North Point Mall

Website: http://www.northpointmall.com/

Cost: Free, if you can get out of there without buying anything (fat chance!); Carousel, $2/ride

Times: Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm; Sunday, 12 pm to 7 pm. Carousel generally opens around 11 am.

Location: North Point Mall, 1000 North Point Circle, Alpharetta, GA 30022

Kelly’s Comments: If it’s raining cats and dogs and you need something relatively mindless to do, head on up to North Point Mall, which I consider to be the best Atlanta-area mall for the young’uns. It’s got the trifecta of the American Girl Store, the Disney Store, and the Lego Store, and there’s a carousel by the food court. The bathrooms are built for parents–changing tables, breastfeeding rooms, family areas, and toddler seats abound–and there’s a free kids’ play area as well as a (pay per) choo-choo train ride. The mall hosts stroller fitness classes and has adorable firetruck-themed strollers for rent. Just don’t blame me if you have to get a second mortgage on your house to pay for all the American Girl loot.

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East Cobb Park

Image courtesy of www.eastcobbpark.org

Image courtesy of http://www.eastcobbpark.org

Website: http://www.eastcobbpark.org

Cost: Free

Times: Open 6 am to 11 pm

Location: East Cobb Park, 3322 Roswell Road, Marietta, GA 30068

Kelly’s Comments: This park has been a popular East Cobb hangout since it opened in 2003. It features 2 playgrounds, rentable picnic pavilions and smaller tables/shelters, a .33-mile jogging track (parts asphalt, parts gravel), two large grassy areas, a stream in which to wade/throw rocks, hiking trails through the woods, and bathrooms/water fountains. The park hosts numerous special events (to be covered later by this blog). Should the parking lots be full due to a special event, you can always park at neighboring Fullers Park (accessed via Robinson Road) and walk through the woods to East Cobb Park.

McCleskey-East Cobb Family YMCA

Image courtesy of http://www.ymcaatlanta.org/

Image courtesy of http://www.ymcaatlanta.org/

Websitehttp://www.ymcaatlanta.org/locations/facility/branches/mcy/mcy.shtml

Cost: Varies. See http://www.ymcaatlanta.org/metro/pdfs/rates.pdf for details. Alternately, become a “Program Member” for $35/year, which allows you to take classes at the YMCA at the non-member price (usually a surcharge of 25%-50%).

Times: Monday through Thursday, 5:30 am to 10 pm; Friday, 5:30 am to 9 pm; Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm; Sunday, 1 pm to 6 pm

Location: McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA, 1055 E. Piedmont Rd., Marietta, GA 30062

Kelly’s Comments: Although I have never actually joined the YMCA, I’ve made use of its Program Membership classes over the years. The McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA has some of the best infant/toddler swim classes that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to quite a few). In addition, kids can participate in camps, after-school programs, parents’ day out, art, dance, gymnastics, tennis, basketball, soccer…and the list goes on. There are several classes, leagues, and programs for adults, too (in fact, my sister-in-law teaches a mean Zumba class at this very location..she will put a hurt on you).

Booth Western Art Museum

Image courtesy of http://boothmuseum.org/

Image courtesy of http://boothmuseum.org/

Website: http://boothmuseum.org/

Cost: Adults, $10; Age 13-17, $7; Age 12 and under, Free

Times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm; Sunday, 1 pm to 5 pm

Location: Booth Western Art Museum, 501 Museum Drive, Cartersville, GA 30120

Kelly’s Comments: I had never heard of this museum until a couple of years ago, so the kids and I headed up to Cartersville last summer and were very pleasantly surprised. The museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian, and it’s in a architecturally-pleasing building that’s not too big or overwhelming, but not so small that everyone is done in half an hour. Kids will enjoy the Western, cowhand, and Native American art themes. The best part, though, is the kids’ Sagebrush Ranch, located on the bottom floor. The rugrats can ride a “stagecoach,” sit atop a (fake) horse, dress up in Western gear, play kitchen in the Chuckwagon, and generally have a great time running around/yippie-ki-yaying without bothering the adult museum patrons on the floors above.

Oxbo Road Nature Area

Photo by Fred Paynter

Photo by Fred Paynter

Website: None (here are two good secondary source articles about the trail – 1, 2)

Cost: Free (even the parking!)

Times: Not sure if there are “official” hours, but I’d bet on sunrise to sunset

Location: Just before the intersection of Oxbo Drive and Dobbs Drive, Roswell, GA 30075

Kelly’s Comments: I love this historic-Roswell-based trail for several reasons. First, it looks and feels like the Chattahoochee National Forest, but it doesn’t carry the parking fee. (The trail even connects to the CNF on the other side, if you must hike in a National Forest.) Second, it’s flat, wide, and shady–perfect for little feet. Third, there are benches and a table along the way, so it’s a cinch to bring a picnic after church on Sunday. Fourth, there is easy access to Big Creek and Vickery Creek so the little ones can chuck stones (and mud) to their hearts’ content. Finally, it’s peaceful and uncrowded, and there’s a lovely bridge and waterfall (OK, OK, it’s a dam, but you get the waterfall effect). This is a great place to introduce the wee ones to trail hiking.

Fullers Park

Image courtesy of prca.cobbcounty.gov

Image courtesy of prca.cobbcounty.gov

Website: http://prca.cobbcountyga.gov/parksa-f.htm

Cost: Free, although some programs carry a registration fee

Times: Park open roughly 6 am to 10 pm; Recreation center Monday through Thursday, Noon to 9 pm; Friday, Noon to 6 pm; Saturday, 9 am to 3 pm; closed Sunday

Location: Fullers Park, 3499 Robinson Road, Marietta, GA 30068

Kelly’s Comments: The main reason I like Fullers Park is that is has a very uncrowded, rather hidden playground. (Oops! Now I’ve spilled the beans!) After entering the park, take the first right, and you’ll find the playground at the end of the street. There’s a neat, shady hiking trail that connects Fullers to the adjacent East Cobb Park. Use Fullers’ tennis courts for a free pick-up game (as long as they’re not reserved for ALTA or USTA); older kids will enjoy playing basketball at the Recreation Center’s open gym. The Center offers various fitness classes, such as Zumba and yoga, and provides very reasonably priced full-day summer camps for working parents. Various youth baseball, soccer, and football leagues enjoy Fullers Park as a home base.

White Water

Image courtesy of www.sixflags.com

Image courtesy of http://www.sixflags.com

Websitehttp://www.sixflags.com/whiteWater/index.aspx

Cost: Adults, $40 ($30 advance online); Children under 48″, $30; Children 2 and under, free; Parking, $15. Save 5% if paying with a Discover Card.

Times: Generally 10:30 am to 7 pm; starts closing at 6 pm toward end of season

Location: Six Flags White Water, 250 Cobb Parkway #100, Marietta, GA 30062

Seasonal: Open Memorial Day to Labor Day (weekends only after local schools start back in the fall)

Kelly’s Comments: I would generally recommend White Water for older kids, probably around age 7 and up. It really depends on how adventurous your children are and how much they like the water. The park is too expensive for the age 3-6 set to just splash around in a few areas. On the other hand, if you have little tots who’d be free anyway, and you want to use White Water as a swim membership of sorts, buying a season pass for yourself actually may not be a bad deal. Regardless, White Water is a really fun, really large water park, especially for the ‘tween and teen set. Lockers are available on-site (for a fee, of course) to hold all your gear. I recommend wearing water shoes, especially for the little kids, to avoid falls (and the resulting meltdown [“But I must have a Buzz Lightyear band-aid!!”] that is sure to follow).