Best of Atlanta Metro for Families with Preschoolers

Tellus Museum

Tellus Science Museum

Traveling with a preschooler comes with its own set of special challenges. You need engaging activities, with opportunities for kids to use all their senses.  Below are twelve picks for the Atlanta Metro, both for families visiting the area and for those that call Atlanta home.

Fail-proof options for vacationing families

  1. Tiny Towne (Alpharetta) Children ages 3-15 drive high-tech miniature cars in a realistic environment. Follow road signs and traffic signals, and have a fun time in the process.
  2. Dunwoody Nature Center

    Dunwoody Nature Center

    Dunwoody Nature Center (Dunwoody) Explore the boardwalk, play hide-and-seek in the treehouse, traipse the short trails, or play on the playground. On warmer days, the creek calls for frolicking, with shallow water and pebbles for tossing.

  3. Center for Puppetry Arts (Midtown Atlanta) Take in one of the masterful puppet shows, which always exceed expectations. A children’s puppetry workshop follows most shows. Kids will also enjoy the Jim Henson exhibit or the puppetry museum.
  4. Children’s Museum of Atlanta (Downtown Atlanta) “Shop” in a grocery store, catch fish, climb the treehouse, or explore machines with pulleys and levers. Rotating exhibits with hands-on kiosks add to the fun.
  5. Tellus Science Museum (Cartersville) It’s easy to spend hours in the My Big Backyard children’s exhibit. After that, walk with the dinosaurs, or pose with a replica of Sputnik. Kids are sure to enjoy fossil hunting and gemstone mining, free with admission.
  6. Yellow River Game Ranch (Lilburn) Meander the trail through this 24-acre park to see sheep, bunnies, cougar, bear, and more. The back meadow holds the largest herd of buffalo this side of the Mississippi! Pet the deer, and feed the sheep and other kid-friendly animals. Don’t forget your camera.

Must-do preschool programs for residents

  1. Atlanta History Center

    Atlanta History Center

    Magic Mondays at Atlanta History Center (Buckhead Atlanta) Once-a-month programs include crafts, games, stories, and a learning activity. Move at your own pace through the sessions, and be sure to finish with a visit to the farm!

  2. Theatre for the Very Young at Alliance Theatre (Midtown Atlanta) Professional performances that kids as young as 18 months will enjoy. Shows engage children and parents, allowing kids to become part of the experience.
  3. Adventure Cubs at Zoo Atlanta (Grant Park Atlanta) This monthly adventure features hands-on programs for three and four year olds. Take a Zoo tour, play at the learning stations, and meet a special animal ambassador.
  4. Southern Railway Museum

    Southern Railway Museum

    2nd Thursday Preschool Program at Southeastern Railway Museum (Duluth) The cleverly designed program includes circle time, songs, activities, and a craft. Each month’s topic covers a different mode of transportation including hot air balloons, ice cream trucks, and of course trains!

  5. Mommy and Me at Southern Museum (Kennesaw) Free with admission, Mommy and Me includes story times, crafts, and hands-on games. Every week offers a new topic.
  6. Booth Cahoots at Booth Western Art Museum (Cartersville) Kids learn about works of art on display at the “cowboy museum,” and make their own art inspired by those artists. Pre-registration is required, and participation is free with admission.


Lesli is the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration to local families. She is also the Official Family Travel Ambassador for the state of Georgia, as well as a freelance writer for several online publications.  She enjoys being a homeschool mom to two young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one adventure at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way.


7 Unique New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Georgia

These New Year’s Eve celebrations put the Times Square Ball Drop to shame.

Photo Credit: Savannah Riverfront

Photo Credit: Savannah Riverfront

Up the Cup in Savannah: Countdown the final seconds of 2014 as Savannah raises a six foot to-go cup to the New Year. The “Up the Cup” countdown will start right before midnight followed by a firework display to officially ring in 2015. Admission is FREE and all ages are welcome.

Photo Credit: Perry Buzzard Drop

Photo Credit: Perry Buzzard Drop

Buzzard Drop in Perry: Enjoy live music from two bands, a Buzzard Boogie dance contest with a $100 cash prize and the 2nd Annual Perry Buzzard Drop! The buzzard will drop at midnight and will be followed by the release of balloons and confetti. Food and spirits vendors will be on site.  Admission is FREE and all ages are welcome.

Photo Credit: The Possum Drop

Photo Credit: The Possum Drop

Possum Drop in Tallapoosa: The residents of Tallapoosa, formerly know as “Possum Snout”, ring in each New Year by lowering a stuffed possum named “Spencer” from atop one of the city’s oldest buildings. The famous Possum Drop celebration begins in the afternoon with live music, the crowning of the Possum King & Queen and more. Admission is FREE and all ages are welcome.

Photo Credit: McDonough Tours via Flickr

Photo Credit: McDonough Tours via Flickr

Geranium Drop in McDonough: Dance the year away on the McDonough Square as the Geranium Drops! McDonough’s Mayor, Billy Copeland, will kick off the 4th Annual Geranium Drop at 8pm on New Year’ Eve. Admission is FREE and all ages are welcome.

Photo Credit: The Macon Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo Credit: The Macon Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Drop in Macon: The Cherry Blossom ball is made of recycled metal cherry blossoms decked out in pink lights, and its drop serves as the start of the official countdown to the Cherry Blossom Festival, March 19th – April 4th, 2015. Admission is FREE. There will also be family-friendly events from 7 P.M.-9 P.M. for those with young children, including a mini fireworks finale at 9 P.M.


Dropping of the Edelweiss in Helen:  Ring in 2015 with live music, food, dancing and the 2nd Annual Dropping of the Edelweiss at the Helen Festhalle! Admissions is $15 per person & $25 per couple. Children under 6 will receive free admission and children ages 6-12 will receive half price admission.

shamrockShamrock Drop in Dublin: Be awed as a brilliantly lit shamrock descends from atop the historic Fred Roberts Building in downtown Dublin, Georgia. Admission is FREE and children are welcome until 9 P.M. After 9 P.M., Jackson Street will host a 21+ street party featuring dancing, live music, vendors, food and beverage delights!

1470250_10201404779337586_897188189_nLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!

5 Reasons to Ride the Santa Train in Blue Ridge


Santa Claus gives his undivided attention to each child on the Express Train round trip out of Blue Ridge.

Santa or his helpers show up a lot of places every December, but I had never met one with a big entourage until riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

Train buffs might delight in the century-old depot or in knowing the tracks were first laid in this northwest Georgia town in 1886.

The rest of us can immerse in the magic of Christmas because this railroad crew believes too.


Look-alike Elf on the Shelf elves stroll the train cars, readily posing for photos.

“We wait all year for the Santa Train,” says cheerful conductor Ray Leader. “The other trains all year are delightful, but it’s the Santa Express and Night Train we love best.”

Mrs. Claus told me the same thing; Santa himself was too busy eyeball-to-eyeball with the little kids to entertain a question.

This Santa’s totally focused

Santa gave his undivided attention to each child on my train car, one at a time. He didn’t lump brothers and sisters together as a group to move on quickly. He also gives each one a jingle bell on a ribbon, keepsakes perhaps to hang on your own tree.

Babies in arms? Santa seemed skilled at cooing and comforting while brand-new parents barely focused photos because they were grinning so broadly.

Teamwork from this North Pole entourage

Elves dressed like Christmas trees or gingerbread men strolled about, chatting with children and the adults they brought with them.

Then they positioned themselves in that alluring open-air space where train cars are coupled, building readiness for the arrival of another character.

Skillful timing: just enough downtime to look out the windows at Toccoa River scenery, winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Children giggle with Rudolph on the Santa Train, but save their belief for Santa.

Rudolph doesn’t fool the kids—easy to see he’s a man with a costume but I got the feeling seeing him as pretend reinforced their faith in Santa.

Stories, songs and colors

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” became reason enough for children to gather in the center of the car with for a reading of the fabled poem.

A gift of individual crayons and coloring books, including traditional Christmas songs, lured many children to artwork, only to look up when the next visitors arrived—boy and girl elves that look like the Elf on the Shelf in many households.

That caused a ripple of recognition in the children around me, and requests for photos.

Keeping up with Santa

The young-boy elf sticking close to Santa’s elbow presented a candy cane to each child and Mrs. Santa guided little ones toward photo-friendly positions and comfortably chatted with adults awaiting their child’s turn.

Faith and hope like the Christmas message resonate with her, she said, after a 33-year career in juvenile justice.


Learning about train travel peering through the back window of car #549.

Experiencing the train

If you can possibly veer from the magic of Christmas, ride intentionally to show the kids what train travel was like for other generations, and how people get around on other continents.

Don’t just sit in your double-facing wide seats—look out the big windows at the passing countryside and cross into another train car. Some are climate-controlled, all enclosed, and some are open-air.

More about the train


1:00 pm and 3:00 pm rides through Christmas Eve

Train schedules every month except January and February.

Other special themes include Easter Eggspress, Firecracker Special, Pumpkin Pickin’ and New Year’s Eve.

Photo Credit: Jodi Broadaway Dunn

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at

9 Holiday Traditions Outside Atlanta

From train rides to light displays, Georgia is full of holiday traditions!

Photo Credit: SAM Shortline

Photo Credit: SAM Shortline

December 19th & 20th: Climb on board the SAM Shortline for a holiday train ride through southwest Georgia! SAM Shortline offers three holiday-themed excursions – The North Pole Express, Breakfast with Santa Train and Supper with Santa Train.

Through December 23rd: Celebrate a true antebellum Christmas at the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville! Witness the mansion transform into a scene from the 1800s on a guided tour, offered Tuesday-Sunday. Admission is $10.

December 27th & 28th: Get rid of your old tree at North Georgia Zoo and Farm’s Tree Toss! All those who donate a tree will receive $1 off their admission and the opportunity to see how animals react to recycled trees. 

Photo Credit: Chehaw

Photo Credit: Chehaw

Through December 28th: Drive or take a magical ride on the Wiregrass Express through the Festival of Lights at Chehaw in Albany. Admission is $15 per vehicle

Through December 28th: Light up the night & help feed the hungry at TMT Farms’ spectacular holiday light display. Admission is free but donations of non-perishable food items are encouraged. The food will be distributed to needy families throughout the region.

Through December 30th: Snuggle up on a memorable train ride through the Okefenokee Swamp Park Annual Light Show. The trains travel along a 1.25-mile rail, where thousands of lights and numerous outdoor displays can be viewed. There is even a miniature train just for little ones!

Photo Credit: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Photo Credit: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Through December 31st: Take a train ride with Santa on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway!  The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers two holiday train rides including the Santa Express and a Night Train ride to Santa’s Pavillion.

Photo Credit: Cornelia Main Street

Photo Credit: Cornelia Main Street

Through January 1, 2015: Ice skate, go on a hayride, roast marshmallows, meet Santa Claus and explore the Elf Workshop at the famous Cornelia Christmas Light Spectacular.

Through January 25, 2015: Hit the ice at The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro! The 6,000-square-foot Ice Rink is open to the public for $20 for children and $30 for adults.

1470250_10201404779337586_897188189_nLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!

Eat, Shop & Play in Buckhead

King & Duke

King & Duke

Less than 10 miles north of downtown sits Atlanta’s chic Buckhead neighborhood – the “Beverly Hills of the South.” Buckhead offers several high-end retail shopping destinations, all within a two-mile radius. Extravagance doesn’t end in Buckhead’s shops, but continues onto the table as the neighborhood is home to many award-winning restaurants. Use the one-day guide below to navigate and explore Atlanta’s ultra-lux locale.

Eat: Start the day at Corner Café and Buckhead Bread Company, named Best Brunch Restaurant in America by OpenTable. Slide into a corner booth framed by floor-to-ceiling windows and soak up the buzz of Buckhead’s morning crowd. Try the signature white chocolate French toast or the sliced smoked salmon platter. For lunch feast on a classic Southern lunch staple, the heirloom tomato sandwich, at Seven Lamps. For a lighter option, try the stone fruit salad made with figs, salsa verde, goat cheese, avocado and curried hazelnuts. Cap off your day with supper at King + Duke, named after Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Enter under a built-in bookcase filled with literary classics. Order the cornmeal dusted Georgia trout, served with gribiche, caper relish and sungold tomatoes and watch it cook before your eyes on a 24-foot open hearth. Save room for a slice of stout spice cake served with local apples, butter and ginger.

Lenox Mall. Photo Credit: Ben Rose Photography

Lenox Mall. Photo Credit: Ben Rose Photography

Shop: Head over to where the locals shop, Lenox Square, and browse more than 250 stores. Shop designer household items at Neiman Marcus or stock up on vacation garb at Club Monaco. Just across Peachtree Street, enter Phipps Plaza, home to more than 100 high-luxury retailers. Treat yourself to sparkly trinkets at Tiffany & Co. or new arm candy with a Versace handbag. Drive south on Peachtree Street to the newly-opened Buckhead Atlanta shopping district for even more high-end retail options such as Christian Louboutin and Hermes.

Play: If you shopped til’ you dropped, opt to travel back in time at the Atlanta History Center. Wander through the center’s award-winning exhibitions and visit how the affluent Inman family lived with a tour of the Swan House (which also doubled as President Snow’s house in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). Laugh with the locals at Atlanta Improv Comedy Club, voted Best Comedy Club in Atlanta by Jezebel Magazine. After, ascend to the rooftop of the W Atlanta-Buckhead and soak in the sights and lights of the city with a nightcap at swanky Whiskey Blue.

For additional ideas on things to do in Buckhead, visit or

april-14Katie Collins is a recent graduate of Kennesaw State University with a degree in Communication. She has interned at the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and has a love for all things Southern. Find her on Twitter at @kbettycollins.