Atlanta, the town I grew up in, has a diverse palette for children and adults of all ages. On a recent trip with my children, we explored everything from museums to parks to historical sites to theme parks. Depending on your interests, you can fill your day with something fun, something educational and something active. Here is a short list of “must see” things to do in Atlanta with kids, all from a born and bred Atlantan’s point-of-view:
The World of Coca-Cola
The King Center
Start with a bit of history at The King Center. After his death, Coretta Scott King worked hard to have this center built to educate the public about King’s work and to continue their work of nonviolence to achieve equality. Your children will learn not only about his life but the civil rights battle in the 1960s and how the fight translates to our present lives today in this amazing multi-media exhibit.
My kids and I read about the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Albany Movement, “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, the Poor People’s Campaign, Rosa Parks, Gandi’s influence on his beliefs and more. Nearby you can visit where he and Coretta are buried, see where he grew up and sit in the church that he grew up in. 449 Auburn Avenue, 404/526-8900, free admission for all ages
Anne Frank in the World
Continuing the theme of humanity, another good stop is Anne Frank in the World. The exhibit starts out with photographs of Anne and her family – how they lived a normal life in Munich in the 1920s before the trouble started throughout Europe and how they fled to Amsterdam, where they went into hiding in a secret annex above her father’s business, thanks to his gracious colleagues who tried so selflessly to save their lives. She was a young, precocious girl who plastered her bedroom walls with movie stars, just as I did as a child and my own daughter does now.
She was not that different to my own daughter – curious, wide eyed, intelligent, social, brave, and beautiful. The exhibit features 600 photographs and more than 8,000 words. For children ages 10 and up (my daughter just made the cut). 5920 Roswell Road, 770/206-1558, free admission for all ages
The High Museum of Art
Introduce your kids to the world of art at The High Museum of Art. The High was remodeled in 2005 with a new addition by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano. It’s an amazing structure with permanent and temporary exhibits. They have the Greene Family Learning Center where kids can play in a spacious room divided into the following sections: Building Buildings, Making a Mark, Telling Stories, Sculpting Spaces, and Transforming Treasure.
The museum has an abundance of activity for kids listed on their web site. 1280 Peachtree St., 404/733-4400, $18 adult, $11 child, $15 senior
Pay a visit to the Georgia Aquarium as it’s one of the world’s largest aquariums. With more than 8.5 million U.S. gallons of marine and fresh water fish, the Aquarium houses more than 100,000 animals of 500 species. Your kids will see many amazing creatures – sharks, whales, manta rays, stingrays and so much more.
The highlight of our visit was show called Dolphin Tales. We saw dolphins leaping high in the air through showers spouting from each side of the theater, with others dancing fin-in-hand with their trainers or swimming at lightning speeds around the giant tank, stopping to pose on the edge or wave at the audience and my kids were temporarily spellbound. They also loved touching and feeling many of the fish on display. Thumbs up all around for this amazing attraction. 225 Baker St., 404/581-4000, $26 adult, $19.50 child, $21.50 senior
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is an ideal way for kids to spend the afternoon. It’s a hands-on museum and is one big interactive playground for kids to wander around and explore. This attraction is perfect for toddlers and pre-school aged children. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr., 404/659-KIDS , $12.50 per person, kids under age 2 are free
Center for Puppetry Arts
Learn the history of puppetry at the Center for Puppetry Arts or your kids can build your own puppet while you’re there. The museum includes 2,000 objects from all over the world. We saw all types of puppets in this exhibit from wooden to fabric to animatronic (remote control).
We went into a storage room and learned about string puppets, hand & glove puppets, shadow puppets and body puppets. We saw old puppets, as well as more contemporary puppets. The museum also does a terrific job of celebrating Jim Henson’s legacy. I absolutely loved introducing my kids to the Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and all my favorite muppets from the series and films. 1404 Spring St., 404/873-3391,$8 adult, $6 child, $7 senior
The World of Coca-Cola
Explore The World of Coca-Cola is located right across from the Georgia Aquarium. It showcases the 100-year history of coca-cola with paraphernalia, documentaries and a 4-D film. The self-guided tour starts with a mock documentary called the “Happiness Factory,” where animated creatures who live inside the Coke machine tell how they feel about Coke.
We especially enjoyed the refreshment room where it’s possible to sample various coca-colas from around the world — even my son, who has never tasted a drop of coke in his life. When we left, we were each given an old-fashioned bottle of coke as a souvenir. 121 Baker St., 404/676-5151, $15 adult, $9 child, $13 senior
Head to Stone Mountain and it just may be a trip highlight. The southern mountain is 1,686 feet and depicts 3 figures of the Confederate States of America: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.
My kids adored Sky Hike, one of the nation’s largest adventure courses, where my children put on a harness and hiked across ropes, poles and climbed higher and higher, sending me into shock mode that my kids are so brave. Their view of Atlanta will never be the same again! At Geyser Tower, which are literally multiple levels of suspended rope bridges and net tunnels connecting visitors to towering platforms that overlook a gushing geyser, my kids laughed and got soaked and were exhausted all the way home. 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, 770/498-5690, $28 per adult adventure pass, $22 per children’s adventure pass for all access
Photos by Holly Rosen Fink. Holly is the editor and founder of TheCultureMom.com. She is also now founder of MamaDrama Consulting and WestchesterIRL and contributes to FamilyVacationCritic.com, CBS New York, Kidzvuz and Travel Savvy Mom. Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations. She lives in Larchmont, NY with her husband and two children.