by Alyssa Chirco
Atlanta is a short drive to numerous lakes with sandy beaches. A staycation can be as simple as packing up the whole family and heading out to enjoy the sand and sun. Take a daytrip to Lake Lanier, Callaway Gardens’ Robin Lake, Lake Allatoona or Atlanta Beach in Clayton County. You can also bring the beach home: Fill a kiddie or blow-up pool with water in your backyard, and then surround it with several bags of sand from a home improvement store. Add a few beach balls for playing catch and pails and shovels for building sandcastles. Bring out the lounge chairs and sunscreen, and don’t forget to whip up some fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas for the ultimate beach day experience.
Really close to home, Stone Mountain Park has campsites for tent or RV camping, for as little as $25 a night. You’ll have to get in line to try out one of the park’s three new yurts – a way to camp with more comfortable accommodations than a tent (heat and air conditioning, electricity and ceiling fans); the yurts are popular and have limited availability until fall. Find out more at stonemountainpark.com or call 800-385-9807.
Take a daytrip to a nearby state park or plan a couple of days there – park rentals are inexpensive and a day or two spent fishing, hiking and geocaching in the fresh air and sunshine will feel like a true vacation. Yes, you can still reserve campsites at gastateparks.org or by calling 800-864-7275 (cabins at some state parks may already be reserved, but cancellations happen). If your kids are strong swimmers, plan a daytrip for a family float down the Chattahoochee, the Nantahala or Ocoee rivers – no need to own a raft, you can rent one from an outfitter or take a guided raft trip. Or, save the gas and pitch a tent in your backyard to spend a couple of nights sleeping under the stars. Spend your days going on outdoor scavenger hunts to collect objects like leaves and insects and your evenings roasting marshmallows and telling spooky stories around the campfire. In this scenario, you also enjoy the added benefit of indoor plumbing when nature calls.
You love the city where you live, but how much time do you spend taking advantage of all it has to offer? Pretend you are tourists. Here are some ideas:
Visit local museums, parks and attractions. Atlanta’s list of great museums and attractions is a long one, from the newest – the SkyView Ferris Wheel, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and College Football Hall of Fame – to longtime favorites, Zoo Atlanta, Georgia Aquarium, Coca-Cola Museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta History Center and many more. Find a complete list at atlantaparent.com.
Attend a sporting event and root for your hometown team. Tickets to the Atlanta Braves, Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta Dream, Atlanta Silverbacks or Atlanta Rollergirls will make for a memorable afternoon or evening.
For the thrill of an amusement park, purchase tickets to White Water or Six Flags Over Georgia for a family fun day.
Bike local trails. Pack a picnic or stop at a locally-owned restaurant or ice cream stand along the way. Atlanta Parent’s June issue, also online at atlantaparent.com, has all you need to know to plan a route.
Splurge on tickets to a concert or musical. Upcoming events at the Fox Theatre include the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival and the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long; at the Cobb Energy Centre, kids might enjoy the musical Cats. And don’t forget community theater productions and family-rated films with special pricing at local movie theaters.
Learn some hometown history by visiting historical sites and monuments such as the Atlanta History Center or Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Many metro Atlanta communities hold parades, carnivals and festivals throughout the summer months. Mark your calendar and make plans to attend one or several.
Some families say spending a few nights at a local hotel can make a hometown staycation feel more like a vacation. Look for one with a pool where the kids can swim. Make your stay memorable by ordering room service and enjoying breakfast in bed before you head out to explore the city.
Sometimes, the best staycations are all about staying home:
Turn your house into a spa by lighting aromatherapy candles, sipping on spa water infused with fruit and mint and pampering each other with mud masks and massages.
Throw a pajama party and spend a few days lounging on the couch in your most comfortable jammies, enjoying a marathon of your family’s favorite movies.
Host a family board game tournament or backyard field day with prizes for the winners.
Start a family book club and spend your staycation reading the same books, then discussing them together over ice cream sundaes.
Conclude your at-home staycation by inviting the neighbors for a block party. Get creative with a Mexican fiesta or Hawaiian luau theme or keep it simple by planning a few fun games like kickball and water balloon toss and making it a potluck.
A staycation is, essentially, a vacation that revolves around staying home. Some families choose staycation activities that don’t even require them to leave the house, while others prefer to explore their local community with daytrips or an overnight stay at a local hotel or campsite.
These guidelines will ensure it feels like a true vacation for everyone:
Take time off from work. Whether your staycation lasts for a full week or just a long weekend, resist the urge to check in with the office.
Unplug. Your staycation does not have to be entirely screen-free, but put away the smartphones and tablets in favor of games, conversations and connections with loved ones.
Make a meal plan. Take a vacation from your kitchen, too, by stocking up on sandwich fixings for simple, no-cook meals or dining out at restaurants where someone else will do the dishes.
Avoid non-essential household tasks. Fight the urge to do laundry or clean out your closet. If it isn’t a task you normally do on vacation, you shouldn’t be doing it on a staycation either.
Think about what you want to achieve. Is your goal to have a relaxing, do-nothing staycation that is all about staying home? Or do you want to get out of the house and enjoy new experiences together? Staycations are supposed to be fun, not stressful, so be sure to customize yours for your family.