Like many other Georgians, I have always loved visiting Stone Mountain Park near downtown Atlanta. For me, coming around the curve of Highway 78 and catching my first glimpse of this massive chunk of granite always takes my breath no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And now that my kids are getting older, I am ready to introduce them to all that Stone Mountain Park has to offer: the mountain, the attractions, the special events.
Not surprising given its size, Stone Mountain is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. In fact, what visitors see of the mountain is just one-third of its actual size. It is estimated that the mountain goes as far as seven miles below the earth’s surface, even stretching into parts of North Carolina. I can’t even imagine what that would look like. What I do know is that what you see is quite beautiful.
Adding to the natural beauty of the mountain is the Confederate Memorial Carving on one side of the stone. The world’s largest relief sculpture, the Confederate Memorial Carving honors three Civil War figures – Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – riding on their horses. Visitors can take in the carving from the Great Lawn behind Memorial Hall, as well as inside Memorial Hall, where they’ll find exhibits on the history of Stone Mountain and the carving.
Another way to explore the mountain is by hiking to the top. The walking trail begins behind Confederate Hall Historical & Environmental Education Center, and travels upward 1.3 miles to the summit. Although it may seem like the hike would be pretty strenuous, I think it’s actually pretty easy. Even my 4-year-old was able to keep up with me as we journeyed to the top. Yes, you do need to take care as you hike because you are walking across various sizes of rocks and you don’t want to trip or lose your footing. But, for the majority of the hike, you’re not in any danger of falling over the side.
Near the summit there is one steep section, but handrails have been installed to assist you as you hike up. And, of course, once you reach the summit, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view. On a clear day, you can see as far as 40 miles, including a great view of downtown Atlanta and Kennesaw Mountain, home to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
For more explorations around the mountain, you can set out on the 15 miles of hiking and walking trails in Stone Mountain Park. Or you can enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic areas. Whatever you choose, you can be sure it will be fun.
Speaking of fun, Stone Mountain Park features a number of attractions sure to entertain all members of your family. My son’s absolute favorite is the scenic railroad. The 1940s locomotive carries guests in open-air cars on the five-mile journey around the mountain’s base accompanied by a narration of the mountain’s history. He could ride this train all day long if we let him.
Another family favorite is the mini golf course. Built around the story of The Great Locomotive Chase – a true story of a Confederate General locomotive stolen by Union spies and chased down by the train’s crew, this 18-hole course features a number of fun and challenging obstacles including broken tracks, busted bridges and a dark tunnel. My kids loved all the seemingly crazy obstacles and enjoyed seeing who could overcome them.
There are many more attractions that I have yet to show and experience with my kids, but we just haven’t had time. These include the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, a collection of buildings built between 1783 and 1875; the Summit Skyride, a tram that whisks visitors to the mountain summit; SkyHike, which is a ropes course; and Geyser Towers, a multi-level climbing structure surrounded by water features that splash guests.
One note: Unlike the access to Stone Mountain Park’s natural areas, which are free to access after paying the daily parking fee, enjoying these attractions requires a fee-based pass. See the website for current pricing and options.
The Special Events
While I love visiting Stone Mountain Park any time of year, I especially love attending the special events held throughout the year. My favorite is the annual Yellow Daisy Festival, an enormous arts and crafts fair held every fall. I love perusing the grounds, checking out all the artisans’ wares and searching for that must-have piece. I almost always pick up several Christmas presents for family and friends. Festivalsign.jpg
My second favorite is the annual Lasershow Spectacular, a laser show broadcast on the carving side of the mountain. Choreographed with music and multi-dimensional artwork, the laser show features current hits as well as tributes to our military, plus it pays homage to our Southern history. I was thrilled to take the kids for the first time this summer, and was excited that they loved it as much as I did. We’re already planning to make this an annual family tradition.
My third favorite (yes, I have lots of favorites) is Snow Mountain, a time when Stone Mountain Park makes its own snow to create snow tubing runs down the Great Lawn. In addition to snow tubing, you can play in the Snow Zone, where you can build a snowman or watch the kids climb in the snow fort.
Yes, I am in love with Stone Mountain Park, and I’m always looking for an opportunity to return. I hope you will plan your own visit to Stone Mountain Park, and let me know what you think about it. When you’re ready, check out www.stonemountainpark.com for more information.
Disclosure: Karon and her family visited Stone Mountain Park as guests of the park. All opinions herein are expressly those of the author.