You’ve heard all about Ponce City Market all winter long. But is it really someplace you can take the kids? We’ve road-tested it, and letting you in on the secrets and tricks you’ll need to navigate PCM like a boss, stroller and all.

Ponce City Market Atlanta

Photo: S. Massey

First Things First

PCM isn’t designed for the delight of kiddos, but there’s plenty there to delight them. Built inside the facade of the gargantuan former City Hall East building—nee Sears, Roebuck & Co. distribution center—PCM is big, Texas style. The building houses residential, office, retail, and event space, plus a foodie dreamscape at its heart called the Central Food Hall. It’s just steps from the Eastside BeltLine, but since you’re probably packing a couple of car seats, you might not be rolling into PCM on a bike (but if you do, be sure to take advantage of the complementary bike valet). Which leads us to parking: there’s not much of it. And you have to pay for it ($1/half hour, or $10/ 4-8 hours). But the good news is that you and the kids can easily check out Atlanta’s newest hot spot in a couple of hours without running too high a parking fee, which kicks back to the BeltLine, anyways.

When to Go

Like most things with little kids, a visit to PCM is best when you can strike early. Get there by 10 a.m., when most stores open. You’ll be ahead of the crowds, more likely to nab a parking spot, and there when the food stalls open so you won’t have to contend with the crowds (some stalls are open at breakfast, so don’t panic if you forgot to pack a bag of Goldfish). The current shopping is excellent, though not kid-centric (unless you’re looking for Frye booties, candy, or the occasional toy). Which, let’s be honest, works well for a shopping trip with tots—they just don’t have the stamina. A morning of shopping will do you, and you’ll still have plenty of time to stroll on the BeltLine or hit Old Fourth Ward Park (the splash pad is open May 1 through October 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, so pack your suits).

What’s Ahead: More Retail, City Winery, The Shed, and The Roof

Expect additional retail openings throughout 2016, along with the opening of a vast event and live music venue called City Winery (possibly the city’s coolest new kid’s birthday party venue?). Construction on The Shed—somewhat of a “porch” for visitors to congregate along the BeltLine near the PCM entrance—is underway now with a 2016 completion date. And last, but certainly not least, is the opening of the highly-anticipated Roof (that’s it’s name—The Roof). Details about its debut—and what’s actually going to be up there—are being guarded carefully, but PCM has recently released details of a roof-top launch event on April 3, 2016 that involves a mini-golf tournament. The Roof will officially open later this year, and the mini-golf course will be a permanent fixture.

Keeping them Happy

You: want to leisurely cruise the retail spaces, check out the wares, and generally shop the way you might have before you had kids. The kids: want to be kids. Shopping with your tiny entourage is no easy task, even when you’re at Atlanta’s coolest new development. Read on for the five spots on our radar that are perfect for a little retail reboot to get your small set back in the game.

Dragon at Ponce City Market Atlanta

Photo: S. Massey

Find This First: The Dragon

Nothing beats a scavenger hunt to up the ante for littles, and when you tell them that they’re looking for a red, fire-breathing dragon, you’d better believe they won’t give up until it’s found. Translation: they’ll happily look for the dragon by your side while you relax and window shop to your heart’s content. Just make sure they find the real thing at Jia before you leave.

Ponce City Market

Photo: S. Massey

Find This Second: Ghost Railcars

Steps from the Central Food Hall exits are several links of railway (cordoned off by fences) with boxcar wheels on them. More industrial art than model train display, these tracks—and their mysterious boxcar-less trestles—are foolproof diversions for a kiddo on the brink of going bonkers.

Atlanta Beltline

Photo: S. Massey

Find This Third: The BeltLine Bridge

If things get a little crazy and you need sunshine and room to run, just follow the signs from the Central Food Hall to the BeltLine. Whether you walk a stretch or stay on the bridge, the kiddos will be happy to survey the bulldozers and diggers doing their things nearby. They’ll also love checking out the wall art of birds, running kids, and cars as they head to the BeltLine Bridge.

PCM Food Hall

Find This Fourth: Central Food Hall

The heart of PCM currently is the Food Hall, which bears the imprint of Atlanta’s finest chefs. With options that range from white linen/don’t take the kids there to wish they’d deliver because OMG, she just ate an avocado-egg salad sandwich and loved it, no trip to PCM would be complete without a visit to the Food Hall. Sure bets include King of Pops, Collier Candy Store, and Hops Chicken, but see what they think about the Korean Bun stall near Collier Candy Store.

Old Fourth Ward park

Photo: Lindsay W. via Yelp

Find This Last: Old Fourth Ward Park

If you’ve approached capacity with your companions, set them free at the Old Fourth Ward Park, just across North Avenue from PCM. Complete with green space and a playground, Old Fourth Ward Park is a perfect spot to reward the gang for a trip well done. And if you’re visiting in the evenings on Tuesdays, be on the lookout for the King of Pop’s free yoga classes.

Ponce City Market675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, 404-900-7900, poncecitymarket.com, hours of operation vary by retailer but most stores open by 10 a.m. and food stalls by 11 a.m., admission is free, parking is $1/ half hour or $10/ 4-8 hours

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Have you been to Ponce City Market with the family? What were the highlights of your trip?

– Shelley Massey