Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 20, 2017
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Conferencing with kids… Atlanta

From toddlers to teens, Georgia’s capital has something for everyone

Sunny Atlanta is one of those rare American cities that feels both historic and hip. Yet it also happens to be infinitely kid-friendly, with unique attractions that will satisfy every age group from toddlers to those hard-to-please teens. Our favourites follow.

Surf and Turf

Staff at the Georgia Aquarium (tel: 404-581-4444; www.georgiaaquarium.org; adults $24, children three to 12 $18) don’t need to tell fish tales because this place — boasting over 100,000 animals and 30 million litres of water — is genuinely a whopper. Each of its five galleries replicates a different ecosystem, so you can see baby belugas and happy-footed penguins in Cold Water Quest, spot the Nemo-esque denizens of Tropical Diver, or get fresh with arapaima and piranha in River Scout (yes, a faux river actually does run through it).

The biggest attraction, literally speaking, is Ocean Voyager where whale sharks (the world’s largest fish species) swim behind a 19-by-7-metre window. Yet good things here also come in small packages: like the tiny touch tanks filled with crabs, starfish, sea anemones and other coastal critters in the Georgia Explorer.

Assuming you can drag the gang away from that gallery’s playground, Zoo Atlanta (tel: 404-624-5600; www.zooatlanta.org; adults $17.99, children three to 11 $12.99), located minutes from downtown in Grant Park, is also worth visiting. Walkways in this 16-hectare facility wind around naturalistic habitats providing up-close views of kangaroos, gorillas, elephants, even giant pandas. Regularly scheduled activities — including feedings, trainer talks and wildlife shows — let little ones learn more about them. Onsite you will also find a Kids Zone that features a petting zoo.

Imagine That

Atlanta’s museum for children, Imagine It! (tel: 404-659-5437; www.imagineit-cma.org; ages two and up $11) earns top marks from families thanks to innovative, interactive exhibits that emphasize play-based learning. In one area, kids can pretend they’re Bob the Builder by operating miniaturized machines; in another, pint-sized Picassos are given permission to paint on the walls. The Fundamentally Food exhibit, though, takes the cake. Entered by way of a colossal, crawl-through piece of Swiss cheese, it encourages budding epicures to follow the circuitous route their food takes from the farm to the grocery store shelf and onto the kitchen table. The only caveat is that Imagine It! does draw crowds and, once onsite, visitors understandably dawdle. So it is wise to reserve your tickets in advance.

If you can’t get in — or if you are travelling with children older than eight — plot a course east of midtown to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (tel: 404-929-6300; www.fernbankmuseum.org; adults $13, children three to 12 $11). The big (and we do mean big) draws here are the dinosaurs mounted in the Giants of the Mesozoic gallery: among them a 14-metre-long Giganotosaurus and a 37-metre-long Argentinosaurus. While it’s hard not to look up at these super-sized skeletons, remind your offspring to look down too: fossils dating back 150 million years are embedded in the floor.

Take Them Out to the Ball Game

Politically incorrect foam tomahawks may be optional, however, peanuts, crackerjacks and cracking bats are definitely de rigueur when the Atlanta Braves (tel: 404-522-7630; www.braves.com) play for a hometown crowd at Turner Field. If you can make a game (regular season runs April through September) nosebleed seats sell for as little as $5.

If not, you can still see the stadium because it remains open after the boys of summer have gone. Hour-long guided tours cover the clubhouse, dugout, press box and broadcast booth, as well as the Braves Museum & Hall of Fame which houses Hank Aaron’s 715th home-run ball and the 1995 World Series trophy. Remember, though: this is the home of the Braves, not the land of the free. Tours cost $10 for adults and $5 for children three to 13.

No baseball fans in the family? No problem. Atlanta is teeming with pro-sports teams. Fall through spring, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers take turns playing downtown in Philips Arena. Spectators with a preference for pigskin, meanwhile, can cheer on the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons at the nearby Georgia Dome. With pre- and post-season games factored in, they are on the gridiron August through January. For seats, check with individual teams directly or book online with Ticketmaster (tel: 800-326-4000; www.ticketmaster.com).

Do the Rights Thing

Proximity to major attractions (to say nothing of the convention centre) makes Centennial Olympic Park the heart of Atlanta’s tourist district. The city’s soul, however, is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District (tel: 404-331-6922; www.nps.gov/malu; free), which served as a magnet for Civil Rights crusaders during the 1950s and ’60s. Begin exploring at the Visitor Center, where an exhibit aimed at youth (Children of Courage) sets both the man and the movement in context, before moving on to the Victorian-era home where King was born in 1929; and the Ebenezer Baptist Church (407 Auburn Avenue) where his funeral was held in 1968.

Then pay your respects at King’s crypt. Surrounded by a reflecting pool and fronted by an eternal flame, it’s fittingly inscribed with his words: “Thank God Almighty I’m Free at Last.” Afterwards, give peace another chance at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (tel: 404-865-7100; www.jimmycarterlibrary.org; adults $8; children under 17 free). It encapsulates the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s human rights campaign in a surprisingly kid-centric way. Highlights include a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and blingy, sometimes bizarre, gifts given to the “Georgian Gentleman” when he was president. On select Mondays, the site even holds story times and scavenger hunts for three- to seven-year olds.

Be Tara-fied

A century before the Civil Rights marches, there was the Civil War March on Atlanta, and Gone With the Wind can bring that tumultuous period of American history to life for tweens and teens. Not only did native-born author Margaret Mitchell set most of her epic novel in Atlanta, she also wrote it here while living in a “dump” off Peachtree Street.

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Margaret Mitchell House (tel: 404-249-7015; www.gwtw.org; adults $12, students $9, children four to 12 $5) offers tours, which include an introductory film and entry to Mitchell’s ground-floor apartment. There is also an adjacent museum devoted to the wildly popular movie her novel spawned in 1939. Filled with archival photos, props, set pieces, storyboards and costume sketches, it is as close as you’ll ever come to the fictional Tara.

Young cinephiles will find more movie memorabilia on display at The Gone with the Wind Museum (tel: 770-794-5576; www.mariettaga.gov/gwtw; adults $7, students $6), about 32 kilometres northwest of town in Marietta. But for a reality check, continue just beyond it to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield (tel: 770-427-4686; www.nps.gov/kemo; adults $2, children six to 11 $1) where the bloody Atlanta Campaign began in 1864. Earthworks, cannon emplacements and antique firearms help tell the story, while a Junior Ranger book (available for $3) outlines DIY activities for kids.

Park Yourself

For a different spin on Georgian life in the 1800s, drive 26 kilometres east of downtown to the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard at Stone Mountain Park (tel: 800-317-2006; www.stonemountainpark.com; adults $25, children three to11 $19). Its 19 restored buildings — all constructed between 1790 and 1845 — include slave quarters, a country store, a log cabin that doubled as a doctor’s office and a neo-classical mansion that could make Scarlett O’Hara feel at home.

As if that wasn’t enough to get you whistling Dixie, a massive bas-relief (conceived by the same man who later did Mount Rushmore) shows Confederacy heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson galloping across the mountain behind them.

The 1295-hectare site does leaven the history lesson with fun recreational opportunities: there are cable cars and paddlewheel riverboats to ride, plus mini-putt courses, water slides and elaborate tree houses to play on.

Yet if you define a “park” by its roller coasters and carousels, Six Flags Over Georgia (tel: 770-948-9290; www.sixflags.com/overGeorgia; $50 for visitors over 4 feet, $30 for those under) is the place to be. Open March through October, it is home to the Southeast’s largest, tallest coaster, as well as tamer rides — like a Wile E. Coyote mini-coaster and a replica of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Pop In

As a veritable shrine to the world’s best-known brand, the new $97-million World of Coca-Cola (tel: 800-676-2653; www.woccatlanta.com; adults $14, children five to 12 $8) is shamelessly commercial. It is also a top-ranking attraction: one that redefines the term “pop culture” through an assortment of art and artifacts. Standouts among the former are themed paintings by Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol; among the latter, an ornate 19th-century onyx-and-marble soda counter. But that’s just the tip of the ice cube.

The museum has 4-D films, a working bottling facility and a video loop that plays classic Coke ads: all of which illustrate how far the libation has come since Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton launched it as a nerve tonic and headache remedy in 1886.

Coke’s global reach is also evident in the Taste It! hall where visitors sample products ranging from Japan’s Vegitabeta brand to Peru’s Inca Kola.

Once you’ve filled up at the soda fountain, be sure to check out the water fountain right across Baker Street in Centennial Olympic Park (tel: 404-222-7275; www.centennialpark.com; free). Opened in 1996 for the XXVI Olympic Games, the Fountain of the Rings has 251 jets that shoot as high as nine metres. Splashing in it is a favourite local pastime and choreographed water shows — complete with sound and light effects — take place four times daily.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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