Atlanta's Top 10 Family Attractions
10 Great Places to Visit With Your Kids
by Rachael Mason
Moving to a new city has its challenges for adults, but it can be especially hard on children. Luckily, Atlanta boasts a wealth of attractions that present fun distractions for kids who miss their favorite friends and hangouts. We’ve selected 10 of the city’s best, with enough entertaining options for youngsters of any age. And from the history of the Olympic Games to wildlife and even puppetry,these places pack plenty of educational value as well.
Centennial Olympic Park
Perhaps this park’s biggest draw is the Fountain of Rings, which kids play in whenever it’s warm enough. But this 21-acre green space in the middle of downtown Atlanta also hosts lots of events, including frequent concerts, Fourth Saturday Family Fun Days, fireworks on the Fourth of July and an ice-skating rink during the holidays. While you’re here, be sure to try a burger and shake from Googie Burger, a to-go restaurant designed to evoke the feel of a 1950s roadside attraction.
Center for Puppetry Arts
Newcomers to Atlanta (and even longtime residents) may not realize that the city is home to one of the world’s most vibrant puppetry centers. The Center for Puppetry Arts houses puppet theaters, classrooms and even a puppet museum. Kid-friendly shows make up the bulk of the center’s schedule, but you should be aware that some experimental and adults-only productions are also staged. Still, this is a great place for kids—and their parents—to learn about the wide world of puppetry. Upcoming shows include Adventures of Little Noodle (March 8-April 1) and Peter Pan (April 5-May 27).
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Without a doubt, this museum is the best place in the city to see dinosaurs. However, the fun doesn’t stop at the giant prehistoric skeletons on display in the atrium. Permanent exhibits include A Walk Through Time in Georgia, which depicts the state’s natural history, and Sensing Nature, where interactive stations highlight human perception. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits, including Wildlife Rescue (Feb. 4 - May 6) and The Scoop on Poop, which is set for summer 2012. Movies highlighting the natural world are shown in the museum’s IMAX theaters, while special events like storytelling and festivals entertain guests young and old.
The Fabulous Fox Theatre
In addition to many concerts and touring Broadway musicals, the Fox hosts a variety of performances suitable for kids. Each summer, classic films and some of the year’s most popular movies are screened during the Coca-Cola Film Festival. Kids will also love the historic building itself, including the auditorium’s star-filled ceiling and the Mighty Mo organ, which rises out of the floor for pre-show singalongs. Plus, you can buy snacks like popcorn and candy at the concession stand. The Fox also offers theater classes and workshops for budding performers.
You’ll find a variety of marine life swimming in more than 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water at this downtown attraction. Visitors of all ages come to see everything from whale sharks and beluga whales to penguins and dolphins. Sign up for a sleepover or behind-the-scenes tour. During spring, summer and holiday breaks, kids can take part in Camp H20 and learn more about their favorite sea creatures.
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Designed with younger kids in mind, Imagine It! is a place for children ages 8 and under to learn and explore. Toddlers (age 2 and under) can play in the Crawl Space, while older kids can dress up, paint on the walls, splash around a waterfall and learn about food. Upcoming special exhibits include Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog (Feb. 4-May 6) and The Big Adventure (May 26-Sept. 9).
Six Flags Over Georgia
Though it’s been open since 1967, there’s always something new to discover at this amusement park, which is home to more than 30 rides—including 11 roller coasters. Family favorites include the Monster Mansion, the sky buckets, the old-fashioned cars, the railroad and the carousel. Live entertainment and games can be found throughout the park, which also hosts concerts throughout the season.
Stone Mountain Park
There’s always plenty to do at this park, formed around one of Atlanta’s most prominent landmarks. Hiking up the mountain or along the nature trails is always popular, as are such year-round activities as a skyride, a scenic railroad, and the Great Barn, an interactive play space with games and experiences designed for ages 5 to 12. In summer and early fall, be sure to stick around after dark for the laser show, projected onto the side of the mountain. Upcoming special events include Snow Mountain, Atlanta’s only snow-filled attraction, with a hill for tubing, a snowball shooting gallery and much more (through Feb. 20), a Spring FUN Break (March 31-April 7) and an Easter sunrise service on April 8.
The World of Coca-Cola
This museum brings the history of the world’s most recognized soft drink to life in a way that’s entertaining and engaging. As visitors make their way through the museum, they can see classic 8-ounce glass bottles of Coke being filled with soda—and even get a bottle to take home. The latest addition to the museum is a vault where the secret formula for making Coca-Cola is now stored. While the displays of memorabilia are entertaining, kids usually love the last part of the museum best—the room where they can taste Coca-Cola flavors from around the world.
Yes, you can watch some of the zoo’s most well-known residents online on the Panda Cam, but seeing them in person is way more fun. Of course, giant pandas Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Xi Lan and Po are only a few of the animals that call Zoo Atlanta home. Be sure to check out the gorilla habitat, the Komodo dragon and the African elephants, as well as the petting zoo, the reptile exhibit and the parakeet adventure, featuring hundreds of birds. Keep in mind that the zoo is almost always open, closed only on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (and occasionally during bad weather).