A Family-Friendly Free Ride in Atlanta
I have many goals in life, contrary to what my children think. Among them: to be on the Ellen show during the Christmas season, to once again fit into my prom dress from Senior year, and to finally learn who let the dogs out (who, who, who, who?). Obviously, I’m a woman of lofty ideals.
By far, though, my biggest long term desire is simply to find cost-conscious ways to keep my kids entertained.
You can only visit Target so many times a week before things start to get weird.
Of all the items on my bucket list, keeping my kids busy on a budget has proven to be one of the most challenging. As a stay at home mom, I’ve learned to be creative when it comes to the things we need. Keeping a household of 5 thriving on one income can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. I shop around for deals for everything from toothpaste and bananas to underwear and socks. But when it comes to dazzling my 7, 5 & 2-year-olds on a dime, I definitely have my work cut out for me.
Thankfully in a bustling metropolis with (mostly) temperate weather, the options for fun are endless. Atlanta, the small-town-feeling, big city I call home, caters easily to those with a love of nature, a need for glitz and everything in between.
But as I recently sat down to figure out plans for another uneventful Spring Break with my Wee B3, it occurred to me that perhaps I was missing an opportunity. I set out to see if a family of 5 could truly enjoy some of what Atlanta had to offer by participating in at least one free activity a day.
Here’s what I found as I trained my sights on an Atlanta-themed Spring Break schedule:
Start off your week with some fun! Centennial Olympic Park, on 21 eye-catching acres, offers a splash pad (seasonal), walking trail, playground and a Visitor Center where you can learn about the park’s origins and the 1996 Olympic Games it was named after.
Mom Note: Bring an umbrella on particularly sunny days, the park warms up quickly and you don’t want your day shortened by sunburn.
If you haven’t packed a picnic lunch, head to nearby Virginia Highlands for Munchkin Mondays at Yeah!Burger. Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entrée.
Busy, little bodies need lots of hands-on learning opportunities. But there’s no reason you can’t discover and have fun at the same time. In the heart of downtown, Target Free Second Tuesdays take place at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Brave the crowds and head down for rotating exhibits and mini musicals mid-day that entertain even the older crowds. The museum notes that children up to the age of 8 are their target audience but they welcome one and all.
Mom Note: Confirm times and reserve your spot online beforehand, this monthly treat understandably reaches capacity quickly.
You’ve had a busy past few days, kick back and enjoy a meal. Radial Café in beautiful Candler Park offers free kids meals Monday through Friday.
All of the nutrition, none of the kitchen clean up, you can’t beat that!
Mom Note: Though my family hasn’t visited yet, I’ve heard great things about the Café’s cocktails. Needless to say, this is definitely on our short list for an upcoming bite. Cheers!
Consider yourself cultured and swing by Toddler Thursdays at the High Museum. Set afternoon hours are reserved for the museum’s littlest patrons (recommended between 2 and 4 years old) as art workshops and story times are devoted to nurturing a love of art in even the most diminutive da Vincis.
Mom Note: If your kids are out of the toddler stage, don’t fret, the High also offers FREE Second Sundays of the month where family-friendly programming is showcased. If that’s not a masterpiece of a deal, I don’t know what is.
To close out your week, take time for a look back. Just north of the city, right off the historic Marietta Square, you’ll find a little piece of the past at the Marietta Fire Museum. My children (when there were only two of them) & I visited this tiny time capsule and got to view a relic fire truck, uniforms and learn what it took to be a fireman years ago. The museum is very small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. We were one of only 2 families there at the time and had a chance to speak with an onsite firefighter (there’s a firehouse connected to the museum) and the kids even got to sit in the working fire truck out front.
Of note, I did have to pay for close parking (as I hated to take my slow walkers very far in the rain on this day in particular). But if you hunt around, I’m sure you could snag a free spot and a short jaunt should be no problem on a sunny day.
Mom Note: While small children would probably love the museum (it was perfect for my 2 little ones under age 4), I’d imagine pre-teen and older kids would need to have a distinct interest in the history of the city or firefighting itself to get a lot out of this experience.
Still up north and right around the corner is the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park. A 5-minute car ride will take you to this historic green space where you can keep it light and run around the trail or make a field trip of things and have a family discussion about the Civil War and the battle fought on the mountain. When you go, stop by the Visitor Center for detailed points of interest to look for on your trek.
And there you have it, my little free-for-all for a fun-loving family of 5. We’ll be making the most of our time together this spring, and I hope you get a chance to do the same.
If you make it to any of the sites listed, be sure to drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. And if you have any to add, I’d love to find out other ways to stretch my money and maximize the fun for my minis. Happy Spring Break planning, mamas!