This summer, there’s no hotter destination than Atlanta for families looking for a cool getaway. From well-known destinations like the American Girl Store and the Georgia Aquarium, to discovery-worthy destinations like the College Football Hall of Fame and Ponce City Market’s rooftop amusement park, Atlanta has something to delight everyone. Keep reading for the inside scoop on where to go and where to stay—book early and save up to 20%—for a sizzling summer getaway.

photo: American Girl

American Girl Store, Alpharetta

Head to Northpoint Mall in Alpharetta to beat the heat at the American Girl Store (1202 North Point Cir, Alpharetta, GA 30022), where your super fans can have their dolls' ears pierced and hair styled at the salon, do a little shopping, and then round out the visit with a trip to the cafe for lunch and cupcakes (they come in pint-sized ones for the dolls, too!).

 

photo: Marriott

Score bonus points by booking a stay at the nearby Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta (5750 Windward Pkwy, Alpharetta, GA 30005), which offers an American Girl Doll Package complete with pink decor, a bed for your doll, and a special check-in.

 

photo: Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium, Downtown

The Georgia Aquarium (225 Baker St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313)—the world's largest aquarium—is growing even more! A new gallery featuring sharks will open in late fall of 2020, but this summer you can catch a glimpse of two new beluga whales, who are settling in alongside the aquarium's three resident belugas. 

 

photo: Marriott

You can bypass parking fees by heading there on foot from the Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303), one of Atlanta's iconic skyline buildings that's only a few short blocks from the aquarium. Be sure to check out the hotel's Deluxe Aquarium Package, which comes with two VIP tickets that allow you to skip the entry line.

 

photo: Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame

Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, Downtown

Whether your team is Tennessee, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, or anyone else, you can head to the shrine of all things college football for a serious personal pep rally. Run a play on the indoor playing field, then check out the three-floor helmet wall in the Quad at the College Football Hall of Fame (250 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313). A stay at nearby Atlanta Marriott Marquis (265 Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303) means that your downtown hotel is only a first down away.

photo: Children's Museum of Atlanta

Children's Museum of Atlanta, Downtown

This hands-on museum will keep them happy with hours of exploratory play (in the air conditioning!) and you'll find an all-new “Doc McStuffins” exhibit this summer. Explore the McStuffins Toy Hospital, assume doctor play roles and help solve problems—all while learning lessons about empathy and nurturing care. From the paint wall to the art studio, they can let their creativity flow, while just around the corner your preschool-aged kiddos can leap into learning in an area designed just for them. Afterward hitting the Children's Museum of Atlanta (275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313), be sure and hit the Centennial Park All Children's Playground.

SkyView Ferris Wheel, Downtown

Downtown is a whole lot cooler from one of SkyView's (168 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303) climate-controlled ferris wheel compartments. Check out the downtown and midtown skylines from one of the wheel's private cabanas. Each ride lasts about 15 minutes, and our favorite time to go is at night, when you can see the lights of the nearby Centennial Park fountain from a birds-eye view. A stay at the Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303) means that you don't even need to worry about finding a coveted parking spot, since it's only a few blocks away.

 

photo: World of Coca-Cola

World of Coca-Cola, Downtown

While the exhibit in World of Coca-Cola (121 Baker St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313) is fascinating for any history buff, it's the tasting room that will have your kids begging for a return trip. And, if the unlimited tastings of Coca-Cola products from around the world isn't enough to thrill them, the 4-D movie experience—illustrating the global reach of Coca-Cola—will. 

Center for Puppetry Arts, Midtown

Don't let a trip to Atlanta pass you by without a trip to the world-class Center for Puppetry Arts (1404 Spring St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30309). With a family series summer line-up that includes Harold and the Purple Crayon, Beauty and the Beast, and Old MacDonald's Farm (all with a complementary puppet work shop after each show), you'll be glad you went. 

 

photo: Marriott

Residence Inn by Marriott Atlanta Midtown (1365 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30309) is literally around the corner; however, if you opt to stay downtown at Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303) you're just a MARTA ride away from the Center for Puppetry Arts.

The Legacy Fountain & Children's Garden at Piedmont Park & Atlanta Botanical Garden, Midtown

These adjacent outdoor destinations have one thing in common: splash pads! With ample parking in the deck located between the Botanical Garden and Piedmont Park, you can hit both places in the same day. If you're up for a trek, head to the Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park (Active Oval Loop), then cool down at either the park's Legacy Fountain or head to the recently-renovated Children's Garden inside the Atlanta Botanical Garden (1345 Piedmont Ave.). For a walkable (and ultra hip) stay, check out W Atlanta Midtown (188 14th St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30361), or opt for a downtown location at Aloft Atlanta Downtown (300 Ted Turner Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30308), and hop on MARTA for a short ride to Arts Center.

Treetop Quest and Mastermind Escape Games, Dunwoody

Whether you're zipping through the trees at Treetop Quest (2341 Peeler Rd., Dunwoody, GA 30338), or working your way out of an escape room at Mastermind Escape Games (5825 Glenridge Dr. Building 4 Suite #200, Atlanta, GA 30328), you'll earn some serious parent points for planning weekend getaway to Atlanta. Stay at nearby Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center (246 Perimeter Center Pkwy. NE, Atlanta, GA 30346) for a central location to explore some OTP (that's outside-the-perimeter, to locals) fun.

 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Buckhead

See Atlanta’s top attractions made from LEGO in this Buckhead institution's MINILAND®, then take a whirl on the Kingdom Quest Legacy Ride. And with an online advanced purchase option, you'll score discounted tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center (3500 Peachtree Rd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30326), and also skip the walk-up line upon arrival.

 

photo: Marriott

Stay at nearby Residence Inn Atlanta Buckhead (2960 Piedmont Rd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30305)—an extended-stay hotel offering free breakfast for the entire family—and take advantage of the nearby MARTA station if you plan to venture downtown.

Atlanta History Center, Buckhead

The Atlanta History Center (130 West Paces Ferry Rd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30305) is located in one of Atlanta’s most beautiful neighborhoods on 33-acres, and is made up of exhibitions, historic houses, manicured gardens, and a variety of year-round family programs. Don't miss a fancy lunch at the Swan Coach House (go for the pimento cheese and chicken salad), and be sure to check out the Smith Family Farm, where you'll get a better understanding of life long ago. For convenience, the Residence Inn Atlanta Buckhead (2960 Piedmont Rd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30305) (did someone say "free breakfast?") is a solid choice.

photo: Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market, East Atlanta

For a glimpse at the city's coolest brownfield project, head to Ponce City Market (675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308), where you'll find food stalls and restaurants from some of the city's most established as well as most up-and-coming chefs. Grab a banana puddin' popsicle from King of Pops and make your way to The Roof, where minigolf, a giant slide, and boardwalk games await. From a downtown stay at Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303), catch a short Uber or Lyft east to PCM.

 

Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Druid Hills

Dinosaurs, a mind-blowing indoor playscape, and an even more amazing outdoor exhibit, breathtaking walking trails, a canopy walk, native wildlife and nature playgrounds await you at Fernbank Museum of Natural History (767 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30307). If you need to catch your breath, be sure and get tickets to one of their 3D giant screen movies. Located east of Midtown in the historic neighborhood of Druid Hills, your stay at Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303) will make getting there easy.

Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell

We're not going to lie. A trip to Six Flags (275 Riverside Pkwy. SW, Austell, GA 30168) during the summer means serious fun... and sweat. But, since the opening of Hurricane Harbor—a multi-million dollar water park inside Six Flags that's included FREE with your Six Flags Over Georgia admission—you'll be cool as a cucumber until you decide to head back to your room at Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta (2844 Cobb Parkway SE, Atlanta, GA 30339). They'll soon offer guests a special Six Flags package so check back here for details when booking.

 

Zoo Atlanta, Grant Park

A trip to Zoo Atlanta (800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta GA 30315) is amazing for it's recently renovated animal habitats, its state-of-the-art reptile and amphibian exhibit, and yes, for it's incredible amusement area (located after all of the exhibits if you follow the flow of visitors, but easily found if you veer right from the entrance instead of forging ahead). With a train, a treetop ropes course, a splash pad, and more, your critters will want to make a day of this. Stay at Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown (35 14th Street NE, Atlanta, FGA 30309), or take MARTA (prepare for a bit of a hike, but a stop for ice cream at Morelli's will make you forget your sore feet).

Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain

Soar to the top of Stone Mountain (1000 Robert E Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain, GA 30083) on Summit Skyride, take a ride on the Scenic Railroad,  trek through the treetops on Skyhike® Adventure ropes course, and stay for the Laser Show. A day (and night) at Stone Mountain Park is made even easier with reservations at Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Center (4021 Lakeview Dr., Stone Mountain, GA 30083), located right at Stone Mountain. It's the perfect place to recharge with a little pool time after a day at the park.

 

—Shelley Massey