With its ample green spaces, plentiful parks and outdoor adventures galore, Atlanta has no shortage of fun things to do for active-minded families. Whether it’s a peaceful nature walk or a more amped-up adventure like tubing down the area’s most famous waterway, there’s a head-spinning array of options for enjoying the great outdoors and making awesome memories in the process. Here are eight outdoor adventures around Atlanta that will make kids of all ages giddy with delight.
For Tweens and Teens
Floating on the Chattahoochee River is a favorite summertime activity for kids of all ages. (Alan Cressler, Flickr)
1. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Who doesn’t love some time in the water? Be sure to "shoot the Hooch," the local lingo for tubing down the Chattahoochee River, one of the most beloved waterways in this neck of the woods. Peacefully floating down the Hooch is the perfect way to while away a hot summer day (you can also kayak or canoe, of course). The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area also boasts plenty of land-based adventures to pick from, including a network of trails like the popular gravel loop of Cochran Shoals, which is a favorite among runners. The Island Ford in Sandy Springs, where the visitor center is located, is also well worth exploring.
2. Silver Comet Trail
Stretching from Smyrna some 65 miles to the Alabama state line, the popular Silver Comet Trail, which is built on old railroad lines, is a hands-down, all-around winner for active families. Whether one person is on a bike and another is on roller skates and others just prefer to stroll, the flat trail makes it easy for parents to keep an eye on everyone while giving older kids a chance to do their own thing. Eventually, the Silver Comet and its sister trail in Alabama, the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail, will reach all the way to Anniston, Ala., for a 94.5-mile adventure -- a lofty, but achievable, goal for hardcore cyclists.
3. Kennesaw Mountain
It’s a real-life history lesson at this park, which preserves a 2,965-acre Civil War Battlefield. In the summer of 1864, more than 160,000 Union and Confederate troops raged on three battlefield areas in front of what’s now the visitor center off Burnt Hickory Road and Cheatham Hill, the site of the main battle. In addition, 11 miles of earthworks are preserved within the park, and reenactments by Civil War history groups bring the somber history to life. In addition, 17 miles of trails are popular with runners and hikers, offering a peaceful, shady respite in warmer months. And whether you hike or drive to the top of 1,808-foot Kennesaw Mountain, the views of the metro Atlanta area are spectacular.
For Elementary-School Age Children
A trip to the top of Stone Mountain is a good challenge that kids will love. (Bradley Huchteman, Flickr)
4. Stone Mountain Park
The bald dome of Stone Mountain is one of Atlanta’s most recognizable landmarks, and after a visit to this must-do destination, kids will love being able to say, "I did that!" The scramble to the top of the granite summit at Stone Mountain Park is a highlight (yes, there are handrails along the way), and you can make the return trip equally awesome via a ride in the high-speed Swiss cable car. The family-friendly spot also includes 15 miles of hiking trails, the quarter-mile SkyHike loop of suspended wooden bridges (bonus points for the brave souls who tackle the 40-foot high one) and the Geyser Towers, a playground full of rope tunnels and bridges that span an erupting geyser. Finally, the nighttime laser light show is legendary -- and a fitting end to a fun-filled day your little adventurers won’t soon forget.
This idyllic community about 40 miles south of Atlanta offers a peaceful, back-to-nature escape from the bustle of the city. Even so, there’s plenty to keep the kiddos entertained: animal feeds, farmer’s markets and oodles of kid-centric events, or you can opt for low-key exploration of the community’s meadows, miles of nature trails and paths. Not quite ready to leave? Make it an overnight retreat at one of 27 rooms at the Inn at Serenbe.
6. Atlanta BeltLine
This massive urban project, which will eventually connect 45 neighborhoods in town via a 22-mile loop of trails, pathways and streetcar routes, has been getting national buzz as of late, and for good reason: It’s a brilliant hybrid of urban renewal, community engagement, environmental stewardship and visionary thinking. Kids won’t care about any of that, of course, but they will absolutely love the Atlanta BeltLine’s many features: wide, flat paths where they can ride their bikes (or skateboards or non-motorized scooters) to their hearts’ content; fun pit stops like the Old Fourth Ward skateboard park; and riding to exciting destinations like the massive Ponce City Market.
For the Little Ones
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to explore, and the children’s garden there will keep the little ones thrilled. (JR P, Flickr)
7. Atlanta Botanical Garden
This verdant spot offers an outdoor oasis in the heart of Atlanta. In the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden at Atlanta Botanical Garden, there’s kid-friendly fun galore, from the new tree-house area with climbing nets and a slide to hands-on fun like a water-painting wall. And, of course, there are gardening activities facilitated by the garden’s full-time educational horticulturist. Perhaps this process will cultivate some little green thumbs.
8. Historic Fourth Ward Playground and Splash Pad
Climbing structures, slides, swings and rock walls -- the Historic Fourth Ward Playground is top-notch, with plenty of appeal for tykes of all ages, whether they’re crawling or running. But come warm weather, the splash pad is where it’s at, with water jets streaming from below and above. Spacious play areas and lots of benches for parents mean hours of fun for the whole family, especially during Atlanta’s toasty summers. (The splash pad is open from May to October.)
Written by Blane Bachelor for RootsRated Media in partnership with Atlanta CVB.