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Photo via Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell
While checking out a major attraction like a sports venue or well-known landmark can be a great way to spend a day getting to know the city, some of the more popular Atlanta must-do activities can be a bit costly and are often overcrowded on weekends. For those relocating on a budget and looking to discover Georgia’s natural beauty or experience its rich history through some off-the-beaten path activities, we compiled a few of our favorites your family (and your wallet) will be sure to enjoy — and maybe even learn something new along the way.
Take A Walk Through History
Georgia is home to 63 state parks and historic sites, and 12 national parks, historic sites and national monuments, with many of these offering plenty of opportunities to get outside and explore. Head northwest of Atlanta to Cartersville and explore Etowah Indian Mounds (gastateparks.org/etowahindianmounds; adults $6, youth 6-17 $4.50, 6 and under$2), a national historical site that offers an in-depth look at north Georgia’s Native American history in the museum and features a replica of a Native American village. The Chattahoochee Nature Center (chattnaturecenter.org; adults $10, children 3-12 $6), a private, nonprofit environmental education facility in Roswell, offers community events for children, families and adults, including a butterfly garden, wildlife programs, hiking, horticulture and environmental education focused on the Chattahoochee River watershed, which covers most of Atlanta. Oakland Cemetery (oaklandcemetery.com; self-guided tour maps $5 or download the free mobile app for 60 points of interest), located less than a mile from the heart of downtown Atlanta, was founded in 1850 and serves as the final resting place for historic Atlanta figures like “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell. Around Halloween, tours of the grounds make for spooky fun for the whole family, though street festivals and weekly special topic tours make it a great year-round destination.
Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville
Get Down to Business
Atlanta is home to many major companies, and some offer ways to engage with their widely-recognized brands that can be fun for the whole family. Explore the history of air travel at Delta Flight Museum (deltamuseum.org; adults $15, children 5-17 $10), dedicated to the airline that calls Atlanta home. Near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, the museum allows guests to get an up-close look at the first Boeing 747-400 ever built and fly the only Boeing 737 flight simulator open to the public in the U.S. Get hands-on home repair experience with DIY classes for kids and adults at your local Home Depot (homedepot.com/workshops; free with registration), which offers regular sessions that range from building a coin bank that looks like a fire station and creating seasonal yard signs to more practical courses like installing wall tile. Journey up to Braselton to Mayfield Dairy Farm Visitors Center (mayfielddairy.com; adults $4.50, children $3.50), one of the Southeast’s largest dairy plants, and learn about all the science that goes into creating one of the nation’s top milk brands. The sweetest bonus? A scoop of ice cream is included with admission.
Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta
Learn About Locomotives
Originally the southern terminus for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Atlanta has a deep history with railway transportation. In Duluth, the Southeastern Railway Museum (train-museum.org; adults $10, children 2-12 $7) has classic steam locomotives, historic Pullman cars, and other fascinating railway artifacts on display. Visitors can travel back in time with a ride in a caboose behind a restored antique diesel locomotive. The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (southernmuseum.org; adults $7.50, children 4-12 $5.50) in Kennesaw is home to The General, a locomotive made famous during The Great Locomotive Chase of 1862, and contains an impressive collection of Civil War relics, as well as from railroads of the state of Georgia and surrounding regions. From preschool programs to sensory friendly events catered to those with special needs and K-12 workshops, the museum offers a range of educational programs to reinforce classroom learning by connecting historical information with actual artifacts. Though it’s a bit pricier than the other sites on this list, at Atlanta History Center (atlantahistorycenter.com; adults $21.50, 13+ $18, children 4-12 $9) you get a lot for your money: general admission tickets include parking, access to the 1860’s-era Smith Family Farm property, the 1928 Swan House mansion, 22 acres of gardens, and the Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown. As the new home for another famed steam engine, The Texas, visitors can view the train in a glass-encased display. However, the Texas will be fully restored by winter 2018 and will be featured in an all-new exhibition focused on its history as well as the vital role of the railroads in the Southeast.
The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw
Go Beyond Run-of-the-Mill Museums
Looking for more museum options? Classical architecture buffs will enjoy Midtown’s Millennium Gate Museum (thegatemuseum.org; adults $12, senior, student and military $10) and its permanent collection on Georgia history, showcased through both traditional and interactive technology exhibits, as well as rotating world-class touring art and history exhibitions. The free (with government-issued photo ID) David J. Sencer Centers for Disease Control Museum (cdc.gov/museum; free) showcases the important stories behind the nation’s headquarters for medical and preventative research, and serves to educate the public about the value of public health. With featured exhibits on epidemics, pathology and the history of medicine, as well as regular educational programs, this is a health science-lover’s heaven. For a good mix of science and history, don’t miss Tellus Science Museum (tellusmuseum.org; adults $16, children 3-17 $12) in Cartersville, where you can learn about the mineral contents of Georgia soil in the Weinman Mineral Gallery, explore a fossil gallery featuring fossilized remains of dinosaurs native to the southern U.S., take a ride through the galaxy at the Bentley Planetarium and view the night sky through a 20” telescope.
Mineral display at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville