Friday, April 17, 2015 at 10:15AM
Preparing for new Summer Travel Adventures & Explorations in 2015, with the second teenager leaving home for college (Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA!), the oldest serving the U.S. Navy in Guam, and one teenager still at home and in the backseat, ready for adventure, here's a hit of nostalgia... enjoy!
Family Fun Challenge: How much fun can one family of five discover in two days at Stone Mountain Park?
Summary judgment by Tiger, who turned six during this adventure:
“It was AWESOME!!!”
This year for 4th of July (and Tiger's birthday!), we decided to forego the traffic and crowds downtown Atlanta and go out to Stone Mountain for fireworks. It turned out to be the perfect choice, since the Stone Mountain Park Fantastic Fourth Celebration begins on July 1st and carries through four nights to the Grand Celebration on the 4th.
Little did we know, July 4th is one of the most popular days at Stone Mountain Park (SMP), with 50,000 to 75,000 (yes, THOUSAND!) people showing up each year for the wildly popular Lasershow & Fireworks Spectacular. (My thanks to Christine Parker, Public Relations Manager at SMP, for educating me!) If you like crowds, and have the patience and sense of adventure to go early, wait through traffic and long lines, and thrive on a frenetic festival atmosphere, elbow-to-elbow (or worse!) with tens of thousands of people...by all means, go and enjoy!
It's a nice option, for the more crowd-averse types, to go on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd -- same fun, less crowded. We decided to enjoy the park and fireworks on the 3rd, stay overnight to celebrate Tiger's birthday on the 4th, and watch the crowds come in...on our way out!
As I mentioned in UPDATE to Top 10: Fun w/Kids in ATLANTA, Stone Mountain Park is very different from the sleepy state park it used to be. There are now more than a dozen family attractions, a new Ride The Ducks amphibious sightseeing tour, and a daily schedule of activities, shows and events.
I started out strong, in typical Type A fashion, schedule in hand, and planned the day to include all the shows running during this summer's Stone Mountain Park Extreme Summer Adventure, including The Fabulous Wallendas Family Thrill Show and The Schmackos(TM) Extreme Canines Show. There are several 10 - 15 minute comedy and magic shows, storytimes, singalongs, and even a Talking Fountain on the schedule. We wouldn't want to miss anything!
Family Fun Tip #1 - Give up TYPE A!
There's no way to do it all in one day, or probably even in a week (which makes those Stone Mountain Membership Annual Passes such a wonderful thing), but I didn't know that at the time. Old habits are hard to give up! If you try to map it all out and stick to a rigid schedule, nobody is going to have any fun.
We did need to schedule to Ride The Ducks(TM), which is a separately-ticketed attraction, so we did that first, making reservations for our land & water adventure later in the afternoon (when it would be cooler) on the advice of the attendant. (We really had no idea what "Ride The Ducks" was -- more later!)
After that, we gave up the schedule and let the kids lead the way. Looking at the list of Attractions in the Stone Mountain Park guidebook, we managed to see and do 8 of the 15 Attractions (in bold below), and Ride The Ducks, during our day-and-a-half, and we had a really great time -- "AWESOME!" as Tiger says:
- Antebellum Plantation & Farmyard
- Antique Car & Treasure Museum
- CROSSROADS - Spent all our time here!
- Discovering Stone Mountain Museum
- The Great Barn - Indoor family challenge, FUN!!
- Lasershow Spectacular - INCREDIBLE (always is)
- Paddlewheel Riverboat - We rode the hotel's water ferry instead
- Pedal Boats
- Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad - An old favorite
- Summit Skyride - Rainstorm at the top of the mountain!
- Talking Fountain - Any opportunity to get wet!
- Tall Tales of the South 4D Theater - Cooldown
- Treehouse Challenge - MOST FAVORITE ATTRACTION!!!
- Waterslide Complex
The Treehouse Challenge was so much fun, we could have enjoyed a whole day just at the one attraction. Seriously, the kids didn't want to leave! Fortunately, there is plenty of shaded seating for the adults to wait (when you are done playing). On our second time at Treehouse Challenge, we even discovered a wading area in the corner, with a cool, clean, running 'creek' and large faux-rocks to sit on for the kids (and adults) to take off their shoes and cool down a bit. That's good, because it gets HOT, anywhere in Atlanta, during the summer.
Family Fun Tip #2 - Every opportunity to COOL DOWN!
Our next opportunity to COOL DOWN was on Ride The Ducks, which is, quite literally, a "hoot" -- actually, a "quack" since they give everyone a yellow duck kazoo (free souveneir!)[You will want to get rid of these immediately after the adventure!] and encourage quacking and lead "quack-alongs" to popular songs during the journey, which is a sightseeing tour by land and (quite abruptly!) on water in an amphibious vehicle. Very James Bond, in a southern (Deliverance, anyone?) kind of way.
After Ride The Ducks, we had the obligatory family breakdown of tempers and whining when everyone got tired and hungry.
Family Fun Tip #3 - Make The Decision!
We had a surprisingly (for theme park fast food) delicious chicken dinner at the train depot, and managed to regroup enough to catch the last train ride around the mountain before the Lasershow.
Family Fun Tip #5 - SMP Lasershow Spectacular!
The Laser Lightshow was especially spectacular for the 4th of July celebration (on the 3rd), with tons of fireworks at the end. The kids, even after such a long day, were completely captivated and LOVED it!
After the show, we waited patiently for the shuttle bus to the hotel. By the time we got to our room, everyone was exhausted, and we all went to sleep right away.
The Marriott Evergreen Conference Resort at Stone Mountain is beautiful, tucked away in the trees on the other side of the lake. With the Marriott service, quality, comfort and attention to detail, we could have stayed on the hotel property the entire time to lounge by the pool and enjoy the amenities, but it wasn't to be this time -- too much to see and do! The hotel accommodations, and the warmth and friendliness of the staff, from the doormen, to the front desk staff, to Brenda & Lubindo in the restaurant, were fantastic!
We enjoyed a fabulous buffet breakfast in the dining room the next morning. They went the extra mile to make it special for Tiger's birthday and surprised us with a special waffle-cake, with whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce. And we were off--
Back to Crossroads and The Great Barn, which is a really fun indoor game the whole family can enjoy. By noon, it was time to go, as those 50,000 to 75,000 people started filling up the park.
Stone Mountain Park was the perfect overnight getaway for our 4th of July/Birthday Celebration. There were no crowds or lines on the 3rd, much like most of the year at SMP. We still felt like we missed a lot -- simply can't do it all -- so we are looking forward to visiting again, and often throughout the year ahead -- there is always something going on at Stone Mountain!