Atlanta’s Top Family-Friendly Attractions
12 Places the Entire Family Can Enjoy
By Kevin Forest Moreau
See more than 500 species of aquatic wildlife at the Georgia Aquarium.
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 summer’s here, it’s the perfect time to pack everyone into the car and explore your new city’s family-friendly destinations. Here are a dozen that everyone can enjoy.
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 get 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. 404-814-1400, www.atlantahistorycenter.com.
Booth Western Art Museum
What little boy doesn’t love cowboys? This Cartersville attraction, less than an hour north of Atlanta, shines a spotlight on artwork and artifacts that explore life in the American West. Browse paintings, sculptures, Western movie posters and other works of art exploring this pivotal period in American history. Kids can get a close look at Native American objects, walk among stagecoaches and covered wagons, and even dress up as a cowboy or cowgirl in the interactive Sagebrush Ranch gallery. 770-387-1300, www.boothmuseum.org.
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 (upcoming shows include Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, June 12-July 20). The space is currently undergoing an expansion that will double its size; when it’s finished, the Center will feature a new museum housing the world’s largest collection of Jim Henson memorabilia. The addition is set to open in 2015. 404-873-3391, www.puppet.org.
Home to more than 500 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 100,000 in all, inhabiting more than 10 million gallons of fresh and marine water. Its newest exhibit, Sea Monsters Revealed: Aquatic Bodies, provides a one-of-a-kind look at both the outside and insides of some of the sea’s most extraordinary residents. Visitors can also take a behind-the-scenes tour, enjoy the AT&T Dolphin Tales show, swim with the aquarium’s whale sharks, get up-close and personal with the beluga whales, and even arrange a group sleepover. 404-581-4000, www.georgiaaquarium.org.
Childrens Museum of Atlanta
Located in downtown Atlanta, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta encourages creative, imaginative play with interactive exhibits. Watch your children experience life on a farm, explore a forest environment, create works of art and more. The Imaginators, a group of professional actors and educators, perform entertaining programs that make education fun. 404-659-5437, www.childrensmuseumatlanta.org.
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 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. Catch the exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep through Aug. 24, or the film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, narrated by Morgan Freeman, through Aug. 14. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.
Interactive Neighborhood for Kids
This attraction in Gainesville, Ga., about an hour north of Atlanta, is perfect for children ages 2-10. Kids can explore part of an actual airplane, learn about money and banking, clamber through a family playhouse, shop in a grocery store and pretend to be a doctor, dentist, policeman or hair stylist. Visitors can also create their own pottery, climb aboard a real 1927 fire truck, romp around in an indoor park and participate in many other fun, interactive activities. 770-536-1900, www.inkfun.org.
Outside the Box
Thinking outside the box has never been so much fun! Outside the Box, a new feature exhibit at The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, taps into the imaginative minds of children to encourage “outside-the-box” thought, innovation and exploration. Through highly engaging props, activities and lots of interactive fun, children will discover the building blocks of math, engineering and technology.
In the exhibit, visitors can use giant and small cardboard boxes, tubes and cylinders to explore creative play and building, using their imaginations to create castles, bridges, small towns, huge cities and more. Children can also experiment in the rotating “Maker’s Space” and turn their dream inventions into realities. Watch as your little creative geniuses design a super-powered paper airplane or even make a robot that walks—the sky’s the limit!
Outside the Box runs at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta June 14 through Dec. 31. For more information, call 404-659-5437 or visit www.childrensmuseumatlanta.org.
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 enjoy live-action shows starring their favorite “Looney Tunes” characters. Don’t forget the Dare Devil Dive and exciting roller coasters including Goliath, Ninja, Great American Scream Machine and Superman: Ultimate Flight. A brand-new water park, Hurricane Harbor, is scheduled to open in time for summer 2014. 770-739-3400, www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
Stone Mountain Park
One of Georgia’s most popular attractions, this beautiful 3,200-acre park offers a non-stop array of events and activities. Climb (or take a cable car) to the top of the mountain, brave the SkyHike 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. 770-498-5690, www.stonemountainpark.com.
There are few better places to enjoy our national pastime than this vibrant ballpark, which offers plenty to see and do in addition to the game itself, including special concerts and promotional events. The Braves Museum and Hall of Fame provides an educational look at the Atlanta Braves’ history, and tours of Turner Field give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at life in a major league park. Kids will enjoy playing in the Taco Mac Family Zone, testing their pitching and hitting prowess in Scouts Alley, or running the bases after most Sunday home games (limited to children ages 4-14). 404-522-7630, www.atlantabraves.com.
World of Coca-Cola
Atlanta, as you may know, is the home of Coca-Cola, and this 60,000 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 by Norman Rockwell, and Coca-Cola Freestyle, which offers more than 100 Coke flavors from around the world. 404-676-5151, www.worldofcoca-cola.com.
Sprawling over nearly 40 acres in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta is home to more than 1,500 animals representing more than 200 species. The Zoo boasts the nation’s largest population of gorillas, and is one of only four in the country to house giant pandas (there are currently four 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, www.zooatlanta.org.
5 Fun Family Events
Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival: Catch classic films and recent hit movies in style at the gorgeous Fox Theatre. Enjoy a cartoon short and a singalong with the Fox’s massive “Mighty Mo” organ before the show. The festival runs on select dates June through August. www.foxtheatre.org.
Flying Colors Butterfly Festival: Watch as hundreds of butterflies are released into the air at this 15th annual family-friendly event. Hand-feed more than 250 butterflies and enjoy live music, arts and crafts and much more. June 7-8 at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. www.chattnaturecenter.org.
Virginia-Highland Summerfest: Celebrate the start of summer with this two-day outdoor festival featuring live music, a 5K race, children’s activities and more. June 7-8 in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood in Midtown Atlanta. www.vahi.org/summerfest.
Fantastic Fourth Celebration: Stone Mountain Park hosts three days of patriotic festivities. Spend the day enjoying the park’s many attractions, followed by the Lasershow Spectacular and a patriotic fireworks display each evening. July 3-5.
July 4th Weekend Star Spangled Beach Party: Callaway Gardens hosts a weekend of fireworks, fun beach activities, live music and performances by the FSU Flying High Circus. July 4-6 at Robin Lake Beach. www.callawaygardens.com.