Kid-friendly attractions in Atlanta
By Lori McMillen Brown
Fountains at the Centennial Park (Flickr: Manish Vohra)
Say the word âAtlantaâ and a multitude of old and new stereotypes may come to mind for those who have not been properly introduced and experienced all that this âgate city of the southâ has to offer. Yes, Atlanta loves its sweet tea. Yes, Sherman burned it in the 1860s. Yes, many famous people have called Atlanta their home at one time or another â Ryan Seacrest, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Jeff Foxworthy, Usher, Sean âP. Diddyâ Combs, and even Tyler Perry. Here are some of the most fun activities in Atlanta to enjoy on a family vacation:
1. Have you ever heard of the Georgia Bubbleman? Chances are, if you havenât spent much time in Atlanta, the answer is âno.â Imagine a floating, constantly changing, iridescent dream that can be as large as an adult and reach heights well above the canopy of the trees. One of Atlantaâs local celebrities, the Georgia Bubbleman mixes the floating giants with a mass production of reachable bubbles that kids are encouraged to pop. The attraction can regularly be found in the Crossroads section of Stone Mountain Park.
Whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium (Unsplash: Matt Helbig)
2. Atlanta loves to do things BIG. Some of the most family-friendly destinations in Atlanta have earned a moniker that begins with âThe worldâs largestâ¦â The largest aquarium in the world, the Georgia Aquarium, houses the worldâs largest fish, the whale shark. Located adjacent to the aquarium, Centennial Park has the worldâs largest interactive fountains featuring the Olympic Ring symbol, offering a great way to cool off on a warm-day visit. Other notable record-holding attractions and places of interest include:
- Swaminarayan Hindu Temple, worldâs largest Hindu temple outside of India
- The Varsity, the worldâs largest drive-in restaurant
- The Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, the worldâs largest oil painting
- Stone Mountain, the worldâs largest freestanding piece of exposed granite
- Zoo Atlanta, the nationâs largest collection of gorillas
- Michael C. Carlos Museum, the largest collection ancient art in the southeast
- Center for Puppetry Arts, which will house the worldâs largest collection of puppets by Jim Henson
3. What do you get when you combine a southern town with the film industry? Yâallywood! No need to head to L.A. to see the stars, Atlanta hosts them too. Take a tour of one of your favorite movies or TV shows. Fans of The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire can find specialty tours and visit many of the sites seen in the movies. Have you ever dreamed of having your family as extras in a movie or TV show? Local extra casting companies are listing openings everyday on social media. Regular shows that have filmed in Atlanta include Tyler Perry Show, The Vampire Diaries, and many more.
World of Coca-Cola (Photo: discoverdunwoody)
4. No trip to Atlanta is complete unless you visiting the World of Coca-Cola. Families love a picture with the warm and snuggly polar bear. His expressions and personality hypnotize and captivate children and adults alike. The secret formula is in the vault and you can enter, but only so farâ¦ itâs well guarded. Memorabilia, bottling areas, a 4D show, and more await you before you exit to everybodyâs favorite experience â the Tasting Room. Thatâs right, you have unlimited samples of over 100 Coca-Cola beverages from around the world that your taste buds have never even imagined. Get your cameras ready. One drink has a reputation of eliciting some really interesting faces. Once you taste it, youâll never forget. Weâll leave its identity a secret for you to discover.
5. Donât just have your children read about Martin Luther King Jr., allow them to walk where he walked. Part of the National Park system, you can visit Dr. Kingâs childhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. Free park ranger led tours let you inside the home. The Center for Civil and Human Rights, located next to the Georgia Aquarium, has a rotating exhibit of personal papers and items that belonged to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens (Photo: Gibbs Gardens)
6. Agriculture and tourism are huge commodities for Georgia. Combine these two together and you have agritourism â offerings for families that revolve around farms, wineries, orchards, fisheries, and other agricultural-based operations. Metro Atlanta is home to many agritourism options. Visit the Gibbs Gardens to see the largest Japanese Gardens in the country, as well the nationâs largest water lily display and daffodil gardens. Fall brings corn mazes, hayrides and pumpkin patches at popular places such as Cagleâs Family Farm and Burtâs Pumpkin Farm. Southern Belle Farms offers pick-your-own strawberries and other special events throughout the year.
7. History comes alive and is fun for all ages in Atlanta. A day spent at the Atlanta History Museum will allow you to see Olympic memorabilia; visit Smith Family farm and see what life was like on a Civil War era farm; and explore the Margaret Mitchell house where the acclaimed author wrote Gone With the Wind. The Atlanta History Center is home to a 1920s mansion that was the residence to heirs of a cotton brokerage firm. Known as the Swan House, it is now more widely recognized as President Snowâs mansion in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”.
DragonCon (Photo: Jeffrey Hall)
8. Atlanta hosts festivals throughout the year.. If you can imagine it, they celebrate it. Arts Festivals such as the Dogwood Festival and Yellow Daisy Festival, are packed with great art, memorable food and plenty of activities for the kids. If your family enjoys less art and more for the taste buds then options such as the Taste of Atlanta, the Greek Festival, and Atlanta Ice Cream Festival wonât disappoint. A local favorite is the DragonCon parade in early September- see super heroes, storm troopers, Harry Potter characters, and even princesses. With over 3,200 participants, there are all forms of characters and creatures to spy.
9. If you come to experience Southern charm, youâll certainly get it. What few realize is that youâll also get a unique mix of influences from around the world. Not only will you find yourself visiting next to people from all over the globe, but much of the cityâs residents are not native. Atlanta has become a town of transplants; a diverse population with strong cultural and ethnic communities.
(MORE: For more great things to do in Atlanta with the kids, check out 10 Reasons to Visit Atlanta with Kids.)
10. Atlanta takes southern food and cranks up the volume. A visit to OK Cafe will turn any grit naysayer into a believer. Until you have had the fried cheese grits with jalapeÃ±o and cheese dip, you donât have a right to turn your nose up. If you are looking for southern with a little more savoir faire, then look no further than One Flew South. This upscale dining restaurant located in the Atlanta airport serves âSouthernationalâ; touting inspirations from travel mixed with fresh, local ingredients. For more traditional favorites donât miss Mary Macâs Tea Room, South City Kitchen, and Gladys Knightâs Chicken and Waffles.