Summer Steals and Deals
Exploring Atlanta on a Budget
by Dawn Sloan Downes
You’re getting settled into your new home, school doesn’t startfor a couple of weeks, and the kids are tired of opening boxes. In other words, it’s the perfect time to start exploring Atlanta. You’re probably still having a hard time laying your hands on that box of wedding photos, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the city’s best activities and attractions. And since your wallet is likely feeling the effects of the big move, we’ve concentrated on inexpensive options the whole family can enjoy, broken down by price point to help you stay within your budget as you see the sights.
FUN FOR FREE
Centennial Olympic Park
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 Fountain of Rings. Synchronized water shows featuring a variety of family-friendly tunes are held daily at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The Park at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport
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. The airport also features two restaurants—the Downwind Restaurant and the aviation-themed 57th Fighter Group—with kid-friendly menus.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Enjoy Mother Nature while learning about this battlefield, home to some of the fiercest fighting of the Atlanta Campaign, one of the key battles of the Civil War. 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 the opportunity to learn more about this key physical barrier that stood between the Federal army and its destruction of Atlanta.
$10 AND UNDER
Cochran Mill Nature Center
Fifty heavily wooded acres of adventure await just 20 minutes south of Atlanta. For $3 per adult and $2 for children 3-12, 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. The center is also a rehabilitation facility for wounded wildlife and features a Birds of Prey center where visitors can observe hawks, owls and vultures. The center’s reptile exhibit is one of the largest in Georgia.
Piedmont Park Aquatic Center
Keep cool on the cheap and enjoy a 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. Admission is $4 for adults 17 and up, $2 for children 6 to 16, $1 for children under 6, and $2 for senior citizens 55 and up.
Stone Mountain Park
Bring your kids and their friends for a day of hiking and exploring on wooded trails. Identify local species in the songbird habitat, fish in Stone Mountain Lake, explore the Sky Hike and Geyser Towers adventure courses, bicycle around Robert E. Lee Drive, and end the day by taking in the Lasershow Spectacular. Admission is $10 per vehicle; note that additional attractions and events may cost extra.
$20 AND UNDER
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Let your little ones’ imaginations run wild as they learn how the world around them works, learn where our food comes from, go exploring in the Big Adventure exhibit, dance and play with the Imaginators, and have such a great time they never even realize they’re having an educational experience. Admission is $12.75 per person over 2 years.
Center for Puppetry Arts
Introduce your children to the magical art of puppetry! Enjoy engaging performances that delight both children and adults, and 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 even Jim Henson and the Muppets. A guided tour combo including a performance, create-a-puppet work-shop, museum admission and tour, is $18. 50.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Explore elegant formal gardens, learn about native plant species, discover surprising art installations, frolic in the children’s garden and explore exotic flora from around the world at the Fuqua Orchid Center. Before you leave, take a break for lunch in the Sun in My Belly Cafe. Admission is $18.95 for adults 13 and up, $12.95 for children 3-12, and free to kids 2 and under.