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Fun ways to occupy your kids during holiday break

The kids will soon be out of school for a nice long  holiday break.

Luckily, metro Atlanta offers loads of fun places to run, play and burn some energy, including several that are easy on the wallet or even free. From hiking at state parks to checking out the Delta Flight Museum to playing in the snow (yes, snow), here are some places worth a visit this winter break.

2016 Holiday Guide | Things to do, what to buy and much more

Snow Mountain

If you are itching for snow, you don’t need to leave the city to get your fix. Just head to Stone Mountain Park.

The park will generate about 50,000 tons of snow — including up to 360 tons of fresh snow per day — to maintain 20 snow tubing lanes for winter outdoor fun. Situated on the lawn well known to viewers of the laser light shows, the snow park features various tubing runs and activities, including the Avalanche Alley family tube ride and the Snow Zone area. Younger kids can tube, make the ultimate snowmen and snow angels and throw snowballs in a snowball shooting gallery.

Nov. 19-Feb. 26 most days. Hours are typically 10 a.m.-5 p.m. but check website for extended hours on select peak days. Tickets are good for two-hour tubing session and all-day snow play. Snow Mountain pass $28; $10 parking per vehicle. Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690,

Atlanta Monetary Museum

See historical artifacts and a complete collection of coins stamped from Georgia gold at the Dahlonega mint in the 1800s. Explore the story of money from barter to modern times, and learn about the turbulent history of banking. Then watch the bank’s cash-processing operations as workers count, sort or shred millions of dollars as part of the Fed’s role in ensuring the currency in circulation is good enough quality to be recirculated rather than destroyed.

You can also view the bank’s automated vault and see the robotic transports that do the heavy lifting of standard Fed secured containers.

All this and more await you at the Atlanta Fed’s Monetary Museum. (To whet your appetite, take a virtual tour of the collection in “The Story of Money” ( Sure, it’s educational. It’s also fun — and free.

9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Free. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-498-8777,

Delta Flight Museum

For all of you aviation enthusiasts, check out the Delta Flight Museum. First opening beside Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 1995, the 68,000-square-foot edifice underwent a major renovation two years ago. Chronicling Delta’s history going back to the 1920s as well as the development of commercial aviation, the museum reopened in 2014.

Located in Delta’s original adjoining 1940s maintenance hangars, the nonprofit museum has undergone more than $10 million in improvements that have transformed it in ways big and small.

Some of the most impressive objects on display include a look at the museum’s collection of historic aircraft dating back to the 1920s. Take part in a scavenger hunt exploring various exhibits, a Boeing 767 pre-flight pilot checklist, and more.

Another one of the highlights is a Boeing 737-200 flight simulator, the same type used to train Delta pilots. (Those who book the only full-motion professional flight simulator open to the public in the U.S. receive a 10-minute pre-flight briefing, 45 minutes of flight time and a five-minute post-flight review. The cost is $395 for up to four guests.)

There are less expensive keepsakes in the new museum store, of course, everything from a coffee mug bearing the message “I Love the Smell of Jet Fuel in the Morning” to leather bomber jackets and upscale luggage.

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; noon-4:30 p.m. Sundays. $12.50 ages 18-64, $10 ages 65 and older, $7 ages 5-17. Group rates and tours are also available. Delta Flight Museum, 1060 Delta Blvd., Atlanta. 404-715-7886,

2016 Holiday Guide | Gift guides for the whole family

Panola Mountain State Park

Bundle up, pack a thermos of cocoa and hit the trails. With Georgia state parks open year-round (including Christmas Day), the quiet winter months offer a different view and experience. With the leaves on the trees gone, you can appreciate the massive branches and bark texture of winter-bared trees. You can also see huge rocks and tiny streams you might not notice in the lush greenery of warmer months.

Panola Mountain State Park (just 15 minutes southeast from downtown Atlanta) is built around a 100-acre granite mountain that has been compared to Stone Mountain. With a paved, curvy trail stretching more than 18 miles, this sprawling park is perfect for baby strollers, bikes and wheelchairs. Panola also will host several family-friendly hikes in December and January including “Secrets of the Mountain Wilderness Hike” (9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dec. 10 for ages 14 and up; $10 per person, plus $5 parking), “Holiday Elf Hike” (2-4:00 p.m. Dec. 17 for all ages; $10 per person, plus $5 parking; elves and favorite stuffed animals are welcome and price includes a short hike, goody bag, hot chocolate) and “Moonlight Mountain Hike” (4:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 for ages 10 and up; $15 per person, plus $5 parking). Register for special hikes in advance.

Panola Mountain State Park, 2600 Ga. 155 S.W., Stockbridge. 770-389-7801,

Marietta Fire Museum

Items displayed at this museum date back to the 1800s and include fire service clothing, equipment and trucks.

The current display includes an 1879 Silsby steam-powered pumper. (It was the 655th steamer made by the Silsby Manufacturing Co. in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and one of only five still in existence.) The 500-gallon pumper can flow approximately 2 tons of water per minute, and served Marietta until 1921.

8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Saturdays and Sundays by appointment. Free. 770-794-5491 for information and appointments. 112 Haynes St. (Fire Station No. 1), Marietta.

SkyView Atlanta

One of Atlanta’s newest attractions is a 20-story-high Ferris wheel that gives breathtaking views of the city of Atlanta. A relaxing ride on SkyView, which is located outside the southern entrance to Centennial Olympic Park, offers views of the city, and these days they are brightened by twinkling lights. These 42 climate-controlled gondolas offer a warm and cozy ride during the coldest days of the year.

Flights vary but they are typically nine-15 minutes or four complete rotations.

Noon-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; noon-midnight Fridays; 10 a.m.-midnight Saturdays; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays. Discounted parking in LAZ parking deck off Luckie Street. $13.89 for adults; $9.26 for 12 and younger. 168 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-949-9023,

2016 Holiday Guide | Every 'Nutcracker' performance in Atlanta this holiday season

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Kids can make everything from wooden cars to birdhouses at Home Depot kids workshops. Workshops are held the first Saturday of the month at Home Depots everywhere. These free, Do It Yourself kids workshops allow children to work with real tools (hammers, screwdrivers, wood glue) and leave with a handmade creation, along with a kid-sized orange Home Depot apron. Kids Workshop activities are scheduled on a first-come/first-served basis. The next Kids Workshop is scheduled for 9a.m.-12p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The project will be making a gingerbread candy man dish. Registration ahead of time at is recommended. Free.

To find the Home Depot closest to you, go to

Georgia Aquarium

With more than 10 million gallons of water at the Georgia Aquarium, you can see everything from four whale sharks to tropical coral reefs to sea otters, dolphins and beluga whales. And now through Christmas, the aquarium will be transformed into a winter wonderland with a sparkling lights show every hour along with performances throughout the day by mermaids. Other highlights include an underwater menorah in the Ocean Voyager habitat that is visible in the largest gallery window viewing area — the Ocean Voyager Theater. Another is the “Symphony of Snow” featuring a magic trick with snow blown into the atrium followed by Santa arriving on a sleigh. Most of the holiday extras are included with ticket price. 

Regular hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sundayss. Adjusted hours in December on the following days: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 9, 13; 9 a.m.-5 p.m Dec. 3 and 10; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec 24 and Dec. 31; 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 25; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 26-29 and 30. Ticket prices are $33.95 for children; $39.95 for adults. Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-581-4000,

More things to see in our Holiday Guide:

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