Ultimate Atlanta Summer Staycation Guide: Free and Frugal Family Fun

Super Summer Staycation - Atlanta Some of our very best summer memories are made with family right close to home. Today I offer up ideas for a super staycation in Atlanta! Plus, you can win tickets for a trip to the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and tickets to see the Atlanta Braves. Don’t miss this ultimate giveaway at the end!

How Do You Enjoy a Staycation and Save Money?

A few years ago I was inspired by a friend to really explore the area right where we live. Why travel great distances at even greater expense? Here’s how you enjoy a Staycation:

Field Trips within a One Hour Drive – an idea by Harmony-Art Mom… “We found a long time ago that we can explore so many different places by using a simple idea. Take a map and place a big dot on your home town. Now determine an hour’s distance from your home and draw a circle around your home at that distance. Make a list of all the places you can go that are within that hour’s distance and then start one by one giving them a try.” Please see the original post: Summer is for Hiking

worldofcocacola General Information on Atlanta Attractions

  • City Pass – this is the way to go if you’d like to hop around to the major Atlanta attractions. With a City Pass, you save 42% on admission to Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour, Zoo Atlanta OR Atlanta History Center and Fernbank Museum of Natural History OR High Museum of Art.
  • 11 of the Best Free Things to Do in Atlanta from View to a Thrill – Sample the World at a Fraction of the Price
  • Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
  • Kids Around Cobb – a fun listing of all sorts of things to do for free in Cobb County!

Staycation World of Coca-Cola World of Coca-Cola

(A big thanks to World of Coca-Cola for giving away four tickets to Hodgepodge readers!)

Always a favorite for our family is the World of Coca-Cola. We’ve made a destination stop for two family birthdays. And it always works nicely into our homeschool history studies.

World of Coca-Cola Last year we got to see the Vault of the Secret Formula and a couple of years ago the whole family sampled the sights and the flavors of Coca-Cola from around the world in honor of Middle Girl’s birthday!

Georgia Aquarium Georgia Aquarium

(we have a pair of tickets to give away for your trip here!)

One of our favorite local spots is the Georgia Aquarium. We made it a birthday destination trip for Littlest Girl because she is a lover of sharks and all things ocean. What memories we made – we still talk about it!

GAIlogosmall There’s always something wonderful going on at the Georgia Aquarium! They recently started two new encounter programs, Dolphin Encounter and Sea Otter Encounter. Each program offers guests the opportunity to interact up close and personally with these animals. Be sure to find out more and book your encounter by visiting: Sea Otter Encounter and Dolphin Encounter programs. Plus, you should follow Georgia Aquarium on Facebook so you won’t miss the summer fun and any specials!

**Plus, I love the Pinterest board Georgia Aquarium put together. Check out all the pins to places Around Atlanta!

At the Braves Game Atlanta Braves

(The Atlanta Braves have offered two sets of four game tickets to give away for your trip here!)

What is more classic than a trip to the ball field? This summer the Atlanta Braves have some fun in store for you!

Just take a look at all the upcoming events below:

  • Upcoming Concerts: RUN DMC (6/1), Steve Miller Band (7/13) and Big & Rich (9/1)
  • Bobblehead Giveaways: Freddie Freeman (5/30), B.J. Upton (6/20) and Dale Murphy (7/11)
  • Every Friday! Georgia Lottery Friday Night Fireworks
  • Every Sunday! Kids Run the Bases

Braves Tomahawk logo_4c copy **Be sure to follow the Atlanta Braves on Facebook so you won’t miss any news of summer fun!

The Varsity Iconic Restaurants

While we are downtown, it’s always fun to stop in or drive up to The Varsity and decide ‘what’ll ya have?’ Wow, what a history lesson there!

Big Chicken The Big Chicken – a local landmark for navigation, “make a right at the Big Chicken” this Kentucky Fried Chicken is not to be missed. Having grown up here, I didn’t realize what an icon it was until friends from out of town wanted to visit there! See? Even the famous Christy Jordan of Southern Plate (well, flat Christy, when she visited the Hodgepodge last summer, made a stop at the Big Chicken!)

Stone Mountain Park Stone Mountain Park

We celebrated our train-loving youngest son’s birthday at Stone Mountain Park one year. What fun to ride the train around the base of the mountain on the scenic railroad. Not only that but a trip here is a fabulous history lesson with the Confederate Memorial carving. Hike up or ride the tram to the top. Make a day of it and stay for the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision. There’s a very special event coming up this very weekend:

Upcoming concert and Salute to the Troops!
mem logo Charlie Daniels Band Scheduled To Rock Stone Mountain Park’s – Memorial Day Weekend Salute The Troops Event

  • Summer Kicks Off with Live Music, Free Tickets for Military and Special Patriotic Fireworks
  • Memorial Day Weekend Dates/Times: May 25-27; 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Charlie Daniels Band Concert: May 26; 7:45 p.m
  • Lasershow SpectacularTM in Mountainvision® Dates/Times: May 25-27; 9:30 p.m.

In addition, all active and retired military personnel will receive one FREE Adventure Pass with valid ID and will save up to $10 off per person for immediate family members, and will receive 20 percent off food and merchandise. Military ID required. Admission:  Concert, Lasershow and fireworks are FREE with vehicle admission. Active and retired military personnel FREE Adventure Pass offer with valid ID. Vehicle entry to the park is $10 for a one-day permit or $35 for annual permit. More info: Memorial Day weekend Salute to the Troops or call 770-498-5690

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

And speaking of mountains… a very favorite spot is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Drive or hike to the top and your can see Stone Mountain in the distance. (Our Leaf Walk here). I’m very impressed with their updated website where you can plan things to do and see upcoming events. There’s so much Civil War history to learn and you can even take a self guided cell phone tour.

Civil War cannons Atlanta is so very rich with history! Also on their site are links to the other well-known, local historical sites: Atlanta History Center, The Marietta Museum of History, Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, Pickett’s Mill State Historic Site, Red Top Mountain State Park and more.

Free Concerts on Marietta Square – last Friday of every month through September. Just down the hill from Kennesaw Mountain. So many more fun things to explore at The Marietta Welcome Center website! From Theatre in the Square to browsing the shops, just click over and see all the Marietta images and you’ll want to go. Plus there’s the Artist’s market, the farmer’s market…

Center for Puppetry Arts

Summer show schedule and more

Go on a hike Nature Activities

Dunwoody Nature Center summer activities


GeorgiaStateParks Free, Outdoor Nature Ideas

many thanks to my friend, Kerstin Liberty for gathering much of the parks and recreation information!

  • The WMA is greatly underused. Wildlife Management areas provide primitive camping, hiking, wildlife viewing..all for FREE.
  • National Parks are FREE and the children can do the Jr. Ranger Programs while they are there and get sworn in by a ranger and get a cool badge!! State parks do the SAME THING!! You can check out a park pass to avoid the parking fees if those are prohibitive for you..at the library!
  • Army Corp of Engineers sites are also free!! There are tons of them nearby like Cooper’s Furnace and Riverside in Cartersville-great places to hike and learn.

walk at the park Sweetwater Creek State Park – we like this spot best for a sunset picnic! But you can spend just a little time on their site and see that they have a Ranger-led lake paddle, hikes and much more!

Silver Comet Trail Silver Comet Trail

“The Silver Comet Trail is located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s free of charge, and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. This quiet, non-motorized, paved trail is for walkers, hikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, horses, dog walkers, and is wheelchair accessible.

The Silver Comet Trail is 61.5 miles long, and starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, Georgia. It ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown and The Esom Hill Trailhead.” Read much more at Silver Comet Trail Georgia.

Unit Studies Passport France Local Libraries and Reading Programs

movies Summer Movies

Free or Low Cost Summer Movies (Cobb)

vbs-logo-small Vacation Bible School (VBS)

A listing of VBS around the metro area

Summer water fun Water Fun!

  • Water Fun – all about water: pools, lakes, water parks, beaches
  • Centennial Olympic Park Fountain of Rings – check the schedule for the free Fountain of Rings show! My friend Jennifer says,” We LOVE this – we go every year and splash in the fountains and buy ice cream from the ice cream man while there sometimes we fly kites too!”

backyard tent Backyard Camping

Great Backyard Campout – June 22, 2013

Camping recipes Recipes for Backyard Camping


Now for the giveaway!

I’m so pleased that some favorite local venues have offered the following prizes to Hodgepodge readers!

Just follow the instruction on the Rafflecopter widget below…
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Be sure to subscribe to Hodgepodge because I’ll be sharing free art tutorials throughout the summer. Always a fun summer staycation activity!  What’s first on your summer fun agenda?


  1. 4

    Heidi says

    What an amazing post! There is so much to do here in Atlanta…why would you need to go anywhere else! One of our favorite things to do in the summer is go to free/cheap kid’s movies that we didn’t get to see the first time around!

    • 5


      I agree Heidi! And I love Barb’s idea of taking a map and drawing a circle with a ‘one hour drive time’ radius from your home. Great for goal setting and getting to all the places we’ve meant to.

  2. 6

    Kim says

    While we are going to the beach for a few days thanks to credit card rewards I’ve made a nice list of fun things to do for the summer. Many are on the list. I’m ready to tackle the laser show…I think I just need a funnel cake :) Thanks for the reminders of some fun things to do.

  3. 11

    Michelle says

    We have loved our visits to Atlanta in the past. We would love to try some of the places you mentioned next time we are there.

    Thanks for sharing the info and having the give-away,

  4. 12

    Kerri says

    What a great source of information this is. bookmarking it for sure! We are on a stay action this week! Planning to hit Tellus Museum in Catersville and maybe the Atlanta History Museum. They have a Centennial Olympic exhibit that the kids want to see after doing an Olympics unit to start the school year. Then some other fun things, like eating out and swimming :)

  5. 13

    Judy McCormick says

    One of our favorite places to visit is the Atlanta Zoo. We love seeing all of the animals. We always pack a lunch and watch the gorillas while we eat.

  6. 17


    Our favorite frugal spot in ATL is Buford Dam… crazy, huh? WHen we lived near there I would love to go with Anna and we would watch the water be let out at specified times during the day. I am planning to take the kids next week to watch this and explore Lake Lanier a little, too. :-)

  7. 19

    Terri Levine says

    We aren’t going on a family vacation this year so we can pay some things off! I say boo and yay to that statement!! So we would LOVE to win these tickets to be able to have some free fun!! Thank you!

  8. 20

    Brandy says

    We live in Birmingham and are coming to ATL on Saturday for my youngest son’s birthday. We are doing a How It’s Made birthday theme for just the family (he loves that show). We’re starting it all on Thursday with some tours of some factories here in Birmingham (Golden Flake and Bud’s Best Cookies) and ending with the World of Coke on Saturday. We wanted to do either a Braves game or the aquarium the same day, but it was just too expensive. (The World of Coke tickets were free with my coke rewards points!) Anyway, all that to say, we take advantage of a lot of the local things around here as our vacation time because we don’t get to take big family vacations very often at all. My kids’ favorites are the zoo and the science museum. Thanks for such a lengthy post on ATL attractions. We are close enough to be able to go that way when we feel like it.

    • 21


      Brandy – I love your idea for a How It’s Made birthday theme! Year before last we did ‘destination birthdays’ for our children with World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium – with the family. We had the best time and it sounds like you will too. Waving at you, neighbor, as you head into town – happy birthday and have fun!

  9. 23

    Yahiliz says

    We live in Orlando so we visit the beach quite a bit and I’m always looking for free activities in the area. For example, Leu Gardens is free the first Monday of the month (except holidays), the Mennello Museum is free the second Sunday of the month, etc. I subscribe to all local zoos, museums, parks in the area and watch out for free or reduced admission. We’d love to visit Atlanta. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. 25

    Aimee says

    We have done staycations actively in each of the 3 states and various cities and small towns we’ve lived since we married 13 years ago. I can’t believe how many people native to an area miss out on what their great spot has to offer! We’ve got an ocean enthusiast in our home schooling household :) so we’ve been to SeaWorld in San Antonio many times and the one near Orlando (forget the real name of the town it’s actually in). Our schooling adventures brought a DVD sponsered by the Georgia Aquarium our way early last year and it’s been a “must-see” on our bucket list for sure! Was considering driving that far out of the way when we do DisneyWorld again this fall just to see it but it’d be a budget and time cruncher. Trying to show my girls the world one staycation (and real vacation) at a time. Thanks for hosting a great give-away.

  11. 26

    Andrea says

    It’s hard to say if our favorite is the Atlanta Braves or ZooAtlanta. We enjoy them both! Even though my family often went to Kennesaw Mountain and Sweetwater Creek when I was growing up, I just realized we’ve never gone with our children! We are going to have to remedy that this summer – we are geocachers so that just adds to the fun when we can enjoy nature and geocache, too!

  12. 27

    Jenni says

    We visit Atlanta several times a year to see family and have been to some of these places. You have put together a great list, I am adding it to my travel journal for future trips! I can’t stand to just sit around so this will keep us busy! Thanks!

  13. 28

    Susan Baughman says

    This is exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks for doing the hours of research that are on my to do list. We are new to Georgia and serve as houseparent for 6 teenage girls who are getting out of school this week. We are looking at 10 long weeks of summer with a recreation budget of practically nothing, I can’t thank you enough for this!!

  14. 29

    Lisa says

    We like to find things close to us as well in Charlotte and Columbia! Favorite destinations include nature and fine art: state parks, nature preserves, zoos, concerts, & art museums. We would love to explore Atlanta – definitely more than an hour away but not too terribly far away :)

  15. 30

    Ginger says

    We are going to Atlanta this summer and cannot wait to try some of the places you recommended. Thanks!

  16. 31

    Bonnie says

    The best advice about a true staycation is to make a plan. The first time we did one it was less than stellar due to not making any plans. Last year, my husband had two weeks off at the same time. I made a grid for the days, we all wrote down ideas on post it notes, and placed them on the grid. This made it flexible when necessary, but made sure we got in as much as possible. I made simple menu ideas for days we needed to eat at home. For my family, planning takes away the grumpies and helps us all know what to expect. Our activities included: Gwinnett Braves, camping with Daddy and older kids, day at the lake, swimming at a friend’s pool, a movie, and geocaching. Buying a year pass to something every year is a great idea too. This year may be the zoo or Fernbank History Museum for us.

  17. 34

    Shelley says

    Since our 4 kids are 8 and under and 2 are preschoolers we love the ATL Zoo! It tends to be the spot everyone asks to go too, however, My littles would Love to go to the Aquarium, They have never been! Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  18. 37

    Jennifer H. says

    Our best stay cation ideas are to use our county library and rec centers as much as possible. We can play basketball for free in air-conditioned comfort at the Forsyth County rec center and they have a very cheap splash pad for kid.

  19. 38


    When we travel back home to Auburn,NY for a visit we will go to Willaim H. Seward House, or Harriet Tubman house. We travel to ATL about 5 times a yr, and would love to check out the aquarium. We do go to Stone Mnt Resort every year, my daughter attends her Irish dance competitions there. It is beautiful.
    Charlotte is usually so hot in summer we try and find air conditioned places. We did go to the beach one year.
    Kim H. recently posted..KDSF Dress FS(dance-again.com)My Profile

  20. 42

    Laurie says

    I’ve lived in the Atlanta area now for 8 years and have never been to the World of Coke or CNN, so I think we’ll have to check those out. However, with a toddler daughter, I think we’ll most likely take a trip to the aquarium this summer.

  21. 43


    Favorite free spot is Noah’s Ark in Locust Grove – S of Atlanta. It is FREE admission to view and walk around with the animals. There is deer wandering around, etc. The best exhibit is a lion, tiger and bear that all live together in the same habitat. They were rescued as babies from a smuggler’s basement and they have grown up together so get along great. I think it is the only exhibit in the world that has a lion, tiger and bear living together. The animals have all been rescued from various situations and it is a really neat place. They only ask for donations. There is picnic area, playground, etc. And it is 5 minutes from the Locust Grove Tanger outlets so you can combine it with an outlet shopping trip too! :)

  22. 45

    Jennifer Fagan says

    Our favorite staycation activities include using our children’s museum family membership often and searching out local playgrounds we don’t normally frequent.

  23. 48

    Alisa says

    We love the Georgia Aquarium more than we ever thought we would. We had visited the New England Aquarium in Boston and the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut so put off going to the Georgia Aquarium because we felt like we had “been there, done that”. But we were so wrong! The tank with the whale sharks is worth the admission alone. :-) Unfortunately, the admission fee is on the high side.

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