Visiting Atlanta with kids: Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Downtown Atlanta is a quintessential “pit stop,” boasting an array of attractions to break up a long road trip, from the Coca Cola museum to Centennial Olympic Park to CNN’s headquarters. In the center of this thriving metro sits the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Newly renovated with a focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math education) programming, the CMA offers families, especially those with children up to age 9, a chance to stretch their legs and have fun while sneaking in some stealth learning.

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Our family visited CMA during their grand re-opening event. It was busy, but the open layout prevented it from feeling crowded. On the main floor you will find a large area sectioned off for the “farm to table” exhibit, which includes a tractor, milking a cow, a delivery truck, a forklift with a platform that raises and lowers, a grocery store and a diner with the most fabulous kid-sized commercial kitchen any child could imagine. This was the favorite area for my four- and six-year-olds.

CMA has also taken the ubiquitous ball run and re-envisioned it as a series of interlocking mechanisms. Kids can force the balls up into the matrix by air, water, auger, and pulley, and the balls move between areas.

The centerpiece of the main level is the globe, which kids can climb up inside and set in motion. At the base of the globe are a collection of train tables, one for each continent, and moon sand tables. There is also a building area and a section for little ones with fishing (raincoats provided) and a fabulous chicken coop play structure. Here you’ll also find a nursing room.

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The “mezzanine” level is aimed at older children. At the “science bar,” a scientist walks kids through experiments. Nearby, interactive stations let kids build a robot, use a touch-screen app to see how food goes through the body, or use their brain waves to move a ball. The museum also offers daily take-home activities (a sailboat, the day we visited) and a presentation at 4p.m. A rotating feature exhibit opens soon.

One of the most striking and wonderful things about this place was the diversity of its visitors. We heard half a dozen languages and saw at least that many skin colors during our short visit. Signage is bilingual, and the staff is courteous and helpful, keeping an eye on each section and making sure items find their way back where they belong for the next child to enjoy. (I spent half an hour watching one young lady in the “farm to table” section patiently picking up all the pieces of toy food and putting them away on the grocery store shelves, only to do it all again five minutes later.) Although the museum caters to age 9 and under, my 10-year-old enjoyed the visit as well.

Shopping/Food:

CMA has a gift shop and vending machines, but no in-house dining. However, there are many dining options within walking distance, and same-day museum re-entry is permitted, providing maximum crowd capacity has not been reached. The best option, though, is to bring lunch along or order from one of a number of nearby establishments that deliver. The museum has set aside a sizable section of the mezzanine level for lunchroom-style tables.

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Accessibility

The vast majority of the attractions are stroller/wheelchair accessible–even part of the chicken coop play structure in the little ones’ area. A large open section at the rear of the first floor is set aside for stroller parking.

Hours/Admission:

Plan to spend at least an hour and a half at CMA, and if you have longer, the kids will thank you. Admission is $14.95 for everyone over age one. Discounts are outlined at “ways to save.” If you live within a couple hours of Atlanta, a family membership may be a good option. Tickets are issued for specific time slots in order to help alleviate crowding at peak times. CMA is open from 10-5 seven days a week except on certain holidays.

Parking/Directions:

Children’s Museum of Atlanta is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, at the corner of Baker Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. It has no dedicated parking space of its own; however, parking options are plentiful within a block of the museum.

Our family received complimentary admission to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta in exchange for an impartial review.

About the author

Kathleen Basi Freelance writer Kathleen Basi has lived her entire life in "flyover country," but she's an old pro at road trips, having taken the first of many extended driving vacations at the tender age of five. She's a huge proponent of letting kids see and experience the space between "here" and "there." Find her at http://kathleenbasi.com/blog/.

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