aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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21 free toddler activities in atlanta

Library storytime Amara at the Children's Museum Amara at 16 months

Amara at Dunwoody library, Children's Museum of Atlanta, and posing at a garden

We've been doing a lot of local activities over the last few months, mainly because we've had a slew of events at home and Chewy hasn't been feeling all that well.  While we're trying to get a handle on Chewy's health, I've been exploring Atlanta with Amara. It's amazing to me how much this city offers and especially the number of free or very cheap things to do with toddlers or young kids.

So, you can imagine my surprise when two different newcomers to the city complained to me about how there's nothing free to do with toddlers here.  I started reeling off some of our favorite activities --- most things they had never heard about --- when it occurred to me that this should be a post on its own. 

Here you go, Atlanta parents.  21 Free or Cheap (Under $10) Things to Do in Atlanta With Toddlers or Young Kids:


1.  Watch the horses run at Chastain Horse Park.  Free

2.  Visit a mini aquarium at Chamblee's The Fish Store, the largest fish store in the Southeast.  Free (though you'll probably want to buy something here).

3.  Run with the dogs at Piedmont Park's Dog Park (though careful of the occasional aggressive dog).  Free.

4.  Feed the ducks at Lullwater Park at Emory University.  Free; stroller accessible.

5.  Cuddle the adorable miniature animals at Tanglewood Farms$10 per person and they have picnic tables where you can bring your lunch.

Splashpads and Playgrounds

6.  Splash in fountains and swing in the futuristic playground at Old Fourth Ward's park. Free

7.  Go all out on slides, splashpads, and tubes at Browns Mill Family Aquatic CenterRates vary depending on residency but are all under $12 per person.  You could easily spend the whole day here.

Click over here for more splashpads in the city.

8.  Roam around in Cozy Coupes and other riding toys at Decatur's Toy ParkFree.

Hikes and Trails

9.  Get messy at Herbert Taylor Park's beach, which is one of our favorite spots for a family outing, with dogs and toddler in tow. Not stroller accessible.  Free.

10.  Go fishing or meander through a gorgeous pine grove at Henderson Park.  Not stroller accessible.  Free

11.  Get into the Atlanta spirit with a walk on the Beltline.  Free.

12.  Take a guided Tyke Hike at Red Top State Mountain Park on Lake Allatoona, about 1 1/2 hour's northwest of the city.  $5 parking. 




13.  Play in the tents at IKEA.  Free (though you'll probably be sucked into buying something because it is IKEA, after all).

14.  Marvel in the masses of produce and giant lobster tanks at Your Dekalb Farmer's MarketFree (though you'll probably end up buying your week's groceries there).  This place is always packed on the weekends so we prefer to go on the less busy weekdays.

15.  Watch the trains zoom by under the bridge at Westside Provisions District. Free.  There are several great kid-friendly restaurants right here, including Osteria del Figo, Taqueria del Sol, Flipburger, and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.  Amara loves getting ice cream, sitting on the benches, and watching the trains.


16.  Sing, play, and romp at Jump Start Gym's free Moving Monkeys class, which starts at 3 months until the child is able to toddle.  Free, except that you need to pay an annual $35 registration fee.

17.  Get your toddler on the balance bar and doing jump kicks at Peachtree Gymnastics' free class for 16 to 24 month olds.  The Buckhead and East Cobb locations both offer free classes.  Free, but early registration is necessary.  We love this class for young toddlers who are full of energy!


18.  Make friends at one of Dekalb County's fantastic storytimes, targeted toward different age groups.  All of the storytimes incorporate physical play, nursery rhymes and songs, and a short independent or group reading session.  Toddlers will particularly enjoy: Musical Mother Goose for ages 12 to 24 months at the Dunwoody and Decatur libraries; Building Blocks for ages 0 to 24 months at all of the libraries; and Tales for 2s at the Decatur and Dunwoody libraries for ages 2 to 3 years.  Free.

19.  Find a new book at Little Shop of Stories, Decatur's cutest indie children's bookstore, which holds weekly storytimes.  They also have cool author visits and signings, and other fun events, like a bring-your-dog-to-storytime annual event.  Free.

Indoor Activities and Museums

20.  Go crazy at Hippo Hopp, our favorite indoor playground in the city.  Toddlers from age 1 to 3 cost $5.00, but if you charge a HippoCard, you get a 25% discount, meaning that admission is only $3.75.

21.  Have a blast at the Children's Museum of Atlanta, especially on free Target Tuesdays, held on the second Tuesday of every month.  Free, but parking nearby costs $10.

I have lots more free suggestions for toddlers but my toddler is calling, so I'll have to wrap it up here and save the rest for another post.  Have fun with your little one in this great city!

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picnic at the presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

It sounded too good to be true: good food and drinks, stunning views overlookign the Golden Gate Bridge, baby friendly, and completely free.  But, Off the Grid's Picnic at the Presidio in San Francisco met all our expectations and more.  In fact, it was one of the best foodie events we have been to this year.

Off the Grid ups the game for the food truck lover.  They organize and work with hundreds of food trucks and food vendors across San Francisco to organize and coordinate food trucks at different locations.  They've got a brilliant constantly updated map that shows the location of food truck vendors across the city.  And, they run special weekly events throughout the year, including a twilight event at the Presidio and a Friday weekly market at Fort Mason Center.

Dogs at the Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio

Views of Picnic at the Presidio, including the bar and Bubbly Bar

We headed to Picnic at the Presidio on a glorious Sunday afternoon, sun and warmth replacing San Francisco's usual buffeting wind and fog.  We flung aside our fleeces and meandered through the Presidio's Main Lawn, unsure of which of the thirty vendors we should visit.  People sipped on champagne and mimosas, purchased from the Bubbly Bar, and beer and wine from the main bar in the center of the lawn. 

Amara trying pierogis Amara trying pierogis
Pierogi truck at the Picnic at the Presidio Pierogis at the Old World Food Truck
Creme Brulee cart Creme Brulee Cart
Amara trying creme brulee Patrick and Amara at the Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Behind me, a group of food lovers debated the respective merits of Napa Valley Merlots and Rieslings, while we tasted and judged our own food.  Funny thing is that we're definitely raising a foodie.  This kid will clamp her lips shut if you try to give her frozen fish nuggets but will happily devour an adult's portion of $12 per pound North Georgia smoked trout.  And, truth be told, most of her food choices are the exact ones that we would have picked.

Her winners at the Picnic at the Presidio were our winners, as well.  Amara was so delighted with Patrick's pierogis from the Old World Food Truck --- creamy, soft, and delicately spiced potato dumplings --- that we barely got bites. She wasn't impressed with my lemongrass tofu on a vermicelli salad from the Little Green Cyclo Vietnamese truck and I agreed that the flavors were bland and uninspired, lacking in punch and spice.  We rounded out our meals with vanilla and nutella and strawberry creme brulees from the Creme Brulee Cart and all of us preferred the cleaner and lighter vanilla option.  The fresh strawberries in the nutella creme brulee muddied the texture and flavor of that creme brulee.

But, honestly, those are just nitpicks.  I would suggest Picnic at the Presidio even if the food wasn't good, and, for the most part, it was good.  It was one of those lovely events --- full of good food, drinks, pups, babes, and happy people in the bright sunshine --- that I wish every city had.


Picnic at the Presidio

Off The Grid's Picnic at the Presidio is located at the Main Lawn on the Presidio.  It is a seasonal event, running from April until Octoberish.  Food trucks line one side of the lawn and food vendors, primarily from local restaurants, line the other side.  The main bar and bubbly bar are located in the middle of the lawn.  There is also a truck that provides dog supplies and a tent that has picnicking gear.

The food is a bit pricey, but most meals are under $12. Picnicking supplies are very expensive so I would suggest bringing your own.

The views of the bay are beautiful and, if you walk a bit to the end of the Presidio, you get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's cold at the Presidio, so bring a jacket or blanket.  But, on sunny days, the sun hits hard and there's no shade, so bring sunscreen and possibly a pop up tent to keep out the sun.  As with all weather in San Francisco, prepare for every season in one day.

The grass is nice and lush, perfect for baby feet and dogs.  This is a very kid-friendly event .  We brought Amara in a stroller, which was convenient since we were able to keep her a bit shaded and also put food on her stroller tray.  If possible, I suggest bringing a small bottle of bubbles with you for the kiddos because the breeze is perfect for bubbles.  The picnicking station sells bubbles for $10 for a bottle (!) which we thought to be ridiculous.  Many people bring games, such as bocce balls and such, up to the picnic.

This is a great dog-friendly event and we saw many adorable dogs around.  Dogs must be on leash but there is lots of space to spread out so if your dog is a little shy, you can still find a bit of space for him to spread out.


This post was brought to you by Hoot Holidays, which provides holidays across Asia, the Pacific, and the United States.

07/19/2014 07:14
Lakshmi sankarl
That is my grand daughter!! Loved the post!
07/24/2014 02:10
It seems you have done a nice outing. The pics are also very beautiful. and Lakshmi, you grand-daughter is very cute... :)
07/24/2014 21:12
Sounds like foodie heaven! The day seemed perfect such a delicious occasion as well :)
08/13/2014 08:14
Food gatherings are the best!!! It reminds me of Smorgasburg in Brooklyn (go if you ever get to NYC!). I'm headed to San Fran in a few weeks and i will be sure to check this out!
08/15/2014 15:10
Ooooh! I love Brooklyn (it's my favorite borough in New York ---- shhhh, don't tell the Manhattanophiles) and a foodie event there would be amazing. Will definitely check it out next time I'm in NYC.
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05/19/2015 06:39
Adventure picnic spot in Presidio.
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07/25/2015 00:49
Hi, I got intrigued by your blog site as you mentioned you travel with 2 dogs and a kid around the world. I'm currently expecting my first child-6 months pregnant and I've started to wonder how new parents travel with kids for extended periods of time. How do they manage the babies' feeding (for fussy eaters especially), laundry with 3-4 changes per day, sickness and sleep cycles.I've been an avid traveler myself and have been to over 25 countries (9 in the last 3 years) and don't want to give that up yet. All advise would be welcome!
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the atlanta food and wine festival

Peach sliders at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2014

Peach sliders from Revolution Donuts

Recently, I was telling a friend about how I was at Ben & Jerry's on a press trip and heading to the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for media coverage.  They laughed and said that it didn't sound like "work." 

It is work.  It's just that I happen to have a great job.

Every now and again, I pinch myself to make sure that this is real.

Andouille sausage with polenta Crab benedict
Peach and ricotta dumplings
Pancakes Empire breakfast at AF&WF

Empire Breakfast at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

I landed head-first into this whole writing thing, because a passion for food, travel, and writing came together on this personal pet project, and people liked what I had to say.

Passion rules the world, yes?  And, when, we are passionate, we produce great things.  It's the story of humanity. 

And, it's the story I heard over and over again at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

French Broad Chocolates Olive & Sinclair chocolates

                                                                                                                                 French Broad and Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Dan and Jael Rattigan quit law school and business school to hit the road and head to Costa Rica where they started a small chocolate shop and bakery that quickly became popular with the expats.  After a few years, they moved to Asheville, North Carolina to open up the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, one of the best chocolate shops we've ever visited.  At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, they presented a talk on Sipping Chocolates, and we tasted a maple and smoked sea salt Liquid Truffle.  The silky smooth ganache floated on the tongue and the smoked sea salt contrasted beautifully with the velvety sweet maple syrup. 

Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Like French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Cacao Atlanta and Olive & Sinclair are bean-to-bar chocolate makers, starting with finding high quality cocoa beans across Central and South America, importing those beans, and producing their own beautiful chocolate.  They are working to change the way we look at chocolate, developing something purer and more complex than the typical Hershey bar.  I took a Raw Chocolate class with Kristen Hard of Cacao Atlanta and we learned how to taste chocolate as the master chocolate makers do; it's an intense process where we compared and contrasted quality, style, flavor, and texture.



Bacon wrapped duck Barnsley Resort shrimp dish
Frito pie in a Frito bag Ribs from Central Barbecue
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Chef Rivers with brisket
Pulled pork sandwich Smoked chicken wing
Brunswick stew at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Ribs

                                                                                                                  Barbecue and meats at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

And, as with the chocolate, there are other chefs who focus entirely on smoking and barbecuing the best meats out there.  Like John Rivers of 4River Smokehouse who taught a class called "De-Regionalized Barbecue" and created what Patrick called the perfect brisket rubbed simply with salt and pepper.  At the Tasting Tents, we talked to chefs who had spent years perfecting a recipe for brunswick stew, ribs, or pulled pork.  Their eyes lit up as they raved about a certain producer or a type of technique. 

In one of my favorite classes on Cheese & Fermentation, Chef Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas confessed that he has rented an apartment across the street from his restaurant and crammed it full of refrigerators so he can store all of his extra cured meats and pickles.  That's 1500 square feet of refrigerators.  That's passion.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Barnsley resort
Tomato meringues Cheese and pickles
Sassafras ice cream Drinks
Pimiento cheese Bean salad

Scenes from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

 It was a weekend full of passion.  Passion for food.  Passion for drinks.  Passion for all of the good things that make life sweet.


The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is held each spring in Midtown Atlanta.  Tickets start at $100 for Tasting Tents only up to $3,000 for the full Connoiseur experience.  I would recommend a day pass or a multi-day pass which gives you the ability to attend both classes and the Tasting Tents.  It's an amazing event and the best Atlanta food festival I've attended.  It's worth every penny, especially since the Tasting Tents are all you can eat and all you can drink, and everything taste was excellent.

For lots more information on the 2014 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, check out my posts at About Food Travel on:

* I received a media pass to attend the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival but, as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone.

06/06/2014 09:23
YUMMMM. Love your food photos. I covered Charleston WF last year and am going for Savannah WF this year! Just need Atlanta next :)
07/14/2014 15:19
You would have loved it! I think I'm going to try and do Nashville Food & Wine this year, too. Lots of yummy Southern food.
06/06/2014 12:39
Oh my goodness. I want to eat ALL. THE. FOOD.

Saigon doesn't have many of these food festivals, unfortunately. Time for someone to start one!
06/13/2014 15:46
You tried Olive & Sinclair! Yesssss. Love it so much. Next year, I'm definitely going to Atlanta Food + Wine. So many people I know and adore were there, and the Instagrams were giving me a serious case of FOMO!
07/14/2014 15:18
Yes, you need to come here! And, as it turns out, I am thinking about doing the Nashville Food & Wine festival this year. It looks too yummy to miss. :)
07/14/2014 15:25
I'll be there!
07/04/2014 13:19
These are great photos, and looks like an awesome festival to attend. Definitely worth scheduling any trips to Atlanta around this festival!
07/14/2014 14:47
Absolutely worth attending! It's a lot of fun and the food is sensational.
07/07/2014 10:28
I've ran into three food posts back to back and it's not helping my hunger. Must. Cook. Food. Now!
07/14/2014 14:47
07/26/2014 16:26
It all looks so amazing ... the peach slider doughnuts look like they would be the most fun to eat!
12/04/2014 16:22
OMG!! I am such a foodie and looking at all of these pictures has made my mouth water. If I could eat food for a living please tell me where to sign up. I guess I would be signing up at a gym as well however:). How wonderful for you:). Probably not but can that bourbon nib brittle be ordered online?
12/22/2014 15:34
It can. You can order it directly from Olive & Sinclair's homepage!
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the surprising morpho butterfly

Morpho caterpillar

Morpho caterpillar

This prickly, brown-hatched worm doesn't look very appealing.  If I saw it on our deck, I'd probably kick it out of the way. 

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Then, this caterpillar turns to this butterfly.  Which also doesn't look very appealing, if you ask me.  It looks almost the same as the common brown moths that we frequently swat away.

Morpho butterfly opening wings

Morpho butterfly opening its wings

And, then it does this.  It opens its wings and reveals itself.

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly with wings open

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Which just goes to show that nature is spectacular.  Curious, surprising, and always spectacular.


Amara at Butterfly Botanical Garden

Amara looking at the butterflies

We saw the morpho butterflies at the Butterfly Botanical Gardens, which is directly across the street at Hotel Si Como No, at Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.  This is a lovely and inexpensive garden to visit, especially if you want to see an abundance of butterflies.  Amara was completely fascinated so I'd definitely suggest this to families with young children.

*Last image courtesy of flickr.com/donjohnson395 because the notoriously shy butterflies refused to fully open their wings for us.

** Our trip to Costa Rica was sponsored by Visit Costa Rica and The Gift of Happiness but, as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone (with a tiny bit of input from Patrick).  If you want to read about why I accept sponsored posts and how they (don't) impact my writing, feel free to peruse this ridiculously long article here on sponsorships, travel blogging, and ethics

05/10/2014 05:54
Chetan Sankar
Outstanding photos; what a great story.
05/27/2014 00:50
WOW stunning! that beautiful blue color is just lovely
05/31/2014 09:37
I just saw this. My Feedly is not updating with your site very well. Hmm...Anyhoo, we're going to Costa Rica, too! We'll also be in Manuel Antonio! I'm going to catch up on your posts now. Glad to see you guys traveling and blogging again.
07/08/2014 06:00
I love butterflies. There's something very delicate and precious about them. Such a beautiful colour too. I saw many wonderful varieties when hiking in Guatemala and Belize but I haven't yet made it to Costa Rica. It, along with a hundred other places, is on by big old bucket list1
07/14/2014 14:46
Jenny, I absolutely agree. I loved the butterflies in Costa Rica and all of Central America. For some reason, the colors on the butterflies there are much more vivid than the ones we have in the US.
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February 2014

gear and tips for traveling with a baby to costa rica
the nitty gritty
February 11, 2014

January 2014

on traveling to costa rica with a baby
seeing the world through her eyes
January 28, 2014

October 2013

mcdonalds menus round the world (volume 1)
from australia to zambia
October 2, 2013

March 2013

amara's oh the places you'll go! nursery
March 27, 2013

November 2012

on stuff and things
November 27, 2012

December 2011

costa rican cuisine
creating a pais marco
December 22, 2011

hummingbirds flutter
near poas volcano
December 16, 2011

from farm to table: doka estate coffee
December 13, 2011

skirts swirl
at mirador ram luna
December 9, 2011

September 2011

the taste of two years
September 30, 2011

weekly photo: bonaventure cemetery
in savannah
September 16, 2011

unmitigated luxury
at couples san souci
September 13, 2011

biltmore festival of flowers
in asheville
September 2, 2011

August 2011

elizabeth on 37th
upscale in savannah
August 26, 2011

July 2011

fig charleston
new south cuisine
July 1, 2011

April 2011

savannah southern food smackdown
paula v. wilkes
April 27, 2011

mabel francis potter's cupcake emporium
in savannah
April 1, 2011

March 2011

weekly photo: leafy gates
March 11, 2011

February 2011

weekly photo: antico pizza
February 4, 2011

steelers potato skins
February 3, 2011

December 2010

our santa
December 28, 2010

chewy's silver screen soiree
December 6, 2010

May 2010

sweet georgia skies
May 25, 2010

April 2010

April 22, 2010

September 2009

the low-down
a wrap up
September 11, 2009

oven-baked amarillos
September 4, 2009

this is Hawaii
September 02, 2009

August 2009

west maui
the easy way . . . or the hard way
August 27, 2009

the low-down
a wrap up
August 21, 2009

feeling good
August 13, 2009

glowing in luminescence
August 5, 2009

san juan
kite-flying in the old city
August 4, 2009

July 2009

healthy tropical granola
July 21, 2009