Summer Deals and Steals for Every Budget
by Dawn Sloan Downes
Summer's here, leaving parents frantically trying to fill the days with activities to drown out the plaintive cries of "I'm bored!" If you've recently moved to the area, you may still be having a hard enough time locating the box with your wedding photos, never mind finding ways to entertain your family in a new city. Even if you are fortunate enough to belong to one of Atlanta's countless swim clubs, there are only so many days you--or your kids--can spend poolside.
To save you and your family from that fate worse than almost anything, i.e., boredom, we have compiled a list of some of Atlanta's best summer activities for families. Any of them would be a great way to explore a little of the town you now call home. We've even separated them by price point to help you budget for those big days out.
Centennial Olympic Park—Marietta Street—Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta's tourist district, this historic spot is a great place to meet friends, people watch, picnic, and let the kids splash in the Olympic Rings fountains. Synchronized water shows are held daily at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. to a variety of family friendly music including Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke, Twist and Shout by the Beatles, and Circle of Life from The Lion King soundtrack.
The Park at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport—Clairmont Road—This hidden gem of a park combines two of childhood's passions: watching planes take off and land while happily running about a playground that features swings, a climbing tower and slide, monkey bars, and cute airplane bouncers. A covered picnic pavilion provides a shady spot for lunch and a viewing stand provides kids and parents a great view of the runway.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park—Marietta—Enjoy Mother Nature while learning about this battlefield where the Atlanta Campaign, one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War, began. You can take a self-guided cell phone tour of the battlefield and see cannon emplacements and other relics of the battle that raged from June 19 to July 2, 1864. The park also offers hiking on 18 miles of trails as well as ample opportunities for bird and wildlife watching and photography. A museum also houses relics of the war and offers an opportunity to learn more about this key physical barrier that stood between the Federal army and its destruction of Atlanta.
$10 and under per person
Cochran Mill Nature Center—Palmetto—Fifty heavily-wooded private acres of adventure await you and your family just 20 minutes south of Atlanta. For just $3 per adult and $2 per child over 2 years of age, families can hike and explore along forest trails, catching glimpses of birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat. A trip around the pond or into the bog garden will offer fish, turtle, and frog sightings as well as a chance to see carnivorous plants up close in the bog garden. The center is also a rehabilitation facility for wounded wildlife and features a Birds of Prey center where you can see hawks, owls, and vultures. The center's reptile exhibit is one of the largest in Georgia.
Piedmont Park Aquatic Center—Piedmont Road—Keep cool on the cheap and enjoy a splish-splashing day of fun and giggles. The newly renovated swimming pool and aquatic center at Piedmont Park features a beach entry pool with a current channel for floating, spray fountains, lap lanes for serious swimmers, plus a concession stand. $1 for children under 6; $2 for children 6 to 16; $4 for adults 17 and up; $2 for senior citizens over 55.
Stone Mountain Park—Stone Mountain—Bring your kids and their friends to Stone Mountain for a day of hiking and exploring on wooded trails, identifying local species in the songbird habitat, bicycling around Robert E. Lee Drive, wading in cool, clear creeks, fishing in Stone Mountain Lake, and bouts of laughter and exhausting fun on the fenced in playground and giant sandbox. $10 per vehicle; note that additional attractions and events may cost extra.
$20 and under
Imagine It! Children's Museum—Centennial Olympic Park Drive—Let your little one's imagination run wild as he learns how the world around him works, learns where our food comes from, finds out what distinguishes our culture from other world cultures, and has such a great time he never even realizes he's having an educational experience. $12.50 per person over 2 years.
Center for Puppetry Arts—1404 Spring Street—Introduce your children to the magical art of puppetry! Enjoy engaging performances that delight both children and adults. Then visit the Center's puppetry museum to view its permanent collection, which holds more than 1,000 puppets as well as special exhibits celebrating a variety of puppetry styles, puppets from other cultures, and more. $16 per person.
Atlanta Botanical Garden—1345 Piedmont Avenue—Explore elegant formal gardens, learn about native plant species, discover surprising art installations, and frolic in the children's garden after a trip through the Fuqua Orchid Center to see exotic flora from around the world. Before you leave, take a break for lunch in the Sun in My Belly Garden Cafe. Free for 2 and under; ages 3 to 12, $12.95; 12 and up, $18.95.
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Centennial Olympic Park
Center for Puppetry Arts
Cochran Mill Nature Center
Imagine It! Children's Museum
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Piedmont Park Aquatic Center
Stone Mountain Park