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Kids will have a ball in Atlanta, a friendly Southern city where wonders abound at every turn.
For youngsters who like to run wild, a visit to Piedmont Park should prove satisfying. This iconic urban park has everything kids need to burn through that trademark childhood energy, including a playground, swimming pool and basketball and bocce ball courts (which can be reserved in advance, for a fee — otherwise, they're first-come, first-serve). The park's location in Midtown allows for easy walking to a number of nearby restaurants, too, so it's easy to stretch a visit to this lovely green space into an all-day affair.
If you're visiting during the summer, check the schedule for the Fox Theatre's Coca-Cola Film Festival. The annual series brings the magic of a trip to the movies to this stunning historic theatre. It may not be as high-tech as a screening at the local IMAX, but children are sure to be awed by the grandeur of the sweeping arches, intricate detailing and the old-fashioned marquee. The series usually includes a mix of kid-friendly and more mature options; the 2013 series includes animated films such as The Croods (July 27) and classic Saturday morning cartoons (August 17).
Atlanta is home to the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. Take the kids for a day of undersea exploration as they observe more than 60 exhibits. A stop at Deepo's Undersea 3D Watershow is a must — the fun interactive show was designed by the same team behind the Terminator II and Jurassic Park rides at Universal Studios in Orlando.
What kid doesn't enjoy a milkshake, burger and fries? Fill the crew up with all three (and don't forget to take a picture in your souvenir paper hats) at The Varsity, an iconic Atlanta burger joint that's been serving the city since 1928. Try the frosted orange and a fried peach pie to end your visit on a sweet note.
The Center for Puppetry Arts, open every day except Mondays, offers guided tours of its collections (includig several that focus on the life and legacy of Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets). The Center also hosts a lineup of performances. The 2013-2014 season includes Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, Peter Rabbit and The Wizard of Oz.
What are the five best things to do with kids in Atlanta?
Kids won’t be bored with Atlanta's multitude of attractions, the five best include everything from animals and puppets to a laser-light show and, what else, Coca-Cola.
1. Georgia Aquarium. As the largest aquarium in the world (it holds 10 million gallons of water!), the Georgia Aquarium is home to a wonderland of sea creatures the kids will love. Make fish faces together as you peek at hundreds of fresh- and salt-water species in a variety of exhibits. You can take the kids on a behind-the-scenes tour where they can watch the Aquarium team care for the animals and prepare their food. Just be sure to check out the newest exhibit, Dolphin Tales, which includes an large underwater dolphin viewing window and musical performance. Check the website for ticketing and reservation information.
2. World of Coca-Cola. Even the big kids will love the tour of the World of Coca-Cola. The downtown museum is located on a 20-acre complex and includes a 4-D Theater that envelops kids in the Coca-Cola vortex, and a Bottle Works factory where they can watch the entire bottling process from start to finish. They'll also get a chance to meet all of their favorite Coca-Cola characters, including the ever-cuddly Coca-Cola Polar Bear. But what every kid loves most is the Taste It! gallery where they can sample more than 60 different soda products from all over the world.
3. Zoo Atlanta. A few miles away from the World of Coca-Cola in historic Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta features a vast collection of wildlife from all around the world. Here the little ones can see everything from lions, tigers, elephants and gorillas, as well as Zoo Atlanta's most popular residents, its two Giant pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang. Kids will especially love standing eye-to-eye with the giraffes and hand-feeding them from the Zoo's Twiga Terrace.
4. Center for the Puppetry Arts. For a hands-on experience, get ready to pull some strings at the nation’s largest interactive museum, the Center for the Puppetry Arts. The first strings were pulled, or rather cut ceremonially, by Kermit the Frog and his famous creator Jim Henson in 1978. The first puppetry center in the United States, the Center for the Puppetry Arts has grown into the largest American organization dedicated to puppet theater arts.
5. Stone Mountain Park. This 3,200-acre park is situated about 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta and features the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. You can take a hike to the top of the mountain, or get a lift on the Summit Skyride cable car for breathtaking views of Atlanta’s skyline. For a little more excitement, trek among the treetops and across the suspended bridges on the SkyHike, one of the nation’s largest adventure courses. When you're safe and back at the bottom, enjoy a 4-D movie starring Yogi and Boo Boo and wrap up your day on the lawn watching the Lasershow Spectacular the world’s longest running laser show.