Zoo Atlanta

One of the best things about visiting the South is that much of the year can be enjoyed outdoors. One of the options is Stone Mountain Park. The monolithic gray-granite outcropping (pictured above, the world's largest) is carved with a massive monument to the Confederacy. In 2021, the park's board decided to add a museum to the park, to discuss the history of the Ku Klux Klan in the region, as well as putting the Confederacy into a less heroic historic context. Critis say the moves aren't enough, but they certainly are a start. The rock outcropping is the focal point of this major recreation area, which includes 3,200 acres of lakes and beautiful wooded parkland.Although the best view of the mountain is from below, the vistas from the top are spectacular. Visitors with lots of energy and lung capacity can take the walking trail up and down the moss-covered slopes, especially lovely in spring when they're blanketed in wildflowers. The trail is 1.3 miles each way. Or you can ride the Skyride cable car to the top, where you'll have an incredible view of the city and the Appalachian Mountains. The best approach is to take the cable car up and then walk back down.

For a different perspective, check out the park from onboard a World War II amphibious vehicle -- the park's Ride the Ducks Tour is a 40-minute adventure that moves from the land into the waters of Stone Mountain Lake. End your day at the park with Stone Mountain's Lasershow Spectacular, an astonishing display of laser lights and fireworks with animation and music. The brilliant laser beams are projected on the mountain's north face, a natural 1-million-square-foot screen. Bring a picnic supper and arrive early to get a good spot on the lawn at the base of the mountain. Shows are free with park admission.

Zoo Atlanta is another popular outdoor venue, with famously adorable pandas, plus red pandas, zebras giraffes, warthogs, komodo dragons, and much more. The pandas' rowdiest period is in the afternoon, but the family puts on quite a show most of the day: munching bamboo, tussling with each other, playing on their log swing, or climbing on the swinging ladder. There's much to see at the zoo; you can easily spend a full day here.

The delightful Atlanta Botanical Garden, occupying 30 acres in Piedmont Park, includes the 25,000-square-foot Fuqua Orchid Center, a children's garden, an education center, and the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory. In the Fuqua Orchid Center, a collection of rare high-elevation orchids, which flourish on cool, wet mountains in South America, are being grown in the warm Southeast. Typically, one would have to go to San Francisco or Seattle to see such plants. An "Olympic" olive tree presented by Greece in honor of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta resides in the botanical garden as well. There are flower shows throughout the year, along with lectures and other activities. Call or check the website to find out what's scheduled during your stay (www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org).

If you want to add thrills and excitement to your trip, Atlanta has a number of amusement parks, including Six Flags Over Georgia, and its White Water water park.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.