Atlanta's many parks make wonderful places for families to find outdoor adventures.
There is no shortage of family-friendly outdoor adventures at parks and trails in and around Atlanta.The Atlanta BeltLine trails that weave in and out of the city's many neighborhoods, longtime staples like Piedmont Park, Centennial Olympic Park and the kid favorite theme park Six Flags Over Georgia all guarantee great fun outdoors for all ages. In addition to these city staples, there are a lot of lesser known gems just waiting to be explored by little hands and feet.
Up your adventure to-do list by adding these seven remarkable spots for guaranteed family fun in Atlanta area parks and trails.
1. Morningside Nature Preserve
The 30 acres at Morningside Nature Preserve are perfect for hiking with little ones and dogs. (Jim Hodgson, flickr)
Located just minutes from Midtown in the Morningside neighborhood, the Morningside Nature Preserve gives you a genuine outdoor respite from the buzz of the city. Its 30 acres is full of trails and forest that are perfect for hiking with smaller members of the family. There's a suspension bridge along the Morningside Nature Preserve Trail that is fun for the kids to run across. Families with furry members, take note: This is one of Georgia's most dog-friendly spots. South Fork Peachtree Creek runs through the preserve and is a great spot for the pups to cool off; regulars have dubbed it “dog beach.”
2. Noah's Ark Sanctuary
Animal lovers take note: Noah's Ark has more than 1,500 rescued animals from zebras to peacocks for you to admire. (Clevergrrl, Flickr)
Noah's Ark is a nonprofit animal sanctuary less than an hour from Atlanta in Locust Grove, Ga. It is home to more than 1,500 rescued exotic and farm animals, among them bears, zebras, tigers, snakes, monkeys and birds. The 250-acre sanctuary cares for and rehabilitates animals that have been abused, injured or orphaned. You can take the free, self-guided, one-mile tour around the park to visit all the animals or pay for a guided tour. You can also play keeper for a day and shadow one of the park's zoo keepers as he or she goes along performing daily tasks. After your tour, enjoy a picnic and talk about all the things you learned about the sanctuary's wildlife.
3. Decatur's Woodlands Garden
The 7.1-acre Woodlands Garden is an urban preserve and makes for an ideal outing for families with older children. The gardens are open during daylight hours for quiet exploration. There's a showcase garden for local plants of the upper Georgia Piedmont ecosystem and another that features a variety of plants, such as the Japanese maple and more than 100 camellias, a flower found in eastern and southern Asia. You can also find a variety of bugs and birds throughout your adventure. Woodlands Garden is not only beautiful, but educational as well.
4. Callaway Gardens
The gorgeous trails in Callaway Gardens are worth taking the short drive from Atlanta to hike. (JR P, flickr)
While it's only about an hour-and-a-half drive from Atlanta, making it perfect for a day trip, there is so much to see and do at Callaway Gardens that planning is absolutely essential if you want to take it all in. Work through beautiful stretches of azaleas, visit the magical butterfly center or attend the Birds of Prey program, an educational show about raptors and other wildlife. You can also bike and hike along the trails; enjoy fishing, boating and other water sports; and challenge yourself on the zip lines and obstacle courses. The gates open at 9 a.m. and close at dusk.
5. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
If you are looking for a fun spot to take the family for an outdoor adventure, then the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has got you covered. You can kayak or canoe down the river, go fishing, enjoy hiking or biking along the varied trails, search for wildlife and catch breathtaking views of the river. Be sure not to miss Island Ford in Sandy Springs, where the visitor center is located, or Cochran Shoals, on the river's opposite shore. Both are crowd favorites. These areas are populated by wildlife such as deer and lizards, and all of the trails are rated low-to-moderate in difficulty, which makes them enjoyable for all members of the family.
6. Phinizy Center for Water Sciences
You can see all kinds of wildlife, including alligators and bobcats at the Phinizy Center for Water Sciences. (Mark Frye, flickr)
The Phinizy Center for Water Sciences is a free swamp and nature park located about two hours east of the city. There are 14 miles of trails for hiking and biking, story times and crafts, after-dark adventures, yoga classes for the whole family and -- of course --swamp treks. If you want to get the most out of this 1,100-acre park filled with alligators, hawks, otters, tree frogs,and even bobcats, the guided tours are your best bet. You'll also get the added bonus of learning more about the important river and wildlife research conducted at the center.
7. Stone Mountain Park
Hiking to the top of Stone Mountain is one of the most iconic outdoor activities in Atlanta and one not to be missed.
The experience at Stone Mountain Park is an oldie but a goodie. It's one of those staple attractions that every kid growing up in Georgia has probably experienced at least once, and it's still one that shouldn't be missed. Spend the day with your family trekking along 15 miles of trails, take a trip on the scenic railroad and ride the high-speed Swiss cable car to the summit to enjoy incredible views of the Atlanta skyline and surrounding wilderness. There is also a giant obstacle course and a playground of rope tunnels and bridges that overlooks a sporadically erupting geyser. Top off the day by sprawling out on the lawn for the nighttime laser show projected onto the front of the massive dome monadnock. Stone Mountain is a tradition that remains relevant; one you shouldn't forget to pass on to your own kids.
Originally written by RootsRated for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.