Give your kids a big-city experience in this destination that is easy to reach and downright fun.
1 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
Atlanta for Families
This city has long been a hot spot for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Now more than ever, it's also a great place for the kids, especially during this month of many spring breaks. Atlanta has so much going on. If you can't break away for the entire week, try to stay for at least three days.
Start by researching attractions online. You can get the hours, admission prices, and a good look at the venue before going. We found the Atlanta CityPass at www.citypass.com. For a flat fee that was about half the price of buying tickets separately, you gain access to many major sights. Also, the pass helps you circumvent lines. Simply sign up and pay online, and then pick up the pass at your first stop.
Visit www.mapquest.com or another Internet mapping service to plan routes using as many surface streets as possible to avoid busy interstates.
This must-see is the world's largest aquarium, and it's filled with interest at every corner. The penguins in the Cold Water Quest exhibit are really fun. They waddle around and glide through the water to the delight of children packed up against the glass. Adults and kids alike are in awe of the tunnel that runs through the Ocean Voyager area. You'll feel as if you are immersed in the ocean surrounded by whale sharks and other deep-sea creatures.
If you get there when the doors open, you'll see more of the exhibits without jockeying for position.
Set boundaries for souvenir shopping so that you don't blow your budget at the great gift shop.
3 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
New World of Coca-Cola
The New World of Coca-Cola stands across the lawn from the aquarium, so try to take in both on the same day. You view a short movie to start, and then walk through exhibit spaces featuring the history and making of Coke, its impact on pop culture, and finally the tasting room and store. This is probably more fun for adults as you see lots of old ads, merchandise, and memorabilia.
The tasting room is the hit of any visit. Here, you can sample Coca-Cola products from all over the world. Some are―well, interesting.
Get your free commemorative bottle of Coke when you walk out of the tasting room into the store.
Teens will love to have their pictures taken on the Coca-Cola sofa from the American Idol TV show.
4 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
If your family is into dinosaurs, Fernbank is for you. Situated a little east of downtown Decatur, Fernbank has some of the largest dinosaurs ever found in the world. The IMAX theater shows films about the natural world, both past and present.
Don't miss the exhibit "A Walk Through Time in Georgia." The kids will really enjoy seeing all the animal models in their natural habitats.
Look for fossils in the floors. At the front entrance you can get a handout describing the different fossils found in the limestone floor tiles.
5 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Get outside at the Children's Garden in the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The themed spaces linked by a series of paths will let your children run, jump, play, and explore some of the most fantastical plants, insects, and characters. They can crawl through the Rocky Pointe, get inside a wetland at Soggy Bog, and learn about the importance of critters at Beehive Meadow.
Bring a change of clothes or a swimsuit for the Sunflower Fountain―if the weather is warm, of course.
6 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
You'll need to travel to the south side of the city to get to Zoo Atlanta. The zoo is designed as a series of naturalistic habitats based on different parts of the world. The Kid Zone offers a playground, a petting zoo, and more intimate exhibits for youngsters to enjoy. Be sure to schedule your visit when the giant pandas are on view to say hello to Mei Lan, who was born at the zoo in September 2006.
The grounds are somewhat hilly, so renting a push cart for the children may make things easier.
Park on the Cherokee Avenue side. The larger parking lot on the Boulevard side has a big hill to walk up when you're going home.
7 of 7Photography by Mary Margaret Chambliss
For the Kids
For the Girls
Head to the American Girl Boutique and Bistro at the North Point Mall to experience all things girlie.
Have a casual meal in the bistro.
Bring your own doll to get her hair done in the doll salon.
For the Boys
No visit during baseball season would be complete without a trip to see the Braves play in Turner Field.
Friday night games end with a big fireworks display.
After Sunday games, kids under 14 can run the bases like a big leaguer.
Information For You Hotels Family friendly and full service: Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead (from $159 weekend rate for March 2008) is our pick with a great pool and kids’ dining menu. www.grandatlanta.hyatt.com. Upscale option: The InterContinental Buckhead ($219 weekend rate for March 2008) features a prime location. www.ichotelsgroup.com. Package deal: Embassy Suites Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park ($154-$329 weekend rate for March 2008) lies within walking distance to the Georgia Aquarium, New World of Coca-Cola, and Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tours and offers deals tied to the nearby attractions. www.embassysuites.com.
Restaurants Taqueria del Sol: Three locations, but our favorite is on Howell Mill Road for the nearby home decor stores. www.taqueriadelsol.com or (404) 352-5811. Fellini’s Pizza: Seven locations, all with courtyards perfect for dining outside. Tip: Ask for an extra salad dressing. It’s good on the pizza too. www.fellinisatlanta.com.