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Youth Focus: Atlanta

Courtesy Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta is the metropolis of the South, bustling with activity and brimming with possibilities. For young travelers, this city’s energy makes it one of the most exciting destinations in the region, offering an abundance of attractions and opportunities found in few other Southern destinations.

Youth leaders who take groups to Atlanta will find numerous ways to keep their students entertained, educated and engaged. Highlights include visiting the world’s largest aquarium, tasting Coca-Cola products from around the world in a museum and seeing the inner workings of the world’s largest cable news network. Along the way, Stone Mountain Park and Centennial Park make memorable stops.

Make sure these attractions make it onto your youth group’s next Atlanta itinerary.

[ Big fish ]

No matter how you measure it, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, with more than 10 million gallons of water in tanks that comprise six massive exhibits.

Among the most celebrated exhibits is Ocean Voyager, where visitors will find such elusive creatures as manta rays and 40-foot-long whale sharks. This single tank contains 6.3 million gallons of water, providing a home for thousands of fish and other animals that live together in the habitat.

In another exhibit, called Tropical Diver, the aquarium staff has grown a live coral reef and filled the tank with myriad brightly colored exotic fish. The Cold Water Quest gallery houses beluga whales, an expanded penguin habitat and other cold-climate animals. Other areas, such as the River Scout and Georgia Explorer galleries, focus on animals that can be found in various regions of the United States.

Last year, the aquarium completed a 100,000-square-foot expansion and opened Dolphin Tales, a new exhibit with a dolphin show and trainer experiences.

[ Olympic site ]
Today’s youth group travelers are probably too young to remember the 1996 Summer Olympics that took place in Atlanta, but the event is memorialized at Centennial Olympic Park downtown.

The 1996 event was the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics, and Centennial Park was at the center of the action. After the games, city officials redesigned the park to be a permanent fixture of Atlanta. Today, visitors can splash in the Fountain of Rings, a large-scale fountain that forms the shape of the Olympic rings with spraying water.

Activities at the park vary by season. In the warm months, the park hosts a series of concerts; an outdoor ice skating rink draws visitors in winter. Special events at the park include a Fourth of July celebration and the “Holiday in Lights” show in December.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.