Roller Coasters, Sharks, Waffles and Other Reasons for a Family Trip to Atlanta

I love to travel, but I also love to budget. So, when I wanted to get out of town during the winter break, I knew exactly where we were going: ATLANTA!

Only about 6.5 hours from the NOLA metro area, Atlanta is much more than a layover. Home of the ATLiens, it’s a hugely diverse city that’s especially great to visit if you’re looking to entertain people of varying ages and interests. I’ve done Atlanta trips before we had kids, though the ones with kids are just as fun. Here are some handpicked ideas for an Atlanta adventure of your own:

1. The Georgia Aquarium

Ages: all
Perks: indoors and whale sharks
Cost: $39.95 Adult, $33.95 Child, $35.95 Senior (In addition to a $4 discount for buying online, their website has many combo deals including with the Atlanta Zoo or Stone Mountain. Discounted tickets are also available for off-peak visit hours. Plus military discounts are available on base.)

The largest aquarium in the western hemisphere (and was the largest in the world from 2005-2015) sits in downtown Atlanta. With all that water, comes a huge variety of ocean life including whale sharks. For the best value, visit during Imagination Nights which gets you evening entry to the aquarium for only $27 regardless of age. The City Pass is a great deal for this.

2. Six Flags over Georgia

Ages: best for when the littles are at least 36 inches, but there are little rides.
Perks: high thrills will pry smiles out of teens, funnel cake
Cost: GA at the gate will cost $66 for adults and $46 for children, but there are MANY deals on their site.

If you go to Six Flags expecting Disney World, you’re going to be disappointed. What it lacks in magic, it makes up in big, fast roller coasters that older kids and adults will love. In November 2016, I bought a 2017 membership that was good for the rest of 2016 and all of 2017. For $62/person, I get over a year’s worth of entry to ANY Six Flags which includes free parking and the waterpark, so definitely check the website for deals. We went three times this last trip. The kids especially enjoyed the Looney Toons live show and the carousel. There are things for the little ones, but if you’re just bringing the under 3 set, I’d head to the next stop instead.

3. Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Ages: under 8
Perks: indoors, recently renovated
Cost: $14.95 age 1+ (ACM reciprocal membership rates apply for 50% off)

Interactive staff in the science area and the mini-musicals set this children’s museum apart. It’s downtown and perfect for a few hours to let the little ones burn off some energy though avoid field trip hours.

4. High Museum of Art

Ages: all
Perks: kid’s room and activities including discovery packs
Cost: $14.50 for ages 6 and up (North American Reciprocal Membership rates apply.  Also Second Sundays offer free admission for all visitors with special family-friendly programming from 1 to 4 p.m. every second Sunday of the month.

The museum’s permanent folk art collection is great. Plus it has a wonderful children’s room (Greene Family Learning Gallery) and related programming. If you go before mid-February, you can catch the Eric Carle exhibit.

5. Bodies Exhibit

Ages: all though 8+ might get more out of it
Perks: the smoker’s lungs vs healthy lungs might help any adults in the party stop the habit or prevent any kids from picking it up
Cost: $24 Adults, $16 Children 5-11, $22 seniors (purchase online for a $2/ticket discount)

This detailed look at the intricacies of the human body is fascinating. Much more than just muscles, the exhibit educates viewers on how the body works. I especially enjoyed the circulatory system.
After you leave Bodies, you can take your body to Ikea, the next item on the list as they’re both in Atlantic Station where you can also pick up my favorite chicken and waffles from Chick-a-Biddy.

6. Ikea

Ages: all
Perks: They have a playplace for your potty trained and older children where you can sign them in to play while you shop.
Cost: free entry and parking though lots of opportunities to buy things

You can finally see all those cute things they won’t ship to you and decide if you want them in person. The store is a lot of fun to go through especially if you stop into the cafeteria for a snack.

7. Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company

Ages: teens+
Perks: come as you want, so jeans are as welcome as suits
Cost: ~$30 but they do have an under 30 program that offers $10 tickets

I saw a great production of August Wilson’s Jitney through this company. Dedicated to supporting minority writers and actors, this company’s catalog pulls from African American classics but also includes up and coming writers.

8. Buford Highway Farmer’s Market

Ages: all
Perks: the volume they sell allows for really low pricing
Cost: free entry and parking though their shopping carts are supersized for a reason

If you’re into international food and cooking, this is such a fun store to visit. The produce section alone is about the size of a normal store as you can see in this video from the Travel Channel with Anthony Bourdain. The aisles go on and on. Great prices, amazing selection. We try to stop through to buy our groceries whenever we’re passing through Atlanta.

9. Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Ages: 2-10 would especially enjoy
Perks: indoors and outdoor play opportunities, free parking
Cost: $18 adults, $16 children 3-12, $17 seniors (can be an option on the City Pass)

While the dioramas aren’t too different than other museums, their indoor playroom and outside sections really do stand out. I started to fuss at my son for climbing on something that wasn’t meant to be climbed on, when I realized it actually was. The baby thoroughly enjoyed growling at the various dinosaurs. There are IMAX films at an additional cost.

10. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Ages: all
Perks: “Children of Courage” exhibit geared towards younger visitors
Cost: Free

Because not “seeing color” is counter to celebrating diversity and erases noteworthy ongoing challenges and past victories, I recommend a visit to the MLK Jr. Site while you’re in such an important city for civil rights. Take time during of family trips to be sure your child is getting a thorough education. Operated by the National Park Service, this historic site has exhibits as well as tours of his birth home, church, a rose garden, and a tribute to Gandhi.

11. Ponce City Market

Ages: all
Perks: large variety of food choices with cafeteria seating available
Cost: varies though we paid between $4-16 for things

I love urban renewal projects especially when the end result involves gelato. Ponce City Market Food Hall features 29 trendy places to eat and drink. I recommend Honeysuckle for southern-inspired gelato, Botiwalla food for Indian Street food, and Simply Seoul Kitchen for Korean steamed buns.

Beyond the above places, I like the Atlanta Zoo (pandas!) and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens which has a wonderful children’s garden and quails living in the greenhouse! Whenever we go to Atlanta, I have a hard time deciding what we will do that visit. There is just so much that there are still places I haven’t made it to like Oak Mountain, The Center for Civil and Human Rights, White Water (Six Flags water park), CNN, The Center for Puppetry Arts, and The World of Coke.

If you’re looking for a trip, consider Atlanta. It’s is close enough to drive, and bringing your minivan will let you bring home boxes from Ikea. Round trip flights out of Louis Armstrong are only in the $89-$140 range, though it is very much a city where you need a car to get around.

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