Lesli Peterson's Passport


Member since:
23 January 2013

Icon_superoo_orangeSuperoo '13, '14

Icon_pictureBeen to 244 Attractions
Icon_star132 Reviews
Icon_star195 First to Review
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About Me & My Family

I'm also Owner, Editor & CEO of 365AtlantaFamily. I made my way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. I relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and I will chat up any willing stranger to uncover a new secret locale. After 18 years in software development, I bailed on the corporate scene. I now serves as the Family Travel Ambassador for Georgia, freelances for several publications in addition to writing here. When I'm not traveling, I'm hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Our Family's Travel Personality
adventurous, curious, quiet, structured, relaxed, simple, independent, energetic, spontaneous, easy_going, scheduled, artsy
We Just Got Back From
Little St Simons Island
Our Favorite Vacation Spot
Anywhere we can be together.
A Place We'd Love To Visit
Our dream vacation is the Galapagos Islands
Favorite Vacation Memory
Yellowstone National Park was a place we made incredible memories together. It was wonderful to spend an entire vacation in the outdoors. Climbing, hiking, running, cycling, riding horses, camping, and experiencing nature and her wonders. It was magical.
Websites I Like:
Trekaroo 365AtlantaFamily Field Trips With Sue RoadTrippers Pinterest

Apple Picking in North Georgia

Families in Atlanta love to spend September and October picking apples, making apple pie, and enjoying the apple festivals in Ellijay and the neighboring towns in North Georgia.  The following farms offer U-pick or pre-picked apples, as well as family-fun apple farm activities. A special thank you to Field Trips with Sue for sharing her apple list with us!


9696 Hwy. 52 E.
Ellijay, Georgia

PYO, playground and petting zoo, GIANT SLIDE, and Apple Jubilee on the weekends with cow milking, pig races, and more

reviewed on: July 15 2013

"Great fun even on a weekday"
Hillcrest and its weekend Apple Festivals are famous Fall Fun in the Atlanta Metro area, but I am here to testify that even a week-day visit to Hillside is worth the trek into the mountains.

We went on a weekday in late September.  There were maybe 3 other families there.  First we went into the main store area and got a snack and some fresh pressed apple juice in apple sippy cups.

Then we went outside for some cute photo ops in an old tractor.  We walked through the apple orchards.  There is no "u-pick" on the weekdays (you can buy apples in the store though), but my son could not resist picking some off the ground.

On the far end of the property is a petting zoo with chicks and goats and a baby cow, and more.  Inside the petting area is a climbing "tractor" for the kids to play on.  

Next to the zoo is a small playground, as well as a huge slide cut into the side of the hill.  We literally played on this for over an hour.  My friend went down with a cast on her leg - it just looks so fun that you can't resist!

While I think my son would enjoy the  pig races, cow milking and "u-pick" that the weekend offers, I am not sure this mom could handle the huge crowds.  Going on a week-day, with fewer entertainment options, was a great compromise for our family.  He enjoyed it! And Daddy enjoyed the apple pie we brought home!


8660 Blue Ridge Drive
Blue Ridge, Georgia

A favorite of Southern Living, bakery and hard apple cider tasting for the grown ups

reviewed on: June 24 2014

"A New Family Tradition"
Our family spent one beautiful morning in Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains exploring Mercier Orchards. We had breakfast, picked fruit, and shopped for dinner at the store. We’ve been berry picking in the past…we’d heard that Mercier was great…but could it really be *that* much better than the other places? Yes. Yes, it is! It was a whirlwind of adventure, and a new annual event for our family!

Mercier Orchards has been around for over 70 years, and the business is still family-run – growing stronger each year.  There are U-Pick events, a Bakery and Deli, a Restaurant, a Market Store, a Winery, and several events throughout the year, such as U-Fish, bakery and cooking classes, and much more.


My family and I arrived early one morning for breakfast, hearing that the strawberry jam was a special treat.  We were seated right away, in the midst of what seemed to be all locals. (That’s when you know it’s going to be good!)  Hubby and I ordered bacon, eggs, and biscuits, with the strawberry jelly. YUM! The baby had a pancake (but mostly ate my biscuits because…well…the jelly.) Big Guy had a cinnamon roll, which I later learned they sell in the bakery, too.  It was a great way to start the day.

After breakfast, we browsed around the store, checking out the other bakery and deli items, looking at the toy section, and made mental notes of what to purchase after our berry adventure.  The boys noticed a real tractor in the vegetable section, and clamored aboard for a photo.


We were lucky enough to visit on a very special weekend.  For the first time in their history, this weekend offered visitors the opportunity to pick THREE berries.  It was peak cherry season, the strawberries were coming to an end but still available, and the blueberries were getting started.  We were in berry heaven!

To purchase tickets for U-Pick, we left the Market building and walked to the building next door (just follow the regulars!)  At a little after 10am, there was already a line.  We waited about 15 minutes to get our baskets.  I highly recommend coming early to avoid the weekend crowds, but also to better enjoy the picking experience.  You’re in the mountains, but it still gets warm in the full sun, working hard to find the best treats!

Because this was a special event with multiple berries available, the price was a little higher than normal. On a regular U-Pick weekend, you should expect to pay $10 for a half-gallon bucket.  Any people with you OVER two years old, without a basket, will pay $2 for the opportunity to ride out to the field.  There is also a waiver to sign- short, sweet, and easy.

After getting our baskets, we stood in another short line to wait for the tractor.  About every 15 minutes a tractor came by to pick everyone up (or drop everyone off.)  The tractor pulled a wagon with 4 long bench seats and a shade covering.  During the ride, the Mercier escort gave us a brief history of the farm and pointed out the sites such as the original apple cellar, the fishing pond, where to see fours states at one time on the horizon, and the coming apples (which would be ready in fall.)  Finally, he dropped us at the berry-picking location and pointed us toward a Mercier guide.

Our guide told us how to pick cherries (we were in a cherry grove at the time,) where to go for blueberry and strawberry picking (which also had guides,) and … here is the crazy thing… he *encouraged* us to eat eat eat while we picked!! I have never heard that before! Mercier Orchards uses only natural growing practices, so eating right off the plant is safe.  “How are you going to know whether or not you like that particular variety of cherry if you don’t try a few first?”  Brilliant logic!

We filled our 3 of our 4 baskets to the brim with cherries! They were sweet and delicious – unlike any cherry I have ever tasted.  I simply could not get enough.  My boys mouths were stained red from sucking on those sweet morsels, too!  Words cannot describe how good they were!

After picking cherries, then filling our last basket with plump strawberries and sweet, round, succulent blueberries, we decided to call it a day.  We had to wait about five minutes for the next load of passengers to come up the hill via tractor, and unload.  Then we piled on the tractor and headed to the main buildings.

We stored our berries in the van for a while because we wanted to head back inside for a few things, and we had plans to head straight back to our cabin to store them.  If you have to take a long ride back home, or you are planning a hike or such while in the mountains, I recommend bringing a cooler with you to help preserve your tasty treats.  


Since we were visiting for the weekend, the veggies and such looked amazing, and we had a gas grill at our cabin (see my review about the amazing cabin we stayed in!) we decided to do some shopping.  There were a number of meats to select from in the refrigerator section – we picked up a few steak filets for a very reasonable price and from a local farm.

We looked through the incredible selection of vegetables and opted to get a beautiful head of broccoli, a few onions and potatoes, and some green beans.  It went well with the steak!  I was thankful for such rich, healthy, and gorgeous looking veggies.  It was so much nicer than picking up something at the grocery store – fresh and local always taste better to me!


Mercier Orchards is a Georgia Blue Ridge Mountain staple with a rich family history, sustainable farming practices, activities-galore for the family, and delicious berries and market items. All of this is served in an atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and at home. Our family had an exciting time, full of new adventures that we committed to making into a family tradition.  You haven’t been berry picking in Georgia until you visit Mercier Orchards.

Disclosure: Thank you to Mercier Orchards and Fannin County for hosting my family and me.  We genuinely appreciate the complimentary baskets of healthy, tasty yumminess, but the opinions here are all my own.  We’re feeling lucky to have met you!


9131 Highway 52 East
Ellijay, Georgia

PYO, petting zoo, bakery and apple cannons on the weekend

3379 Tailscreek Road
Ellijay, Georgia

PYO, tractor rides, cider and other bakery goods available

5505 Hwy 52 East
Ellijay, Georgia

PYO, wagon rides