Our family recently had the privilege to attend the 5th Ranger Battalion Open House at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, GA. The Ranger open house is a community outreach event open to the public where the soldiers of Camp Merrill expertly demonstrate the skills and capabilities required to accomplish their mission.
There’s a lot to see and do at this free event. They really did a great job keeping kiddos in mind, and so much of it is geared toward the little people. Adults will be equally entertained.
Here are 5 tips you can use to maximize the fun at this event.
Plan for a Full Day
There is so much to do at this event! There are numerous, live demonstrations at scheduled times, as well as a multiple learning stations to interact with Rangers, and view and use equipment. You’ll also want to stay for the live music, which will take past 6PM. And if your kids are like ours, they’re going to want to do it all.
Plan accordingly! Backpacks are allowed. Stock it with extra water, sunscreen, phone chargers and external batteries, and of course your camera because there’s photo opportunities just about everywhere you look.
This is a really popular event – and apparently increasing in popularity every year. So much so that the organizers were a bit unprepared to deal with the volume. When we attended, the main event was set to kick off at 11AM, which is also when we arrived. We, along with a few hundred others, were diverted to a secondary parking area about two miles from the camp, and it took a couple of hours to bus us to the event itself.
This was entirely a parking issue – once at the open house there was more than ample room to move around and view everything, and the crowd wasn’t overwhelming in the least. But the parking was a bit of a snafu – they were caught off guard and this is completely understandable. Don’t let this deter you though! The organizers assure us that they’ll be additional planning and extra buses next year to handle this. Even so, it won’t hurt to try to arrive well before the scheduled start time.
This year there was a small amount of parking within the camp itself – if you get there early enough you won’t need to take the bus at all. The county is asking that attendees not park on the street, which is illegal and contributed to the delays.
Create a Schedule
Did we mention that there’s a ton to see and do at the Ranger Open House? We recommend that you organize your day around the live demonstrations, some of which are repeated once or twice throughout the day. We really enjoyed the venomous snake and hand to hand combat demonstrations. You’ll have a couple of opportunities to attend these.
But the really big hit was the when the Blackhawk helicopter entered the scene. We got to see the Blackhawk in action in three separate combat scenarios, including air assault (rappelling) and a casualty extraction. The kids also enjoyed the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening ) demonstration. Here we witnessed right up close as five Ranger “skydivers” dropped in from out of nowhere and landed in a field right in front of us.
In between live demo’s go check out some of the many learning stations on site. When we attended, these were all located down a road to the right but set back a bit from the main event. Be sure to explore the area because we almost missed them.
Our boys got to pick up (or attempt to pick up) a 110 pound ruck sack, try on a ghillie suite while looking down the barrel of a sniper rifle, and zip line among other things. They’ll never look at Fortnite the same way!
The open house is a free event, but concessions are available so bring extra cash. They also opened up the Post Exchange to visitors where you can buy extra snacks and drinks, as well as Ranger memorabilia like shirts and hats. The PX is located on the main road right next to the guard station.
Stay the Weekend
Those in the Atlanta metro and beyond should consider making this a weekend event. We did just that and stayed at the Forrest Hills Mountain Resort & Conference Center Friday and Saturday.
We hear that the Ranger Open House always corresponds with the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, another big spring event that takes place in downtown Dahlonega. Here we enjoyed a number of local musicians and artists, and sampled some great local food.
Speaking of local food – your next stop in Dahlonega will not be complete without a visit to our new favorite restaurant. Bratzeit is an unassuming German/Swiss restaurant a couple of blocks from the square that will completely blow you away. Don’t pass this one up!
Disclosure: Thank you to Dahlonega for hosting us for the weekend in order to cover the Open House. Opinions here are all our own, as always!
Leaving the corporate world behind (a bizarre domain where a 25 year resident can still feel like a foreigner) Daniel set his sites on full-time travel writing and digital marketing. His plans include building an amazing business or three, maximizing time with his partner for life Lesli and four spectacular kiddos, and writing and delivering dad jokes.