With a newly minted kindergartener, we are experiencing our very first Fall Break. We looked at heading south to the beach, or north to the mountains, but decided that a staycation in Atlanta to enjoy the Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival would be just what our family needed.
Admit it, you’ve thought about how nice it would be to forgo packing up the car, the kids, and the kitchen sink for a five hour ride to a hotel. Imagine how nice it would be if you could still have the fun of vacation closer to home – you can, and we’ve done the planning.
My husband and I are both Georgia born and bred, so we’re no strangers to Stone Mountain Park, specifically the iconic Laser Show. We had yet to take our boys to visit and were honestly blown away by ALL the attractions that Stone Mountain has added since we last visited! Attending the annual Pumpkin Festival was the perfect way to kick off our Atlanta ‘staycation’ and enjoy the splendor that autumn brings.
Glow By Night
We were so impressed with the festive fall décor around the park! It seemed like there was a picture spot every few feet. The trees, leaves, pumpkins and colors are perfectly put together and will put you in the fall frame of mind right away. There are fairy tale vignettes featuring Cinderella to the Mad Hatter, all incorporating pumpkins into all the characters. Down the Rabbit Hole Dance Party and Mad Hatter’s Costume Contest.
New this year is glow by night where not-so-scary jack-o-lanterns light up the park after the sun goes down. In addition to an afternoon parade, stick around for the new Enchanted Glow-A-Long Parade overseen by Mother Goose. Lots of glow-in-the-dark fun, flashlight tours and a few surprises which I’ll let you discover when you go.
Meet Spookley the Square Pumpkin
Spookley the Square Pumpkin is a favorite fall movie in our house. The kids were super excited to find Spookley is the mascot of the Stone Mountain Pumpkinfest. We were able to join Spookley the Square Pumpkin in his pumpkin patch for a picture during special meet and greet times. The boys love that photo! Be sure to check out Spookely’s Funtastic Kids Carnival! Pumpkinfest brings seasonal activities adding more fun to all the everyday Stone Mountain park attractions.
Play Carnival Games & Pie Eating Fun
During the day, Pumpkin Festival offers The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Games with prizes to delight little ones. The Tea Party Games are open during the afternoons of the Pumpkin Festival, but be sure to check the calendar before you go to make sure it’s open on a day you’re going if you think your little ones will miss out with out it.
What says ‘festival’ more than a good ole pie eating contest?!? Both adults and children are invited to challenge their peers (and stomachs) in Peter Peter’s Pie Eating Contest to see who can consume the most delicious pies before the time runs out. Maybe you’ll even set a Pumpkin Festival record!
Spookley’s Dance Along Party Parade
The day we went to Stone Mountain, Spookley ‘s Dance a long Party Parade took place at 2 pm. Your family can participate in the parade, or you can watch as spectators. It’s so fun and festive, your kids will love it! Arrive about 15 minutes early to secure a good viewing spot. We found several benches across from the HYDRATE beverage station. This a perfect spot to grab an Arctic Blast and watch Spookley and his friends in a party parade that dances down the street right in front of you!
If your kids really love Spookley, be sure to visit Spookley’s Pumpkin Patch for a Meet and Greet.
Storytelling at the Pumpkin Festival
Also located near the Hydrate station is story time with Mother Goose. Check the schedule when you arrive so you don’t miss this creative storytelling time that will enchant your little ones. You may even get to hear the Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin!
Visit During a Themed Weekend for Specials
Be sure to check Stone Mountains Pumpkin Festival calendar for themed weekends. They are offering everything from princesses, pirates, villains, sports and books. If your child comes dressed up in costume, you can save on the cost of Adventure Passes! Check Stone Mountain Park’s website for more details before you go.
Dine on More than Pumpkin Treats
Stone Mountain offers several different dining options. If you’re in the mood for barbecue, stop by Base Camp BBQ. They feature hometown Williamson Brothers B.B.Q. sauce that you cover all over your smoked pork or chicken. They also offer yummy salads and sides. The smell will pull you in from the sidewalk!
For a one-of-a-kind dining adventure, check out the new Campfire Grill. Tables are called campsites, and your servers are camp counselors! You can order everything from Coca-Cola infused ribs, burgers, or chicken tenders to vegetarian items if you’re in the mood for something lighter. Be sure to try the deliciously gooey Campfire S’mores Skillett for dessert before you leave too! I can highly recommend the pumpkin spice ice cream too.
We knew we wanted to ride the Scenic Railway where you can sing along with Little Red, so we made our lunch stop at the Marketplace. Its setup as a grab-and-go restaurant, so if you’re in the mood for salad, fruit or some other healthier options, this is perfect for you!
We were pretty hungry, so we went with cheeseburgers, chicken tenders and fries. The chicken tenders meal was plenty big enough for my boys to split, and since we were able to bring in snacks, I knew I had some things on hand if they got hungry again later. My husband and I enjoyed our cheeseburgers a lot. The perfect fuel for a day of keeping up with our boys!
After we did a few rides and attractions, the boys were begging for a treat. Even though it’s technically Fall, this is Georgia, so we were all ready for something tasty to cool us off. That’s when we stopped by the Hydrate beverage station for Arctic Blasts. They had 7 or 8 different flavors to choose from, we went with Blue Raspberry and classic Coke. They were perfectly refreshing and just what we needed!
Ride the Scenic Railroad
After finishing up lunch, we walked out of the Marketplace and hopped right in line for the Scenic Railroad. This is a classic Stone Mountain attraction. I remember riding it as a child growing up in Georgia. My boys loved it as much as I did! The train takes you on a five mile trip around Stone Mountain, lasting about 25 minutes.
During our visit, there were dinosaur sightings along the way, which made the trip even more fun for my adventurous boys. My husband and I enjoyed learning more about the history of Stone Mountain, especially the granite mining that used to take place and how many places in the world used Stone Mountain granite in their construction. So cool!
Run Around the Dinotorium
We visited the Dinotorium, not entirely sure of what we would find inside and we were blown away! It’s in the space formerly known as The Great Barn, and Stone Mountain has done an incredible job of transforming it into a unique indoor play space. With 3 levels of air guns, climbing and sliding, there’s truly something for children of all ages.
My five year old loving scooping up balls from the ground floor, and then running up to the top floor to load up his gun and shoot down below (don’t’ worry, there’s not much force in the air guns, so the balls fall very gently to the floor). My three year old loved staying on the main floor, chasing after falling balls or trying out the different slides and climbing toys. It was a welcome break from the heat for mom and dad too!
Cool Off at the Geyser Tower
Just when we thought our boys were completely out of steam, they spotted Geyser Tower and got a second wind! Who could resist such a fun play area?! It’s a great spot for children of all ages. My boys like to stay close to the ground, so the spray pad was perfect for them. For older or more adventurous children, there’s great climbing apparatuses that lead to rope bridges. It’s the perfect spot to cool off, including mom and dad!
See the Laser Show
Pumpkinfest runs select dates from September 22 – October 28. The Laser Show runs on Saturday nights during September, so you can truly make this a full day of Stone Mountain fun playing at crossroads and then meet up for the Laser Show in the evening.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the 2018 Laser Show, then you really should make time to see it, it’s not the one we grew up with! They have taken this Atlanta tradition to another level, introducing new music, technology and the use of drones.
What the little Guys Loved
The Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival was a hit with our boys. They couldn’t stop talking about taking their picture at Spookley’s pumpkin patch meet and greet, or the train ride. We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to return next year, with plans to stay for the Laser Show! I would recommend arriving as early as you can so that you don’t miss out on any of the attractions Stone Mountain offers. Fall’s cooler temps also mean it’s a great time to climb the mountain. We saw many families and individuals hiking up and down, what a great way to enjoy the outdoors together.
Tips for Arrival and Parking
We followed our GPS directions and arrived at the gates at about 11:00 am. Daily Parking is $15, with the option to add on Preferred Parking for an additional $10. This will allow you to park at the front of the Crossroads Parking lot. If you think you may become a frequent visitor, there are also Annual Parking passes available for $40.
We followed the clear signage to the Crossroads Parking Lot. Stone Mountain does allow you to bring in your own food and beverages (no alcohol in the park). It was a short walk to the Crossroads Ticket Counter to obtain our passes and enter the park.
One of the best things about Stone Mountain’s Pumpkin Festival is that you don’t have to pay an extra fee to attend, it’s included in your daily Adventure Pass ticket!
Plan to Stay at Stone Mountain
If you’re looking for a multi-day adventure, Stone Mountain offers several different lodging options. You can choose from the Stone Mountain Inn, a 92 room historic replica of a Southern antebellum home. There’s also the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort. This is a AAA 4-Diamond resort that features 2 pools, 2 championship golf courses, a day spa and many other family activities. For those who want to experience more of the outdoors, there’s an abundance of different camping options available. You can choose from renting a Yurt, RV, Safari Tent or reserving a spot for your own tent or camper!
Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of year. I can’t wait to try all the pumpkin spice lattes, carve pumpkins and visit fall festivals! Stone Mountain’s Pumpkin Festival will be at the top of our list to return next year. If you love all things fall, and adventuring in your city, then you need to schedule a visit too.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.