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By Liz Lippow

My husband and I love to visit major cities with our kids. Maybe because we have embraced city living ourselves, we are in love with experiencing other big cities’ cultural and educational attractions, as well as soaking up each location’s unique vibe. And of course, we like to compare and contrast with our beloved hometown!

One urban adventure took us to downtown Atlanta for a family wedding. We carefully chose our Atlanta hotel to be within walking distance of some excellent Atlanta attractions. We were happy to be "on the ground," as we put it, experiencing Atlanta without a car.

Our first stop was at the Georgia Aquarium, only a ten-minute walk from our hotel. It opened in 2005, and immediately became one of the most popular places to go in the city. Tickets are a little pricy at $26 for adults and $19.50 for children aged 3-12, but it was worth it! The giant tanks with floor-to-ceiling windows allow small children to walk right up to the fish. Visitors can view one enormous tank by walking through a tunnel beneath the fish. A tide pool exhibit lets kids touch the crabs and sea stars (if they’re brave enough -– mine weren’t). The amazing variety of marine life kept our kids entranced.

Another great choice was Centennial Olympic Park, right across the street from the aquarium. This park was designed for the 1996 Olympic Games, and was later repurposed into a beautiful public space. We ate a picnic lunch in an open pavilion at one of the many inviting picnic tables. The park also boasts a playground and a fountain, and is the site of numerous outdoor cultural events. It was great to have some "run around" time, and even better to have it in such a prime people-watching area.

Our only regret for this urban challenge was that we didn’t need to use MARTA (Atlanta’s transit system), even though our hotel was just blocks away from the nearest stop! As public transit geeks, we enjoy taking our kids on other cities’ buses and trains. And what kid doesn’t like to ride a train? Next time we’ll definitely sample the MARTA.

Despite the fact that Atlanta is known for its sprawl and its choking traffic, we had a fabulous downtown experience. I’d encourage Atlanta visitors to venture beyond Buckhead and see what downtown has to offer.

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Lippow is a working mom with a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. She
enjoys traveling with her husband and kids, despite wistful memories of the days
when she only had to pack for herself.

Tagged: Family time

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