Sometimes, it’s nice just to stay put. With no bags to pack and no rooms to book, an Atlanta stay-cation is even more appealing when you play tourist—hitting hot spots we sometimes reserve for our out-of-town guests. Keep reading for our favorite ways to bring a little heat to a hometown holiday.
Photo: Nikki Wolfe via Flickr
Day One: Downtown
Why save the headliners for the in-laws? Start your day with an early visit to the Georgia Aquarium (225 Baker Street NW, adults $35.95, kids $29.95) when the crowds are lower and the animals frisky. Parking at the Aquarium’s designated deck, located at 357 Luckie Street, NW Atlanta, GA 30313, offers 1,600 well-lit and covered spaces. And the best news? It’s a one-time fee that allows you to park and play all day. Members pay $10, non-members $12, and here‘s how you can save a dollar by purchasing parking in advance.
For lunch, ditch the cafeteria for an al fresco meal at Googie Burger, re-opening May 19 for the season and located conveniently near the Fountain of Rings in Centennial Park—an easy walk south from the Aquarium. From there, you can head north to the Baker Street boundary of the park and hit the Centennial Park All Children’s Playground, or cross Luckie Street to the south instead for a trip on the Sky View Ferris Wheel (168 Luckie St. NW, adults $13.89, kids $9.29, free under 3).
After your bout of mid-day fresh air, forgo the nap and walk across the park to the north east for a visit to The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr NW, $14.95/ person, free for babies under 1). While we’ve never known a kid to turn up his pacifier to anything in the museum, we can guarantee that they’ll forget all about how tired they are when they see the kid-sized Waffle House.
Pro Tip: Bring a stroller. While part of the beauty of a visit downtown is the centrality of attractions, the trek—particularly after lunch—might seem insurmountable for little legs. And, departing from the Children’s Museum is never a popular option, especially after forgoing nap time. Be prepared with a surprise snack in your purse or the promise of a favorite movie in your car for when it’s time to roll.
Photo: S. Massey
Day Two: Midtown
Midtown mornings are all about marionettes (and stick-and-rod puppets, and hand puppets, and shadow puppets, and more) at the Center for Puppetry Arts (1404 Spring St. NW at 18th, $20.50/ person, kids under 2 are free), where world-class productions are presented in intimate theaters built with wiggly watchers in mind. While you’re there, be sure to make time to tour the recently renovated Worlds of Puppetry Museum, and head to a post-production puppetry workshop (all included in the price of a show ticket).
Afterwards, head to The Varsity and park in a window service slot, where you’ll need to be ready to report to shouts of “What’ll ya have!?” (We suggest a slaw dog, onion rings, and a frosted orange, but that’s just us.)
After lunch, head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden (1345 Piedmont Ave., adults $21.95, kids $15.95, free under 3) if you haven’t checked out the recently renovated Children’s Garden. Or, opt instead for a play day in adjacent Piedmont Park. Parking for both is located at 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE.
Pro Tip: Throw your scooters, bikes, or trikes in your trunk. If you opt for an afternoon at Piedmont Park, you’ll be rewarded with miles of well-maintained, wide paths to navigate. Hungry when you leave? Round out a stellar nutrition day with a post-park trip to the Krispy Kreme factory on Ponce (295 Ponce De Leon Ave.). It’s new franchise owner, Shaquille O’Neal, will thank you.
Photo: S. Massey
Day Three: Buckhead
If you haven’t been to the Atlanta History Center (130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Adults $16.50, kids ages 4-12 $11), you’ll be glad you made the time to go. History aside, the grounds on a gorgeous day can’t be beat, and you’ll feel a little like explorers as you round corners to find artifacts from previous generations. A compound of multiple historic residences, including the Swan House, the Smith Family Farm, and the Wood Family Cabin, the History Center is accessed through a newly renovated museum. With exhibits specific to Atlanta and the South—including an exhibit of oral histories from Atlantans, artifacts from the Civil War, folk art, and more—your littles will make the link between the past and the present.
For fancy faire for lunch, the Swan Coach House offers classic southern options (chicken salad, anyone?), but you won’t see many other kiddos. For a lower-key, but delicious option in the Museum, pick up a $14 lunch that comes with soup, salad, sandwich, and cookie choices at the famed Souper Jenny.
After lunch, head to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Phipps Mall (3500 Peachtree Rd. NE, from $12.50/ person online) in heat or rainy weather, or to the newly renovated Memorial Park (384 Woodward Way NW) if there are blue skies. Be sure to top your day off at Peachtree Battle Shopping Center at the intersection of Peachtree Battle Ave. and Peachtree Rd. for a visit to Baskin Robins. They scoop it old school.
Pro Tip: Want to get a little wild? Nearby Peachtree Heights East park and duck pond at the corner of Lakeview Ave. and Parkside Dr. is a neighborhood-owned but public garden and pond that has—you guessed it—lots of ducks, geese, and even turtles. While there’s no playground, you can check out the friendly (but still wild) ducks. Be sure to bring a blanket and a book for underneath the willow tree.
What would you do with a stay cation in Atlanta? Tell us in the comments section below!