Downtown Atlanta is the lifeblood of the city when it comes to family attractions and things to do. It’s a great place for families that are visiting Atlanta for the first time, and a fun destination for those that live in the surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs. I was delighted that Expedia.com asked me to write an article about how to tackle Downtown Atlanta as a family. Here are my recommendations on where to visit, what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Downtown Atlanta.
Downtown Atlanta Attractions for Families
Ga Aquarium. Families love the world’s largest aquarium, with whale sharks, sea lions, penguins and a spectacular dolphin show. Don’t forget to bring the kids by Aquanaut Adventure, a discovery zone for kids. If you have time, the Behind the Scenes tour is a must-do. Great for all ages. (Pictured above.)
World of Coca-Cola Museum. You’ll find the world’s largest permanent display of Coke memorabilia and a behind-the-scenes look at the bottling process. The tasting room includes over 100 beverages from around the world. Make plans to see a show at the 4D Theatre and pose for a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear. Ideal for kids about 5 yo and up.
Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Explore the newly remodeled kiddo museum, with interesting traveling exhibits and fantastic permanent play stations that include science, art and other fun missions that teach while kids play. Designed for kids 0-8 yo.
Center for Civil and Human Rights. The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a powerful, moving museum that ties the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s with the today’s global Human Rights movement. Expect to see emotionally raw images and portrayals at this new Atlanta attraction, watching, seeing, hearing and interacting with history in an intimate and modern setting. Ideal for kids elementary age and up. Check out the Family Guide before you go.
College Football Hall of Fame. Feel the excitement and spirit of college football fanfare from the moment you step inside the football-shaped building. The big draw for kids is the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Skill Zone. Kick a field goal, run through a training course, or take the quarterback challenge. After that, make your way to the Game Day Theater, where the energy of college football comes to life. Ideal for kids about 5 yo and up.
Inside CNN Studio Tour. Tour the global headquarters of CNN. You can read a teleprompter, give the weather forecast against a greenscreen, check out an actual news studio (and possibly see live anchors at work!) If you are traveling with teens, news buffs or with kids that are very interested in how TV works, this is a must-stop attraction. Ideal for kids elementary age and up.
Things to do in Downtown Atlanta for Families
Atlanta Movie Tours. Atlanta wears the moniker ‘Hollywood of the South’ because of two major franchises: The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games, both filmed primarily in and around Atlanta. Atlanta Movie Tours takes you to filming locations for these giants, as well as others. With tour guides that play Walking Dead zombies, you’re sure to hear all the juicy behind-the-scene tidbits. Ideal for tweens and teens. See more info here on the Zombie Tour or Hunger Games Tour.
Centennial Olympic Park. This unique 21-acre park serves as Georgia’s lasting legacy of the Centennial Olympic Games. The Fountain of Rings is the world’s largest interactive fountain utilizing the Olympic symbol of five interconnecting Rings, and it is a local’s favorite for kids who love to run and jump in the water to cool off from the heat. You’ll find concerts, festivals and all sorts of events happening here year ‘round. Great for all ages. FREE.
Escape the Room. It’s a real life adventure game that is great for families. Find the hidden objects, figure out the clues and solve the puzzles to earn your freedom and “Escape the Room.” You have 60 minutes, so you must be quick. Great for tweens and teens, especially on a rainy day.
Bicycle Tours of Atlanta. Bike the best of Atlanta with a guide who will take you to the premier locations, landmarks and attractions, and he will give you a great history and backstory at the same time. Tours include a history excursion, a twilight ride or a neighborhood adventure. “Downtown to Midtown” is a beautiful way to see the city. Ideal for tweens and teens.
Carter Center. The Carter Center is the only presidential library in the Southeast. Tour the 35 acres for FREE, with two beautiful lakes and a Japanese garden. A small fee allows you into the museum where you can view Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize or take a photo in an exact replica of the Oval Office. Great for all ages.
Worth the drive from Downtown
The Varsity. (<2 miles) The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, and it’s been serving the locals since 1928! Don’t be intimidated by the quick order-taking staff…they just want to make you happy. I recommend the chili-cheese-slaw-dog with onion rings and a Frosted Orange. Great for all ages.
Center for Puppetry Arts. (3 miles) Show your love for all things puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Regularly playing host to puppet performances for adults and children, the site is also home to a museum featuring permanent and visiting exhibits. Most puppet shows are for elementary age and up.
Fernbank Museum. (5 miles) This highly interactive museum provides activities, stories, crafts and performances. Regular interactive traveling exhibits always offer something new. Permanent exhibits include kids’ favorite Fernbank NatureQuest, the newest way for kids to explore nature and science through immersive exhibits. Ideal for all ages. (Pictured above.)
Six Flags Over Georgia. (12 miles) Summer fun for everyone! The newest attractions include The New Revolution Virtual Reality Roller Coaster, DC Super Friends Bugs Bunny Boomtown (great for young kids) and Hurricane Harbor Water Park. Great for kids about 5 yo and older.
Stone Mountain Park. (26 miles) Stone Mountain is filled with family fun adventures in the outdoors. Climb to the top of the mountain or take the train around the giant outcrop. Golf at the championship courses or the mini-golf course. Explore the park in the daytime and stay until dark for the fireworks and laser show extravaganza. There is also camping, glamping and two Marriott hotels. Great for all ages.
Downtown Atlanta Hotels for Families
Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. Ritz-Carlton is known for their superior customer service, it is one of our family’s personal favorites.
Omni Hotel Atlanta. Omni is located within the CNN Center and next to Centennial Park. It includes an outdoor pool and babysitting available. Ask about the Omni Sensational Kids program.
Sheraton Atlanta. Heated pool with courtyard, Free Wi-Fi with Deluxe Rooms ideal for families.
Hyatt House Atlanta Downtown. Spacious guestrooms and suites are ideal for families. Fully-equipped kitchens available. Free Wi-Fi, outdoor heated pool, 24-hour market.
Restaurants in Downtown Atlanta for Families
Braves All Star Grill. Unique Braves memorabilia and enormous video screens making it the perfect place to watch your favorite team and have a great meal.
Googie Burger. An ideal stop within Centennial Olympic Park. There’s outside eating only, so Googie is seasonal, and everything is from scratch. Don’t need to drive? Grab an adult-milkshake to enjoy while the kids are at the playground.
Gus’s Fried Chicken. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken has flickered on the edge of national recognition for a decade, ever since GQ Magazine cited it in 2001 as one of the top five restaurants in the country worth hopping on a plane for a meal. Originally in Memphis and now in Downtown Atlanta, this is fried chicken you don’t want to miss.
Hard Rock Café. Grab a delicious hamburger in a fun environment. In town Monday? You can experience free live concerts here. Great for teens and tweens.
Paschal’s. Southern cooking since 1947, Paschal’s Restaurant is the “soul” of Atlanta, serving favorites like Paschal’s Fried Chicken. There’s also a Civil Rights history here you won’t want to miss.
Sweet Auburn Market. Ride the trolley to Sweet Auburn Market for a series of delicious eats from Grindhouse Killer Burgers to Sweet Auburn BBQ. Rawsome Juicery is also a fun treat for the kids, as well as Miss D’s Pralines. You’ll be just a few blocks from the MLK Historic District if you want to see where Martin Luther King was born, where he hung out as a child and where he preached. (Pictured above.)