Fernbank Science Museum in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta will never cease to amaze me with all its amazing options for kids. We’ve recently become Fernbank Museum members. Atlanta’s natural history museum continues to bring in amazing traveling exhibitions, has indoor and outdoor play space and an outstanding shell collection.
The museum’s permanent collection is showing its age and could use a bit of a facelift, but you are likely to not even notice, as doing everything at the museum would take a full day. Instead prioritize the traveling exhibitions, the hands-on learning stations and play spaces for a fabulous day.
There is plenty of free parking on property. We like to pack a lunch or plan a half day at the museum with lunch at home. There is a small cafe in the museum. It is also located near major roads with plenty of great food options.
Fernbank Forest is the newest addition to the museum. I hurried to make sure our first visit was during the art installation of larger than life bugs. The Big Little is an avid bug lover and enjoyed these larger critters.
This is the most European forest walk we’ve encountered since returning from abroad. The playground and nature meld together, keeping everyone entertained as you walk outside.
There are rocks to climb and games to stop and play. The paved path has short cuts for the kids to take by climbing and hopping.
Large frames encourage you to take in what you are seeing as if it was art. The Littles also loved running further down the path to be “in” the framed picture.
The path invites kids to explore with all their senses. This texture wall was both visually appealing and fun to touch.
Dedicated playgrounds are a draw for families. The larger playground for older kids was challenging for my Little (2) and Middle (5) Little while still being fun for the Big Little (7).
They darted over rope bridges through the forest canopy and clamored through rope tunnels on the ground.
Information boards are integrated into the play area inviting the kids to be citizen scientistsa through play.
It was hard to pull them away from this amazing playground.
A second playground, aimed at slightly younger kids, was also quite fun for them to enjoy. Animals are hidden all around this play structure in their habitats, perfect for the big kids to seek out.
The Little Little loved this silly slide that looks like it is made out of a log. This area of the forest also includes a water play area, so make sure you pack some swimsuits if the day is hot. The water play area has shallow pools so it’s suitable for most ages.
There is plenty of pathway to walk in the Fernbank Forest. We usually get sucked into the play areas and don’t make it very far but both raised trails and soft trails extend throughout the forest.
Indoor Play Area
On the third floor of Fernbank you will find “Nature Quest,” the indoor play area. We visited on a rainy weekend so it was crowded. The space handles crowds well though. Our kids are independent players and ran off, checking in with us every now and then.
The indoor space has climbing and crawling areas, logs and stones to cross. The main rope bridge is accessible by stairs on both sides making it easy for parents to accompany hesitant or little kids.
Throughout the room real animal habitats are built in. So you might find yourself standing next to some baby alligators or a salamander. Crawl into one of the logs and you’ll find a video of a raccoon.
This space is meant to be explored and my favorite features are tucked into the back. Here, pieces of the wall can actually be pulled out like a drawer to reveal fossils. Geodes are built into the wall and kids are encouraged to touch them as they sparkle. You can also use a flashlight to spot animals in a cave.
Everyone found something in this room to enjoy. They all begged to come back and play here on the next rainy day!
Every time we visit Fernbank they have different things out on the carts around the museum. These volunteers are always happy to interact with the kids and the carts are completely hands-on. The archaeology cart had the kids digging for artifacts and then guessing what they found. I also learned how to spot the difference between an arrowhead and a spearhead.
The education space has an exhibition from NASA packed with fun things. The Little Little drove Mars rovers over a table that boasts a picture of the martian surface. Meanwhile, the Big and Middle Littles built satellites and put them through spin and shake tests to see how they held up.
Many of Fernbank’s collections are not large but they are well presented. The gemsstones with magnifying glass were beautifully presented. They also have an outstanding (and large) shell collection on the ground floor.
The bulk of Fernbank’s permanent collection is displayed in dioramas of Georgia’s regions and the wildlife you find there. This is interspersed with dinosaur bones. Despite feeling outdated it’s still fascinating and fun for the kids to explore.
The video at the start of the exhibit explains the big bang theory covering so many complicated physics concepts in an understandable way that it is worth watching, despite its 1990’s graphics.
Fernbank is absolutely worth some time on your Atlanta itinerary, particularly if you are looking for a family friendly museum option.