on the wild side at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine 680-square-mile wilderness is an ecological wonder. The main entrance to the National Wildlife Refuge is located near Folkston.

Hike the Chesser Island Boardwalk to the Owl’s Roost Tower for an unparalleled view of the swamp prairies and the Okefenokee Wilderness. The Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center is a perfect place to begin your Okefenokee experience―talk to refuge staff and volunteers about recreational opportunities, recent wildlife sightings, and take a guided boat tour with knowledgeable naturalists or rent a canoe or kayak and set out on your own.

Take advantage of the discounts on multi-day, multi-entrance passes to Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross and Okefenokee Adventures in Folkston to experience boat tours, train rides, nature shows and the incredible scenery of the fascinating swamp environment.

Brasstown Bald with fall colors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Plan a road trip

What’s a better time to start planning a getaway by car or RV? Decide what you want to see whether it be coast or mountains, cities or small towns. Follow the 41-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway through the mountains, drive along US-17 to coastal communities from Richmond Hill to Darien or taste your way through the state on Georgia Grown Trail 37.

Surrounded by the beauty of Chattahoochee National Forest, the 40.6-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Georgia Grown Trail 37 is Georgia’s first officially branded agritourism highway created to spotlight the agricultural bounty and beauty found in Southern Georgia. Featuring over two dozen agritourism hotspots and out-of-the-way shopping adventures, Georgia Grown Trail 37 takes you on a tasty adventure through small towns and family farms. You will find olive farms, vineyards and wineries, U-Pick berries and produce, unique farm products, and specialty shops. Take I-75, Exit 39, East or West.

Hunt for murals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Hunt for murals

Looking for colorful walls to photograph? You’re in luck. Atlanta has hundreds of murals in every corner of the city especially around Cabbagetown and Old Fourth Ward. Savannah also has its own usually commissioned by art galleries and non-profits to beautify their buildings. Macon also has upped its game in terms of public art, with murals, sculptures, and Little Free Libraries around town. Don’t miss the mural in Dublin which honors the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

8. Tour a brewery, cidery, or distillery

The Peach State has a thriving scene for craft beverages as new breweries and distilleries are opening every year in every corner of the state. No matter where you go, plan on having a designated driver.

A brewery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breweries

They may be found in old warehouses where the grind of machinery has been replaced with liquid gold and the sound of good times or in new wide-open spaces.

Atlanta has the most craft breweries including big-name ones like Sweetwater and those with multiple locations like Monday Night. But there are many breweries in other cities and towns like Macon Beer Company, Creature Comforts in Athens, and Eagle Creek Brewing in Statesboro. Grab a bite with your pint at a brewpub, like Good Word Brewing and Public House in Duluth.

Located within walking distance of college dive bars, Creature Comforts Brewing Co. hangs out in a former car dealership and auto repair shop on the edge of downtown Athens. Try its Tropicalia and see why it’s considered one of the top IPAs in the country.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downtown Macon has been making a resurgence thanks in part to breweries like the Macon Beer Company. This spot playfully uses the city’s name in the name of its beers such as Macon Love, Macon Plays and, of course, Macon Money.

Taking its name from the coastal Georgia Island, Jekyll Brewing has paved the way for craft breweries in the northern suburb of Alpharetta. And on the topic of branding you may be amused by the names of their beers such as Hop Dang Diggity, Southern Juice, Cooter Brown, and ‘Merican Amber.

Cideries

The gluten-intolerant can rejoice as there are also cideries around the state. Urban Tree Cidery is located on Atlanta’s Westside with a taproom to sample their varieties. Treehorn in Marietta is another favorite as is Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge. If you’re looking for a low-alcohol option, Cultured South on Atlanta’s West End brews the popular Golda Kombucha.

A distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distilleries

Distilleries also are open to visitors to offer a glimpse into how your favorite spirits are made. Atlanta has the ASW Distillery, Old Fourth Distillery, and Independent Distilling distilleries. Dalton Distillery and Dawsonville Distillery both specialize in legal white lightning. Richland Rum in Richland and Brunswick crafts the only single-estate rum in the United States made from Georgia-grown sugar cane.

Moonshine and other spirits © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moonshine

Whether you go all in and tour a moonshine maker’s distillery or you attend a local festival named after the famous drink, Georgia is a great place to start your moonshine journey.

In the summer, classic cars and their owners head to the Georgia mountain town of Hiawassee for the annual Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruiz-In. The three-day event features live mountain music, a real moonshine still, arts and crafts vendors, automotive vendors, and hundreds of classic cars.

Visit Blairsville in September for the Moonshine Market Arts & Crafts Show featuring regional vendors, live music, food, beer and spirits, and distillery tours. 

A winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries

Georgia is more than just craft beer and moonshine. The Peach State has its fair share of wineries especially clustered around the North Georgia Mountains. Muscadine and fruit wines are produced as well as well-known varietals.

Kaya’s Winery and Tasting Room in Dahlonega are built atop a ridge that is 1,600 feet above elevation and offers panoramic mountain views in North Georgia. Enjoy wine made from estate-grown grapes with a view from the covered deck.

On the Helen side of the North Georgia Mountains are a number of wineries but Yonah Mountain Vineyards & Winery is frequently listed as a favorite. The namesake mountain rises into view from the tasting room inspiring the logo that makes the rounded peak look like a bear’s back. Experience their tastings which showcase chardonnay, merlot, malbec, pinot noir, and sauvignon blancs. The wine cave tour is what makes Yonah Mountain completely unique, the only known one in the state.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Bike the trails

Gear up with your helmet and two wheels to explore the state. There are plenty of paved bike paths for beginner or expert riders.

The Silver Comet Trail rails-to-trails path connects Atlanta to the Alabama state line and is accessible from the cities of downtown Rockmart and Cedartown. Bikers, runners, hikers, skaters, and horseback riders use the trail for recreation and commuting. The Silver Comet Trail begins at the intersection of South Cobb Drive and the East-West Connector in Smyrna and runs all the way to the Alabama border. There, it meets the Chief Ladiga trail in Alabama. 

The Carrollton GreenBelt is the largest greenspace and greenway conservation project ever undertaken in the city of Carrollton’s almost 200-year history. The 18-mile long linear city park is the largest paved loop trail system in Georgia and provides residents and visitors a unique escape.

The Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus runs 15 miles alongside the water offering views of the whitewater rapids and a connection to the National Infantry Museum. By foot or on bike, you will skirt the cityscape, examine historic monuments and markers, and take in the wild beauty of the rolling river and native wildlife. Geocachers can take on the RiverWalk GeoTour, the first of its kind in the world with 31 challenging geocaches with collector game pieces including three coins.

Worth Pondering…

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey