6 ways to spend summer outdoors with your kids

  • Lori McMillen Brown
  • for The AJC
2:54 p.m Friday, May 5, 2017 Arts & Culture
Guests at Stone Mountain Park gather on the massive lawn in front of the mountain for the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision. Photo Credit: Stone Mountain Park.

Breathe in a whiff of your childhood memories - the clean, sweet green of fresh cut grass, roasting hot dogs, slices of watermelon and layers of Coppertone baking with the sun's heat. Leave behind the mounding piles of laundry and jungles of yard work. It's time to embrace the magic of a summer day. Grab a tall glass of cold lemonade and find ways to seize those memories once again. Rescue your kids from video games and binge-watching TV and head outdoors for fun for the entire family.

Lasershow at Stone Mountain

Something about the vastness of the sloping lawn brings out the instincts of innocence. To gaze over it all from one of the terraces brings sights of cartwheels, bubbles, sailing Frisbees, impromptu games of football with newly met friends and kids barrel-rolling through the grass. Since the early 1980s, the lawn at Stone Mountain has invited this family-centered version of tailgating, culminating in the 45-minute main event that is now known as the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision. Grab your blanket or lawn chairs and partake in a picnic dinner while lounging as a family.
If you're traveling from the farther edges of metro Atlanta, consider making a day of it. Summit the mountain by foot or the Skyride, discover and listen to the Carillon, walk along covered bridges, visit plantations and farmyards, or take on the attractions in the Crossroads area of the park. In Crossroads, kids of all ages can climb through the ropes course of Geyser Tower as shots of water and eruptions provide a cool reprise from the summer heat. Adjacent to Geyser Tower is the one of the nation's largest family adventure courses, SkyHike. Take a ride in WWII amphibious vehicles or on the scenic railway. The diversity of options makes this a perfect spot for all the generations of your family.

Family bucket list- be a movie star

While you're not guaranteed a big break into stardom, you can look for a one-of-a-kind experience as an extra in one of the many television and film projects that are happening all over the state of Georgia.

Flexibility is the key to making this one happen. The AJC's Business page is constantly updated with all of the latest extra opportunities, which vary based on shooting schedules and needs. While the pay won't independently fund your kid's college tuition, the experience will be one they will brag about to their friends.

Visit a unique playground

Make a visit to the park a true destination and adventure. Swing from a work of art on the Noguchi Playscape. Created by world-renowned artist Isamu Noguchi, Piedmont Park is the home to his only playground design completed in his lifetime. For those with loftier dreams, careen down a slide as airplanes take off right in front of you. Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, or PDK, is Georgia's only aviation park and playground. Our downtown Centennial Olympic Park is home to the world's largest interactive fountain featuring the Olympic Ring symbol. Several playgrounds are within the perimeter of the park, including the All Children's Playground. This playground is accessible to those with reduced mobility and equally enjoyed by all.

Catch fireflies at your favorite sunset spot

Acquiring a mason jar full of fireflies is a recipe for hours of laughter and Norman Rockwell- like memories. You don't have to travel far for this summertime ritual. In fact, your own backyard may be the perfect setting. Pair it with a bonfire for roasting s'mores and you have the perfect environment for memories that will last a lifetime.

Take a train adventure

From downtown Atlanta you can travel in any of the four major compass directions and experience the sights and sounds of the rails. About 2 hours south of Atlanta, the town of Cordele serves as the boarding depot for the SAM Shortline, operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Various routes are available with layovers that allow you to explore sights like the farm on which Jimmy Carter grew up. Most routes range from 5-7 hours round trip. Just under 2 hours north, you'll find the Blueridge Scenic Railway. This 4-hour experience, including an open-air rail car option, takes you from Blueridge to McCaysville. Straddling a line with Copperhill, Tennessee, your 2-hour layover allows you to explore the surrounding area of these riverside towns.
If you want to stay closer to home, a stop at the Southern Museum in Kennesaw will not disappoint. While much of the displays are inside, there is an old caboose outside, as well as a park directly across the street that is perfect for picnicking. In Duluth, the Southeastern Railway Museum has over 90 pieces of retired railway equipment. Outside is a little kid's dream with a myriad of cars and cabooses that they can climb in and explore. Take a ride on either the full-scale train or the kid-size park train. Be sure to see their website for museum and train ride schedules.

Plan an agritourism adventure

Cost- Varies
Due to the amount of farm and ranch experiences in the state of Georgia, there is an entire subset of options for visitors known as agritourism. Experiences range from berry picking to exploring an alpaca farm. Go for the day or plan an overnight stay to see what a day in the life of ranch hand would be like. For a local family-favorite day trip, visit the Art Barn at Morning Glory Farm in Hickory Flat. Pony rides, petting area, bee keeping classes, and art projects are just a few of the many things you can experience with Farmer Sue. Be sure to check the calendar as participants are limited and often fill up fast.

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