As I mentioned yesterday, I’d like to inspire and encourage the “tourist in your own town” mentality this summer. So I’m doing a series of posts about things to do in specific cities with kids this summer. Over the next few weeks I’ll highlight lots of major cities Continue reading 20 Things To Do In Atlanta This SummerShare This Post
This weekend the country will divide itself. By Sunday evening, most Americans will identify with one of two areas of the country: New England, or anywhere BUT New England. Going out on a limb but I’m guessing if you weren’t already a Patriots fan, you’ll be rooting for the Falcons!
In light of Super Bowl week, I want to feature the homes of both teams in Super Bowl LI. Naturally, I’m starting with the best team…(not that I’m biased!)
When visiting Atlanta, the possibilities are endless (again, I’m not biased at all!) Here are 5 things your family can’t miss:
- Sporting Event: Obviously had to start on this subject as it’s the reason for the post. In addition to the Falcons, Atlanta is home to 4 other professional sports teams. Additionally, numerous college and minor league teams call the city home. Because it’s well known for sports, and sporting events Atlanta also holds the College Football Hall of Fame. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. You can’t come to the city without doing something “sporty” whether it’s taking in a game or revisiting sports history!
- GA Aquarium: Highly regarded as being one of the best aquariums in the world, the GA Aquarium is home to the only whale sharks in captivity outside of Asia. In addition to the whale sharks, 4 manta rays live in the 6.3 million gallon tank. The aquarium is not only impressive, but it’s very educational. It’s impossible not to spend the day mesmerized by the thousands of fish at the GA Aquarium.
- Food: Like most Southern towns, Atlanta has great food. From every possible chain restaurant you can imagine, to endless local fare establishments, there’s something for everyone. The city also runs the gamut from incredibly elegant fine dining, to tiny little hole in the wall places. No visitor to Atlanta has ever left hungry! Two restaurants specifically known for good food, and rich history are The Varsity and The Sundial.
- Stone Mountain: If you’ve never been to Atlanta and visited Stone Mountain, the description is almost too much to believe. For starters, it’s a mountain (pretty much the city’s only one!) Carved into the face of the mountain are notable Confederate soldiers: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. In addition to the Southern history lesson, guests to Stone Mountain can practically enjoy every activity imaginable. Watch a show. Play golf. Go tubing. Hike. Take a sky ride. Whatever the season, and whatever your interest- Stone Mountain offers a little something for everyone!
- Zoo Atlanta: I really debated featuring 2 of 5 activities that involved animals since it’s not everyone’s thing. However, Zoo Atlanta is just too good to not mention. This zoo is one of just 4 in the US with giant pandas. The creatures are so impressive and guests love watching them play. In addition to the pandas, the zoo is home to over 1,300 different animals. Also worth noting, Zoo Atlanta is one of the oldest zoos in North America and has a rich history of animal conservation.
- Chick fil A Dwarf House (the very first Chick fil A)
- World of Coke
- Centennial Olympic Park
- CNN Center
Don’t miss tomorrow’s post where I (a bit reluctantly) highlight the home of the Patriots!Share This Post
When it comes to travel- specifically our family travel- I’ve heard it all. The comments and questions range from praise and admiration, to outright criticism. Furthermore, we’ve been prayed for and wished luck along our journey. Although most times those are said in very encouraging tones, other times it’s felt a bit mocking. Generally speaking though, the most common conversations (positive or negative) revolve around the ages of our children.
Here are just a few examples of conversation starters I’ve heard recently:
- “I’m waiting until my children get older to start traveling with them.”
- “We don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a vacation the kids won’t even remember.”
- “Traveling with young kids is exhausting. It doesn’t feel like a vacation.”
- “I would travel with my kids more, but they hate riding in a car.”
- “Don’t you worry that your kids won’t sleep at a hotel?”
I aways start my response by saying “Yes. I get it.”
I’m not completely immune to any of those thoughts or problems. However, I truly believe when it comes to travel, the good outweighs the bad every time. Kids (and adults too) learn from experience. How will they learn if you never give them the opportunity? Not to mention, experiences shape their world and stretch their abilities. By the same token, the earlier you expose children to things, the easier they adapt and become accustom to it (ex. foreign language.)
Do my children remember all the travel we’ve done? Definitely not. But through travel- even from an early age- I’ve been able to teach them to be adaptable, inquisitive, and adventurous. We’ve exposed them to history, culture, art, and imagination. Likewise, they’ve learned etiquette (okay, this is still a work in progress) and the art of exploration. We’ve expanded their world through new foods, as well as new situations.
Has it been easy? No. Have we made sacrifices in other areas to be able to give our children these opportunities? Yes. Do I regret it for a second? Absolutely not!
And where their memories fail, my camera has not. Often at night rather than reading a book, we flip through old pictures of our trips. My children can tell stories of their travels- some from actual memories, but likely most from the repeated exposure to the photographs.
If I could encourage parents in one way, it would be this: don’t wait. Don’t make excuses or put off travel until later. The trips don’t have to be over-over-the-top. In fact, a day trip or a short weekend getaway can be the best way to start.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for suggestions on some fabulous trips for young kids- here are a list of 10 that I highly recommend.
- Orlando, Florida: No explanation needed for this city! Orlando has TONS to offer young families from the obvious (Disney) to a great Science Center, LEGOLAND, Sea World, and a variety of other family friendly attractions. To get more ideas, check out my post 10 Things To Do In Orlando (besides Theme Parks.)
- Chicago, Illinois: You could literally spend a month in Chicago with kids and not do everything. Chicago offers phenomenal museums, sporting events, and cultural opportunities. Additionally, the city parks are among the best in the country. For more ideas see my post, Chicago In A Weekend.
- Grand Canyon: One rule I’ve found to be true about my kids, “the bigger, the better.” And it doesn’t get any bigger or better than the Grand Canyon. Along with exploring the natural beauty of the canyon, kids are transported into a totally different landscape with an opportunity to learn so much science and geography.
- New York City, New York: New York is a city for all ages. It’s full of charm, history, and larger than life excitement (see Grand Canyon for my “rule” on that!) A broadway musical, a trip to the Statute of Liberty, and a bus tour of the city streets, can be a great way to expose kids to the dynamic culture of New York.
- Disney Cruise: Parents looking for a balance between a trip for kids, and a relaxing vacation need to consider a Disney Cruise. Truly the most perfect vacation for families of all ages, a Disney Cruise offers endless entertainment, a safe environment, and even built in babysitting. It doesn’t get any better! If you’re left with doubts read my posts about us taking the same vacation 3 times- Part 1 and Part 2.
- Washington DC: This city is the true heartbeat of America. There is no better place to teach children about history, politics and the future of our country. Best of all, the area is rich with culture, and family friendly attractions.
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee: There is no area of the world with a landscape as diverse as Gatlinburg. One minute you’re in the middle of a National Park surrounded by gorgeous mountains, and the next minute you’re in a wildly commercialized area that rivals Vegas. Like Chicago, Gatlinburg is a city where you could spend a month and still not do everything.
- Atlanta, Georgia: I might be a little biased since it’s my hometown, but I believe Atlanta is one of the greatest cities to spend a weekend (or week) with your family. In Atlanta you will have experiences that you absolutely can’t have anywhere else. With many unique opportunities, adults will enjoy the city as much as the kids!
- ANY Beach: Although we’ve never actually lived at the beach, I can say that my children have literally grown up on the beach. Each visit has been different. We’ve gone through stages of crossing our fingers they nap in beach tents, to sandcastle building, and recently we’ve entered the skim board phase. Our memories hold countless beach trips and I’ve loved every one.
- St. Louis, Missouri: Like with my beach memories, St. Louis holds a special place in my heart. I think the unexpectedness of our weekend is why I fell in love with this city. As I wrote in my post 5 Reasons To Take Your Kids To St. Louis, this city is my daughter’s favorite based on her experience as a 5-year old. For a well traveled child, that says it all!
What is your favorite vacation to take with young kids?
More than just the worldwide headquarters for a major news station, the CNN Center is an incredible destination for anyone visiting downtown Atlanta.
Located adjacent to the beautiful Omni Atlanta Hotel, the CNN Center contains shops, and restaurants in addition to the newsrooms, offices and studios. The Center itself is a large atrium with the world’s longest free-standing escalator (it connects the ground floor with the eighth.)
The ground level feels much like a food court with a wonderful selection of fast food such as: Cajun Cafe & Grill, Chick-fil-A, Fresh To Order, Dunkin’ Donuts, TJ’s Sandwiches, Great Wraps, Moe’s, Starbucks, and many others.
If you are in downtown Atlanta, the CNN Center is a wonderful place to grab a quick meal or snack!
One of the cool things about pausing for a meal at the CNN Center is that you will be able to see large TVs broadcasting CNN Live. Our children thought it was very awesome that somewhere in the building was the person we saw on the TV.
The CNN Center is within walking distance of several Atlanta tourist attractions including: The Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena, College Football Hall of Fame, Georgia World Congress Center, The Georgia Aquarium, The Coca-Cola Museum and many other downtown points of interest.
There is also a tour where you can get a behind the scenes peak at the global headquarters. As part of the tour you will see how a live broadcast is produced and get a glimpse into some of the studios.
The tours run 7-days a week, 9AM to 5PM. Ticket reservations are recommended, although not required.Share This Post
Originally constructed as a Track and Field venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics, Turner Field was retrofitted into a baseball diamond and opened for the 1997 season. For the last 19 seasons, The Atlanta Braves have called Turner Field home. However, at the completion of the 2016 season, The Braves will be moving to a new facility.
Knowing the window of opportunity was closing to take my children to a game at this historic venue, we made a point to get there early in this final season.
Our family loves baseball and taking our children to different ballparks around the country is a major goal (read my post on this topic here.)
We are excited that we can now check Turner Field off the list (and add the Braves new stadium, SunTrust Park!)
I get asked lots of questions about the best way to purchase baseball tickets and I will admit, it’s a tad confusing. Specifically addressing Braves tickets in this post (because every stadium might be different), the least expensive way to purchase tickets is in person at a ticket window or kiosk. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online. If you don’t like the suspense of waiting, definitely purchase your tickets as early as possible. The downside to purchasing online is that you will always pay a 3rd party fee. The fee is on each ticket so that can really add up for families.
If you are brave enough to wait, tickets can be purchased at the stadium:
On non-game days:
Monday- Friday 930AM – 5:00PM, Saturday 9:30AM – 2:00 PM, closed Sunday
On game days:
9:30AM – to the end of 6th inning
Tickets are available as far out as the end of the 2016 season. I highly recommend that you purchase your tickets as early on in your trip as possible. Besides avoiding sell-out situations, you will also avoid long game day lines.
Our family typically purchases General Admission tickets. These are the least expensive tickets and range from $7 – $15 depending on the game. One of the main reasons we don’t make a priority of paying higher prices for better seats is because my kids rarely stay in them. They LOVE to EXPERIENCE the ballpark. We watch an inning, and then we move around. The money we save on tickets goes to purchases inside the stadium!
To commemorate the kids’ first (and, most likely, last) visit to Turner Field we purchased a game ball as a souvenir. This was an “insider” tip I received: balls that have been used in the game and taken out of play are taken to 1 specific fan store starting in the 5th inning where they are sold. In looking for this store we thought we were on a wild-goose chase, but we did eventually find it.
We were so excited to purchase this awesome memento and we will be asking at all future stadiums if they sell the used game balls. The balls all have a code on them where you can go online to find out exactly what happened to the ball (which pitcher used it, what batter hit it, etc.)
We had a wonderful night at Turner Field watching the Braves play (even though they lost!) View the Braves 2016 schedule here.
Also worth noting, Turner Field does a fireworks show every Friday night. It’s spectacular and a real bonus on top of the game!
Atlanta is a city known for many things. A few things that come to mind: Coca-Cola, great sports teams, bad traffic, the 1996 Summer Olympic games, and its famous animals. Located just outside of downtown, Zoo Atlanta is home to 4 of the United States’ 12 pandas, a historic collection of gorillas and thousands of other plants, animals and reptiles.
We arrived at Zoo Atlanta early to maximize our day and also to catch the animals in the cool morning hours. My kids were thrilled with the colorful maps. Immediately they began to plan our route to their favorite animals. Throughout the day they were able to refer back to their maps and easily navigate us around the zoo.
We were barely in the gates when we saw the flamingo. After about 10 minutes of staring at the beautiful birds, I had to remind the kids that we had A LOT more animals to see.
One of the best parts about Zoo Atlanta is how clearly all of the animals are labeled. Because they have so many different species, it’s easy to have trouble identifying them all. Multiple signs are located around every habitat and besides the name, you can also learn facts about the animal.
Of course, one animal needed no identification! We could not wait to make our way to the pandas.
It’s really a good thing we planned a long day at the zoo- we spent almost an hour watching the pandas without even realizing it. They are SO playful and fun! And I love how photogenic they are. At times it really felt like they were posing and smiling for my camera.
This one did a forward roll every time she walked in front of my daughter. It was hilarious!
When we finally tore ourselves away from the pandas, we found the gorillas equally entertaining.
One of the awesome things about Zoo Atlanta is that there are multiple viewing areas for many of the animals. We were able to observe the gorillas from several different vantage points.
What better way to view Naked Mole Rats than to climb right into their tunnels…
Other family favorites included:
The Komodo Dragon
The Bear sleeping with his tongue out
The Red Panda
My kids LOVE creepy crawly creatures. They could not tear their eyes away from this snake that was most certainly trying to get out of his cage to get me!
While my children and husband soaked in every little snake and creature in the room, I chose to study the awesome facts. Zoo Atlanta did a fantastic job with the education piece of their exhibits.
Our visit to Zoo Atlanta was one of the highlights of our visit to a wonderful city. The zoo is clean, well laid-out, and it beautifully incorporates the animal habitats. The animals were also easy to view.
*Our visit was hosted by Zoo Atlanta*Share This Post
During a recent trip to Atlanta, we decided to visit the very first Chick-fil-A. As I mentioned once or twice yesterday, we love Chick-fil-A (read about why here.)
Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant in a small town called Hapeville (just south of Atlanta and very close to the airport) back in 1946. The restaurant, then called The Dwarf Grill, would go on to inspire the chain Chick-fil-A.
The menu and dining experience at The Dwarf House are slightly different from that at a more traditional Chick-fil-A. Although you can order any typical menu item, you can also order items from the original menu. A few items include: pancakes, waffles and hashbrowns (served all day.) The most surprising thing on the menu- a hamburger!
The Dwarf House is also set up in the original format, which is like a diner (with servers). There is also an option to eat at the counter where they cook in front of you.
After thoroughly enjoying our meal, we were able to go on a behind the scenes tour with the manager. This is an experience that anyone can do and you do not need to set it up ahead of time. Simply ask when you arrive, and you are in for a treat!
It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the tour, but it was probably when we stopped at the pie station. Chick-fil-A makes all their pies from scratch in their stores. They.Are.Delicious.
We also enjoyed hearing about all of the things that make The Dwarf House unique. For example, they have 3 completely separate kitchens. Also, they are open 24 hours a day (but obviously still closed on Sunday.)
Another neat feature is that part of the building is from the original structure built back in the ’40’s. Of course, they have added on to make accommodations for a larger facility and a drive-thru.
After our meal and tour, it was hard to leave such a fun place. However, getting to exit through this dwarf door certainly made it easier!
The Dwarf House is an awesome addition to any trip to Atlanta. It’s located extremely close to the airport and The Delta Flight Museum. It’s also a short drive (depending on traffic) from the downtown Atlanta area.Share This Post
My kids have a *slight* obsession with airplanes. They love everything about them- riding on them, being at the airport, and watching them fly overhead. They even know every word to the the Disney movie, Planes (and it’s sequel, Planes Fire Rescue!) So when I found out Delta had opened its Flight Museum up to the public, I knew we had to put that on the travel itinerary!
The Delta Flight Museum is located in Atlanta, Georgia adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Museum is contained in two old hangers. On one side, you have more of the historical exhibits where you will learn the history of the airline industry and how Delta evolved into one of the leading airlines. The display cases are full of interesting artifacts, and there are several real planes on display in that hanger.
The displays are organized well, and grouped in an easy way for kids to understand. There are also great stories and facts documented to read as we walked through the Museum.
The other hanger contains a more modern experience of Delta and the airline industry. To move between hangers you pass through a sound tunnel. The sound evolves from the original prop sound, to a more modern engine.
One of our favorite stories was about The Spirit of Delta plane that is on display in the Museum. The Boeing 767 was purchased for $30 million dollars by employees.
At the Museum you can actually board the Spirit of Delta.
View the cockpit (no armored door!)
The original first class seats were left on plane.
The rest of the plane is devoted to display cases.
The kids loved this particular display case with all the different models of planes flown by Delta over the years.
We also really enjoyed seeing the various uniforms worn over the years. Because Delta is headquartered in Atlanta and Atlanta was home to the 1996 Olympics, there is a lot of special memorabilia.
Another highlight of the museum is the real-time screens showing airport traffic. We were able to watch all the airplanes moving around at the Atlanta airport, and also watch world maps to see where planes were currently flying. If there was a TV channel at home that played this, my kids would watch it all the time! Even I have to admit, it was a little addicting.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Museum! If you ever find yourself with a long layover in Atlanta, you could easily leave the terminal and visit the Delta Flight Museum for a couple of hours!
The Delta Flight Museum is nonprofit. Be sure to check the events calendar on their website prior to your visit as the museum does close for private events.Share This Post
Yesterday I wrote about our incredible experience visiting The College Football Hall of Fame. It was a fabulous family activity and I encourage everyone to visit. Read yesterday’s full post here.
A few tips to consider when visiting The College Football Hall of Fame:
- Wear Your Team Gear: Occasionally (more than I care to admit) when we travel, I pack for my husband. Our most recent trip to Atlanta was one of those instances. As I pulled out his favorite orange University of Tennessee polo from the suitcase, I could tell he was surprised. And maybe a little embarrassed. We weren’t actually going to a game, and yet I packed orange/white UT clothes for the entire family. Since there were no other options, he wore the clothes. It wasn’t until we were actually at the College Football Hall of Fame when he realized how acceptable it was for us to all be dressed in orange. Not only acceptable, but cool. Several others showed up that day in their team gear too. Our clothes made for great pictures, and lots of conversation! Definitely plan to wear your gear when you visit.
- Allow Plenty of Time: Full disclosure- I assumed we’d spend about 2 hours at The College Football Hall of Fame. 2 hours is usually when my kids start to max out on “good behavior” and we try to avoid total meltdowns in public. Thankfully, we didn’t have anything else planned for the afternoon and we ended up spending over 4 hours there (and we easily could have spent more if my husband hadn’t been so concerned about Atlanta’s rush hour situation!) You will want to allow a minimum of half a day to explore the Hall of Fame.
- Wear Tennis Shoes: Unless I’m running (which isn’t one of my hobbies!), I never wear tennis shoes. I’m always more comfortable in sandals, even if we’re going to be doing a lot of walking. But for once, I seriously regretted not having on tennis shoes. In the Chick-fil-A Skills Zone, you can attempt to kick a field goal. You can also run through a conditioning course and make a diving catch. Both of these things were impossible to attempt in my sandals. As I stood on the sidelines and watched everyone else in my family, I made a mental note to remember tennis shoes next time.
- Come Hungry: When we travel we rarely plan to eat at museums. Not to generalize too much, but the food tends to be overpriced and mediocre. However, The College Football Hall of Fame has a Chick-fil-A walk-up window in the Skills Zone. Unfortunately, we’d eaten lunch prior to arriving so I didn’t think we were very hungry. But after 2 hours, we were definitely ready for a snack. It was awesome to be able to have a great snack/meal without leaving the building. The space is set up to make you feel like you are tailgating. It’s an awesome atmosphere with awesome food!
- Don’t Skip Anything: There is so much to experience at The College Football Hall of Fame that it would be easy to miss something. Make sure to either wait in line, or come back to it later. We genuinely enjoyed everything! A couple of the exhibits that we’d skipped on our first go through ended up being our favorites on our second time around. Also, it would be easy to miss the movie if you happen to walk by the theater when it’s already showing. Be sure to go back by! The movie is wonderfully done and very inspirational.
- Interact With The Employees: We loved chatting with the employees at The College Football Hall of Fame! They were all so friendly and knowledgable. We were able to learn so much from talking with them. Also, they did a wonderful job engaging the children. We spoke with a couple employees who were former college football players and it was neat to hear their stories too.
- Bring Your Wallet: Again, not to generalize, but I’m usually less than thrilled with gift shops. We have more souvenir stuffed animals than I can count, and there is rarely anything that I’m personally interested in. Unfortunately (for my hard working husband), the gift shop at The Football Hall of Fame is incredible. They have an impressive collection of team items, and tons of great tailgating staples. There is also a wide variety of football related stuff- from books to baby bibs. We were able to purchase several unique gifts to use for upcoming birthdays (not pictured, for obvious reasons!), as well as a couple quality souvenirs for our family!
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When I plan travel, our activities are usually broken up into several categories. Sometimes the activities I plan are more for the kids, and other times more for the adults. We try to do a mixture of fun, educational, historical, and unique experiences. I’m honestly not sure if we’ve ever been anywhere that is a true mixture of all of the above. However, The College Football Hall of Fame is just that!
Although it’s relatively new to the Downtown Atlanta scene (it opened in August 2014), The College Football Hall of Fame is quickly becoming a ‘can’t miss’ destination in the Southeast!
Our family wasn’t in the doors 5 minutes, and it was VERY easy to see why the place is so popular. From the friendly staff, to the colorful display of football helmets, to the football practice field, there is an overwhelming energy in the building from the moment you walk in.
Before you get started, everyone must check-in and activate their pass. You will enter your favorite college football team, along with some other information. As you complete the check-in process your team helmet will begin to blink with a blue light. The light will stay illuminated throughout the day to let everyone know which fans are in the building that day. It was amazing to see how many different lights were on!
On the second level, you are greeted by a wall of screens. As you approach the wall the various panels will change to images from your favorite school. At any point throughout your visit you can change your favorite school, though we never did (why would we? We LOVE the Vols!)
The Chick-fil-A cow also appeared and held up signs of welcome with our name and school mascot.
Everything at The College Football Hall of Fame is interactive and hands-on. I had initially been worried that my children would need to do a lot of “looking, but no touching.” In fact, I had coached them on that ahead of time so they were a bit skeptical when our guide encouraged them to jump right in and play. It didn’t take long for them to warm up though!
One, of the many, highlights of The College Football Hall of Fame is the video. ‘The Game of Your Life’ is an incredible tribute to college football. It will inspire you and give you chills. All 4 of us were ready to take the field as we exited the theater.
Another highlight was the College Game Day broadcast. We were all able to take turns sitting at the desk and virtually joining the show. After filming the minute-long clip, you can watch a playback. The video is also saved to your fan pass and you can access it from home.
Our 8-year old *might* have found her new calling. She was totally comfortable in front of the camera and did a surprisingly great job reading from the teleprompter.
The Hall of Fame has an awesome area sponsored by Under Armor that pays tribute to the equipment and uniform evolution.
After playing on the second level for quite a while, we headed upstairs to view the gallery of inducted players and coaches. All of the names are listed on panels along the walls, but the inner area contains giant interactive screens. You can search players, or view them by school. As you click on each player you are presented with a great collection pictures and facts.
You can also read about the criteria involved in the selection process for the players and coaches.
We ended our tour- the first time- on the ground level in the Chick-fil-A Skill Zone.
We probably spent about an hour “perfecting” our skills (it was slightly addictive!), and then sat down to have a little snack. There is a Chick-fil-A walk up window in the Skills Area. While we were sitting there our children began begging to go back upstairs. They desperately wanted to re-do our whole experience. Although I thought we’d be on our way after our snack, I was happy to go play some more!
The College Football Hall of Fame is an incredible addition to Atlanta! To find out more and schedule your visit, go to their website.
*The College Football Hall of Fame hosted our family during our visit.*Share This Post