“I wish we could travel more, but having the kid(s) makes it impossible.” Hearing this, as often as I do, from friends and family drives me absolutely crazy. As an avid traveler who’s been around the world, I knew I wanted to share my love of travel with my son. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when destinations have a kids-centric museum to visit or large parks for our little guy to burn energy in. Of all the cities we’ve been to in the last 19 months, Atlanta takes the cake for family-friendly travel. There are many things to do in Atlanta with kids and most are perfectly suited for adults too.
Things to do in Atlanta with Kids
Of the attractions we visited – the College Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN World Headquarters, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights – all were completely appropriate (if not geared towards) young visitors and they were all easy to get to. The Atlanta Conventions and Visitors Bureau made us feel right at home by offering us the Atlanta CityPASS to use during our stay. Thanks to our CityPASS we were able to enjoy the College Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN World Headquarters, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The city is full of excitement and offers so much to do and see!
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College Football Hall of Fame
For me, the most fun was at the College Football Hall of Fame (which recently moved to Atlanta from South Bend, Indiana in 2014). Beyond the Hall itself which was located on the top floor and gave insight into each of the inductees' careers, the Hall of Fame and fan experience was really amazing.
It begins with an impressive display – the helmet wall – featuring a helmet from every college football team in the United States. Once you select your favorite team on the computers provided, you watch your team’s helmet illuminate. The entire experience was 100% interactive. Given your badge is RFID enabled, many of the exhibits customize themselves to your school of choice – talk about a 21st century museum!
But it wasn’t just the high-tech innovations, touch-screens and trophy displays that got my attention. Rather, it was their fully interactive Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Skill Zone. This personal playground is unlike anything I (or my son, obviously,) had ever experienced.
Atlanta is a kid friendly choice
This is a 45-yard football field with a regulation-sized end zone and goal post filled with a variety of skills tests for all ages. From throwing accuracy to running speed, and from diving catches to field goal attempts, this was a football-fan's wonderland. My little guy and I spend at least an hour in there just running up and down the sidelines tacking each other. I was also quite impressed with my 50% (2/4) PAT conversion rate.
The Georgia Aquarium
Without a doubt, my son’s and wife’s favorite part of the trip was our amazing visit to the Georgia Aquarium – considered by most to be the best aquarium in North America. From the time it opened in 2005 it was the world’s largest aquarium as well; that is, until Singapore’s Marine Life Park opened in 2012.
The aquarium is broken up into five main sections, the largest of which being the Ocean Voyager built by Home Depot section. Here visitors can walk around (and even under) parts of this 6.3 million gallon tank, featuring four whale sharks and several manta rays! The highlight to the exhibit is the theater-styled observation room with a the larger-than-life acrylic viewing window measuring a whopping 61 feet across and 23 feet high.
While my wife and I were awe-struck by the sheer size and beauty of some of these creatures, nothing could compare to the amazement our son had in his eyes as his pressed his hands and face against the glass.
World of Coco-Cola
Next up was the World of Coca-Cola. Here, you start with a free bottle of Coca-Cola and venture through an interactive museum reliving some of Coke’s storied history. They go through many of their world-famous ads in an upstairs theater (polar bears included!), explain the history of the company, the bottling methods and the bottle designs themselves.
They also recently moved the top-secret original recipe to the headquarters for the first time, since it had been stored in a nearby bank’s safety deposit box; visitors get to stare at the enormous steel vault, but are warned to not come too close.
With lots of statues, fun sounds and bright colors all around, families of all ages can enjoy a tour at the World of Coca-Cola – even if the kiddos can’t drink the stuff yet. Speaking of drinking… My favorite part was the tasting room. Broken up by continent, visitors could taste some of Coca-Cola’s more (and less) well-known drinks; some more delicious than expected, while others, ummm, not. *Hint* – the sodas from Djibouti and Peru were far from our favorites.
Family friendly hotel
During our time in Atlanta we stayed at the Crowne Plaza Midtown. Despite not being in the heart of downtown this “mid-town” property has the perfect location. The Crowne Plaza was also just three blocks from the nearby MARTA (subway) station. And while taking the subway to the heart of the city may have been more convenient, the walk to nearly all major attractions was only 15-20 minute…with a stroller! Given the beautiful weather, we obviously chose to walk each day.
Also worth noting, was hotel’s interior, including all of the rooms, the two restaurants and the common spaces; this was all completely redesigned and updated in 2014/15 when the property changed hands from Meliá.
Our particular room was a full one-bedroom suite on the 10th floor. It was absolutely perfect for traveling with young kid. The staff arranged for a crib in the room, which we decided to put next to the bed. This allowed us to keep the living room kid-free for the duration of the stay, which meant we could relax, work or watch TV while our son was sleeping without worrying about waking him up. Sure, sneaking in late at night and crawling into bed became an Olympic-style sport, but the trade-off was well worth it. The living room portion of the room featured a nice couch and a round, four-person dining table – great for getting work done. Connected to the bedroom was a comfortable bathroom, which included a tub/shower combo (essential for bath time).
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Our last excursion of the trip was to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which opened in the summer of 2014. While it was one of the smaller of the museums we visited, it was by far the most powerful.
A quick note about traveling with children: Clearly, the contents of this museum are heavy and not to be taken lightly. As such, I would not recommend bringing children between the ages of five and 13.
Kids under five however are not yet able to understand the significance of their surroundings, but are able to keep occupied thanks to the design of the different exhibits – namely, large interactive touch-screens only a few feet off the ground, phone-styled headsets playing beautiful old Negro Spirituals on the wall and a large multi-colored world map (which is great for kids to stare at).
The upper portion of the museum is dedicated to international human rights, with focuses on slave labor, human trafficking, violent dictators (past and present) and genocide. On the main floor is a very powerful and well-designed exhibit outlining the history of the American civil rights movements; it begins with segregation and goes all the way up to modern times with the election of President Obama. All in all, the experience was eye opening and gut-wrenching but worth every second.
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An amazing meal in Atlanta
The last, but certainly not least, “must see” place in Atlanta is a restaurant. Herban Fix is a completely vegan establishment, but provided us with one of the greatest meals I’ve ever eaten. It’s menu is Asian inspired with plenty of western flair and its ability to use exclusively vegan ingredients while keeping each dish so unique and flavorful was quite impressive. Best of all, it was voted Georgia’s best restaurant in a recent USA Today poll of 50 places to eat in 50 states.
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Expect at least $50/person (with alcohol), but every bite makes you realize just how worthwhile the bill is. And, if you’re staying at the Crowne Plaza Midtown, where we spent our time, you’re only a five minute walk away!
Overall, when it comes to traveling in North America, few cities can compete with all the things to do in Atlanta with kids. Between the parks, museums, hotel and restaurant options, this is absolutely the city for you. If you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for?
Ari Charlestein is a family man, a world traveler, a writer and a compulsive entrepreneur (in that order). In his ten years as a travel professional, Charlestein has proven himself as an expert in the field of points and miles. His travel companies, Award Magic and First Class and Beyond, strive to see every individual maximize the value of his/her loyalty points. Through consulting and booking services, he provides world class insight into a niche travel market. Charlestein has also been featured across a variety of print and online media, as well as being a regular speaking at several travel industry events each year; these include The New York Times Travel Show, Canadian Points University and the Travel Industry Exchange.
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