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Amazing Atlanta Weekend - Kids Included


JENNIFER LEIGHTON
Posted 12/13/2009

Atlanta is one of my favorite Southern cities since there is just so much to do. This is such an interesting place: I've always thought the city has a split personality, but in the best possible way! The city is fantastic if you are there for great clubbing and some spectacular shopping. However, Atlanta shines just as brightly as a destination for the PG rated crowd. It is easy to see why I saw so many families with children and teens when I recently took my nephews to visit. Our mission: Find a few special standouts that any family will really enjoy.

You just can't go to Atlanta without visiting the Georgia Aquarium. It really is an unforgettable experience for any age. I was just as goggle eyed as my nephews, aged 12 and 6, at this place! This is largest aquarium in the entire world, and features over 60 unique habitats for marine creatures. The 20-plus feet long whale sharks are especially impressive: It is not too often humans get a chance to get almost nose to nose with these giants of the ocean, and in fact this is the only U.S. aquarium that has them. Almost every kind of aquatic life is housed here, in beautifully constructed environments that really make you think you are right in the middle of the ocean. I thought the "petting tanks" had to be the best part of the Aquarium: We got to actually lean over a giant open pool and stroke the bonnethead sharks, cownose rays, and horseshoe crabs who live there. Now, I can go tell all my friends that I stared down a shark and tickled it on the belly! You can easily grab lunch at the food court here, but it can be a little pricey. I found a better option is to take a quick stroll over to Broad Street for some nice casual food options like pizza and sandwiches. We were there for about four hours and did not even come close to getting bored, so you can definitely make this a day long trip. The kids and I were equally entranced by the Aquarium and this rates as our top pick for the whole city.

Stone Mountain Park is actually a resort destination in itself. It struck me as being rather like an all natural version of Disneyland. The fun here is mainly outdoors and varies with the season and the weather. A petting zoo and antique car museum are on the grounds, as well as an old fashioned riverboat. Before you start to explore, try a try on the Summit Skyride gondolas. This ride is absolutely amazing! It's the perfect way to get a close look at the giant relief carvings of Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson, and Stonewall Jackson that are etched into this massive granite mountain. If you visit during the winter, check out Snow Mountain. They make huge amounts of snow and spread it over the ground for snow tubing and snowball fights! My pick for the most fun thing to do at Stone Mountain: The laser light show on the mountain! This is more impressive than most fourth of July fireworks displays and it is totally free. All in all, I think Stone Mountain is a great pick for family fun and maybe even a little bit of painless education along the way. Definitely kid approved: The kids were asking if we could stay in one of the in park hotels next time we visit and I think they talked me into it.

Six Flags Over Georgia is one of the top attractions in the Atlanta area, and deservedly so. This is an especially good pick for spring and summer months, and you can easily spend a day or even a few days having fun here. We had a full two days and could have spent much longer, since some of the thrill rides are definite repeats: So fun you gotta try it twice. There are 10 rollercoasters and four different water rides for the adults and older kids, and these thrill rides are just as good as any I have been on at Disney World. The preschoolers will have lots to do with the cute themed activities with characters like Thomas the Tank Engine. The park has a really great layout and we never had to wait too long for rides or attractions. During the summer it is well worth the half hour drive over to Six Flags White Water for the absolute best water rides anywhere. We had even more fun here than at the main park. The water attractions range from tame to really wild, but just prepare to get totally drenched no matter what. I had just as much fun as the kids! Expect to get splashed and dress for comfort: You'll be doing a lot of walking and exploring!