How to Spend a Weekend in Atlanta

This Southern city is full of fun surprises for families. Check out our kid-friendly itinerary for a weekend jam-packed with entertainment. 
Blake Gordon

Day One

Lace up your sneaks and explore the areas around Centennial Olympic Park and nearby Pemberton Place—no car needed! 

Georgia Aquarium225 Baker St. NW

Start your day at one of the country’s top aquariums! Highlights of the nearly 100 exhibits include smiling beluga whales that spin and twist like wobbly tops, waddling penguins, and sea lion and dolphin shows. Then hop on the moving walkway to tunnel through a 24-million gallon tank (the largest in the world!), where you’ll spot school-bus-size whale sharks along with their manta ray, shark, and fishy friends. $40 adults, $34 kids 3 to 12; georgiaaquarium.org

Centennial Olympic Park265 Park Ave. West NW

Head across the street to enjoy the park’s playgrounds, water-fountain splash zone, and vintage-style lunch spot, Googie Burger, with outdoor seating near the Olympic Rings. It serves up burgers, shakes, fries, and more. Although it’s remaining open, the park is under renovation until 2019. Check the website for updates! gwcca.org/park 

College Football Hall of Fame250 Marietta St. NW

Check out this pigskin paradise on the far end of the park. Register your souvenir lanyard at the entrance, then scan it at each exhibit and your name and team colors will pop up. (Go Irish!) Photo ops include sitting at the ESPN game-day desk and singing for your team at Fight Song Karaoke. $22 adults, $18 kids 3 to 12; cfbhall.com

World of Coca-Cola121 Baker St. NW

Take the five-minute walk to the center that celebrates this bubbly beverage’s birthplace. Activities include a sampling room with more than 100 unique sodas from around the world, the 4-D “In Search of the Secret Formula” movie, a hands-on digital art center where kids can design a pop-art Coke bottle, a look at a bottling production line, and the “vault” where Coke’s secret formula is kept. $17 adults, $13 kids 3 to 12; worldofcoca-cola.com

Mary Mac’s Tea Room224 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE

After a little rest (or hotel pool time!), indulge in some good ol’ Southern comfort food at this local institution that encompasses almost an entire city block! On the menu is a cornucopia of local favorites: fried green tomatoes, mac ’n’ cheese, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and everything in between. Although there’s a kid’s menu, the regular one has great plates for kids to share, such as the three friedchicken drumsticks with two heaping sides for just $13. marymacs.com 

Tip: If you’re planning on visiting most of the attractions mentioned here, it might make sense to invest in the one-stop-shopping CityPASS Atlanta. The ticket booklet offers substantial savings on admission ($75 for five attractions, as opposed to $40 just for the aquarium), as well as front-of-the-line access at some attractions, a priceless bonus when your kids are antsy and lines are long. It’s good for nine days and includes admission to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, a CNN Studio Tour, and your choice of either Zoo Atlanta or the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and either the College Football Hall of Fame or the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Day Two

Today, get lots of fresh air while checking out some spots away from downtown. You’ll need a car in the afternoon to hit everything. 

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site450 Auburn Ave. NE

Walk in the steps of Martin Luther King Jr. at this 35-acre National Historic Site in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Start at the visitors’ center to get an overview of the area and grab a Junior Ranger brochure, which will help explain the various stops. You’ll hear King’s voice preach at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both he and his father were ministers, step inside King’s birth home, and observe the King Center’s reflecting pool and eternal flame. Free; nps.gov/malu/index.htm 

Center for Civil and Human Rights 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd.

As a nonviolent beacon during the 1960s, Atlanta earned the moniker “The City Too Busy to Hate,” making it uniquely suited to hosting this museum dedicated to tolerance. Exhibits include films, videos, and interactive displays on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a section focused on global human rights—all of which offer a springboard to talk to your kids about dignity and respect for all people. An important stop. $19 adults, $14 kids 4 to 12; civilandhumanrights.org

Ponce City Market675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE

This new addition to the Atlanta dining scene is a bit like a foodie theme park—downstairs are dozens of unique quick-service and counter-dining spots, ranging from Korean buns and Indian snacks to gourmet ice pops and woodfired pizza. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, plus an array of shopping spots. After lunch, head upstairs to Skyline Park, a retro amusement area with miniature golf, a super slide, games of chance, and a pulley tower ride. poncecitymarket.com

Eastside BeltLine TrailEnter on North Ave., between Glen Iris Drive and Somerset Terrace NE

Behind Ponce City Market is a section of BeltLine Park–an old railroad track being converted into long stretches of public park connecting the neighborhoods of Atlanta. You’ll find public art (like a collection of metal butterflies that flap their wings when you turn a crank), places to stroll or pedal, and lots of green space. Although little legs might not last too long walking between neighborhoods, the stretch outside Ponce City Market is perfect for running off lunch. beltline.org

Zoo Atlanta800 Cherokee Ave. SE

This sprawling 40-acre zoo, just south of downtown, has called this spot home for more than 125 years and has been a favorite of Atlanta families for generations. Today there are more than 1,000 animals representing about 200 species from around the world, including rare giant panda cubs Ya Lun and Xi Lun, who were born at the zoo last year. $26 adults, $17 kids 3 to 11; zooatlanta.org

Tip: For the morning’s itinerary, consider using the easy-to-navigate Atlanta Streetcar, which travels in a loop between the Centennial Park District and the King Historic District, a five-minute ride.

Family Fun

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