Five Experiences: Atlanta Family Attractions

Atlanta Family Attractions

Families looking for a fun weekend in a great American city will find it in Atlanta. From a massive aquarium, to the home of Coca-Cola, world-class art and even a behind-the-scenes look at the CNN Studios, there are a number of spots to keep children entertained and parents engaged, too. Here are five Atlanta family attractions to keep on your radar for a trip to Georgia.

In past trips to Atlanta, we’ve focused more on the great food, shopping and sports scene. I’ve never before kept an eye out for Atlanta family attractions. But on the first stop of our NBA Road Trip, this visit to Atlanta would include a mix of Atlanta family attractions, shopping, great restaurants and sports. And, with this being the first time to take our son, Colby, to Atlanta, we wanted to find a solid mix of activities he would enjoy while not sacrificing our need to explore our favorite Atlanta neighborhoods. To achieve this, there were times I explored some of the Atlanta family attractions with Colby while Stacey did some shopping. Sometimes, splitting up like that is the best way for everyone in the family to be happy.

Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta Family Attractions

We’re not big aquarium and zoo visitors, but we had to visit the massive Georgia Aquarium. And it didn’t disappoint, especially the acclaimed dolphin show. Photography wasn’t allowed during the show so that camera flashes wouldn’t distract the dolphins and human performers during the darkened show.

Atlanta Family Attractions

I’ll be honest, I thought the show was hokey. But all the children in the room — including our own — seemed to love it. The show followed a tale of a seafarer and his magical ship. I won’t give the story away, but just know that dolphins and crowd interaction play prominently. Children will love it, and most adults should, too.

Atlanta Family Attractions

There are plenty of other fun exhibits. We started our visit in the Tropical Diver gallery.

Atlanta Family Attractions

The Cold Water Quest gallery shows animals living in the world’s cold ocean waters, such as beluga whales.

Atlanta Family Attractions

There are several other galleries, from the Georgia Explorer that takes visitors to the state’s coastal waters, to River Scout and its exploration of the world’s rivers, to Sea Monsters Revealed, an exhibition of the world’s largest sea creatures.

Atlanta Family Attractions

But our favorite? It was Ocean Voyager, a 6.3 million-gallon exhibit built to house whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world. There are 4,574 square feet of viewing windows, a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel, 185 tons of acrylic windows and the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide.

World of Coca-Cola

Atlanta Family Attractions

Pairing visits to the aquarium and World of Coca-Cola makes a lot of sense. The two attractions are across a small courtyard from each other, just at the northwestern edge of Centennial Olympic Park.

Coca-Cola is a world name, a product I’ve had in several countries. I grew up drinking Coke, and can relate to all of the old memorabilia that fills the huge facility. And to confirm the world reputation of Coca-Cola, our tour was filled with visitors from several countries.

Following a video featuring the famed polar bears, we were released into the building to walk through the several galleries at our own pace. We started out with an exhibit that is a miniature version of a bottling line.

Atlanta Family Attractions

We got to get close to what they “said” is the secret formula. The vault exhibit didn’t hold Colby’s interest, but a lot of the older kids and teens seemed to have fun.

Atlanta Family Attractions

And we got to say hello to a polar bear.

Atlanta Family Attractions

Probably everyone’s favorite part comes at the end with the opportunity to taste several products Coca-Cola makes and sells in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, plus many versions of the traditional products.

Atlanta Family Attractions

High Museum of Art

Atlanta Family Attractions

In all the times we’ve visited Atlanta (at least seven) we’ve never visited the High Museum of Art. And that’s a shame, because this is a fantastic art museum that has had several great exhibits through the years. A few years back, the museum did a series over a three-year period with art from the Louvre. When we visited, there was a special western art exhibit.

Atlanta Family Attractions

The High reminded me of a smaller version of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art because it has a sampling of works from Renaissance works through 1800s Europe and American to modern.

Atlanta Family Attractions

Where I really thought of the Met was with the furniture.

Atlanta Family Attractions

They have a nice collection, which probably makes sense being in one of America’s great design cities.

Atlanta Family Attractions

The western art exhibit had a variety that showed all sides of the old West: art that showed good and tragic sides of Native Americans, great Indian portraits, buffalo art; it also showed a bit of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show stuff, which to me glorifies the negative parts of the story of the American West.

Atlanta Family Attractions

But the exhibit in general does a solid job of showing all sides of the westward expansion of the United States.

Oh, and I know nothing about this painting below. But it’s awesome. So it belongs here.

Atlanta Family Attractions

CNN Studio Tour

Atlanta Family Attractions

As newspaper journalists, Stacey and I were both looking forward to the CNN Studio Tour. We weren’t sure how much Colby would get out of it, but we were hopeful.

Atlanta Family Attractions

Turns out, the tour is a great idea for children. They do a great job of getting them involved.

Atlanta Family Attractions

I saw a lot of familiar things with the newsroom and wire screen, shown on the left below.

Atlanta Family Attractions

The tour lasts about an hour and is worth the time. However, if it’s possible I’d recommend visiting during the week. I knew that going into our trip, but a weekday visit wasn’t in the cards for our schedule. We visited on a late Saturday afternoon, and with no big news events going on, the building was pretty quiet. During the week, your tour might go by one of the studios with a show being recorded live.

Centennial Olympic Park

Atlanta Family Attractions

I have sentimental reasons for suggesting Centennial Olympic Park. It was on July 26, 1996, that we visited the first day of track and field at the Atlanta Summer Olympics. Later that day, I enjoyed the spray of the Olympic rings fountain in Centennial Olympic Park. Of course I didn’t know at the time, but it was later that night that the park bombing occurred. Fortunately, we were out of town by that point.

Atlanta Family Attractions

When Colby and I visited the park, he immediately went to the fountains. He didn’t exactly stand in the water, but he had a lot of fun darting in and out of the dancing spray. And, it appears, making the waters follow his command.

Atlanta Family Attractions

We saw a number of families lounging in the grass, playing soccer and football, and just enjoying a nice day.

 Other Ideas

We had hoped to visit Zoo Atlanta, but because we decided to spend some of our weekend shopping in Little Five Points, there wasn’t enough time. There are plenty of great parks in the city if you find yourself out in some of the cool neighborhoods of Atlanta. I’ve had a nice run in and around Midtown’s Piedmont Park, which isn’t far from the High Museum. And of course there are plenty of sites of historic significance, including the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and the Martin Luther King Center.

If you decide to visit the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour and the High Museum of Art think about getting the Atlanta CityPASS. It will get you into those four exhibits plus a choice of Zoo Atlanta or Atlanta History Center for one price. Or, if you don’t want to visit the High Museum, you can check out the Fernbank Museum of Natural History instead. The CityPASS provides a savings of nearly $60 for one adult planning to attend five of the attractions.

A special thanks to Discover Atlanta and CityPASS for providing us with three complimentary Atlanta CityPASS booklets.

Check out other articles in the NBA Road Trip series:

Weekend Review: Atlanta NBA Road Trip

Hotel Review: Omni Hotel at CNN Center

24 thoughts on “Five Experiences: Atlanta Family Attractions

  1. Y’all are such cool parents! I love that you look for special things to involve your son in! OK, and I really need to do that Coca Cola World tour! How cool! Aquarium looks really neat too.. And CNN tour. I have a while until my future baby girl is old enough to appreciate fun city trips. I need to start bookmarking and cataloging your posts, Lance! I’ll be digging in your archives for years to come for ideas!
    Lindsay recently posted…My 17 Favorite Romantic Travel Experiences (Celebrating Love All Month!)My Profile

  2. Lindsay, thanks! I’m mixed on attractions like this in Atlanta. The CNN tour and High Museum are the types of places we enjoy and would happily do without kid in tow. But we usually skip aquariums, zoos, amusement parks, etc. when Colby is not with us. But it’s important to remember that while taking him to art museums and other cultural attractions is important, he is a child and wants to explore things that make sense for the imagination of a 7-year-old. And that baby girl will be a toddler and then preschooler before you know it.

  3. Ted, I hear you on this. Atlanta is a cool city. I’m not sure about the outdoors scene for you, although I have to think the hills of North Georgia would provide some fantastic outdoors opportunities for you.

  4. I hadn’t realized Atlanta had such cool attractions. I’ve only made it to the airport for layovers and never ventured to the city. The World of Coca-Cola is awesome. There’s a smaller version in Vegas and comes in handy during the summer. But, that CNN Studio tour looks so neat and one I’d be excited to visit. Glad to know they kept the kids engaged.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…5 Free Things To Do in London With KidsMy Profile

  5. Jenna, my son hates carbonated drinks, too. He tried a few of the beverages, but didn’t care for them. We’re blessed that he loves drinking water. It was cool for me to taste the different beverages, although it did leave me with a full stomach before dinner. I don’t drink soft drinks either.

  6. Thanks. Yes, I visited Stone Mountain when I first visited Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics. Considering how long it’s been since I visited I didn’t feel I had the proper knowledge to include it here. But thanks for making note of it.

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