One of my most toxic traits is my inability to turn work off… fortunately for me, Nick is the same way, so he gets it. So when we look at planning family activities we tend to look for day trips or overnight adventures, that keep us close to home. Primarily for work, but also because our two youngest children are feral. Yes, you read that right. I blame it on the pandemic. They grew up pretty much confined to the house and with us 24/7 while everything was shut down because of Covid. So when many toddlers are exposed to trips to the grocery store or eating out at a restaurant, Sawyer and Kyler were at home — not learning or experiencing those things. They still get sensory overload just walking into Walmart— and we probably don’t help that by using Walmart pick-up religiously. Turner went everywhere with me. By the time he was 3 years old, he had gone to more government meetings than the majority of adults— but I would never even attempt to take Kyler or Sawyer… like I said… FERAL.
Anyway, I say all of that to set the scene as to why Stone Mountain, specifically splurging on an annual pass, is ideal for our family. Over the weekend we rented an Airbnb a couple of miles from Stone Mountain Park, packed the kiddos up, and made the roughly 2-hour drive there.
The first thing I love about Stone Mountain Park is the area isn’t your typical tourist trap. There aren’t $5.99 and below stores lining the roads, it is a super nice area that made the trip just as relaxing and enjoyable for the grownups as it was fun and exciting for the kids.
Our membership includes parking, which is great and probably the biggest cost saver. We started by parking by the Skyride. It was the first “attraction” that opened in the park, perfect for our feral children who wake up before the sun. We packed into the high-speed Swiss cable car and made the 825 feet climb to the top of Stone Mountain. It was absolutely crystal clear and you could see for miles and miles. The ride gives you the perfect view of the entire park, the Atlanta skyline, and the 90-foot tall carving of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.
We elected to ride to the top of the mountain, but there are hiking trails to make the trek— we talked with families of all ages who took that route— however with my bum knee and my disdain for heat and humidity, we would have never survived.
We finished exploring the top of Stone Mountain just in time for the attractions to open in other areas of the park. Newbie hack — if you park at the Skyride — don’t just stay parked there — move your car to other parking lots as you switch activities — because while it may seem like the attractions are a quick walk away— with kids and the heat — you might as well be crossing the Sahara.
Our first stop was the Dinosaur Explore exhibit, which is actually the reason we wanted to go to Stone Mountain in the first place. Kyler is OBSESSED with dinosaurs and we are always looking for different things for him to do and experience. This exhibit will be featured at the park through January 2023, so if you wanna see it, you better make plans! The exhibit is probably a quarter-mile to half-mile trail that features 20 life-size dinosaurs with special effects allowing them to move and roar. With kids ranging in age from 3 to 9, it is hard to find something they all enjoy, but this exhibit was perfect. They all loved passing through the “time machine portal” that warped you into the Jurassic era! While Kyler and Sawyer ran from dinosaur to dinosaur, Turner kept busy with a map and scavenger hunt that let him have a heightened more in-depth experience. We probably spent 15 minutes on the trail, but we also breezed past most things… because again… feral children. At the end of the trail was a super neat station with different interactive games and activities that all the kids really loved. They even got to help “train” a baby dinosaur in a game of hide and seek.
This area of the park is shaded, so you can stroll and take your time and go through as many times as you would like. I don’t know how it is all year long, but for this Monday morning visit, there weren’t large crowds and we had the exhibit to ourselves for most of the time, making it even more enjoyable.
Right next to the outdoor dinosaur exhibit is Dinotorium, which honestly would have been worth the trip all on its own. First and foremost, it is indoors — and air-conditioned to the max. Like I said… your girl does NOT do heat. This MASSIVE four-story indoor playground was the stuff of dreams. The only thing that classifies me as a grownup is my age — and that I have somehow tricked a lot of people into thinking I am an adult, but really I am just a big kid. So the fact that this four-story playground was not just designed for kids, but for grownups to explore and play— I was in heaven! The play place is all dinosaur themed— so my kids were literally giddy from the moment they walked inside. They had interactive dinosaurs in “cages” with games you could play all over the main level. We probably spent a solid hour in the place, and I am sure we missed things. The website boasts super slides, trampoline floors, climbing structures, and over 65 interactive games for families and children. The website says it is primarily for ages 5-12, but I def went down a slide or two and had a blast. The tallest slide was LITERALLY four stories. I mean from the top level all the way to the bottom. I did not brave it, but Turner and Sawyer raced to the top over and over. The website says that guests must be at least 36” tall to participate on the ADA slide and the 4th-floor slides — Sawyer meets that, but there aren’t staff or anyone policing that inside, so I think it is really an honor system. There are employees at the entrance and there are cameras throughout for them to monitor, so I am sure if someone tried to put a newborn down they would say something. Back to the ADA slide.. that’s right! One of the coolest things about the play place was that it featured an elevator that goes up the different levels and a specific slide designated to be ADA accessible! How neat!
Like the exhibit, for quite some time we had the place to ourselves. Again, I don’t know if this is typical or because it was Monday at 11:30 right when the attractions first opened for the day. There were probably two dozen people in the play area by the time we left, but still super open and not crowded at all. The main level had tons of different options for younger kids, the second level was a good middle ground for 2-3-year-olds and parents to explore together, the third floor got a little more adventurous and features the trampoline floors and the top level, which I did not venture to, can be accessed by either a rope ladder bridge or stairs and towers over everything.
There is a vacuum-like system throughout the entire playground that sucks up foam balls and shoots them out around the park — they can be used on different levels to “feed” the dinosaurs. While this is a super cool and fun aspect of the playground, I will say that because it is indoors and sound is trapped — whenever the floor level tubes are turned on — which is like every 15 seconds when a kid plays with it — it is uncomfortably loud. Kyler struggled to adjust when we first started to play because he struggles with some sensory issues, however, he adapted quickly. I could see how this could be problematic for some children. But the loud sounds are only the bottom floor where the base vacuums are located, so they can be kind of avoided if needed.
Right outside the indoor playground is Geyser Towers —a multi-level outdoor play place complete with suspended rope bridges, net tunnels, and towering platforms. This outdoor playground is open year-round – -but in the summer months to spice things up— there are sporadic eruptions of gushing geysers and water features throughout the playground. The website says that it “offers plenty of room for adults” however I would say that is referring to the actual playground and going into the ropes because the area itself is super limited on seating, it is actually virtually nonexistent, and has no shade to stay close by and watch your kiddos. Again, we were the only ones at this attraction for quite some time, and it was never crowded.
Something we didn’t know before going (because I don’t read or research) you have to have closed-toe shoes to go up into the rope course part of this. Without closed-toe shoes, you can play on the bottom area in the water, but not on the actual playground. Also, guests must be taller than 32 inches to enter the structure of Geyser Towers. Guests between 32 inches and 40 inches tall must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 16. Luckily Sawyer was just big enough to do it on her own with Turner, but poor Kyler had to miss out. I had on flip flops and Nick had on tennis shoes, not ideal to get wet. But Kyler still enjoyed playing in the water on the bottom level.
The Geyser Towers was really the only time we encountered any “less-than-friendly” employees. It honestly may have been our fault but I didn’t notice any “rules” posted. The middle of the playground features a big geyser that shoots up ever so often. The attendant wasn’t very kind in scolding Kyler and Sawyer when playing in the water. They treated it like any other splash pad they have ever visited… running in and out of the water and cutting through the geyser… but apparently, that is “against the rules.” Like I said, that might have been posted somewhere, however, I never saw it. The employee could have been more kind in letting us know, but other than that it was a great experience. Another newbie hack— if you are wet from Geyser Towers, you cannot go down the slides in the Dinotorium, so make plans to do the Geyser Towers last.
By the time we finished this, it was after lunch and just in time for some grumpy, feral children to take their naps. So we left the park with the intent to go back in the afternoon — however, an afternoon heat storm changed those plans for us. Because we weren’t able to do the rest of the attractions at the park, I am even more grateful we elected to do an annual membership. We have so many more things left to explore and experience! There is mini-golf, train rides, Camp Highland, the 4D Mysterious Island experience, and the museum, all things that are included in the attractions pass. There are things you can do that cost more — but they are still super affordable, like the SkyHike — a ropes course and smaller splash pad. Our kiddos were too young for this but I am sure Turner would have loved it. And of course, one of the main Stone Mountain attractions… the lasershow! I MIGHT have attended this once when I was a really little kid — I have a super vague memory of it and my mom’s family lives just South of Atlanta, so I feel like we went one summer — but for just $5 (or included in an annual pass) you get to see the incredible laser show that is projected onto the stone! We seriously cannot wait to go back!
That really just scratches the surface — the park is so much more than just the attractions — there are 3,200 acres to explore with 15 miles of nature trails and even a 363-acre lake. We are so excited about the annual pass because there are TONS of festivals all year long that we cannot wait to go to!! It is a little pricy — but when you break it down for all the things you can do — all year long — I think it is totally worth it!