There’s no shortage of amazing food and restaurant venues in Upstate SC, so the fact that I am willing to drive an hour to eat at Sunny Point Café in Asheville, NC should speak volumes to you!
I was introduced to Sunny Point Café before Christmas and since that time I have made the trek up the mountain several times. It’s that good!
About Sunny Point Café
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll find this unique restaurant crowded all day. The menu is varied with something for everyone. I found a new favorite dish when I tried their shrimp and grits. Excited to try a new entree on a recent trip to Sunny Point Café, my resolve melted away as soon as we were seated. I couldn’t resist ordering the shrimp and grits for the second time! Mom ordered the Huevos Rancheros sandwich, voted No. 2 in the nation by Good Morning America. It’s a heaping piece of fried chicken and bacon pressed between two pieces of waffle. You can’t go wrong with that. It’s the perfect dish for the indecisive palate that can’t decide between breakfast and lunch!
Books with the history of Sunny Point Café and recipes of favorite dishes are provided for customers to scan while waiting for their orders. JP, my ten year old son, enjoyed touring the Sunny Point Café garden where owners grow vegetables and spices for cooking. The garden also serves as a great place to hang out while waiting to be seated.
If the wait is long and you want to explore a bit, the hostess will gladly take your cell phone number. Not only can you explore the garden, you can stroll down the street and check out the shops. There are benches to sit on as well as a self-serve coffee station just outside the entrance. If you have children, you’ll want to avoid traditional meal times because the wait can get a little long for your little ones.
If I had to point out one con among the many pros, it would be the parking. There’s a small lot beside the café and another at the entrance to the garden. Those two lots would probably be sufficient for most restaurants, but Sunny Point Café is definitely not your typical restaurant.
This is one mountain-top experience you don’t want to miss!
Fall foliage is not the only incentive to make the fifty mile trek from the Upstate to Brevard. The beauty of the mountains envelopes you long before you reach the actual town. The scenic drive up Highway 25 is dotted with produce stands, complete with pumpkins, and antique shops. Highway 64 through Hendersonville will carry you straight into downtown Brevard, NC. Though a bit longer, this route is preferable to highway 276 for me. I am not a fan of corkscrew shaped roads.
Shopping on Main Street in Brevard
Once in Brevard, there’s no shortage of things to do. Main Street is lined with eccentric shops and unique eateries. There are no parking garages, but it’s rarely an issue. Unlike Greenville, you are allowed to park in the lots of just about every public building and business. You cannot imagine how convenient that is until you are looking for a place to put your car.
This mini-Gatlinburg is a haven for anyone who loves collectibles, trinkets and other items that cannot be found at your local mall. Brevard is home to the original O.P. Taylor store. Your kiddos will love the two tier toy wonderland.
I can’t write an article about Brevard without mentioning the absolute coolest store on the block. It’s called The Children’s Center. TCC is a not-for-profit clothing store that supports children in Transylvania County who are at risk for being abused and/or neglected. This store is THE place to shop for the little members of your family. It is a special home for name brand clothes and handmade gifts for less.
Where to Eat in Brevard
Whether eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’re certain to find something to please the pickiest palate (bet you can’t say that five times fast). Our crew likes to eat a big breakfast before leaving on a day trip, so we usually snack for lunch and enjoy an early dinner. This brings me to my next recommendation. Have you heard of The Square Root restaurant? I immediately fell in love with this back alley surprise. In addition to the atmosphere, they have one of the most realistic children’s menus I’ve seen (every item is $4.95 and under). Your kiddos can enjoy their PB&J or corn dog while the adults at the table savor a more upscale entrée. My personal favorite was the juicy cheeseburger with a pickle and side of fries. Don’t forget to walk across the alley to Downtown Chocolates for dessert!
Other things to do in Brevard
In addition to all the food and merchandise, Brevard has historical sites you do not want to miss and practically sits in the backyard of Gorges State Park. The park offers weekly activities as well as monthly special events. You can visit their website for a full listing of family-friendly fun.
Brevard is only a hour and a half from Spartanburg and well-worth the trip. For even more ideas of things to do check out our list of Western NC Day trips on our sister site Kidding Around Greenville.
Now that I have peeked your interest, it’s time for you and your family to plan your next road trip!
Meet Andrea Beam
Andrea Beam works for the Greenville County School System, but her passion is writing! Greenville has always been her home. Her family enjoys exploring everything the town has to offer. In addition to Kidding Around Greenville, she blogs at Sunshine & Rain.
Thank you to Two Sisters Travel for sponsoring Kidding Around Greenville.
Maybe you’ve seen the Beaches Resorts commercials of kids whirling down water slides, families splashing in the crystal blue Caribbean waters, or little ones cuddling up with a Sesame Street character for a bedtime story. Last summer the Two Sisters Travel family had an opportunity to spend 8 days at Beaches Negril Resort, and they are sharing their experience with us here at Kidding Around Greenville. If you’ve dreamed of an all-inclusive family vacation, considered one but the price tag turned you off, or maybe you thought these vacations are just for adults… Two Sisters Travel has the ins and outs of Beaches Resorts and are sharing some great information & even ways to make it more affordable!
Who is Two Sisters Travel?
This group of gals, yes there are more than 2, are our travel partners here at KAG. They keep us in the know on travel destinations & deals for places like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, cruises, all-inclusive resorts, Hawaii, Europe, & beyond. And as a full service travel agency, they help you plan amazing vacations without the stress. Every trip receives their signature concierge planning services at NO extra charge. This includes package selection, itinerary planning, arranging spa & dinner reservations, & more. They handle all of the details from start to finish, so all you do is pack your bags!
What About Beaches Resorts?
Beaches Resorts are family-friendly, luxury, all-inclusive resorts situated on two popular Caribbean islands, Jamaica and Turks & Caicos. With two resorts in Jamaica, Beaches Negril and Beaches Ocho Rios, and one resort in Turks & Caicos, Beaches Turks & Caicos. All 3 resorts are very different so choosing the right one for your family is key!
All include great amenities like high quality restaurants, waterparks, scuba diving, watersports, land sports, children’s activities, top-shelf drinks, luxurious accommodations, and so much more. Best part is that EVERYTHING is included at no extra charge!
Why we loved it?
For years our go-to family vacation has been Walt Disney World so I was slightly unsure how a slow-paced, relaxed trip would fit our family with children (ages 10 & 6) but to my surprise the kids declared that Beaches was better than Disney.
What else made Beaches Resorts the ultimate family vacation destination?
1. Exceptional service. We’re HUGE Disney fans, a brand synonymous with great customer service, we’ve come to appreciate (& expect) great service. Beaches Resorts exceeded our expectations! Everyone we encountered from the time we arrived at the airport lounge to the time we left was friendly, helpful, informative, & fun. The kids even took notice and befriended several staff members during our stay!
2. Luxury all-inclusive. At Beaches Resorts not only is everything included but it’s top quality too! Food, beverages, entertainment, watersports, & even scuba diving…. we tried it all since there was nothing to lose! I loved being so relaxed, not worrying about accumulating a bill. And I never had to tell the kids no, which they loved!
3. No waiting in lines. Since we vacation at Disney often we’re accustomed to spending a lot of time waiting in lines. At Beaches Negril there were no ridiculous lines. None at the waterslides, kayaks, paddleboards, or any other activities. The longest line was at the self-serve ice cream machines.
4. Activities for everyone. Being at Beaches Negril Resort for 8 days we had an opportunity to try it all… land sports, watersports, waterpark, beach, evening entertainment, & activities/games. There is absolutely something for everyone, at anytime of day or night.
5. Balance of scheduled & unscheduled fun. With this being our first long vacation without a set itinerary and 8 days in a single place, I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous of the kids getting bored. That never happened. Beaches Resorts entertainment team does an amazing job of scheduling fun activities all-day & evening that you can enjoy at your leisure. Spend all day participating in scheduled activities, or spend all day doing nothing at all, the choice is yours.
And for momma, our Beaches Resorts vacation was far less stressful than Disney. Packing was a breeze because you’re in swim suits most of the time and there was no clock watching for dining reservation times or Fastpasses to make, and no Magic Bands to order! Beyond finding the right resort & room type a Beaches Resorts vacation is a breeze!
Is it worth it?
If you’ve shopped the price of a Beaches Resorts vacation you may have experienced some sticker shock. A week at Beaches Negril recently priced around $4,465. But when you start to compare this to a week vacation on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina with all of the same amenities, the difference in the price becomes minimal… only about $30!!! Now granted, this pricing does not include your transportation so your airfare will be an additional cost.
At Beaches, your all-inclusive vacation ALSO includes their kids camp. You can enjoy dinner and an evening with your spouse alone, if you so desire! Built-in fun babysitters! You also do not have to spend time driving anywhere – all of these amenities are within the resort area, and another perk? NO LINES! Not even at the waterpark. Do you want to spend part of your vacation cleaning up after everyone in your rental? I know I don’t! Housekeeping takes care of you all week at Beaches.
Your family can enjoy quality family time, uninterrupted by the humdrum day-to-day cooking and cleaning and driving that you are used to – at Beaches everything is included, and you can relax knowing that everything you need is at your fingertips.
How can we make it affordable?
We know that a Beaches Resorts vacation is a significant investment, so Two Sisters Travel will help you maximize your travel budget by helping you get the most perks, even opportunities to earn exclusive spa credits. We are also one of select travel agencies that offers a Preferred Deposit, allowing you to book a Beaches Resort package with as little as $498! And final payments are not due until 45 days prior to travel, allowing you to book early and make payments.
Beaches Resorts provide the perfect setting for the ultimate family vacation, one that you’ll never forget.
Start planning your Beaches Resorts vacation now. Spring break and summer 2017 rates are available now, even some 2018 dates!!
Two Sisters Travel is a boutique travel agency specialized in assisting the busy, overwhelmed, and over-inspired plan amazing vacations. We help you celebrate life’s special milestones, big and small, by visiting inspiring places, experiencing new things, and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Every family vacation, group getaway, or couples-only escape receives our signature concierge planning services at absolutely NO extra charge. This includes destination/package selection, itinerary planning, arranging spa appointments, dinner reservations, & so much more. We’ll handle all of the stressful details from start to finish, so all you do is pack your bags. www.TwoSistersTravelCo.com [email protected]
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Whether it’s the beach or the mountains, the city or the country, many families take their vacation time during the summer. School is out and it’s the perfect time to get away together for a week (or more!). But someone’s gotta pay for it and planning for the costs ahead of the time can help to reduce the stress and increase the relaxation. But even if you didn’t think ahead, there is still time to enjoy a break. ~Kristina Hernandez
Thank you to Parent Financial for sponsoring this content. To learn about planning for your own family’s financial future and getting your budget on track, be sure to check out our great sponsor Parent Financial and read our introduction to the company here.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead for Summer Vacation
You plan ahead for flights and hotels and time off work so why not start planning in advance for all the costs associated with your dream trip? Court Creeden, who runs Parent Financial, advises that families should first figure out what the trip will cost and then incorporate those costs into their annual and monthly budgets, where a certain amount of money can be saved each month.
“From there you can start by determining how many months you have until the trip and then calculate how much you should be putting away each month to have the trip saved for when the vacation starts,” Creeden explained.
“As an example, if you are planning on spending $2,500 to take the family to the beach in July, you could start at the beginning of the year knowing you have seven months until the trip. To be ready for the total cost, you should have been saving $357/month leading up to the vacation and then you would have been fully prepared for the trip. The earlier you start the better and the less likely you will need to dip into savings or use a credit card to help handle the costs!”
Tip #2: Don’t Forget the Smaller Costs – They Add Up
This is so easy to overlook but those extra costs of a vacation, both before and during, can really add up. Maybe $100 for clothes, another $50 for shoes, $20 for sunscreen, a few dollars here and there for games for the car or plane ride all adds up. Then once the vacation starts, don’t forget about extra food and snacks, drinks, magazines, taxis or Uber, or the t-shirt and photos from the theme park.
“These small expenses can add up to hundreds of dollars if not planned for,” said Creeden. “As a result, many parents find that they look at the hotel and flights for a trip to figure out the ‘costs’. Once the vacation is over they realize that the trip was hundreds of dollars more because they didn’t take into consideration the park passes, new clothes, beach toys, etc that were purchased and increased the total cost. “
So plan wisely for all those extras ahead of time or put away a special fund for purchases.
Tip #3: Consider Less Expensive Alternatives
Some of you are reading this and saying, “But I want to take a summer vacation now and I haven’t budgeted seven months for it!” Hang in there.
“Consider hotel alternatives and look at Airbnb or VRBO to find less expensive lodging options,” suggests Creeden. “Don’t book hotels online or from a 1-800 number. Call the front desk and see if there are any special prices or availability to potentially get a better rate. If flying, consider two ‘one-way’ tickets rather than roundtrip to find some potential cost savings.”
There are also some great day trips to local spots that don’t cost much where you and your family could leave early in the morning and make a long day of it. And if you left early enough, you could drive to the beach, have fun all day, and drive back in the evening and save money on a hotel.
Tip #4: Do Your Homework
Besides planning ahead and thinking of incidentals and special gifts or purchases beforehand, there is a lot you can do to be smart about vacationing.
Creeden suggests to “do your homework and look for off-season passes, Groupon specials, and discounted rates. Don’t forget to consider using your rewards miles or points to offset costs for flights or hotels.”
Using those reward miles is how my family paid for our summer vacations. We got free flights and hotels and my parents taught us how it works but that you need to be smart and pay off the credit card bills while racking up the miles or points!
Tip #5: Remember that the Amount of Money Does Not Necessarily Equal the Amount of Fun
Remember that your children don’t know how much you spend, so a great weekend at the beach could be just as fun as one at an expensive amusement park.
Tip #6: Pack Your Lunch and Snacks
Pack lunches or buy snacks for the plane flight or car ride.
Tip #7: Pack a Souvenir
Buy the kids a fun souvenir ahead of time to give them when you arrive at Disney rather than paying a much higher price buying gifts the theme park.
Tip #8: Consider Listing Your Home for Rent While You Are Gone
Consider listing your home for rent on AirBnB while gone to make some extra money.
Try to think ahead and be financially smart so that taking well-earned your summer vacation won’t cause stress afterwards.
To learn about planning for your own family’s financial future and getting your budget on track, be sure to check out our great sponsor Parent Financial and read our introduction to the company here.
Do you have a tip to add that helps you save for your summer vacation?
Court Creeden is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC [www.SIPC.org] 6000 Fairview Road Suite 400, Charlotte, NC 28210 (704) 557-9600. Court Creeden is not authorized to give legal or tax advice. Consult your own personal attorney legal or tax counsel for advice on specific legal and tax matters. CRN 201807-203641
Meet Kristina, KAG Food Expert
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer and New Jersey native who is thrilled to call the Upstate her new home. She loves cooking, trying new foods, and checking out all that Greenville has to offer.
Flying with kids. Does that fragment of a sentence send shivers down your spine?
Do you get all panicky at the prospect of boarding a giant metal flying machine and flitting across time and space with your squirmy children all cooped up and contained in one small gray square of a space for hours on end?
Flying with kids does not have be scary
Flying with kids means one really cool thing – NOT driving with kids.
Flying means faster to the destination. Flying means no traffic stops and bathroom breaks and fast food binges.
You should fly with your kids.
And – flying with kids can actually be cheaper than driving – especially if you are talking about a road trip that includes more than eight or nine hours in the car. Airlines are all about ridiculously low fares for one way tickets. Plus, you can fly the super cheap airlines – like Spirit – and the cost for tickets can be wildly lower than the cost of gas in a Suburban like ours.
Here’s a few tips and tricks
1. Believe that you CAN do it. Because you can. For real.
2. Pack light. As in – pack very truly really light. This is much easier in the summer seasons than in the winter months. Roll clothes. Pack shorts that can be worn multiple times without needing to be washed – hiking shorts and athletic shorts. Shorts that can even be washed in a hotel bathroom sink and dried overnight on the towel rack if need be. Skip the bulky khakis – or have your child wear them on the travel day if he (or you) insist on bringing one pair of khakis or cargo shorts. And you only need a few pairs of shorts. Pack more shirts than shorts. The shorts can handle repeat wears in between washings better than the shirts can. You can always wash clothes on your trip if need be. For your girls – pack dresses. One piece, rolls tightly, minimal effort in getting dressed and in packing.
3. Plan appropriate footwear. For airport security it is good to have shoes that are easy to slide off and on, although kids under twelve are not obligated to follow the “take your shoes off please” rule at airports. (A fact I learned after requiring all five of my traveling kids to take their shoes off while standing in line at security.) But don’t pick flip flops. That’s too easy for the sliding off and on. Kids can’t walk quickly in flip flops and they aren’t versatile enough for all of your traveling needs. Don’t waste packing space for shoes so choose wisely just the one pair your child will be wearing. (We are still a Keens for Kids family so that’s generally our go-to shoe. Handy also is the fact that Keens require no socks, eliminating yet another unnecessary packing item.)
4. Let kids carry their own weight. Literally. Every kid can carry their own backpack and in their backpack can be all of their own items. On certain cheap flights with special fares, checked bags will cost you a fortune. And costing you a fortune defeats the entire purpose of flying cheap with kids anyway. Besides, not checking a bag makes departure and pick up a breeze – and who doesn’t want travel to be more of a breeze and less of a stiff wind? So roll those clothes tightly into that backpack and fit all your kid’s stuff on a tote you strap to their perfectly capable little backs. When we spent a week in Texas it was no problem to fit enough clothes for every kid in their one backpack. If there is any space leftover kids can carefully chose a toy or a special item to fit in their bags. I worked hard to fit a book into each kid’s bag so they would have something to occupy their time during the many waiting periods that air travel supplies.
5. Relax and let the trip be fun. Expect delays. Expect crowds when you think there should be no crowds and expect to occasionally eat at weird times and in weird places. A Five Guys burger at the airport at 3:56 pm? Sure – that sounds great. Laugh when you can and breathe deeply when you need to and realize that, even with the delays, you are traveling a bazillion times faster in the air than you would be on the crowded interstate. You can choose to engage with your children because you aren’t having to monitor traffic conditions and navigate unfamiliar city streets. You can marvel at the wonder of hurtling through clouds and you can people watch until your eyes bulge out of your head.
Now you can consider yourself equipped
The next time you receive one of those tempting e-mail announcements about the lowest fare to Timbuktu and you realize that you have always wanted to take your kids to Timbuktu to see that one thing, don’t hesitate. Buy the tickets. Make the plan. Take the kids. Adventure awaits.
Do you have a tip for flying with kids to add to our list?
Lacey Keigley is the mother of six children – five of whom she homeschools. She thinks old wooden crates make the best bookshelves. She hangs worn out barn tin on her walls and calls it art. She believes raising her six children is the scariest and the wildest journey she has ever taken. She likes the magic of sunlight through the old bottles on her kitchen shelf. She blogs about education and parenting and grace and unexpected adventures on her blog SoEveryDay. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest.
Recently Kidding Around Greenville contributor Erica McCall and her family visited the Georgia Aquarium, media pass were provided. Here is the recap on their trip to this hot spot that is a only short road trip from Greenville!
Last summer my hubby, toddler, and I went to visit the Georgia Aquarium. The initial plan was to leave Simpsonville early enough to be at the aquarium before it opened. We planned to tour the aquarium on our own and enjoy toddler time before heading to the dolphin show. The weather, however, had different plans.
We ran into a terrible storm on the way which slowed us down by about 45 minutes. (I was terrified… seriously. We couldn’t see the road.) Then, once near the aquarium, we had to find parking, which ended up being about blocks away. We hustled through the rain towards the aquarium where we found almost no lines. For the first time, the rain had helped us out a smidge.
That travel delay detail is important only because it meant that we missed out on one of the things we had planned. We’d intended to do the toddler time, but since we arrived closer to 10 am than 9, we decided the AT&T Dolphin Celebration was way more important. Ok…so maybe I decided. I can’t help that I love dolphins.
Our experience at the Georgia Aquarium
The website said to allow for several hours to complete the aquarium visit, but we had an almost-two-year-old with us and we still did the entire thing in about an hour. The extras are where you’d need to build in time, and of course some kids might take longer looking at the exhibits than other kids.
The experience began with the traditional commemorative photo. Be sure to pay attention when your photo is taken. Ours was snapped so fast we almost didn’t get a chance to smile.
After the photo, we headed into the GIANT atrium. There are tons of sounds coming at you due to the fact that all the different halls and room lead you back to this area. You’ll see entrances to different sections, which are pretty self-explanatory without a map. Restrooms, as you’ll probably need ASAP, are to the right just after the help desk area.
Once we decided to skip the toddler experience (which was slated to take almost an hour and a half), we went through all the different animal exhibits, working our way counterclockwise around the building, planning to end up at the Dolphin Celebration entrance. Our son was more excited about the moving sidewalk that runs inside the underwater tunnel than he was about looking at all the fish, not gonna lie. BUT- once we pointed them out for the forty-billionth time, he tuned in a bit more. I loved seeing all the fish and rays swim over and around us! Hubby was most impressed with the whale sharks. They were gi-huge-ic, as my high school English teacher used to say.
Just after the underwater tunnel, we found a little place to meet Deepo, the aquarium’s mascot. There was a small theatre with a show going where a staff member “talked” with Deepo and the kids. It was a very cute, well executed production that had kids and adults laughing. It also made for a great place to set down the increasingly heavy child you’ve been holding.
Once we left Deepo, we continued on with our tour, visiting saltwater, freshwater, tropical, and arctic animals. It was seriously amazing to see the different animals, but I was even more impressed with the WAY they were all displayed. So many tanks were overhead, so Baby J, riding on Daddy’s shoulders, could reach up to touch the glass. He thought that was awesome!
After we finished seeing everything, we were able to get a picture with a guy dressed up as a seahorse. He did an excellent job of not pushing J to do more than he wanted and even made him smile when he used his trumpet to “kiss” me. I was really pleased with how great he was with Baby J.
The dolphin show was set to start at 11:30 am. When we got to the show entrance around 11 we were told it was full to capacity. While we were eventually let in, it might be a good idea to arrive early to ensure your spot. Also, the seating area is large so you will want to get a good seat. Be aware that there are splash zones and dry zones.
So now it’s time for the bad news. There’s no photography of any kind during the dolphin show. Yep. None. The reasoning is sound- the dolphins and actors have a strictly choreographed show that included a lot of light and sound elements that would have been disrupted by a flash or the screen of a phone. Just because it was logical doesn’t mean I liked it any better.
Anyway, the AT&T Dolphin Celebration is a MUST if you go. It was totally cheesy music and costume and acting, but the dolphins were a lot of fun and ALL the kids I could see were totally into it. They require singing from the audience and man was it cool to see everyone doing their part! I would HIGHLY recommend going to this if you can. As far as the seats, we were at the top of the lower section, dead in the middle. PERFECT seats. Also, worth noting, the seats were NOT in the splash zone. PERFECT.
Once that was over, though, Baby J decided he’d had enough of this not eating lunch yet business and so we ended up skipping out on the tour. The host said she understood and that he probably wouldn’t have really liked it because it was more of a “how the show is produced” sort of thing than a “see the animals” as much tour. She said the experiences where you pet the animals are way better for the super young and the tour was better for kids who are a little older and might like touching the costumes and meeting actors.
*NOTE: When leaving the dolphin show, take the door to the right of the tank. That’s the direct exit. The left side doors just take you to a hall that wraps around behind the seating room and then to the right side of the room.
Once we left, there was a dolphin specific shopping area in front of a viewing window where the kids could stand and see the dolphins underwater. I say kids, but I totally used mine as an excuse to get right up to the window. He thought the floor was cool. I was glued to the dolphins.
We weren’t willing to stand in line for the food there because the line was around the center area once the show let out. It did smell pretty yummy, though! The eating area was in the center of the big atrium and it had plenty of tables and chairs.
While I made my way to the souvenir shop, hubby went to go get our picture developed. The pictures were super cute and he even got a little frame himself for one of the small shots. (So thoughtful, that one.) Our photo package and frame totaled about $35.
All in all, I’d say you can expect to spend at least $200 for a family of three. J was free and I had a media pass, but the extras can add up if you’re not careful. Was it worth it? I’d say yes, but not as an every month type of outing. I’ll probably wait a couple of years before we go again because he’ll be a priced ticket next time because of his age and his attention span is just not quite $50-ticket-cost long yet. (Tickets range from $29.95 – $35.95)
*Editor note: If you’re a local or you plan to go more than a few times in a year a Membership definitely makes a LOT of sense!
If you are looking for a fun date experience, I’d say this would be great for that, too. Families make up most of who you’ll see there, but if you take a vacation to Atlanta, a date trip over to the aquarium would be a great way to be sure you get to see and enjoy all it has to offer.
Tips for visiting the Georgia Aquarium
1. Call ahead to confirm showtimes for things you really want to see. 2. Purchasing online saves you a few bucks, but not everything can be purchased ahead of time. 3. Send someone to get you seats at the dolphin show early. 4. Smile when you see a camera. 5. The hands-on animal experiences are better for the younger kids than the behind the scenes tour. 6. Don’t go out of the doors in the gift shop until you’re absolutely sure you won’t need back in. (Potty, anyone?) 7. The staff all said that the toddler time was a lot of fun, if your schedule allows for it. (Or if the weather will cooperate with your time of arrival.) 8. Most importantly—-Dolphins are awesome. They just are. Ok, maybe that’s just my opinion.
I personally recommend that local families consider purchasing memberships to the attractions in our area. It’s beneficial on a number of levels. Being a member has perks such as providing year-round educational experiences for your kids, investing in local non-profits and access to special parties and discounts. But, another less tapped into benefit is the access to reciprocal admission benefits at other attractions across the United States. We decided to test the benefits of an ASTC Passport Membership this past week during a family trip to see if it was a deal worth the money. (more…)
What’s better than a a stress-reducing tank full of beautiful fish? How about the largest aquarium in the world, the only captive whale sharks in this hemisphere, and some really talented dolphins? During our recent trip to Atlanta, Beth and I had the opportunity to visit The Georgia Aquarium and view the Dolphin Tales show courtesy of the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel.
Find a place to stay in Atlanta, GA. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.
What Makes The Georgia Aquarium So Special?
I’ve been to the Georgia Aquarium three times, and I can honestly say that each visit has been a breathtaking experience. It’s not just another aquarium. It’s like stepping into another world. And if you think that sounds melodramatic, just consider some of these stats:
With more than 600,000 square feet and 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world.
The Ocean Voyager exhibit is the largest indoor fish habitat in the United States. It measures 284 feet long by 126 feet wide by 30 feet deep. It contains 6.3 million gallons of water.
The viewing window into the whale shark exhibit measures 60 feet long by 27 feet high.
But statistics tend to be a little sterile. Just take a look at this viewing window:
Travel Tip: The aquarium was very crowded during our visit. If you’re looking for a less hectic experience, try visiting during non-peak times, like during the week or during the fall or spring when school is in session.
Your Visit at a Glance
Hours of Operation The Georgia Aquarium is open year-round, but hours do vary. Visit the aquarium website for specific hours on the day you plan to visit. Ticket Prices The Aquarium uses a timed ticketing system, which means you will be given a time at which you can enter the aquarium. This keeps the facility from becoming overcrowded.
Tickets cost more at peak times like weekends and holidays. Be sure to check the website for the date you plan to visit. General Admission Tickets Includes basic admission, Deepo’s 4D theatre, and Dolphin Tales. You will be asked to select a Dolphin Tales show time when you purchase your ticket. We got our tickets the day of our visit, and by 9:30, the earliest show we could get was at 3:30. If you want a specific time of day, you should consider purchasing tickets well in advance.
Peak Time Tickets:
Adults: $34.95 Children (ages 3 – 12): $28.95 Children under 3: Free Seniors (age 65+): $30.95
Non-Peak Time Tickets:
Adults: $29.95 Children (ages 3 – 12): $23.95 Children under 3: Free Seniors (age 65+): $25.95
Other special tickets are also available including Annual Memberships, Imagination Nights, the Deepo Pass, Group Sale Tickets, and a Prepaid Parking Ticket which saves $1 on parking.
Parking at the Aquarium Parking is available in the attached parking deck and costs $10 per day. The World of Coca-Cola and CNN Tower are within walking distance, so you could plan an entire day of attractions for one parking price. There’s also a nice playground area in Centennial Park if the kids just need some downtime.
Cafe Aquaria There is a cafe located inside the aquarium, but it’s pretty expensive. All items are priced a la carte, and they can add up quickly. No food or drink may be brought inside the aquarium (however, security did allow us to take our water bottles–I would think sippy cups for the kids would be okay as well).
Wheelchairs, Strollers, and Babies The entire aquarium is wheelchair and stroller accessible. However, strollers are NOT permitted in the Dolphin Tales theater. There is a “stroller parking” area available for use during the show.
There are no nursing rooms currently, but you may visit the first-aid station if you need a private place to nurse. I was glad to discover that the aquarium is in the process of planning Family Restrooms to better accommodate nursing mothers.
The Georgia Aquarium is divided into four primary exhibits, plus an educational/play area for kids. Special exhibits are also available on a rotating basis.
Ocean Voyager I recommend visiting this exhibit first. It contains the largest habitat and houses the whale sharks. Kids (and adults!) will be captivated by the huge viewing window and the shark tunnel. In addition to the whale sharks, you’ll also see four manta rays (the largest measuring nearly nine feet across), black tip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, zebra sharks, giant grouper, and many, many more. Get the “Oh, wow!” perspective at the large viewing window, and the “I can almost touch it” perspective when you walk through the tunnel.
Favorite animal: Whale sharks (of course!)
Cold Water Quest Meet some of the animals living in the deepest parts of the ocean as well as those living in very cold climates. In Cold Water Quest, you’ll see beluga whales, giant crabs, an octopus, harbor seals, otters, and penguins. You’ll also have the chance to touch a sea anemone and crawl through a tunnel under the penguin exhibit for a unique perspective.
Favorite animal: Sea Dragons
Travel Tip:We highly recommend that parents crawl through the tunnel with their kids! There were three scuffling boys in front of us who weren’t old enough to be on their own (they crashed into me and the man in front of them more than once), and since the tunnel is narrow and there may be a bit of waiting involved, you’ll want to be on hand to provide crowd control.
Tropical Diver Send your kids on a scavenger hunt for the characters from Finding Nemo! In Tropical Diver, you’ll not only find Nemo and Dory, but also Bubbles the yellow tang, Gill the Moorish Idol fish, Sheldon the seahorse, Tad the butterfly fish, the dangerous jellies, and more!
Moms and Dads, you’ll appreciate the beauty of one of the world’s largest living reef exhibits as well as unusual critters like the garden eel, the moon jelly, and the venomous turkeyfish.
Favorite animal: Garden Eel
River Scout Meet some of the animals you might encounter in someone’s home aquarium, as well as otters, alligators, turtles, amphibians, and electric eels. Being an aquarium geek myself, I especially enjoyed the discus tank (which also housed hatchet fish, cardinal tetras, corydoras, a gold-spotted plecostomus, and Siamese algae eaters, among others) and the gorgeous African cichlids. Kids will most likely be drawn to the playful otters and pirhannas.
Favorite animal: Albino aligator
Georgia Explorer Designed specifically with kids in mind, this exhibit displays fish native to the coastal waters of Georgia and includes several touch pools where visitors can touch stingrays, horseshoe crabs, shrimp, small sharks, and sea stars. A play area that includes a climbing tunnel and boat will be available soon. It was under construction during our visit, but I’m sure it will be very popular when it’s open!
The Dolphin Tales Show
Honestly, this was the part I couldn’t wait to tell you about. The Dolphin Tales Show was the highlight of the day, and we walked away totally enthralled–we can’t wait to go back with our kids!
Dolphin Tales is a brilliant combination of story, music, special effects, and–of course!–some very talented dolphins. I won’t spoil the effect by describing the story in detail, but I will say that the show was like nothing I’ve ever seen (including Sea World and the Florida Aquarium!). It included some Broadway-esque singing and music, an animated video backdrop, audience participation, some wonderful actors, a rainstorm, and some beautiful water feature effects.
The stars of the show are six dolphins who jump, flip, surf, ski, “walk,” and wave, plus a unique synchronized swimming portion where the dolphins and their trainers “dance” in sync with each other.
The Dolphin Tales theatre holds 1,800 people per show, and believe me, they fill every show to capacity on busy days. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance to make sure you get in on the day you want to go.
Doors open 30 minutes before the show, but if you want a seat in the splash section, get in line early!!
No photography or video is permitted during the Dolphin Tales performance.
If you’re looking for a really unique experience, consider some of these ideas:
Homeschool Field Trip Special Student rates are available for homeschool students and groups, but dates fill up quickly so call well in advance.
Behind the Scenes Tour Get a closer look at popular animals and exhibits, and discover how unique the aquarium really is. $48 plus tax per person for non-members, $24 for Annual Pass members.
Journey with Gentle Giants Swim or dive with the whale sharks! You must be SCUBA certified to participate in the diving program. Participants must be 12 or older, and those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. $224.95 per person (includes admission, educational program, swim, Dolphin Tales show, 4D theater, souvenir photo, and t shirt)
Sleepover at the Aquarium Ever wonder what the whales do at night? Find out when you plan a sleepover at the aquarium! $95.95 per person for non-members; $86.95 per person for members.
Dolphin Encounters $56.95 plus tax per person for non-members; $53.95 plus tax for members. Participants must be age 7 or older. Does NOT include general admission.
Summer Camp H20 Several options available for different ages and categories, including a camp for children with high-functioning autism or non-verbal learning disabilities. See website for weekly fees, dates, and hours.
The Georgia Aquarium isn’t just another aquarium. From your first breathtaking glimpse into the whale shark habitat to the incredible Dolphin Tales show, I guarantee both you and your kids will come away saying “That was awesome!”
Disclaimer: We received tickets to the Georgia Aquarium compliments of the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel. We were not required to give a positive review.
Susan is a mom of two, professional copywriter, nature-lover, and gardener. She loves savoring the beauty and diversity of the Upstate with her family.
Nothing’s worse than finding out what’s going on after it’s over. Don’t let it happen to you!
Curious about the World of Coke in Atlanta? Since Greenville is a short day trip from this popular Atlanta destination, Kidding Around contributors are telling you all about their visit.
What makes Coca-Cola’s secret formula so successful, and why is World of Coca-Cola such a popular destination for families visiting Atlanta, Georgia? Our team at Kidding Around Greenville decided to search for the answers to these two questions on our recent weekend trip to Atlanta. While I can’t promise to share the secret ingredients to Coke’s famous recipe, I think that we did figure out why families love visiting World of Coca-Cola.
Our trip to World of Coca-Cola was compliments of World of Coca-Cola. This post contains affiliate links.
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Nearby Attractions: The Georgia Aquarium, CNN Tower, and Centennial Olympic Park are all located within easy walking distance of World of Coca-Cola. Susan and I easily filled a day with just the World of Coca-Cola and The Georgia Aquarium, though with an earlier start it would be possible to tour the CNN Tower as well. (I personally think that all three attractions would be overwhelming for children). Atlanta has also opened a tall Ferris Wheel with a 15 minute ride within walking distance of Pemberton Place.
World of Coca-Cola is essentially a fast-paced multimedia museum about the history and production of the drink Coca-Cola. Families can expect a quick live presentation of the history of Coca-Cola when entering the museum, followed by a short animated movie in the Happiness Factory Theatre, and then a self-guided tour of the museum’s exhibits.
I did appreciate that all of World of Coca-Cola’s exhibits including the 4-D Movie Theatre are included in the cost of admission.
World of Coca-Cola Travel Tip:All visitors to World of Coca-Cola must listen to the introductory live presentation and movie which takes around 30 minutes total. Be prepared to entertain small children as the live presentation in particular requires standing in one place for several minutes.
Exhibits at World of Coca-Cola
I’ve toured World of Coca-Cola several times, and in my opinion Coca-Cola has kept the museum fresh and interesting. While some of the popular exhibits have remained unchanged, every visit brings new experiences too. You can find a complete list of exhibits and shows on the World of Coca-Cola website, but I’ll list a couple of my favorites.
Vault of the Secret Formula
Kids will love the dramatic presentation of the exhibit Vaultof the Secret Formula. The attendants keep even the line waiting lively, with a beach ball game. Upon entering the vault, visitors are crammed into a small room where a “security clearance” is performed.
Inside the vault, visitors learn about the history of Coca-Cola’s brand success against counterfeit brands while also being teased with a mixture of history and legend surrounding the secret formula.
The exhibit has a fun atmosphere with mirrored ceilings and mysterious voices. At the end the visitors experience a circular room with multi-media moving walls simulating the filling of a cup of Coke. At the end of the multi-media presentation “the vault” is revealed.
World of Coca-Cola Travel Tip:Families especially with small children will want to be aware that touring the exhibit does involve being crammed into small rooms much like riding an elevator. Upon entering the exhibit, you must follow the timetable of the tour before exiting, so be sure to schedule that bathroom trip first.
Personally,I would count Bottle Works as my favorite exhibit,a miniature real-bottling line that gives families a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of Coca-Cola.
Moving seats, 3-D Glasses, and water mists make the 4-D Theatre a memorable experience. While the movie is a little corny in plot, it’s fast-paced search for the secret ingredient keeps visitors glued to their seats. For visitors wanting a less-active showing, non-moving seats are available and exits are clearly pointed out before the show.
World of Coca-Cola Funny Memory: While Susan and I enjoyed the 4-D movie, we were sitting by a couple women who really enjoyed the movie. From the first small jolt of our seat to the last mist of water, our neighbors screamed liberally throughout the entire show. I was even afraid at one point that the lady beside me was about to end up in my lap.
I think that I can safely say that the exhibit Taste It! is the favorite of children visiting World of Coca-Cola. With over 100 different flavors from around the world and unlimited visits to the soda fountain, Taste It! definitely is a sparkling end to the tour. Whether you discover a new flavor or stumble on the infamous Beverly, you won’t leave thirsty. (Though you may leave feeling a little sick.)
World of Coca-Cola Travel Tip: I was excited to see that World of Coca-Colaadded several mix-your-own beverage machines. You may want to walk to the back of the exhibit to check them out before filling up on fruity beverages at the front.
Guest Services at World of Coca-Cola
You can find a complete list of World of Coca-Cola’s accessibility options for persons with disabilities on the World of Coca-Cola website under Guest Services. World of Coca-Cola is completely wheelchair and stroller accessible, though stroller usage may be restricted in some areas during peak times.
Free Wi-Fi is available both inside and outside World of Coca-Cola.
Family restrooms are available, and changing stations are located in all bathrooms. I didn’t notice any private spots that would be convenient for breast-feeding, though there was plenty of seating throughout the museum.
World of Coca-Cola does not have a restaurant, but Pemberton Cafe is located outside the museum.
Souvenirs: World of Coca-Cola provides a complimentary glass bottle of Coca-Cola to every guest. Guests can also get a photo taken with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear or on the vintage Coca-Cola couch by a professional photographer. While you can purchase a photo at the gift shop, the photographers also accommodated guests by taking photos with the visitors’ own cameras.
When planning your trip to Atlanta, be sure to also check out our Kidding Around review of:
Find an affordable place to stay in Atlanta on Hotels.com
So, what makes the brand Coca-Colaso successful? I think that the World of Coca-Cola museum proves that Coca-Cola is more than just a beverage but a common experience associated with happiness and fun that we share with people across the globe. Similarly, World of Coca-Cola leaves you happy and full of great memories.