Atlanta has long hailed as the Capital of the South, but over the last three years she’s raised the bar even higher. If you’ve got a few days to explore Atlanta with kids, I recommend taking in a mixture of the city’s classic attractions, her new outdoor offerings, while getting a taste of her roots—with a dash of her rising art scene. Just follow this plan and you’ll quickly see what makes this southern charmer a haven of fun for families (map included below).
Activity 1: Bike the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail
The BeltLine is one of our favorite places to explore Atlanta: A college student’s idea to reuse the old Atlanta rail lines and an unprecedented grassroots community effort generated the city’s most beloved attraction, the Atlanta BeltLine. While the paved multiuse greenway is not yet complete, the Eastside Trail section is finished and calling for exploration. Bring your own bike or rent one from Atlanta Beltline Bicycle. Along the way, you’ll discover numerous restaurants, exceptional public art displays and an award-winning playground. With younger kids who might not be up for biking, head to the Historic Old Fourth Ward playground and skatepark where the kids can play and you can glimpse several “Living Walls” murals, Art on the BeltLine installations, and a Tiny Door exhibit all within a 100-yard walk.
Tip: If you’d like to explore even more of Atlanta’s outdoor treasures, see my comprehensive list of Atlanta hikes for families.
Activity 2: Explore Downtown Atlanta and the Centennial Olympic Park
A world of family fun centers around Downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. The common is home to Olympic-ring water fountains where kids can cool off in summer and downtown’s only outdoor ice-skating rink where families can frolic in winter. Adjacent to the park and within walking distance, families can see the city from on high at the SkyView Ferris wheel, indulge in serious play at the newly renovated Children’s Museum or taste over 100 flavors of Coke at World of Coca-Cola. Still not enough? Get up close with whale sharks at the world’s largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, or try for a field goal at the College Football Hall of Fame. Two additional attractions at Centennial Park that tweens and teens will enjoy include a tour of the newsrooms at CNN Center and a heartfelt journey at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Activity 3: Ride Back in Time on the Atlanta Streetcar
The electric Atlanta Street Car opened in December 2014; it runs along 2.7 miles of track with 12 stops, making it a fun and affordable way for families to explore Atlanta. Pick up the streetcar at Centennial Olympic Park and ride it to the Sweet Auburn District where you can visit the Martin Luther King National Historic Center. The children’s exhibits at the Visitor Center are exquisitely done and offered a beautiful teaching opportunity for my own family. (See photos from our MLK experience for more details.) You’ll also see Ebenezer Church where King preached, his birth home and his favorite hangout, No. 6 Fire Station, which was also one of the first fire stations to desegregate.
Tip: Take your MLK excursion in the morning so that you can hop back on the streetcar with a stop at Sweet Auburn Market for lunch. You can’t go wrong here, with something for everyone; grab a red velvet whoopee pie at Sweet Auburn Bakery for dessert. Atlanta’s infamous traffic jams can make this tricky on a weekday, so save this excitement for the weekend.
Activity 4: Indulge in the Arts at Woodruff Arts Center
High Museum, Alliance Theatre, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra comprise the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta’s premier arts venue. Visit the Woodruff every Sunday for CreateATL, free family activities including family festivals, art-making activities, interactive musical story times, composers-in-training sessions, instrument making, drop-in acting classes and more. If you can’t make a Sunday, don’t skip High Museum with kids. Younger children will adore the Greene Family Learning Gallery with hands-on children’s exhibits. Older kiddos can check out a Discovery Backpack with projects, puzzles and other ways to engage at the museum. There are also Toddler Thursday programs, art scavenger hunts, and other special programs.
1 Great Place to Stay: The Georgian Terrace Hotel
Georgian Terrace serves up affordable Southern luxury, right in Midtown Atlanta. Stay where the stars gathered, including Arthur Murray, most of the cast of Gone With the Wind, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, Helen Keller, and Charles Lindbergh–just to name a few. Spacious accommodations and two- and three-bedroom suites with kitchens work for families of any size. As a member of the Preferred Family group of hotels, you can be assured of family-friendly amenities and dining options. Kids will enjoy gorgeous views of the city from the oversized windows and rooftop pool. Mom and Dad will love the history, free shuttle, and ideal location.
1 Great Place to Eat: Radial Café
Radial Café is tucked away in a modest space within the Candler Park neighborhood, but don’t let the unassuming façade deceive you. This rustic yet chic eatery serves local, organic fare with special vegan and gluten-free options. Open for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’ll appreciate their delicious entrees, sustainable heart and casual environment. Ready for the best part? Kids eat free EVERY weekday! Radial is not in the center of the tourist attraction district; it’s in a locally loved neighborhood, but worth the short drive. Don’t miss our photos and experience at Radial.