Fun Things to Do with Kids in Atlanta

Hit the hot spots in Atlanta, with help from our insider's planning guide.

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What to Expect

Centennial Olympic Park, in the heart of downtown, features a playground, a Ferris wheel, splash fountains, and plenty of room to run; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

What to Expect

Home to such massive brands as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Chick-fil-A, Atlanta has a reputation for putting business first. But beneath the city's no-nonsense exterior lies a soft center of family-friendly adventure. "People are always surprised that there is so much for kids to do here," says Sue Rodman, mother of three and founder of fieldtripswithsue.com, an Atlanta-based website for parents. "It's a great destination for families."

The city began upping the fun quotient before the 1996 Olympics and hasn't looked back since. Today, kids can commune with whale sharks at one of the nation's biggest aquariums, count the bones of the largest dinosaur ever classified at the natural history museum, and cavort in 3,000-plus acres of public parkland. "Hotlanta" earns its nickname during the sweltering summer months, but winters are mild, and you can't beat spring, when the city's abundant greenery bursts into bloom.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Where to Stay

Dodging fountains in Centennial Olympic Park; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Where to Stay

Several hotels surround downtown's Centennial Olympic Park, allowing guests to walk to the city's biggest attractions -- including Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola, and the Children's Museum of Atlanta -- and to a host of family-oriented restaurants. Embassy Suites Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park offers two-room suites overlooking the park, starting at $199 (embassysuites3.hilton.com). At the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, being able to walk through CNN's busy lobby is a kick for parents and kids alike. Children get a backpack full of toys and coloring books (rooms start at $99 a night, omnihotels.com/atlanta).

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Getting Around

Stone Mountain Park's Sky Hike adventure course; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Getting Around

Though the attractions around Centennial Olympic Park are all within walking distance of one another, you'll need a car to visit other popular spots, such as Stone Mountain Park and Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The city is famous for its traffic, so keep weekday rush hours in mind (typically, 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.) to avoid unwanted time in the car.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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5 Family Favorites

Georgia Aquarium's awe-inspiring shark tunnel; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

5 Family Favorites

1. Centennial Olympic Park
Located in the heart of downtown, this popular city oasis boasts views of Atlanta's towering skyline and lots of open green space for picnics. The fountains are a hit with kids on hot summer days, and the playground offers hours of fun for younger kids (atlanta.net). The new Skyview Ferris Wheel, just outside the park, has impressive views of downtown and beyond from air-conditioned gondolas that ascend to 200 feet above the street ($13.50 ages 13 and up, $8.50 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under; skyviewatlanta.com).

2. Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs, dinosaurs, and more dinosaurs. The replica Argentinosaurus skeleton next to the Gigantosaurus in the museum's great hall is a stunning sight, but kids will also love hunting for fossils in the museum's floor tiles, most of which have at least one. And the new NatureQuest, a double-decker clubhouse with interactive science experiments, will help burn energy and spark imaginations ($18 ages 13 and up, $16 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under; fernbankmuseum.org).

3. Stone Mountain Park
This massive granite dome east of downtown is famous for its weekend laser show, but kids may get more out of the Sky Hike, a treetop adventure course, and Geyser Towers, a combination multilevel ropes course/splash park. A hike to the top never disappoints, either (adventure pass: $29.95 ages 12 and up, $24.95 ages 3-11; stonemountainpark.com).

4. Georgia Aquarium
The size and scope of this aquarium make it well worth the price of admission. You can probably skip the add-ons; the exhibits included in the basic admission charge -- the Beluga whales and the shark tunnel, for example -- are spectacular enough (admission starts at $38.95 for ages 13 and up, $32.95 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under; parking is extra; georgiaaquarium.org).

5. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Older kids will enjoy exploring this 23-acre site within the Sweet Auburn Historic District, where Dr. King lived and preached. Take a guided tour of his birth home, see Ebenezer Baptist Church, and trace the footsteps of those who made a difference along the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. The visitors' center and the King Center (thekingcenter.org) offer moving exhibits and films (free; nps.gov/malu).

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Where to Eat

Food and fun at The Varsity; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Where to Eat

Atlanta's restaurant scene is sprawling, with one-of-a-kind eateries in every neighborhood. The Luckie Marietta District, next to Centennial Olympic Park, has a high concentration of locally owned restaurants as well as chains, such as Johnny Rockets. Check out Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria, where the toppings include such kid favorites as meatballs (maxsatl.com). No trip to Atlanta is complete without a pilgrimage to The Varsity, the city's quintessential fast food stop, located near Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. Order the chili dogs and a frosted orange (thevarsity.com). To sample what is arguably the best Q in the city, grab a spot on the patio of Fox Brothers BBQ, a short drive from Fernbank Museum (foxbrosbbq.com). And kiss your diet good-bye at Sublime Doughnuts, where the humble pastry reaches transcendent levels. Among the varieties: the Oreo Ice Cream Burger (sublimedoughnuts.com).

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Money-Savers

Dinosaurs rule the day at Fernbank Museum of Natural History; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Money-Savers

A nine-day CityPASS will save you almost 50 percent on admission to five of Atlanta's biggest attractions, including Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Georgia Aquarium, and Zoo Atlanta ($74 ages 13 and up, $59 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under; atlanta.net). The seasonal MVP Pack lets you build a package from a range of attractions, such as a Braves game, Stone Mountain Park, Six Flags Over Georgia, World of Coca-Cola, and more (packages start at $24.50; atlanta.braves.mlb.com). Atlantaonthecheap.com is a clearinghouse for discount tickets, lists free things to do in the city, and compiles deals from sites such as Groupon; the site can save you big if you monitor it for a few weeks before your trip.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Go-To Guides

A mural at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site; Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Go-To Guides

Atlanta.net: Trip-planning advice from pros, restaurant and hotel options, and a link to the CityPASS website.

Atlantawithkid.com: A local mom's guide to food, fun, and freebies around the city.

100+ Free Things to Do in Atlanta: Blogger Sue Rodman's book presents a host of entertainment bargains ($9.99 for print version; $4.99 for iOS, Kindle, or Nook; fieldtripswithsue.com).

Atlanta Travel Guide app: Hold up your phone to the cityscape anywhere you are, and this augmented-reality app identifies buildings, parks, and other attractions in a 360-degree radius. A search function locates nearby restaurants, hotels, and other services. Also included: suggested itineraries and travel tips ($2.99; iOS).

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.