Vacation. The older you get, the more that word seems to drip gold with all of its value. You want to spend your vacation where you can have a blast … where everyone’s going to have a great time, and where you’re not going to be paying for it months later. Well, whether it’s a “you and me” kind of trip, a family vacay, or a friendly fun-getaway, DeKalb County, Georgia has your number.
In Atlanta’s DeKalb County, there are fun outdoor to-dos, cool things to learn, fabulous things to eat, and awesome antiques worth renting a U-Haul to bring home (or you could just have a little self-control and only buy what’ll fit in your suitcase … but what fun is that?). If you’re looking to visit a gem of a place outside of the “big city”, then set your GPS for DeKalb.
Do it all at Stone Mountain Park
One of DeKalb’s biggest and best attractions is Stone Mountain Park. You can hike, play, stay, sightsee, golf, take in shows, and participate in special events at Stone Mountain Park. Specifically:
- Zip down, through, and around “Snow Mountain” in winter on Avalanche Alley, Tube Runners, and SnowZone.
- Get a view from above on the Summit SkyRide.
- Play through on the 18-hole golf course.
- See and explore on the hiking trails, covered bridge, and quarry exhibit.
- Learn about the hundred-plus-old Stone Mountain site at the Stone Mountain Museum.
- Get a view of the whole attraction on the scenic mountain train.
Hike, explore, and discover at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area
The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area was once the site of Creek Nation settlements. This historic and significant site in our Nation’s history is a place that enables you to:
- Explore African American history at the Flat Rock Archive.
- Bite the PATH, which is a 30-plus-mile paved trail.
- Hike the granite monadnocks and experience millions of years of history.
- Meet a society of Trappist monks at the Monetary of the Holy Spirit.
This history of the site cannot be overstated as it was founded in roughly 1800 by a Revolutionary War soldier and is resplendent with Creek Indian heritage on the land.
Discover culture at the Flat Rock Archives
The African-American culture is integral to shaping our country and to southern culture. The Flat Rock Archives is a collection of artifacts and records that goes back to the early 19th century and charts rural African-American life and history from Flat Rock, GA. Every aspect of life is covered under the Flat Rock Archives’ oversight including the Flat Rock Slave Cemetery.
Take in a flick at the Starlight Drive-In
Who else’s mama had a purse full of dollar-store candy to eat during the movies when they were kids? Well, at Starlight Drive-In, there’s no need to hide the goods. Just roll up, flip to the FM station, put on the parking brake, and bust out the goods (we mean the giant boxes of candy), and get ready for the show. Watching movies like Danny and Sandy takes you back in time. There’s nothing more iconic than the drive-in movie, which makes the Starlight Drive-In Theatre in DeKalb a must-do.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Home to massive dinosaurs (including the largest dinosaur replicas in the world) and an enormous movie screen for IMAX, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History is an interactive site for folks of all ages to explore the worlds of the past. The recent addition of an outdoor WildWoods experience featuring highline trails and hands-on experiences, along with Fernbank Forest (65 acres of towering old-growth hardwood trees home to a variety of migratory birds and other wildlife), offer visitors unique opportunities to learn (and have fun) right in the middle of Mother Nature.
A bonus for parents looking for some rainy day entertainment or just needing an outlet for their kiddos’ boundless energy: the museum’s NatureQuest is the best indoor playground around. Not everything is geared toward the pre-teen crowd, though. Debuting in February, Fernbank After Dark will present adult-centered activities, science demonstrations and encounters, after-hours museum access, films, live music, cocktails, tapas, and more the second Friday evening of every month.
Chamblee’s Antique Row
If antiquing or finding something cute, kitschy, and off-the-cuff is your jam, then Chamblee’s Antique Row is going to rock your socks. Grab your honey, your BFF, or the family and walk to what’s called the “largest and most distinctive antiques collection in the Southeast.” And, to be honest, with 14 shops and 4 restaurants, you might just spend your whole trip here. Consequently, there’s also a UPS store in the row … we suspect it’s so you can have your furniture finds shipped home, but who are we to ponder such (sips coffee, checks nails)?
Get weird on the Doll’s Head Trail at Constitution Lakes
Love hiking? Love being freaked out? Well, start your nightmares! One of the coolest and best can’t-miss sites in the DeKalb area is the Doll’s Head Trail at Constitution Lakes. In case you’re wondering, the Doll’s Head Trail is exactly what it sounds like … some darling human arts artist placed doll heads left over from the South River Floods around the site in various scenarios as part of the in situ artwork located around the trail. It’s as awesome as it is weird; it might not be ideal for small kids who get freaked out easily, but for your kids who think they’re too cool for school … here’s your chance show them who’s boss.
How iconic is Waffle House? It’s as ubiquitous as McDonald’s, but much more hipster-chic. In case you didn’t know, the very first Waffle House restaurant was opened in Decatur in 1955 following the decision that Avondale Estates was in dire need of a 24-hour eatery. The museum features Waffle House memorabilia dating back over 60 years, which is sure to wet all kinds of appetites (like your one for knowledge and hashbrowns).
Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University
They say that if we don’t know history, then we’re doomed to repeat it. Well, the good news is that you can brush up on your “avoiding certain doom” by paying a visit to the incredible Michael C. Carlos Museum and brushing up on history, art, and antiquity. Ancient art and temporary exhibitions populate the space. Subject matter ranges from Shakespeare to Grecian travels to photography.
David J. Sencer CDC Museum
Remember a few years ago when there was mass panic about an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.? Okay, we’re glad that never happened either, but remember how you became an expert overnight and were constantly monitoring CDC updates for the latest? At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum in Atlanta, you get a first-hand look at how scientists use old-fashioned detective skills and tactics to uncover some of the biggest medical mysteries known to man.
Buford Highway Farmers Market in Doraville
Buford Highway Farmers Market in Doraville is an international hub of everything, and it is positively inspired. It’s highly recommended that you bring a list and possibly do a little stretching before attempting to navigate and select among the myriad of fresh produce, dried goods, fish, meats, wines, chocolates, spices, coffees, nuts, and other sundries available at the market. Heaven forbid your family separate to “find what they want” because you’re probably never going to see them again in this mecca of a market (or if you do, they’re probably going to have found a few thousand things that they can’t leave without … and you can’t blame them).
This massive indoor market is the kind of thing that foodies’ and culinary enthusiasts’ dreams are made out of. If you are looking for exotic ingredients or planning on making some traditional ethnic cuisine, this is the place to shop. They even offer a variety of excellent cooking demonstrations—Palestinian Msakhan (a stuffed flatbread with roast chicken) or Thai Panang Beef Curry, anyone?
So, speaking of international noshes, if you’re up for something exotic (and delicious), then hit what’s called “Buford Highway”. Buford Highway, which runs through the cities of Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville, is the place to experience many dining and shopping delights from across the world (they’re anything but run-of-the-mill). The best part is that by hitting Buford Highway, you’ll literally find something for everyone in your caravan (and then some … seconds, anyone?).