Family Fun in Atlanta
15 Fantastic Attractions for All Ages
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 spring’s here, it’s the perfect time to pack everyone into the car and explore your new city’s family-friendly destinations. Here are fifteen 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 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
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 Beauty and the Beast, April 7 to May 22). After undergoing an expansion that doubled its size, the Center now features a new museum housing the world’s largest collection of Jim Henson memorabilia, including puppets of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
404-873-3391 • puppet.org
Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Located in downtown Atlanta, the recently renovated 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, Mystery of the Mayan Medallion (running through May 31), lets children become archeologists for the day and find a priceless jade relic buried in a temple.
404-659-5437 • childrensmuseumatlanta.org
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, 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
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. Catch the special exhibit Wild Music, featuring the sounds of whales, bullfrogs and songbirds, through July 31. Or watch the film National Parks Adventure, which explores Yellowstone, the Everglades and the Redwoods, screening through June 16.
404-929-6300 • fernbankmuseum.org
Hit the Beach
Atlanta might be a five-hour drive to the beaches of South Carolina, Florida or coastal Georgia, but there’s a much closer option: the shores of area lakes, including Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona. Both options feature all the perks of the beach—swimming, sunbathing and sandy sports—without all the tedious hours on the road. And others, like Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens and Lake Lanier Islands at Lake Lanier, offer additional amenities and resort-style lodging. There’s certainly a nearby option no matter what side of the city you live in; visit allatoonalake.org and discoverlakelanier.com for options north of Atlanta and callawaygardens.com if you’re south of the city.
Interactive Neighborhood for Kids
This attraction in Gainesville, Ga., about an hour north of Atlanta, is perfect for children ages 2-12. 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 play with parts from an actual train, climb aboard a real 1927 fire truck, romp around in an indoor park and participate in many other fun, interactive activities.
770-536-1900 • inkfun.org
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 at 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. Recently renovated, the newest 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
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 Coaster and exciting roller coasters including Goliath, Georgia Cyclone, Great American Scream Machine and Superman: Ultimate Flight. A brand-new water park, Hurricane Harbor offers a zero-gravity wave slide along with a giant, interactive children’s area.
770-739-3400 • 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 • stonemountainpark.com
The Atlanta Braves
Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Braves, its own Major League Baseball team, and Turner Field, located in the heart of Atlanta, is the current home of the Braves. Travel to the Ted, as Turner Field is affectionately called, 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, post-game concerts and more.
404-522-7630 • braves.com
Ice-skating is a great way to have fun (and get a little exercise) while keeping cool. And there’s no better place to lace up and hit the ice than the Cooler, also known as the Alpharetta Family Skate Center. One of the state’s foremost skating and family recreation facilities, the Cooler features two ice arenas and a large roller-skating rink, and it offers classes in figure-skating, ice-skating and ice hockey—as well as other options. In addition, it’s open all year long!
770-649-6600 • coolerathletics.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 offered throughout the year. 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. Children will enjoy testing their pitching and hitting prowess in Scouts Alley.
404-522-7630 • braves.com
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 which you can sample–or mix together and create your own flavors.
404-676-5151 • worldofcoca-cola.com
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 the nation’s largest population of great apes, and it 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 several other programs.
404-624-5600 • zooatlanta.org
Family Fun Destinations
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.
800-825-8366 • lookoutmountain.com
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)
As 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