There’s lots of hands-on fun to be had at Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. // © 2015 The Magic House
Feature image (above): According to Forbes, Atlanta is among the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. // © 2015 Thinkstock
One of America’s fastest-growing cities, Atlanta engages people young and old alike with its lush green spaces, bike paths and dynamic restaurant scene. It’s also a thriving commercial hub. As the home of brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines and Home Depot, Atlanta always seems to be buzzing. No matter what the kids are into, the city will deliver.
The Big Peach delights travel buffs in particular, thanks to its place in U.S. transportation history. One of the city’s early names was Terminus, since it was the connecting point for multiple railway lines.
Today that legacy continues with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, one of the world’s busiest airports. Once families have touched ground, they have two travel options: hitting the road by car or riding MARTA, the city’s largely above-ground public rail system.
While a train ride is always a win with kids, walking or cycling the BeltLine is another terrific way to experience the city. This 22-mile transit greenway was built along the city’s original train tracks and is dotted with parks and hiking trails.
Piedmont Park is a favorite stop for families. At 189 acres, it’s Atlanta’s largest green space, complete with rolling hills, a sparkling lake and paved paths. It’s also the perfect vantage point from which to revel in the city’s striking skyline. Once cyclists have broken a sweat, they can take a break at King of Pops, where creative, seasonal popsicles offer cool respite.
For more outdoor fun, there’s Centennial Olympic Park, the crown jewel of the 1996 Olympic Games. Though nearly 20 years have passed, the park remains an integral part of downtown and a hit with little ones. In warm weather, you’ll spot throngs of children playing in Fountain of Rings, a permanent water show in the shape of the six interlocking Olympic orbs. The water springs to life four times each day, coordinated to popular music and lights.
Should the weather push you indoors, consider the World of Coca-Cola complex, which wows crowds with interactive exhibits, a 4-D theater show and a robust tasting room where guests sip Coke products from all over the world.
If the kids are aspiring marine biologists, suggest Georgia Aquarium. With more than 100,000 animals, it’s one of the world’s largest aquariums and home to majestic whale sharks, snow-white Beluga whales, spunky penguins and more.
For an experience that’s all about your pint-size travel companions, downtown’s Imagine It! The Children’s Museum is fun and educational. It features a special sensory crawling area for tots and plenty to keep older kids engaged, including a permanent exhibit called “Fundamentally Food,” which outlines how our meals travel from farm to table.
Theater fans might opt to visit the Center for Puppetry Arts, where expert actors voice and move puppets in classic shows such as “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The site is also home to long-term special exhibits that highlight the life and work of Muppets-creator Jim Henson.
After so much work and play, the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is a cozy place to rest up before another day of exploration. While the hotel is luxurious, it also offers plenty of smart amenities for children. There’s no better way to welcome a family to the South than with freshly-baked cookies, miniature bathrobes and whimsical in-room tents stocked with toys.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport accommodates nearly 100 million passengers annually, so it’s easy to find a flight. Plus, there are plenty of kid-friendly elements peppered throughout, including PlayStation charging outlets, play slides in Concourse A and a 33-foot-long replica of the Yangchuanosaurus dinosaur, provided by the city’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History.
WHEN TO GO
Atlanta comes by the nickname “Hotlanta” honestly, since the city is warm most of the year. With high humidity and temperatures in the 90s, things can get downright steamy in the summer. October and November are more pleasant, as are the spring months, though allergy sufferers beware: Atlanta has high pollen counts.