Family Fun in Atlanta!
15 Exciting Attractions Everyone Can Enjoy
By Kevin Forest Moreau
By now, you might already know that metro Atlanta is filled withgreat neighborhoods, restaurants, entertainment venues and other draws for adults. But it also has plenty to offer for families with children, including attractions filled with history, fascinating wildlife and exhilarating activities. Now that the warmer weather’s here, it’s the perfect time to pack everyone into the car and explore your new city’s family-friendly destinations. Here are 15 that everyone can enjoy.
1. THE ATLANTA BRAVES
Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Braves, its own Major League Baseball team, and SunTrust Park— located just northwest of Atlanta—is the current home of the Braves. Travel to the recently built ballpark to cheer on the team. Come early to watch batting practice, stay after the game on Fridays for the free Friday Night Fireworks show and check the team’s website for special themed days, giveaways, postgame concerts and more. 404-577-9100, braves.com.
2. ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
Dedicated to highlighting and celebrating Atlanta’s rich past, this 33-acre complex in the Buckhead neighborhood allows kids and adults alike to step back in time and tour the Swan House, an elegant 1928 mansion. Visitors can also experience a glimpse of life during the Civil War at the Smith Family Farm, where they can interact with characters from the period and participate in daily chores. The permanent exhibit Turning Point: The American Civil War features more than 1,500 artifacts, including cannons, flags and other items guaranteed to capture your child’s imagination. 404-814-4000, atlantahistorycenter.com.
3. BODIES THE EXHIBITION
Children can learn about the human anatomy in a fun and fascinating way! With over 200 actual preserved human bodies and specimens, this is an opportunity and a unique experience to learn about what makes us —on the outside and the inside! Each bodily system is included: from the nervous system to skeletal to circulatory. Health issues are also displayed, including the consequences of smoking, obesity, and different forms of cancer. Learn about the body and appreciate the human machine with the assistance of docents and comprehensive guides. 404-496-4274, bodiesatlanta.com.
4. CENTER FOR PUPPETRY ARTS
Learn about puppets from all over the world and create your own puppet at this entertaining and educational attraction in Midtown Atlanta. The Center also hosts special exhibits as well as performances and film screenings for families, teens and adults (current shows include Paul Bunyan and the Tall Tale Medicine Show, January 22 to March 10). The Center features the Jim Henson exhibit, an interactive exhibition following his life as a puppeteer. Visitors can view icons like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, and there will be even more fun coming this May and November. 404- 873-3391, puppet.org.
5. CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA
Located in downtown Atlanta, the nonprofit Children’s Museum of Atlanta encourages creative, imaginative play with interactive exhibits. Watch your children climb through the layers of the earth, catch colorful fish, create art on a giant paint wall, climb on a John Deere tractor and more. The museum’s current special exhibit, Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action!™ (running through May 27), lets children become action stars for the day and practice activities like kung fu, surfing, snowboarding, yoga and horizontal climbing. 404-659-5437, childrensmuseumatlanta.org.
6. FERNBANK MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
From the bronze dinosaurs that greet you on your way inside to eye-popping documentaries screened in its IMAX theater, the Fernbank Museum is a fun mix of education and entertainment. Walk beneath skeletons of two of the world’s largest dinosaurs in the Great Hall’s Giants of the Mesozoic exhibit, and explore the history of the planet and the state via A Walk Through Time in Georgia. At the “Nature Gallery,” special nature-themed exhibits rotate year-round in a unique outdoor space. Or watch the film Flying Monsters 3D, which takes you back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, focusing on the flying pterosaurs, screening through June 1. 404-929-6300, fernbankmuseum.org.
7. GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Home to more than several hundred species from around the world, this downtown Atlanta landmark offers a truly immersive experience. You don’t have to be a budding marine biologist to be amazed by the Georgia Aquarium’s impressive collection of whale sharks, beluga whales, manta rays, penguins and many more aquatic creatures—more than 10,000 in all, inhabiting more than 10 million gallons of fresh and marine water. Its newest exhibit, SunTrust Pier 225, features California sea lions in an intimate setting, allowing visitors to watch their behavior and learn more about them in their natural habitat. 404-581-4000, georgiaaquarium.org.
8. LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
Located on the top floor of Phipps Plaza in the Buckhead neighborhood, LEGOLAND Discovery Center features fifteen different attractions for children ages 3-10. Kids can learn how LEGO bricks are made on the Factory Tour, destroy ogres in the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride, create their own race cars and learn advanced building tips and tricks at the Master Building Academy. A more recent addition to the destination is Pirate Adventure Island, where children can create their own LEGO pirate ship, set off air cannons and discover hidden sea creatures. 404-848-9252, legolanddiscoverycenter.com.
9. PONCE CITY MARKET
Located in the heart of Atlanta, Ponce City Market is the perfect place to spend a day. The building is an exciting urban mix containing flats, offices, restaurants and stores, so people of all types can enjoy it. With tons of restaurants and food counters to choose from, Ponce City Market is a great place to explore the wide variety of food Atlanta has to offer. From classic American dining and Indian street food to an Italian market and Latin-inspired fare, you can find something for everyone. After fueling up (and maybe a stop by the edible cookie dough counter for dessert), you can explore the various shops located in the building and shop ‘til you drop. 404-900-7900, poncecitymarket.com.
10. SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA
Featuring everything from pulse-pounding thrill rides to kid-friendly entertainers, this amusement park is on every Atlanta kid’s summertime to-do list. Your little ones can take a tour of the park on a steam-engine locomotive, indulge in good-natured fun in the bumper cars or take a ride in a log down a mountain river. Don’t forget the Dare Devil Dive and exciting roller coasters including Goliath, Georgia Scorcher, Great American Scream Machine and Superman: Ultimate Flight. There’s also a water park: Hurricane Harbor offers a zero-gravity wave slide along with a giant, interactive children’s area. 770-739-3400, sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
11. SKYLINE PARK
After some fun at Ponce City Market, hit the skies at Skyline Park, located right on top of the building. Enjoy fun carnival games, the Skyline slide, mini-golf and more as you look out at the amazing view of the city. Skyline Park has fun events throughout the year, such as rooftop igloos to dine in during the winter, so keep an eye on their calendar to plan your visit around the perfect event for you! 770-999- 1530, skylineparkatlanta.com.
12. SOUTHEASTERN RAILWAY MUSEUM
Located northeast of Atlanta in Duluth, the Southeastern Railway Museum is a great stop for families who are visiting or even locals looking for a fun outing. Learn about the rich history of train travel and see relics of design throughout the years. Check out tools used to build train parts, take a look at train cars and cabooses and even go inside some of the passenger cars and get the full experience of old trains. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop on your way out for a fun trinket to commemorate the experience. 770-476- 2013, train-museum.org.
13. STONE MOUNTAIN PARK
One of Georgia’s most popular attractions, this beautiful 3,200-acre park offers a nonstop array of events and activities. Climb (or take a cable car) to the top of the mountain, brave the Sky- Hike adventure course or cool off while navigating the rope bridges and tunnels of the Geyser Towers. Go camping, fishing or hiking on the property, enjoy a train ride around the park, or play a little golf while the kids enjoy some live entertainment. Then cap it all off with the famous Lasershow Spectacular. 800-401-2407, stonemountainpark.com.
14. WORLD OF COCA-COLA
Atlanta, as you may know, is the home of Coca-Cola, and this nearly 100,000-square foot museum and shrine, located downtown near the Georgia Aquarium, pays tribute to the world-famous soft drink with interactive exhibits, more than 1,200 pieces of Coke memorabilia, a 4-D theater, and a vault said to contain the drink’s secret formula. There’s also a bottling line, an exhibit of Coke artwork, and Coca- Cola Freestyle, which offers more than 100 Coke flavors from around the world. 404-676-5151, worldofcoca-cola.com.
15. ZOO ATLANTA
Sprawling over nearly 40 acres in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species. The zoo boasts one of the largest populations of gorillas in North America, and is one of only four in the country to house giant pandas (there are currently seven living at the zoo, including a pair of twins born in July 2013). Other famous residents include giraffes, lions, meerkats, black rhinos, parakeets and a Komodo dragon. The zoo also features rides, an indoor play area and educational sleepovers, among other programs. 404-624-5600, zooatlanta.org.
Family Fun Destinations: A Short Drive from Atlanta
Lookout Mountain (Chattanooga, TN): Featuring three top-rated, world-famous natural attractions—including America’s deepest cave and largest underground waterfall accessible to the public—Lookout Mountain is the perfect getaway for extraordinary experiences and breathtaking beauty. 800-825- 8366, lookoutmountain.com.
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC): The largest private home in the country, this 8,000-acre property sits in the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers visitors tours of the historic locale built by George Vanderbilt along with sweeping vistas from its spacious gardens. 800-411- 3812, biltmore.com.
Amelia Island (Amelia Island, FL): Enjoy one of the Sunshine State’s best-kept secrets with this beach town nuzzled up to the Georgia border at the Atlantic coast that boasts an array of lovingly preserved Southern Victorian homes. 904-277-0717, ameliaisland.com.