Fun Things To Do
1. LIVING HISTORY A must-see for every family, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site includes Dr. King's gravesite, his birth home, the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and a visitors' center with an interactive exhibit, "Children of Courage," about the role young people played in the civil rights movement (450 Auburn Ave.; 404-331-5190).
2. OLYMPIC SPIRIT Constructed for the 1996 Summer Games, Centennial Olympic Park is best loved for its fountain, synchronized to music and lights. Locals gather here to picnic and people-watch while kids relish running in and out of the rings, dodging spurts of water. Pick up lunch at the food court of CNN Center, adjoining the park; the network's 50-minute studio tour is open to ages 4 and up (265 Park Ave. West; 404-222-7275).
3. TIME TO EXPLORE Across from Centennial Olympic Park, the Imagine It! children's museum is designed for kids 8 and under. Visitors can paint on the walls, create sand sculptures, crawl through a mini forest, and operate a mini forklift (275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr. NW; 404-659-5437).
4. 3-D MAGIC Long before there was IMAX, Atlantans had the Cyclorama, a unique 9,000-pound, 358-foot-long painting in the round unveiled in 1893. Seated on a revolving platform, visitors get a 35-minute viewing with narration describing the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. A 30-foot-deep diorama in front of the painting gives a 3-D effect (800-C Cherokee Ave. SE, in Grant Park; 404-624-1071).
5. WORLD ON A STRING Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts presents magical stagings of children's classics such as Charlotte's Web as well as new works in productions featuring elaborate costumes and props and creative storytelling. (Reservations at the center's 350-seat theater are a must.) After the show, families can make their own souvenirs in the create-a-puppet workshop (1404 Spring St.; 404-873-3391).
6. MOUNTAIN CLIMBING The aptly named Stone Mountain -- a 583-acre mass of granite with Civil War figures carved on one side -- offers excellent views of downtown, 16 miles west, and lots of kid-friendly attractions. Ride a sky-lift to the top or take a train ride around the base. Kids can run themselves silly in the Great Barn, with rope nets, mazes, and a 40-foot slide (Exit 39B off I-285, then exit 8 off US 78; 800-317-2006).
7. GARDEN SPOT The mini-gardens at the Atlanta Botanical Garden's two-acre Children's Garden are filled with delights: a rock grotto with hidden gnomes, a vegetable garden and storytelling area, and a prehistoric garden where kids can dig for pretend fossils (1345 Piedmont Ave. NE; 404-876-5859).
8. HOME OF THE BRAVES Open since 1997, Turner Field is a state-of-the-art baseball park -- and for those who want extra entertainment, there's a beach with lounge chairs and a picnic area, Tooner Field (where kids can pose for pictures with Cartoon Network characters and play video games), and a Braves museum (755 Hank Aaron Dr.; 404-522-7630).
9. FOR NATURE LOVERS Guided canoe trips and lots of face-to-fur encounters with indigenous wildlife are offered at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Roam the stroller-friendly boardwalk, peek in at the beavers, and chat with a naturalist holding a red-shouldered hawk or nonvenomous snake (9135 Willeo Rd., Roswell, off GA-400; 770-992-2055).
10. RETRO DINING The Varsity drive-in, established in 1928, is an Atlanta landmark that has attracted Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. On the menu: hot dogs, naked or heavyweight (with extra chili); onion rings (cooked in canola oil); and the Varsity's famous Frosted Orange drink (61 North Ave.; 404-881-1706).
Where to Stay in Atlanta
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ATLANTA Located around the corner from the Center for Puppetry Arts and other attractions, this midtown hotel offers five-star luxury and excellent views, plus pint-size bathrobes, milk and cookies, and other extras for kids. Rates average $360 per night. 75 Fourteenth St.; 404-881-9898; www.fourseasons.com/atlanta.
EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL AT CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK This contemporary, all-suite hotel overlooks the park and positions families within walking distance of the Imagine It! children's museum. Rates range from $119 to $329 per night. 267 Marietta St.; 404-223-2300; www.atlantacentennialpark.embsuites.com.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT ATLANTA DOWNTOWN A low-cost hotel option downtown, the Courtyard by Marriott boasts an outdoor swimming pool for family fun. Rates run from $89 to $189. 175 Piedmont Ave. NE; 404-659-2727; www.marriott.com/atlcd.
MARRIOTT STONE MOUNTAIN INN A replica of a 19th-century plantation house, this historic inn is located inside Stone Mountain Park, a popular destination for families. The large guest rooms, some of which open onto a central courtyard, include refrigerators. Rates average $135 per night. 1058 Robert E. Lee Dr., Stone Mountain; 770-469-3311; www.marriott.com.
DOUBLETREE GUEST SUITES ATLANTA PERIMETER Located near the perimeter (Atlantaspeak for the dividing line between the city and the suburbs), the Doubletree is reasonably priced and well located for treks both north and south. Starting rate is $99 per night. 6120 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd. NE; 770-668-0808; www.doubletreeatlanta.com.
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the May 2005 issue of Child magazine.