A Complete Guide to Stone Mountain

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The sight of the singular mammoth boulder rising 825 feet above the ground, just 10 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, is mind-blowing.  The geological phenomenon was formed over 300 million years ago when an up-swelling of molten magma from within the earth’s crust solidified as it cooled.  Since its designation as a State Park in 1958, the combination of natural beauty, historical significance and family attractions, has made Stone Mountain a favorite Atlanta getaway.

The scenic 3,200 acre State Park has something for everyone – hiking trails, fishing and boating on Stone Mountain Lake, large camping grounds for tents and RVs, and a popular theme park.

Before you go, there are a few things you need to know.

  • The park is open year-round, weather permitting, for hiking, camping in over 400 sites for RVs and tents, and fishing and boating in Stone Mountain Lake.
  • Park gates are open from 5am to midnight daily.
  • Theme park attractions are open seasonally (mid-March – the end of October) from 10am until 5pm.
  • During winter months (November – mid-March), with the exception of SkyRide and Discovering Stone Mountain Museum, attractions are closed.
  • November – February 25th, Stone Mountain theme park becomes “Snow Mountain,” a  winter wonderland filled with holiday activities  and events.
  • Check the park Attraction Calendar before you go for weather-related closings.
  • Entrance to the park year-round is a $15 per car parking fee which gives you access to camping, fishing, boating, hiking along nature trails, the children’s playground, and seasonally, to the LaserShow Spectacular.
  • There are additional fees for the attractions.
  • Adventure Pass gives you easy access to all the attractions open March – October. See the list of favorites below. Check out the savings offered by Trusted Tours & Attractions.
  • Except for major holidays, some, but not all, attractions are available for individual purchase.
  • Snow Christmas Pass is your wintertime entry into a magical place for family fun of snow, related activities, magical holiday lights and events from November 11 to January 3. Imagine a place where Rudolph comes to life in 4-D and live performances get you in the Holiday spirit. Everyone loves the sing-along Christmas Train and shopping for holiday gifts in Crossroads.  Kids eagerly wait for Santa to pass in the Christmas parade and love the thrill of tubing down Avalanche Alley in real snow and playing in Snow Zone. Purchase it and save at Trusted Tours & Attractions.
  • Snow Mountain All Access Pass.  Snow fun doesn’t end on January 3.  With the Snow Pass, it continues until February 25th.
  • Seasonal themed festivals take place in the park.  Check the calendar to see if one is going on during your visit.

FREE FAVORITES

Walk the Top.   A must-do for visitors who are comfortable walking 1.3 miles up a gradual incline with a steep slope (with a handrail) at the end. From the summit, views are spectacular.  It’s an easy ½ hour walk, do-able for the entire family.  Wear solid walking shoes as it can get slippery and stay on the trail marked with the yellow line.  Other nice hiking trails include the ¾ mile Nature Garden Trail through the hickory and oak forests, and the 2-loop, 2-mile Songbird Habitat Trails.

Covered Bridge and Grist Mill.  Both picturesque 19th century historic structures, which were moved to the park in the 1960s, are great photo ops. Located near one another in Stone Mountain Natural District, an undeveloped part of the park located on Stone Mountain Lake, there is parking nearby.

The Crossroads.  Browse through quaint shops and see craft demonstrations, candle making and glass-blowing of a simpler time in the re-creation of a small Georgia town.  Use the ticket in your Adventure Pass to challenge the family for a round of mini-golf!

Lasershow Spectacular. End your day at Stone Mountain with the state-of-the-art sound and light extravaganza projected five times larger than an IMAX screen against the backdrop of the giant outcropping and the Confederate Memorial Carving.  Light, music, lasers and epic fireworks create awesome effects.  Throw out a blanket on Memorial Lawn and enjoy the spectacle for free.  Or purchase Reserved Seating on several terraces.  Extra goodies come with the VIP Reserved Seating. Go all out! The Lasershow Dinner Package includes VIP treatment plus a buffet dinner. The Lasershow runs on Saturdays from April – May, daily from Memorial Weekend through early August, and on Saturdays August through October. Shows times:  Spring – between 8:30 and 9:00;  Summer – between 9:00 and 9:30; Fall – between 8 and 8:30.  Confirm dates and times on the park calendar.

FAVORITES FOR A FEE   

Summit SkyRide.  Riding the cable car on up the face of Stone Mountain is spectacular.  Open daily, weather permitting, from 10am to 5pm year-round, the views are amazing.  The close-up view of the massive, 90’ x 100’ Confederate Memorial Carving, the largest bas relief sculpture in the world and carved into the mountain’s face, is awesome. Note that if you Walk the Top and take the SkyRide down, or vice-versa, you will have to walk about a mile to the parking area.

Scenic Railroad.  The seasonal 5-mile scenic train ride around the mountain base is a favorite of all ages.  The 1940s era locomotive pulling open-air cars and on-board narration make the 25 -30 minute ride interesting and fun.

SkyHike.   Navigating through a maze of suspended rope bridges and towering platforms way above tree level overlooking gushing geysers is a great family activity.

Camp Highland Outpost.  Not quite as high in the sky, this outdoor challenge of rock walls to climb, low rope courses to navigate and multiple line bridges to cross is fun for the whole family.

Historic Square.  Experience the diversity of 18th and 19th century life in Georgia on a guided tour of several original restored Georgia buildings built between 1793 and 1875. See period furniture, a working cookhouse and traditional gardens.  Kids love petting the animals and learning about farm animal behavior in the Farmyard.

Dinotorium. Kids really get into being totally immersed into the pre-historic world throughout four levels of dinosaur-related fun and games.

Discovering Stone Mountain Museum.  Learn how the history of the “Rock” as sacred ground, landmark, refuge, and meeting place has meant different things to different people throughout its history. Watch a feature film about the Confederate Memorial Carving.  Get a sense for the carving’s enormous size while standing by full-scale replicas of some elements. Open year-round.

Duck Tours. Rumble over land in an amphibious vehicle and splash down into Stone Mountain Lake for 45 minutes of fun, quacking as you go.  This fun family favorite is not included in the Adventure Package. Purchase tickets separately through Trusted Tours & Attractions or buy them on site at the Duck Hut.

ADDITIONAL TIPS

Food is part of the Stone Mountain experience.  Many choices are regional favorites. From simple favorites to full-scale restaurants, from food stations to campfire fare, there’s something for everyone.  Indulge in crispy fried chicken, ribs, pizza, vegan choices, s’mores and peach cobbler.  Grab to-go fresh snacks and complete meals in the open-air Marketplace. Or bring your own and enjoy a picnic lunch at shady tables scattered throughout the scenic park.

Enjoy a Stone Mountain vacation by staying more than one day.  Onsite, stay at Marriott Stone Mountain Inn or Evergreen Marriott Resort which has two championship golf courses.  Nearby are several chain hotels.  For a super close-to-nature family experience, rent a Safari tent, Yurt, or RV and stay in Stone Mountain Park Campground.

How to See Atlanta in 2 Days

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Atlanta is a dynamic business center and headquarters of major corporations whose residents are equally passionate about their sports teams and thriving arts scene.  Atlanta is trendy and urban with a distinct southern charm and confident vibe.  As the largest airline hub in the United States, visitors from all over the world pass through it.

Whether flying into Atlanta or arriving by car, MARTA, Atlanta’s comprehensive mass transit system can get you around the sprawling metropolis to areas with attractions, museums, restaurants and shopping.  On a 2-day visit, minimize the time you spend on MARTA and maximize your Atlanta experience by visiting highlights clustered in three distinct districts. Be sure to check out Atlanta CityPass for discounted access to some of the highlighted attractions below.

 DOWNTOWN

There’s a lot going on in Downtown Atlanta.  Make a day of visiting  museums, historical sites and major sports/ entertainment arenas within close proximity of each other.

Atlanta Aquarium is spectacular.  It’s a must see when traveling with children.  Watch gigantic whale sharks, manta rays and countless other marine life cruise right past you from the vantage point of a huge panoramic window.  To attend popular timed dolphin, seal and penguin shows, reserve your seats in advance.  Enjoy baby ray encounters, experience jellyfish in 3D with 4D tingling sensation as they swim by and visit Ocean Explorer and Reef Tank exhibits for a mesmerizing experience.  Be sure to check out the excellent temporary exhibits featured during your visit.  (CityPass Attraction)

World of Coca-Cola is an engaging insight into the beverage known all over the world.  Get an up-close look at the vault where the secret recipe is kept.  Go behind the scenes to see how the bottling process works.  Travel the world through your taste buds by sampling more than 100 beverages made by Coca-Cola around the globe.  It’s a fun way to see how cultural customs influence the palate. Find a Coca-Cola themed souvenir, especially one in distinctive red. (CityPass Attraction)

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is empowering. As the world becomes more interconnected through technology, we become more aware of the fundamental rights of all human beings.  This compelling new museum focuses on this topic on a global scale.  See remarkable exhibits on the Civil Rights history and movement in America.  Check out exceptional and thought-provoking temporary exhibitions on such topics as how sports figures have used their celebrity status to focus attention on the issue of global human rights or the plight of forgotten women in times of war, from WWI to current global conflicts seen through the lens of a remarkable photographer. (CityPass Attraction)

CNN Studios Tours of the CNN worldwide headquarters are an interesting way to experience how newscasts are produced. What seems effortless to the viewer is a carefully orchestrated show involving a myriad of talented people and technology. (CityPass Attraction)

Sports are a big part of the Downtown Atlanta vibe.  The concentration of major state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arenas Downtown is spectacular.  The Brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium with a retractable roof is hosting the Super Bowl in 2019.  Throughout football season, home team Atlanta Falcons fills the stands of the exciting stadium which is also the venue of A-list super stars in concert. College football is played in Turner Field, the home of Georgia State. Indoor Philips Arena, home of exciting Atlanta Hawks basketball, is also an exciting entertainment venue.  With so many major sports happening Downtown, it’s no wonder that it’s a big part of the area’s nighttime and weekend action.

The College Hall of Fame is a must for families passionate about college football. Walk through the tunnel for your entrance into the Quad where over 760 college helmets line the walls in floor to ceiling color. Test your skills through obstacle courses, kick a field goal or throw a touchdown pass in the Indoor Playing Field.  Interact with hi-tech experiences in the Trophy Room.

MIDTOWN

Midtown, known as “The Heart of the Arts,” is the center of Atlanta’s art scene.  An interesting combination of sleek hi-rises and neighborhood feel give it a trendy urban vibe.  In addition to the High Museum of Art, Midtown has a large concentration of art galleries and performing arts venues.  Expansive Piedmont Park gives it a spacious green feel.  Midtown also boasts some of Atlanta’s best restaurants, ranging from high end cuisine to food carts.  Midtown’s nighttime scene is all about nightclubs, comedy clubs and upscale bars.

The High Museum of Art.  The premier art museum in the Southeast, The High has more than 11,000 works in its extensive permanent collection which includes a broad spectrum of paintings from European masters, of 19th and 20th century American art, decorative art, folk Art, African art, African-American art, modern and contemporary art.  After your art immersion, take the time to have soup and sandwiches in High Cafe or farm to table specialties in Twelve Eighty.  The museum gift shop is a great place for the perfect artsy whimsical souvenir.

Fox Theater.  A visit to the historic gilded “Fabulous Fox” is a wonderful Atlanta experience. The architectural gem is a gorgeous venue for headlining events from favorite Broadway shows to rock star concerts, classical music greats and stunning ballet performances.  Take a 60-minute tour of the lavish gilded interior filled with turreted ceilings, exquisite trompe l’oeil art and “Mighty Moe”, the 3,622 pipe Mohler Theater Organ; or purchase tickets before your visit for a great evening out.

Atlanta Botanical Garden is a wonderful escape into the world of flowers and plants.  Beautifully planted courtyards, formal gardens and raised overlooks create this Atlanta gem.  Walk through the Canopy Walk and wander through the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Orchid House. Experience the surprise of coming upon sculptures and water features throughout the Gardens.  Take the time for an enjoyable lunch in Longleaf Café, either indoors or alfresco.

BUCKHEAD

Attention all serious shoppers! Buckhead, more commonly known as the “Beverly Hills of the East,” is for you.  Known as one of Atlanta’s upscale communities, it’s filled with luxury shopping choices, fine dining, lavish hotels and excellent art galleries.

STONE MOUNTAIN

If you are visiting with children, the natural beauty and family attractions in Stone Mountain State Park is an Atlanta favorite. The sight of the singular mammoth boulder rising 825 feet above the surrounding area just 10 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta is mind-blowing. Entrance to the park, located about 20 minutes northeast of Atlanta, requires a $15 parking fee.  This fee allows access to hiking trails, the lake and picnic areas.  A must do for anyone able to walk up a gradual incline with a steep slope at the end is Walk the Top, a 1.3 mile hike. It’s free and the panoramic view is amazing.  Stay into the evening for the seasonal free state-of-the-art sound and light extravaganza, Laserlight Spectacular.

Access to most Stone Mountain theme park attractions is seasonal and at an additional cost.  Check out the discounted attraction package offered through Trusted Tours & Attractions.  Taking a cable car to the top on Summit SkyRide is a must.  The Scenic Railroad ride around the base of the mountain appeals to all ages. Active families enjoy the navigational challenges of SkyHike, a maze of suspended rope bridges laced over towering trees.  Kids get totally immersed into the world of dinosaurs in Dinotorium.  Historic Square has something for everyone.  Experience life in 18th and 19th century Georgia through tours of homes furnished in period furnishings, craft demonstrations and Farmyard animals.

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