Omni Hotel at CNN Center – Atlanta, Georgia

When I think of the Omni Hotels and Resorts, a luxurious business accommodation is what comes to mind first.  My two children running through the halls of an Omni hotel, fighting over who gets to push the buttons at the elevator, and coloring with markers that promise to be washable if they happen to color off the book and onto the sheets is not what comes to mind.  After a visit to the Omni Hotel at CNN Center with my family, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only do the Omni properties cater to people traveling without children but they also cater to families.

Atlanta is about a 6 hour drive from our house and we have made the weekend trip several times before.  We typically stay in the Perimeter or near Turner Field because it is less expensive than staying downtown.  However, we often find ourselves spending money on gas traveling from attractions to our hotel.  We spend a ridiculous amount of money on parking downtown.  I find that we don’t see a lot of the things that we would want to see because of those added costs.  On this trip, though, we were able to experience staying right in the middle of downtown Atlanta in the heart of the Luckie Marietta District.

(Usually, I do a better job of snapping pictures before my kids pile their junk in our room.  I thought this picture was fitting though…all their kid junk sitting on our comfy bedding!)

Location

The Omni Hotel at CNN Center is located within a short walk of many family friendly attractions and restaurants making it a convenient location for a family weekend getaway.  The hotel is two towers and is attached to the CNN Center, CNN’s world headquarters.  On one side, it is situated right next to Centennial Park where we spent a lot of time running energy off and on the other side is the Georgia Dome.  The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola are both just a few blocks away as is Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

Accommodations

We stayed in a two bed room with a little work station and a chair to relax in.  The bathroom was a good size and was one of the cleanest hotel bathrooms that we have ever seen! Our view of the city of Atlanta kept my kids entertained for quite awhile.  They loved looking out at the buildings as the sun set and the city began to light up.  The room was tastefully decorated but I wasn’t worried about my kids breaking anything.

Amenities

I love the little touches that can be found around the Omni Hotels and Resorts.  You can have complimentary beverage service delivered to your room.  We joined the Omni Select Guest program and received free wireless during the length of our stay.  There is a basket full of apples at the check-in desk and water flavored with lemons and limes.  My daughter grabbed an apple each day as we walked out for our day’s adventures.  For guests that want to stay healthy while traveling, they can request a Get Fit Kit that has dumb-bells, a floor mat, stretch cords, and more.  The spa offers massages, nail services and more.

For the Kids

Kids are welcomed to the Omni Hotels with the Omni Sensational Kids program.  When you check in to the hotel, the kids will be given a backpack full of fun goodies to keep them occupied.  We saw these backpacks on children wandering all over the CNN Center!  The backpack had a kick sack, Twizzlers to snack on, crayons, an activity map and more.  My daughter has been carrying the magnifying glass with her everywhere since she got it.  She likes to take it outside to hunt for bugs.  On the night of your arrival, the kids will get a special delivery of fresh cookies and milk that are perfect to snack on right before getting tucked into bed.  If you pack lightly (unlike my kids who pack their own backpacks to full of their favorite toys that they can hardly zip them up), you can request to borrow a rolling backpack with toys, books and games.

Lions and Tigers and Elephants! Oh my!

The Greatest Show on Earth will be in Atlanta from February 15th to the 20th and they are offering the Under the Big Top package during those dates.  The Omni CNN Center is within walking distance of the Circus Ring, which is at the Philips Arena, and the package includes a complimentary breakfast every day and offering circus-themed snacks.

*Thank you to the Omni Hotel at CNN Center for hosting us. As always, my opinions are my own with no outside influences.

A Look Behind the Scenes of the Georgia Dome

Touring sports stadiums began as a way to make it up to my husband because we were in a city that was home to a sports team playing an away game.  We live in a smaller city, that despite its size, offers some college sports and this March we will welcome a minor league baseball team to a waterfront stadium.  When we travel, we try to attend as many sporting events as possible but as luck would have it, we always seem to be visiting while the team is playing an away game.  One summer we even had the unfortunate luck of visiting three cities that had baseball teams playing against each other, in the city we had just visited all three times.

When we can’t see the sports team in action, we visit their venue and take a tour.  On our weekend getaway to Atlanta, we realized that our hotel, the Omni at the CNN Center, was just a short walk from the Georgia Dome where the Atlanta Falcons play football.   We were excited to discover that tours of the Georgia Dome were starting back up that morning and we got there just in time for the next tour.  It was also fun to note this close to the Super Bowl that the Georgia Dome is one of the stadiums of Super Bowls past.

The Georgia Dome tour starts with a bird’s eye view of the whole stadium on the Observatory Deck.  This is where the coaches  and officials watch the game in the highest seats in the house.  The roof of the Dome is the world’s largest cable supported roof.  During the tour, visitors get to see  one of the largest press boxes with prime real estate right on the 50 yard line.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was seeing this great art installation made up of helmets from all the different high schools in Georgia.

Visitors get a look at the suites but unfortunately for us, they had just finished a Monster Jam event so the suites were sealed up tight with plastic so as not to let any dirt in.  We weren’t able to view the suites because they had not finished cleaning up the dirt.  One thing that was interesting to note is that the Georgia Dome has their own dirt pile that they house throughout the year and bring into the Dome for events like motorcross or truck jams.

We got a sneak peek of the lounges that we could only dream about visiting during a game.  When we finished sitting in the bright red comfy chairs in the lounge, we were taken to the lower level where visitors get a great view of the field.  These would be great seats to watch the game.  If you aren’t sitting in your seat during part of the game, don’t fret because there are televisions everywhere…even in the elevators!

After visiting the lower level, we headed to the part that we were waiting for-the locker room and field!  The locker room was much cleaner than I had anticipated.  The locker room certainly didn’t look like some of the high school locker rooms I have been in!  The kids got to see where the players hang their jerseys and get ready for the game.

Unfortunately for my daughter, the cheerleaders’ locker room was locked up tight but we did get to see it before we got to walk out on the field.

Before you go, be sure to read my tips for touring a stadium with children.

Things to Know Before You Go:

  • The Georgia Dome offers tours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in between ten and 2.  The tours typically leave every hour on the hour.
  • The tour cost is $6 for adults, $5 for college students, seniors and military personnel with valid IDS, and $4 for children.
  • The Georgia Dome accepts both cash and credit card.  You pay when you arrive for the tour.
  • Tours are not available on all scheduled days so call ahead of time.  Tours are also unavailable on event days.
  • You do not need a reservation to take the tour but I recommend you call ahead of time to confirm the tours are being conducted that day.
  • For more information or to check and see if tours are being given on a certain day, call 404.223.8687.

 

Georgia Aquarium – Tips to Making the Best of Your Visit and Enjoying It, Too

Have you ever been so excited to visit somewhere, but when you visit it just didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to?  Is there a city or an attraction that you really want to love but just couldn’t for one reason or another?

I really, really want to love the Georgia Aquarium. If there is an aquarium nearby, we visit it.  We love wandering around and looking at all the fish.  There is so much to love about the world’s largest aquarium from the beautiful displays to the hands-on activities.  It is one of the few places to see whale sharks, there is a dolphin show that the kids love and a 4D theater.  We have been to the aquarium several times and I just can’t love-LOVE-it…until now.  Sort of.

The number one reason that I just can’t love the Georgia Aquarium the way I want to is because it has always been ridiculously crowded when we have been.  It is crowded with grown adults who are acting like they don’t see the little children all around them just wanting to catch a glimpse of a fish swimming through the water.  People are pushing and shoving to get past you.  Just when you get to a viewing window, someone jumps in front of you.  I have been to the aquarium during holidays, the middle of the week, early in the morning, and late in the afternoon but it is always packed wall to wall with people.

On this visit, though, we took one of several behind the scenes tours that are offered.  We were able to see the top of the Ocean Voyager exhibit which houses the whale sharks.  We got there just in time for the 10:30am feeding where we watched aquarium staff float on top of the water dropping the whale sharks their mid-morning snack.

We also saw the top of the live coral reef exhibit, the commissary where they prepare the food for the fish, and the veterinary clinic.  We learned how you can look up to see a water wonderland and not this:

There are several options for Behind the Scenes tours for various budgets.

Here are a few of our tips to help you make the best of your visit and enjoy it.

Book a Behind the Scenes tour in advance if it is in the budget.  This will give you a look at some things you might have missed and tours are limited in size.  The Quick Dip tour is only about twenty minutes in length and costs $14+tax per person.

If you haven’t already booked a time, head to Guest Services as soon as you arrive to pick up your show times for the Dolphin Tales Show and the Deepo’s Undersea Wondershow. Both are included in your ticket but times are limited and are first come, first serve.  We got our movie times booked at 12noon and the next available show was 4pm.

Get in line early.  Ticket entry is done on a timed basis.  You will choose your time when you purchase your tickets.  If your entry time is 2pm, do not expect to walk up to the aquarium at 1:59pm and be inside by 2.  We waited in line for almost 30m before we got into the aquarium.

Save money by visiting during off-peak times.  Ticket prices vary and they are lower during the traditionally off-peak periods.

Leave the strollers at home unless absolutely necessary.  Because the aquarium gets crowded, strollers just get in the way.  Consider wearing your little one in a sling or something similar.  There are a number of places where you have to leave the stroller to enter an exhibit.

Leave the guns, knives, matches, lighters, and fishing poles (yes, it really does say fishing poles on the website) at home.  This may seem silly but my husband had to turn in his pocket knife, which he carries everywhere.  You aren’t surrendering it forever; you check it, and get it back later.  When we were picking up the knife at the end of our visit, we saw the box of lighters that had been collected during the day.  There must have been 1000 lighters in the box!

Know that there is a security check.  Purses and bags are all checked before you are allowed to enter the aquarium.

See the Dolphin Tales show and get there early.  I thought the Dolphin Tales show was a little bit Sea World meets Las Vegas and my kids adored it.  They loved the storyline, the dolphins jumping in and out of the water, and the performers swimming with them.

You can not bring food into the aquarium.  There is a small restaurant, but it is pricey.  We needed a snack so we bought a  brownie, a bottle of soda and a bottle of water for 10 dollars.  If you are buying your ticket online, you can purchase one of three meals ahead of time, Cafe Aquaria Combos, for $10 each (at a savings of up to 17% compared to regular pricing).  A sample meal is a hamburger, french fries, whole fruit and a fountain drink.  No substitutions can be made at time of purchase.

You will have to pay to park.  You can also purchase parking ahead of time with your ticket.  We walked from our hotel during the visit but we have parked in a nearby parking garage during past visits.

Have you ever had an activity or city that you wanted to love but something prevented it?  Was there something that made you change your mind (like the Behind the Scenes tour changed my mind about the Georgia Aquarium)?  Share with us in the comments!

*Thank you to the Omni at the CNN Center for providing us with tickets to the Georgia Aquarium.  As always, opinions are mine with no outside influences.

Crowds (on a holiday weekend)

This past weekend we went to the Georgia Aquarium.  Even though we have been to the aquarium two other times, this weekend, we got a Behind the Scenes tour that was amazing and worth the visit.  More on our visit later but I leave you with the one reason I highly recommend the Behind the Scenes tour if you are headed to the Georgia Aquarium…

Visit Delicious Baby to see other Photo Friday submissions!

*Thank you to the Omni CNN Center for covering our cost to the Georgia Aquarium.  As always, opinions are always my own and not influenced by any outside influences.

Which experience will stick with my kids?

They stood in front of a screen that was bright green but they were confused.  My kids could see that they were standing in front of a green screen but when they looked at themselves on the television, the monitor showed them standing in front of a map of the United States.  Both of their heads swung back and forth from the television to the screen behind them and looked up at our tour guide, Kimberly, with questioning eyes.

From the front row of our tour, I could almost hear them talking to themselves.  My son would say, “Hey?!? How on earth does that work?”

“This is totally freaking me out,” my daughter would exclaim.  That is her new favorite saying and as she looked for me in the small crowd I could see it in her face.

This was the second stop on our Inside CNN Tour at CNN’s World Headquarters, the largest of 48 worldwide.  The first stop was a brief introduction and a little bit of information about how the shows are produced.  It was interesting to me after teaching Journalism I, which included a 6-week unit of broadcasting.  It seemed to hold my husband’s attention because he is actually a CNN (of the Internet variety) junkie.  Surprisingly enough, my five and seven-year-old children were captivated.  When I first found out that we were scheduled for this tour, I was a little concerned that much of it would be over their heads and not entertaining enough. Well, that is what I get for worrying.

My kids were beyond thrilled when our tour guide called them both up to show everyone how the green screen worked.  She grabbed a matching green sheet and threw it over their bodies so that only their heads were showing.  Then, she pulled the sheet up over their heads so it was almost like they were hiding under Harry Potter’s invisible cloak (at least on camera!).

As I stood there watching two of the people I love most in this world, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed.  I know it sounds cheesy and I am typically not prone to emotional bouts but while they stood mesmerized in front of that green screen, my mind was racing a million miles a minute as I fast forwarded through their lives.  The mental picture included them in high school journalism and then behind a broadcast desk much like the one that we saw Kyra Phillips sitting behind. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face as I wondered if this would be the one experience that clicked.

We are working hard to teach our children that they can be anything that they want to be (and that a backup plan is a healthy part of career planning as well!).  I wonder which of these things we expose them to will be the one thing to stick.  Which one of these travel and life experiences will make a lasting impression and guide their career choices later in life?

Who knows?  Maybe it will be that one trip to Atlanta where we got to pretend to be on CNN.

*Thank you to the Omni Hotel at CNN Center for covering our tour cost.  As always, all opinions are my own with no outside influence.

Dreaming of Callaway Gardens

callaway gardens

Callaway Gardens is a beautiful spot hidden away in South Georgia that makes for a great family getaway.  In a few weekends, we will be making the four hour drive to Callaway Gardens to visit for the first time.  Everytime we drive north from our home, we pass Callaway Gardens.  Each time we do, I always tell my husband that I want to plan a trip there sometime.  We are finally going to get to make the trip!

Besides the beautiful gardens, we will check out the nature trails and then when we are good and hot from our walk we will head to Robin Lake Beach where we will do some swimming and maybe check out a paddle boat.  There is a butterfly center, a Birds of Prey show as well as some ziplines to try out.  I think that we will have plenty to keep us busy during the two days we will spend at Callaway Gardens!

Where are you traveling over the next few weeks?

Join Mara over at Mother of All Trips to share your Monday Dream!

*Photo Courtesy of Tony Crescibene via Flickr.

Dreaming of Hotlanta!

coke world

This picture is of a very young me at Coca Cola World in Atlanta!  During our first year of marriage, my hubs and I headed to Tennessee where we visited extended family for Thanksgiving.  On the way home, we stopped for a night in Atlanta.  That is where I fell in love with Atlanta, a bustling city with southern charm. In a few weeks, the hubs and I will be headed back to Atlanta but this time we will have two kids with us!  I am so excited about this trip!  I am looking forward to the weekend away, visiting the Georgia Aquarium, the fountain rings in Olympic Park, and the children’s garden at Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  I am also looking forward to meeting up with my blogger buddy, Amy, from Atlanta with Kid and The Q Family Adventures.  I hope our schedules work out so that we can meet up with the kiddies!

Mayfield Dairy – Braselton, Georgia

dairy1 (Small)

When researching our road trip, I headed to PitStops for Kids to see if there were any exciting finds right off of the interstates that we were going to be on.  Mayfield Dairy caught my attention, because everyone in our family likes ice cream!  We got a late start from our house, drove about 6 hours and decided to look for a hotel around 11pm…this put us right in the middle of the little town of Braseltown, Georgia!  As we pulled off the interstate, we passed a sign pointing to the Mayfield Dairy!  We decided to head over the next day before we made the rest of the drive to Virginia (about 8 more hours). 

The Mayfield Dairy is a short factory tour.  The tour starts in a little room where you watch a short video about the dairy.  Then everybody gets to don a hairnet (and for the sake of this blog and Photo Friday I am actually posting the picture here!). 

dairy (Small)

My son was not happy about this but when he found out that he couldn’t go on the tour without it he tolerated it.  After everyone is suited up, you head into the factory.  The two missing items that I thought I might get to see?  Cows and ice cream.  No cows-the milk is brought in and then bottled.  No ice cream-ice cream is made in the other plants, not the Braselton one.  The tour was still great.  The kids loved to watch the milk jugs spin all around the rooms and they do sell ice cream at the end.  The ice cream is cheap – $2 a cup! 

dairy2 (Small)

Plan on spending about an hour if you are going to take the tour!

dairy3 (Small)

Stop by Delicious Baby to check out other Photo Friday travel pictures!
Braselton Things To Do

Photo Friday!

We have been busy preparing for our trip…wrapping presents, picking up last minute travel things, charging batteries up, and checking the passports…900 times! The pictures I have included for Photo Friday, hosted by Delicious Baby, are from one of our Atlanta trips. Check out Delicious Baby to see great pictures from other travelers!

We went to the Georgia Aquarium while we were there. The Georgia Aquarium has some amazing exhibits. My son especially liked the whale sharks thanks to Go Diego Go! Unfortunately, the aquarium setup leaves a bit to be desired. You explore the exhibits off of a main room and it is sometimes difficult to get back to the main room due to the crowds. It is well worth the trip, but I recommend you make it on a weekday in the afternoon. In doing this, you will avoid the massive weekend crowds and the school trips. We waited and waited, but were glad we did! We also saw my mom’s family friend, Garrett Atkins (Go Rockies!!!), beat the Braves.

Jellyfish!


The famous whale sharks!
Go Garrett!