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 Center. Rates 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 Park. Free.
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 Market. Free (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!
July 18, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 5, 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.