The Museum of the Jimmy Carter Library

Website: http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/museum/

Cost: $8, Adults; Free, Kids 16 and under

Times: 9:00 am – 4:45 pm, Monday – Saturday; 12:00 pm – 4:45 pm, Sunday

Location: The Museum of the Jimmy Carter Library, 441 Freedom Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30307. Parking is free.

Kelly’s Comments: I hate to admit it, but I didn’t really know much about Jimmy Carter before I visited this museum. He was President when I was born, so obviously I wasn’t paying too much attention to politics back then. I finally got around to visiting this museum sans kids, because I had the feeling it would be over their heads, and I was right. Older kids (I’d say 8th grade and up) and adults will enjoy the museum for its content, but if you bring the younger ones, at least you won’t have to worry about them breaking anything, as all artifacts are behind glass. The grounds are exceptionally lovely and would appeal to the younger set–there are a couple of lakes, several statues, and lots of shady, grassy areas, with the occasional peek of a downtown skyscraper. One of the most interesting exhibits was all the gifts that the Carters had received from around the world. Visitors will also enjoy the replica of the Oval Office as it looked during 1977-1981.

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Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University

Image courtesy of http://carlos.emory.edu/

Image courtesy of http://carlos.emory.edu/

Website: http://carlos.emory.edu/

Cost: $8, Adults; $6, Kids 6-17; Free, Kids 5 and under

Times: Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 12 noon – 5 p.m

Location: Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory, 571 South Kilgo Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322. Park at the Fishburne Deck or take public transportation and save 20% on museum admission.

Kelly’s Comments: The kids and I visited this small museum for the first time this summer. It’s heavy on the ancient artifacts and archeological finds. There are some really neat displays here, such as mummies, giant ear spacers, ancient snot suckers (yep, babies have been tortured by these for millennia), coins, jewels, and cuneiform tablets. The museum is best for the 7-and-up set, as it’s very “no touch” and also quite monochromatic (many of the artifacts are brownish-clay/pottery, so not a lot of bright things to keep the little ones interested). My 8-year-old daughter loved it; my 5-year-old son whined the whole way through. C’est la vie.

Sparkles Family Fun Center

Websitehttp://sparkleskennesaw.com/ 

Cost: Varies per activity and day of week; roughly $5 to $9 per activity; skate rental is $4

Times: Vary; see website for specifics. Some days open as early as 11 am and close as late as 11 pm.

Location: Sparkles Family Fun Center, 1000 McCollum Parkway, Kennesaw, GA 30144

Kelly’s Comments: What 30-something doesn’t remember fondly his or her days of roller skating to bands like The Bangles and Mike and the Mechanics? Sparkles brought back those memories and more, except this time I was couples’-skating with my 7-year-old. I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and aesthetics of Sparkles, since the rinks I patronized as a youth were heavy on the ripped carpet and aluminum siding. Sadly, though, the rental skates were just as grody as I remember them, so if you have your own, bring ’em; if not, grit your teeth and wear thick socks. In addition to roller skating, children can play laser tag, visit an arcade, climb on an indoor play structure, and eat at the cafe. Little ones can bring ride-on toys early in the morning on certain days, and rolling walkers are available (for a fee) to assist new skaters.

Zoo Atlanta

Image courtesy of www.zooatlanta.org

Image courtesy of zooatlanta.org

Website: http://www.zooatlanta.org

Cost: Ages 12 and up, $21.99; Ages 3-11, $16.99; Ages 2 and under, Free. Discounts for seniors, military, and students.

Times: Weekdays, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm; Weekends, 9:30 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30315

Kelly’s Comments: Monkeys…naked mole rats…warthogs…these are all words we use to describe our own children. Of course, one can venture to Zoo Atlanta to see the real creatures, too! As a teacher, I like the zoo because it offers two free Educator Days per year (usually in March and September). In addition to the fun animal exhibits, many of which are in the shade, there are two playgrounds, a kiddie train, a petting zoo, and enough animal-themed crap in the gift shop to make your kids wild with excitement (who doesn’t need gorilla-shaped lip gloss?). Come early or on a weekday to beat the crowds. Snag a coupon for $3 off in various Atlanta-themed magazines around town.

Big Creek Greenway

Website: http://www.bigcreekgreenway.com/ or http://www.alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=136

Cost: Free

Times: Open daily from dawn to dusk

Locations: There are several trail access points; the closest to East Cobb is at 6800 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022

Kelly’s Comments: I’ve passed this woodsy biking/hiking trail for years and finally rode on it this morning. I’m now mad at myself that I’ve wasted all this time before going! It’s gorgeous! It’s very shady, quiet, and serene (Did I mention that I saw 5 deer this morning?), but not so much that one feels unsafe. The trails are paved, wide, and flat, which is unusual in Georgia. This makes it great for kids (or for parents pulling their 3-year-olds in a trailer behind the bike.). There are a couple of bathroom stops along the way and also a cool little free bike repair kiosk. The Fulton part of the trail is about 8 miles long. I didn’t even begin to explore the mountain bike trails (with a 3-year-old? Bwahahaha!) or the pedestrian-only paths, so I look forward to learning more about the Greenway in the years to come.

Chattahoochee River Float Trips

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

Image courtesy of shootthehooch.com

Websites: http://www.shootthehooch.com/

Cost: Varies by activity, age, length, etc. Averages between $15 and $40/person.

Times: Varies. Some rentals are on an as-needed basis; other float trips meet at specific times. Roughly between 9 am and 5 pm.

Locations: Shoot the Hooch, 203 Azalea Drive, Roswell, GA 30075

Seasonal: Operates during warm/non-rainy weather and under optimal river levels.

Kelly’s Comments: The Chattahoochee River was named as one of the Top 10 urban paddling areas by USA Today, and it lives up to the reputation. Different sections of the river have decidedly different personalities. The upper areas around Roswell are more lake-like (smooth water, gentle currents, wide passage, deeper water) and the lower areas nearer the City are a bit wilder (rocks, narrower, a few “rapids” [I use the term very loosely], fewer houses). River explorers can choose from inner tubes, kayaks, canoes, stand-on paddleboards, and rafts. Shoot the Hooch also offers rides on The Spirit of Roswell riverboat. Smaller children are better suited for canoes or rafts; older kids will appreciate the relative ease of the kayaks and inner tubes. All children 13 and under must wear a life jacket at all times.

INK: Interactive Neighborhood for Kids

Image courtesy of www.inkfun.org

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

Website: http://www.inkfun.org

Cost: $8 ($6 on Sundays)

Times: Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, 1 pm to 5 pm

Location: Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, 999 Chestnut Street, Gainesville, GA 30501

Kelly’s Comments: Drive an hour north of Atlanta for this delightful children’s museum. Set up like a mock town and sized for little hands, kids can visit pretend banks, diners, dentists and doctors, grocery stores, beauty salons, libraries, and more. The preschool set will thrill to sit inside a police cruiser (let’s hope they don’t make that a habit!), an old-timey fire engine, and an airplane. There is a community room/snack area with picnic tables to enjoy a packed lunch. Be warned–visitors enter and exit through a highly tempting gift shop. Allow plenty of time to see this stimulating museum, as I had a hard time convincing my offspring to leave each exhibit in order to see the next.