BY ANGELA GARY

A cookie-decorating class led by the winner of a Food Network cooking show and a spin around the track where the biggest names in Nascar compete are just a few of the activities awaiting visitors to Henry County.

It was an easy two-hour drive from my home to Henry County when I went for a recent long weekend. The cookie-decorating and race track were two of the highlights of the trip for our group. A stop at a farm where we picked strawberries and enjoyed some strawberry shortcake and antique shopping were other highlights of the trip. We also ate some amazing food at the many restaurants located in the area.

At Crumbles by Nicole in Locust Grove, you can shop for fresh-baked creative desserts by Chef Nicole on Thursdays through Sundays. If you’re in town on Sunday, be sure to try one of Chef Nicole’s Monster Shakes. You can also schedule a cookie-decorating class. We had a great time decorating cookies with a “Georgia” theme. We also had a great time eating the tasty cookies.

Crumbles is located at 3988 Highway 42, Locust Grove.

At the Atlanta Motor Speedway, you can attend one of the many events offered throughout the year or, for those who love speed, sign up for the racing school. We headed to the racing school on a Friday afternoon where two ladies in our group signed up for a fast ride around the track.

The racing experience starts when you are fitted into a driver’s firesuit and helmet before climbing through the window into the passenger seat of an actual Nascar race car for three fast laps around the track. Before leaving, you can get a snapshot at the speedway’s Victory Lane.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is located at 1500 Tara Place, Hampton.

At Southern Belle Farm in McDonough, the fifth generation of the Carter family strives to let people, including the many children who come to the farm on field trips, know where food comes from.

The 330-acre farm has strawberries, peaches and a large variety of other fruits and vegetables offered. Visitors can pick their own strawberries and visit the on-site bakery for delicious strawberry shortcake and other treats.

At Southern Belle, you can also go on a hayride, play games and shop for fresh produce, jellies and jams and other items in the store. For those who like a slower pace, you can also sit on the porch in one of the rocking chairs and enjoy homemade ice cream. I can vouch for the strawberry ice cream, which was a delightful treat.

During our visit, family matriarch, Mimi, was present and she visited with guests in the store. She makes her homemade pound cake and shortcake for the bakery. She shares that, “Farming is the heart of our family.”

Southern Belle Farm is located at 1658 Turner Church Road, McDonough.

WHERE TO EAT

•Southern Fusion, is located at 656 Peeksville Road in Stockbridge in a shopping center and looks like a typical diner from the outside. Well, it’s not typical in any way. We tried several dishes and everything was wonderful. We started with some peach biscuits, which are similar to beignets. I could have made a meal of the peach biscuits. My entrée was eggs benedict fusion and pepper jack grits. Specials are offered daily with red velvet waffles on the menu during our visit. A special treat is one of the colossal peach cinnamon rolls. And, yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.

•The French Market, located at 3840 Highway 43 in Locust Grove, offers a New Orleans-inspired menu with a Southern flair, as well as a gift shop with unique items offered. We started our lunch off with some wonderful fried green tomatoes and Cajun fried green beans as our appetizers.

•At The Farmer & The Chef, located at 100 Crystal Lake Boulevard, Hampton, you will find a farm to table experience in a golf course. The restaurant is owned and operated by local farmer Wayne Swanson, who supplies the beef, pork and lamb from his farm while sourcing the produce from local farms.

•At Bridgeview Country Cooking, located at 4727 North Henry Boulevard, Stockbridge, you can start the day with a Southern breakfast or order a “meat and three” at lunch. Breakfast is offered all day. The restaurant has been open since the 1960s. Specialities are the fried chicken, catfish, banana pudding and pineapple pudding.

•Chef Marian Minugh at Olive in a Bottle, located at 3836 Highway 42, Locust Grove, prepared a meal for us one night. After trying some of the olive oil, we gathered in the back of the shop for the delicious meal, which included salad with strawberry vinaigrette dressing, chipotle pineapple beef, green beans, roasted potatoes and chocolate peach shortcake with coconut whipped cream. Cooking classes are offered at Olive in a Bottle with the chef using locally sourced products.

Other stops from our trip that I would highly recommend include:

•a stop for coffee at Drip Thru Coffee, located at 50 Hwy. 138 West, Stockbridge. It’s only 135 square feet and owner Christy offers fresh coffee from Americus.

•shopping at the Speakeasy Bookstore, located at 26 East Main Street in Hampton, which offers a large selection of books as well as locally roasted espressos, lattes and coffee.

•listening to live music in an outdoor setting at the Jailhouse Brewing Company, located at 8 Cherry Street in Hampton. Since it’s located in the former city jail, you can also get a mugshot behind the bars.

•checking out “The Walking Dead” selfie spot in Hampton where you can take a photo at the site of the dumpster scene from season six.

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, located at 115 Mill Road in McDonough, where our group met at the fire pit in the courtyard each night. It was a great place to unwind after a day of exploring.

The lobby area is also very large with comfy sofas and chairs for those who would rather be inside.

Behind the hotel is a large flea market that is fun to explore.

To start planning your visit, check out the website at www.visithenrycountygeorgia.com.

Angela Gary is an editor with MainStreet Newspapers Inc. She can be reached at Angieeditor@aol.com.

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