The indomitable spirit of Atlanta helped the city to regain its collective footing after the Civil War, becoming a booming hub in the South. Known as the city “too busy to hate” during the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta was able to retain its reputation as a culturally progressive beacon among other Southern cities of comparable size. The rich history, strong and diverse economy and number of interesting attractions have allowed Atlanta to land a number-seven spot on Forbes’ Most Visited Cities list. If you’re considering a family trip to Atlanta, this is only a small sampling of the many great attractions for kids and families.
- Fernbank Science Center (Atlanta, GA 30307) – Housing one of the largest planetariums in America, the Fernbank Science Center is a great stop for kids that have an interest in space and astronomy. The observatory also contains one of the largest instruments dedicated to public viewing and education, a telescope that patrons are welcomed to try out when weather conditions are satisfactory.
- Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (Atlanta, GA 30313) – Recommended for kids age eight and younger, Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta features a permanent exhibit that covers food production from gathering to delivery, a water play area where brightly-colored raincoats are passed out to allow “fishing” with magnetic poles, and an art gallery that encourages painting on a washable Plexiglas wall.
- Yellow River Game Ranch (Lilburn, GA 30047) – Yellow River Game Rance, a twenty-four acre facility, is a preserve that’s home to more than 600 animals. Mountain lions, bears and buffalo are among the inhabitants. While predators and wild animals are contained, tame and calm ones wander as they please. There’s also a petting zoo area for kids, filled with barnyard animals.
- Medieval Times (Lawrenceville, GA 30043) – Few places offer the chance to eat dinner as knights joust in the arena overlooked by the dining room, but Medieval Times does just that. Cheer for your favorite constants, marvel at the elaborate costumes and enjoy a hearty meal in the mock castle, but be sure to make reservations in advance to ensure that you get a seat.
- Atlanta History Center (Atlanta, GA 30305) – From its humble beginning as a railroad town to one of the nation’s great cities, the history of Atlanta is displayed in an engaging and interesting way at the Atlanta History Center. Admission price covers the Museum, tours of two historic homes and entry to the gardens. The Tullie Smith farm, an 1840′s replica home, features costumed interpreters that explain everything from animal husbandry and basket weaving to candle-making and blacksmithing.
- Kangaroo Conservation Center (Dawsonville, GA 30534) – The largest collection of kangaroos outside of their native Australia is in Dawsonville, an hour’s drive north of Atlanta. Three-hundred kangaroos, along with several other exotic species, are housed on the premises. Tours, exhibitions and shows are among the available activities, but an advance purchase of tickets is required due to tour visitor limitations.
- Center for Puppetry Arts (Atlanta, GA 30309) – Kids that have a fondness for puppets are sure to love Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, which is the largest puppetry organization in the United States. The Family Series includes original adaptations of beloved classic tales, but there’s also a behind-the-scenes tour for those that are really interested in the art of puppetry. The Create-a-Puppet Workshop exhibit lets kids leave with their own custom souvenir, which is included in the admission price.
- Zoo Atlanta (Atlanta, GA 30315) – The private, non-profit Zoo Atlanta offers kids the chance to see a wide variety of animals in a semblance of their natural habitat, and also to watch a variety of exhibitions and feeding sessions. Zoo Atlanta does boast a renowned collection of great apes in The Ford African Rain Forest, a petting zoo that lets kids interact with barnyard animals in a more hands-on environment and a playground for fun between habitats.
- Tellus Museum (Cartersville, GA 30120) – Boasting more than 120,000 square feet, the Tellus Museum is largely comprised of four galleries. An eighty-foot-long Apatosaurus and a replica of the Wright flyer call the Tellus home, along with a digital planetarium and observatory.
- Margaret Mitchell House (Atlanta, GA 30309) – While young children may not be overly impressed, older ones that are familiar with Margaret Mitchell’s timeless masterpiece will love the docent-led tour of her house. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building includes a restored version of Mitchell’s apartment and a a museum of Gone With the Wind-related memorabilia.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood home is located in Atlanta, and is a National Historic site ideal for following up a visit to the The King Center. Dr. King’s grave is also in Atlanta, but may prove to be a bit morbid for younger children. For lighter entertainment, Atlanta is also home to three major professional sports teams: NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, MLB’s Atlanta Braves and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.