Make a Splash at These Indoor Pools

By Lesli Peterson

atlanta hotels with indoor pool

What makes a hotel family-friendly? It could be the in-room amenities, like refrigerator or bathtub. It could be special touches, like children’s programming or a babysitting service.  For this family, the number one rule of thumb is a pool.  Our city-exploring happens during the day, but pools provide entertainment for my kiddos in early morning and late evening, when we would otherwise be stuck in the room.  It helps to start the day by getting the wiggles out, and it relaxes and calms them before bed…also ensuring they sleep through the night.  You’ll find numerous hotels around Atlanta with pools, but the number dwindles a bit for winter guests looking for an escape from the cold. Here are details about our favorite family-friendly Buckhead hotels with indoor pools, and a list of additional hotels as well.

RC Buckhead

Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

Ritz Carlton Buckhead’s pool is one of my family’s favorites.  It is a saline pool, heated to perfection.  The ceiling is glass, and while the cold outside weather created a dew on the ceiling that prevented us from star-gazing, we did enjoy the open feeling that came from a view of the sky.  You’ll find boogie boards and noodles strategically placed around the pool deck, which our boys enjoyed.  Guest services even provided the kids with rubber ducks, as swim partners.

The pool is attached to the fitness center, so we were able to leverage the locker rooms.  There were lockers, showers, plastic bags for holding our wet suits, extra towels, and fruit for the boys to munch on.  I must also admit that hubby and I tried out the sauna and hot tub, as well. Heaven!

See more photos of our pool adventures here.

MO Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta

Mandarin Oriental is one of Atlanta’s most beloved hotels, with inescapable opulence and grandeur. Don’t let this fool you, though; they love children.  Strollers, cribs, and even baby monitors are available on request. Be sure to inquire about the Little Fan’s Passport program, also. But the real fun is at the pool.  Through a beautiful hallway, and down an elevator, kid’s will love the secret entrance to the swimming area.  The heated pool is only steps away from an extra restroom, perfect for little one’s “emergencies.” In warmer months the doors open to a view of the sunken courtyard and garden, as well as the views of Buckhead.

Learn more about our stay at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta here.

JW Marriott Buckhead

There are many things to love about JW Marriott Buckhead and its conveniences. One of my favorite: it is adjacent to Lenox Mall.  That small detail opens a world of family-friendly options for shopping and dining.  Until September 1, 2015 Marriott is offering complimentary valet parking to ease your unloading, and a free kids’ meal at the onsite restaurant with the purchase of an adult meal. Kids will also enjoy the heated pool and whirlpool for exerting the leftover energy that kid’s pack during vacation. You’ll also enjoy the glass ceiling, allowing in ample light for your swim.

See their site for more details about this Kids Eat Free package.

Additional Atlanta hotels with indoor pools:

Atlanta Airport Marriott

Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Comfort Inn & Suites Galleria

Embassy Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Hampton Inn & Suites Galleria

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Airport

Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown

Renaissance Atlanta Waverly

Sheraton Atlanta Downtown

Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta             

Springhill Suites by Marriott Atlanta Buckhead

Staybridge Suites Atlanta – Buckhead

The Westin Peachtree Plaza

Wingate Inn & Suites Atlanta Galleria

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

Guide to Alpharetta Restaurant Week

Perhaps you have heard of the Southeast’s new culinary hot spot known as Alpharetta, Georgia. Yes, it is true- Alpharetta is the place to go if you are looking for the ultimate chef-driven or locally owned dining experience. It has over 175 dining options just within the city limits and there are new restaurants by well-known chefs and local restauranteurs popping up all around town.

Every year, Flavors Magazine hosts an Alpharetta Restaurant Week to highlight the city’s foodie scene. This year the event runs from February 21-28 and features over 10 trendy eateries so epicureans can try out new spots and revisit old favorites that are serving cheap eats.

Menu prices this year are set at $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner and like other restaurant weeks, the prix fixe menus offer a variety of options that chefs are excited to show off. With so many tasty choices, it will be hard to choose. We’ve highlighted five restaurants to give you an idea of what to expect.

Alpine Bakery and Trattoria- $25 dinner menu

Serving Italian favorites, but best known for its bakery filled with the award-winning Red Velvet Cake and delectable seasonal treats. I have even known Floridians who make the six hour drive to Alpharetta every year around the holidays just to pick up a Yule Log.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Calamari OR Mozzarella Sticks OR Rice Balls with Italian Sausage
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Parmigiana (Chicken or Eggplant) with Angel hair Pasta OR

House-made Lasagna OR Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Peanut Butter Bar OR Key Lime Bar OR Rocky Road Bar
Bantam + Biddy’s Quarter Rotisserie Chicken with piri piri, pickled beets and goat cheese, broccoli and faro salad with Vidalia onion dressing

Bantam + Biddy’s Quarter Rotisserie Chicken with piri piri, pickled beets and goat cheese, broccoli and faro salad with Vidalia onion dressing

Bantam + Biddy- $15 lunch menu

Bantam + Biddy has been serving Atlantans with a casual family-friendly dining experience since 2012. The eatery, which prides itself with serving regional, all-natural and pastured poultry, has been in Alpharetta since the opening of Avalon in October 2014. Executive Chef and Co-owner, Shaun Doty, has a passion for creating simply prepared contemporary fare and his extensive culinary experience is the driving force behind this casually creative eatery.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Pimento Cheese OR Chopped Pastured Chicken Liver OR Jb Farm Deviled Eggs
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Chicken with two Sides OR Meatloaf with two Sides OR Pork Schnitzel with one side
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Dessert of your choice
The MADE Kitchen and Cocktails bar

The MADE Kitchen and Cocktails bar

MADE Kitchen and Cocktails- $15 lunch menu and a $25 dinner menu

Chic and comfortable, MADE Kitchen and Cocktails has been on every Alpharetta foodie’s radar since the restaurant concept was announced by local restauranteur, Chris Sedgwick. The menu features savory Spanish-inspired tapas with a “Made” twist. The bocadillos, or Spanish sandwiches, accompany the menu along with craft cocktails, wines and beer.

What’s on the Lunch Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Made Salad (mixed greens, radish, manchego, sherry vinaigrette) OR Stewed Lentils with house- made chorizo
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Braised Short Rib Croquettes with romesco OR Pei Mussels with saffron, garlic, white wine and grilled bread
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Seasonal Tapas Tart with vanilla-mascarpone ice cream OR a Shattered Chocolate Bar with Marcona almonds and candied orange peels

What’s on the Dinner Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Coal Roasted Beets with goat cheese and mint and sherry vinaigrette OR Boquerones with anchovies, parsley, garlic and olive oil OR Pimientos Asados with blistered shishito peppers and sea salt
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Crispy Duck Leg with pear mustarda and raddichio OR Camarones a la Plancha with prawns and lemon-butter OR Grilled Skirt steak with twice fried fingerling potatoes and chimichurri
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Seasonal Tapas Tart with vanilla-mascarpone ice cream OR Manchego Cheese with apple-bourbon butter OR a Shattered Chocolate Bar with marcona almonds and candied orange peels
Ray's at Killer Creek

Ray’s at Killer Creek

Ray’s at Killer Creek- $25 Dinner Menu

Ray’s at Killer Creek features a coastal inspired casual dining experience that is complete with fresh seafood and hospitable staff.

What’s on the Menu (choose one from each course):

  • Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Field Green Salad with sundried cranberries, candied pecans and Maytag blue cheese OR Caesar salad with herb croutons and shaved pecorino OR Cup of crab bisque soup laced with sherry and chive crema
  • Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Cedar Plank Salmon with grilled asparagus, whipped potatoes and Chile-blue crab butter OR Grilled Beef Brochettes with Moroccan cous cous, wild mushroom jus and warm arugula OR Pan Roasted Airline Chicken breast with lemon gnocchi, sugar snaps and baby carrots
  • Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Chocolate Mousse Cake with a raspberry purée and fresh berries OR Crème brûlée with seasonal fruit compote and fresh whipped cream
Miss Emily’s Chicken Salad from Mittie’s Tea Room

Miss Emily’s Chicken Salad from Mittie’s Tea Room

Mittie’s Tea Room Café- $15 lunch Menu

Set in an adorable tea room atmosphere, Mittie’s serves traditional “tea time” menu options such as scones, sandwiches and salads. The chicken salad croissant is perhaps the most praised sandwich with almonds, sliced grapes, and a special blend of spices served on a buttery melt-in-your-mouth croissant.

What’s on the Menu:

Course 1 (Appetizer) Choices: Soup of the Day OR Lobster Bisque and a beverage of your choice

Course 2 (Entrée) Choices: Quiche OR Crepes OR Salmon filet and a salad OR fruit

Course 3 (Dessert) Choices: Teacakes OR Scones and Chantilly Cream

Other participating restaurants include: Firefly Kitchen & Bar, Haiku, La Casa Italian Grill, PURE taqueria., Sage Woodfire Tavern, Salt, Spice Brick Oven Kitchen and Vinny’s on Windward. For a list of all the participating restaurant menus click here. Happy dining!

CaitlynFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard is the Director of Communications at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all things fun and unique in Awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time outside with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.

How to Keep Spring Break Fun and Affordable in Georgia

By Susan Rodman

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum

Spring break is always a welcome respite from the long winter days. Whether planning a week-long family vacation, a quick city break or a staycation near home, here are some tips on saving money on spring break while keeping the fun.

Mix in Some Free: Ask attractions you’d like to visit if they have free or discounted days or hours. For example, the Booth Western Museum in Cartersville is free on Thursdays after 4 pm.

Become a Member: Take inventory of memberships you have in your own city. Many museums and attractions have reciprocal memberships, which means if you are a member in one city, you get in free or at a reduced rate in another.

Get Social: Find restaurants, attractions and hotels where you will be visiting on social media. Often they’ll offer discounts to loyal followers and even if you don’t spend less, you may be able to have a better experience while on vacation.  Research local travel bloggers who may have visited before and ask them for advice or inside tips via social media or comments on their blog. There’s always someone who has been there before that can offer advice, or even be there to answer a question. Plus a lot of times locals have done some of the more hidden adventures that tend to be the most fun and least expensive.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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8 Ways to Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

By Candy Cook


I’m always looking for fun ways to get outdoors, with my kids, and learn more about nature. The Great Backyard Bird Count gets us excited about spending time outside and learning about Georgia’s birds. It’s an annual event that we’ve been doing for years. One thing we’ve learned is that the diversity of Georgia’s landscape attracts birds to the mountains, swamps, coastline and forests offering an exceptional birdwatching experience all across the state.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 13 – 16, this year. It’s a fun citizen-science project launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The National Audubon Society. Birdwatchers, of all ages, provide real-time information that helps scientists learn more about our wild bird populations including migration routes and diversity. Many parks and nature centers are jumping in to help novice birders identify species and give experts a chance to share their knowledge. Learn more about Georgia’s feathered friends with crafts, activities and expert bird watching guides at these eight great bird count events.

FDR State Park
Friday, February 13
8am – 11am
Novice and expert birders, bring your binoculars and meet at the park office to receive a bird count checklist. Pack a picnic to enjoy after the count.


Dunwoody Nature Center
Friday, February 13 9:30am & 11am
Monday, February 16 10am & 12pm
In addition to 22 acres and miles of trails for participants to use in their search for birds, Dunwoody Nature Center  offers free classes to help birdwatchers correctly identify and observe birds in the wild. Register here.


Birdsong Nature Center
Friday, February 13 8:30am – 12pm
Saturday, February 14 8:30am- 12pm
Birdsong Nature Center in Thomasville has guided birdwatching tours. Plan to meet in the parking lot at 8am to participate.


Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway

Saturday, February 14, 9am
Woodbine Women’s Club & Coastal Georgia Audubon Society are hosting a bird count at Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway in Woodbine  with fun activities and games, afterward at 10:30am. Bring your binoculars and meet at the Riverwalk Gazebo on 2nd street.


Blue Heron Nature Preserve
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Join Atlanta Audubon Society at Blue Heron Nature Preserve for guided hike bird counts and more surprises.


Panola Mountain State Park
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Atlanta Audubon Society will also be counting woodland and grassland bird species along the newest trail at Panola Mountain State Park. Meet at the visitors center.


Smith-Gilbert Gardens
Saturday, February 14 10am – noon
Come count birds with an expert to help with identification! Make a bird feeder and go on a birdhouse scavenger hunt while you explore the gardens.


Gwinnett Environmental Heritage Center
Saturday, February 14 11am – 3pm
Sunday, February 15 11am-3pm
Monday, February 16 11am-3pm
Learn about birds with crafts and activities, followed by bird count hikes throughout the day, at Gwinnett Environmental Education Center. Bird watching and identification classes are also available each day at 1:00 & 2:00pm.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Exploring the MLK Historic Site with Kids

By Lesli Peterson

MLK Birth Home

MLK Birth Home

With our oldest now in first grade, we surmised that it was time to extend our discussions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beyond books and YouTube videos. It was time to visit the MLK National Historic Site and The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.  I am thrilled that we made this choice; the boys learned so much.  Here are 10 areas of our self-guided tour that resonate most with children.

  1. Junior Ranger Program – Ask any park ranger for the Official Activity Booklet. Kids 9 – 15 complete it on-site, as well as promise to live by King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence.
  2. Firestation No. 6

    Firestation No. 6

    Firestation No. 6 – Dr. King visited here often as a boy. This Atlanta icon also became one of the first fire stations to desegregate. Inside, kids love the 1927 fire truck on display.

  3. King’s Birth Home – My boys enjoyed having their photo taken on the steps and imagining that Dr. King sat in the very same spot when he was a boy. Next door is a gift shop, with a number of books and games for kids.
  4. Children of Courage Exhibit – This exhibit is geared toward younger visitors, telling the story of the children of the Civil Rights Movement.
  5. Courage to Lead Exhibit – The main exhibit within the Visitor’s Center, Courage to Lead is primarily for adults. However, in each section of the exhibit there is a blue sign that describes in simple terms, for children, the gist of the kiosk. On a personal note, it was here that Dr. King’s sacrifices for peace became most apparent to my son. I urge you not to skip this.
  6. Ebenezer Baptist Church

    Ebenezer Baptist Church

    Ebenezer Baptist Church – My oldest walked directly to the altar, inquiring about the “voice from the speakers.” Hearing Dr. King speak in this setting genuinely touched him (and all of us.)

  7. International Walk of Fame – Just outside the Visitor’s Center our kids walked along footprints of many great leaders who have struggled to bring peace and equality to everyone. They also enjoyed posing with the life-size Gandhi statue and learning of his influence in Dr. King’s life.
  8. World Peace Rose Garden – The shrubs were bare when we visited, but that didn’t stop us from admiring the poetry within the garden written by children from around the world.
  9. Trading Cards – Collect all five cards from a park ranger, located at the Visitor’s Center, church and fire station. A Civil War to Civil Rights trading card program encourages families to visit multiple parks.
  10. The Eternal Flame

    The Eternal Flame

    The Eternal Flame – The flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s dream. My boys enjoyed seeing the flame and understanding its message.


Things to know before you visit:

  • Parking and admission are free.
  • Restrooms are available onsite in multiple locations.
  • If you visit in cold weather, bring a coat. You will travel from site to site on foot.
  • Cameras are allowed in all locations except inside the Birth Home.
  • Arrive as early as possible to tour the Birth Home. Tickets are free, but spots are limited and fill quickly.
  • Sweet Auburn Curb Market is just down the road and the perfect place for lunch.