If you’ve got three days to play, Atlanta’s packed to the brim with options for filling them with fun. Whether you’re going for its world-class museums, parks, events, great weather, easy-to-access nature or unique attractions, Atlanta is a family destination worth adding to your bucket list. Keep reading for how we recommend taking a bite out of the Big Peach.
Photo: Lee Coursey via Flickr
Day 1: Downtown to Ponce
Morning: Kick off your stay in the ATL downtown, where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a museum or attraction worthy of an entire day of your trip. With the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the SkyView Ferris Wheel (all oriented around Centennial Olympic Park, which is home to a spray fountain set to music, as well as a playground and lots of green space), you’ll want to tie on your tennis shoes and pound some pavement.
Afternoon: While you can pick up lunch in the Aquarium’s cafe, or at Googie Burger in Centennial Olympic Park, we recommend heading east out of downtown to Ponce City Market—Atlanta’s newest urban re-development that packs a 1-2 punch with gourmet food stalls, as well as access to the Eastside BeltLine. Keep heading east on Ponce until you reach Fernbank Museum of Natural History, where you can chill out in the giant theatre, explore the dinosaurs, or run through Wildwoods, Fernbank’s newest outdoor exploration-scape.
Insider Tip: Plan to visit the Aquarium first, because there’s nothing quite like starting your day with the manta rays and belugas (plus, it gets a lot of visitors throughout the year, and afternoons are always hopping).
Don’t Forget: Centennial Olympic Park and the entire downtown area around it was designed with pedestrians in mind. All of the attractions downtown have plenty of stroller parking inside, and you can cut through the park—instead of walk along the busier roads at its perimeter—making it a piece of cake to navigate from destination to destination.
Holiday Happenings: Centennial Olympic Park is home to one of Atlanta’s favorite outdoor ice skating rinks during the holidays, and with thousands of twinkling lights decorating light poles and tree branches, it’s one of the best places in the city to get in the holiday spirit.
Stay: We recommend a stay at one of the many Marriott hotels in Atlanta proper. We love their upscale feel at a family budget friendly price and lots of little perks to make families feel at home.
Photo: S. Massey
Day 2: Midtown to Buckhead
Morning: Start your second day in Atlanta at Piedmont Park, where you’ll find fresh produce, local goods, and weekly entertainment. Be sure to hit the Noguchi Playscape near 10th and Piedmont—a playground designed by one of the 20th Century’s most prominent sculptors—and the Legacy Fountain splash pad, features more than 70 jets, reaching up to 30 feet in the air with LED-lighting (count on days often as late as December to be warm enough to take off your shoes and enjoy the water). Then, head to the adjacent Atlanta Botanical Garden for lunch (kid-friendly cafes are scattered throughout) and a visit to the newly renovated Children’s Garden.
Afternoon: Take a short walk (or drive) through one of Atlanta’s most historic neighborhoods—Ansley Park—to reach the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Worlds of Puppetry Museum. After catching a performance, head upstairs to make your own puppets (supplies are provided and are part of your ticket fee). Afterward, head north on Peachtree Street to Buckhead, where you’ll find the Atlanta History Center and Smith Family Farm to explore, before capping off your day with a trip to LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Phipps Mall.
Insider Tip: If you’re in the mood for some true Atlanta flavor, take a detour to The Varsity, an iconic drive-in near 10th and Spring St., where you’d better be ready to answer “What’ll ya have?”
Don’t Forget: Both the Legacy Fountain and the Children’s Garden have splash pad features (the Children’s Garden’s shuts down during winter months), so be sure to pack a change of clothes for the kiddos!
Holiday Happenings: Atlanta Botanical’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights display is unrivaled in the southeast. If you’re in town between November and January, don’t miss an opportunity to walk through the magic they create (and grab a s’mores kit, an adult beverage, or hot chocolate, while you’re at it). Or, for an even more quirky Atlanta experience, head to Lenox Plaza for a ride on The Pink Pig—open during the holiday season, only.
Tired yet? Head back to the Marriott for some chillaxing (and comfy beds!).
Photo: Atlanta Braves via Facebook
Day 3: Perimeter
Morning: What Atlanta’s northern perimeter between I-75 and I-85 may lack in museums, it makes up for in sporting venues and outdoor adventures. Start your day at the 110-acre Brook Run Park, which has a large playground, 2-mile trail, skate park, dog park, community garden, and a self-guided zip line course, called Treetop Quest. After coming down from the trees, head to the river for a hike to the Chattahoochee River—only minutes from the bustle of the city but as serene as any you’d find in the countryside.
Afternoon: With plenty of fresh air under your belt, head to The Battery Atlanta at SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves. Whether it’s baseball season or not, The Battery offers an excellent selection of family friendly dining options, a splash pad, and pedestrian-friendly storefronts to explore. If you’re visiting during a home game, be sure and grab tickets, because the inside of the Stadium is perfect for traveling fams and locals alike.There’s a kids zone complete with zip line, a climbing wall, carnival games and 11 (yes, that’s right, 11) family restrooms!
Insider Tip: Regardless the time of year, the Chattahoochee River’s waters are cold. Pack a towel, just in case you have any adventurers who might find the icy waters too hard to resist.
Don’t Forget: Or actually, it’s okay if you do forget … your baseball glove. Inside the stadium, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind Mizuno Glove Experience that allows fans of all ages to check out a baseball glove free of charge to catch foul balls and home runs during the game.
Holiday Happenings: The Battery gets in the spirit each holiday season, and you can count on lights, an outdoor ice-skating rink, and concerts.
Depart: Check out of your Marriott hotel and say goodbye to this big city full of family fun and southern charm.