A Kid’s Guide To Atlanta: The Varsity & Zoo Atlanta

Our family is spending 5 nights in Atlanta, Georgia because we tagged along on one of DH’s work trips.  Three of the days DH is working, and the last two we are going to enjoy the city together.  I received lots of recommendations and suggestions from friends and Facebook followers for what we should see and do, having never been to Atlanta before ourselves.  I thought I would share with you a post a day of some of the places we’ve been, along with my impressions of it based on our one-time visit with a 4 and an almost 3 year old.  Hopefully these will be helpful to you if you live near the Atlanta area or are planning a trip here with young children:

1.  The Varsity Downtown — This is an old school fast food restaurant, serving hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, onion rings, grilled cheese, and fried pies.  It was one of the most recommended places by the many people we talked to.  The Varsity is dubbed the largest drive-in restaurant in the world, and you have the choice of eating outside in your car or in the building.  The large windows inside offer a great view of the downtown buildings.  Lilah ate her whole meal looking out the window at the cars.  I absolutely adore grilled pimento cheese and was pleased to find they had it on their menu, and they even offered a few different bread choices!

Pros — It’s fast food, so even though the place was bustling while we were there, the food is ready fast.  The large glass windows offer a great view of the downtown area.  You can even grab one of the cute paper hats to wear or keep as a souvenir. 

Cons — You won’t find very much “real” food on the menu here.  If you don’t like your food fried, your pickings will be slim.  I have to say the fried peach pie they offer is delicious though; just don’t tell me what’s in it!  

Overall the food was good, the view was nice, and the kids liked it.  Food-wise it isn’t the type of restaurant we normally go to, but for a vacation spot, I think the retro styling and view perspectives made it a worthy one-time stop. 🙂

2.  Zoo Atlanta — The zoo is located at 800 Cherokee Avenue, 30315-1440 and houses more than 1,500 animals from around the world.  We arrived at the zoo around 11 a.m. today (Tuesday) and the parking lot was full!  After driving around for a bit, we opted for parking on the street in front of the zoo; it wasn’t too difficult to do.  Trust me because I *hate* parking on the street, so if I say it wasn’t too bad, it really wasn’t.  We used our NC Aquarium membership to get our tickets discounted 50%, so if you have a zoo or aquarium pass from another place, check before you go to see if you get a discount.  We did the entire zoo in about 3-3.5 hours.  I’m sure we missed a couple of things, but we saw the majority of the animals, ate a quick lunch, and played on the playground during that time.  Some of our favorite animals at Zoo Atlanta were the gorillas–especially the baby!!, the tigers, the sun bears, the giant pandas, the budgies/parakeets, and the giraffes.

Pros — It was a really hot day, but much of the zoo is nicely shaded.  I was also really impressed with how close you could get to the animals!  The kids could see several of them up close and personal.  Comparatively, we just visited the NC Zoo and so many of the animals were so far away that L&L never even saw them.  We also really liked the petting zoo where L&L were able to touch and even brush some goats, and the Budgie area where you could walk in where all the parakeets were.  Neither of those cost any extra to go into, and another pro was there were soap and water hand washing stations at both! 🙂

Cons — Parking lot was full when we arrived at 11 am.  It was only a minor inconvenience, but still a con.  Food is expensive as well, but I think that is to be expected.  

We haven’t had a lot of different zoo experiences, but this is definitely one of my personal favorites so far.  I will post a more in-depth review on this zoo in the near future, but just couldn’t wait to share some of the photos we captured!! 🙂

Stay tuned for more kid-friendly fun in Atlanta later this week!

Have you been to the Varsity or Zoo Atlanta?  
What’s your opinion?

This post may contain affiliate links.

Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • I’ve been to the Varsity in Alpharetta (close to me), but never ate at the one downtown (I’ve driven past it though). You have to try the Frosted Orange, onion rings and a chili dog… yumm!!! I can’t eat there more than once every six months, but sometimes it’s exactly what I was craving. It’s also a great place to bring family and other out of town guests.

    Zoo Atlanta is my favorite! We had a membership to the NC Zoo and went quite a few times, but to me, Zoo Atlanta beats the NC Zoo hands down! I love that I can see the entire zoo, in less than three hours. It’s not five miles like the NC Zoo, and you can get REALLY close to the animals!!

    Parking can be bad during the summer. It’s weird coming from NC (especially Wake County) where there’s year round schools. Here, it’s traditional calendar and when you get to June, July, and August, you’ll have crowds everywhere. If you were to come to Atlanta during any other season, you wouldn’t have a problem finding a parking spot at all. 🙂

    Did you get to go to the Aquarium? It’s also super busy during the summer, but incredible none-the-less. There’s also LegoLand (also busy) and Imagine It Children’s Museum.

    Hope your visit to Atlanta has been enjoyable!! You should come back when the kids are back in school!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I live in Georgia! You picked a couple of great spots to visit!

    My in-laws actually got engaged at The Varsity (romantic, hun?) so we eat there once or twice a year. That’s a special spot especially for those who grew up in Avondale and also those Georgia Techers! One of the main things they are famous for is their greeting, “Whataya have? Whatya have?” Did you happen to notice that? 🙂

    We usually visit Zoo Atlanta once per year. It’s great but one of those hot spots that we visit when the rest of the world is in school. Also, they are one of the few places that actually let you bring coolers into the park so you can picnic there.

    You might want to visit Fernbank Museum while you’re here. They may be closing in the very near future due to financial difficulties.

    Thanks for sharing. It was neat to read about your experiences. I hope your visit is wonderful!

  • Looks like a fun time for your little ones! My teens and I are off to see the San Diego Zoo today. I hope we have as much fun! 😉

  • Opal Stevens says:

    No, I’ve never been. I was born in Atlanta but only lived there for about 2 years. I’d love to go back though! I’m glad you and your family had such a great time 😀

  • Tag-a-long trips are wonderful! And I love Atlanta.

  • Tawnee says:

    Looks like a really great place. I”ll have to check it out if we ever make it to Atlanta. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle says:

    Never been to Atlanta except the airport to get to Florida, BUT we do plan on driving to Florida in the next couple of years and we’ll definitely stop in Atlanta to check it all out! Looks like you guys had fun though:)

  • Joy says:

    Parking can be bad in summer if you don’t get there right at open. I did notice you fail to take advantage of and mention a HUGE pro. They allow outside food and drink. You can get there and stay all day with no additional cost if you pack a light cooler. As Zoo members we take advantage of this pro all the time. It is our number one low cost activity of choice since starting out membership.

  • Gina says:

    I realize that I have *never* taken my children to the zoo!! In Louisville (and nearby Indy) we are reported to have nice zoos and this has been an encouragement to try one! Thank you!

  • >