Once known primarily as a railroad hub that helped open the South to trade and settlers, Atlanta is becoming an ever more popular tourist destination thanks to its expanding list of world-class restaurants, activities and cultural sites.
Families who like to travel together will be happy to hear that this dynamic metropolis is also a wonderful child-friendly spot, with a bevy of attractions that are sure to bring smiles to both kids and kids-at-heart.
Best of all, if you’re a family trying to stick to a budget, many venues provide inexpensive options. Here are five of the best.
Atlanta lays claim to the largest aquarium in North America, housing thousands of different species of sea creatures of all shapes and sizes. There are excellent interactive displays, dolphin presentations and the chance to swim with whale sharks. The curious can purchase a special Backstage Pass tour to learn more about the marine animals and how all those giant exhibits operate.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Buy your ticket online and arrive before 11 am to enjoy early-bird discounts.
World of Coca Cola
What better place to take your bubbly children than to the World of Coca-Cola? Get ready for a sugar rush at the Taste It! display where visitors can sample more than 100 different Coca-Cola beverages from around the world.
Mix masters can even try their hand at making their own cola concoction or get their photo taken with the brand’s iconic polar bear. Adults will undoubtedly enjoy touring The Loft, which features a compilation of Coca-Cola artifacts from the past 125 years, and can wax nostalgic at the Perfect Pauses Theater, which highlights the company’s more memorable advertising campaigns over the decades.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Buy a CityPASS and save over 40% on five of Atlanta’s top attractions, including the World of Coca-Cola. Additionally, My Coke Rewards points can be used for general admission tickets.
Stone Mountain Park
One of the hardest things about traveling with children is finding an activity that strikes everyone’s fancy. Luckily, this 3,200-acre wonderland — Georgia’s most visited attraction — has you covered.
The park offers quality time with Mother Nature, laser shows that light the night on fire, 14 miles of hiking trails and even a train ride. For the adventurous, there’s also the chance to walk suspended on rope bridges over geysers, trek among the treetops or soar 823 feet above the ground in a cable car.
Budget-Friendly Tip: When you buy your ticket online check out the special offers, including combo passes to Georgia Aquarium.
Children’s Museum of Atlanta
After you’ve exhausted all the kids’ energy at Stone Mountain Park, head to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for more sedate stimulation. Best for kids aged eight and under, this lovely museum offers tons of games and activities that engage all the senses.
Your little ones will never hear the dreaded words “don’t touch!” here. In fact, they can taste, smell and get their hands dirty to their hearts’ content. With names like “Fundamentally Food” and “Step Up to Science,” six permanent interactive displays aim to please all personalities.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Every second Tuesday of the month entry is free from 1 pm to 6 pm.
One word: Pandas. Yes, that’s right, Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the United States that houses these black-and-white bundles of cuteness. Ramp up the children’s family vacation anticipation by tuning in to the 24-hour PandaCam before the trip.
If cold-blooded creatures are more your style, you’ll want to visit World of Reptiles, one of the largest reptile displays in America. Whether it’s fuzzy, furred or just plain ferocious, the zoo has it all, including gorillas, lions, meerkats, giraffes, rhinos and more.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Like World of Coca-Cola, Zoo Atlanta is also part of the CityPASS bundle.
Whether you’re in the market for budget-friendly activities or just looking to explore this southern city, Atlanta offers more than enough fun for your next vacation.