Time to plan your spring break vacation or staycation

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 28, 2013 

Many area schools begin spring break on Easter weekend. For families planning staycations, we've compiled some fun activities in the Chattahoochee Valley and Atlanta to keep kids entertained.

According to Donna Comer, who owns Travels By Donna in Columbus, travel is still high on people's lists of things to do.

"Travel hasn't fallen," she said. "It's been steady. Even with this economy, people still need a break."

She said people save money to take trips. "It's something they look forward to all year. It's a big stress-relief."

For almost 30 years, Comer has been booking trips for clients. Thanks to Fort Benning, she has clients all across the country. Even after they move, many soldiers and their families continue to use her travel help.

So far for spring break, she's booked several skiing trips, as well as trips to Florida, including theme parks in Orlando.

Las Vegas is also a popular destination, even for families, Comer said.

"It's a great location," Comer said. Families take side trips to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.

Other families opt for cruises, she said. She's got a cruise for any family's budget.

Lindsey Epperly, an independent travel agent with Columbus Travel, and owner of Vacations by Lindsey, encourages families to book their trips early.

The closer it gets to spring break, the more expensive a trip can be, she said.

But the first thing to do is sit down with your family and make a list of what the children want to do and what you, as parents, like to do.

"I specialize in custom trips," Epperly said. "I listen to my clients. I get to know them."

Recently she booked a trip for a family to Washington, D.C.

"They were going for the first time," she said. "The parents were big into fitness and the son was into history. So I made sure that they were on a lot of walking tours. I can do stuff like that."

All-inclusive destinations in the Caribbean are also very popular, she said. These are often on private beaches and include the room, meals, drinks and some activities.

"We have some that really cater to kids and teens and have activities for the parents," Epperly said.

In Columbus, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit. Here are a few:

Ice Skating

The Columbus Ice Rink, 400 Fourth St. (next to the Columbus Civic Center), is open 2-7 p.m. April 1-4 and 2-9 p.m. April 5. It's $7 with a $3 skate rental. Call 706-225-4500.

National Infantry Museum, Port Columbus

You can take the kids to visit the National Infantry Museum, 1775 Legacy Way (706-685-5800) and the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus, 1002 Victory Drive (706-327-9798) for a little bit of history. The NIM will take visitors on a look at the U.S. Army's infantry over the centuries. Port Columbus features the remnants of an ironclad built in Columbus and sunk in the Chatthoochee River, along with flags, uniforms and artifacts of both navies during the Civil War.

Tours of Historic Columbus

The Historic Columbus Foundation has a tour of five houses on Broadway, including the drugstore run by John S. Pemberton, who invented Coca-Cola here. The tours are by appointment and cost $5, $1 for students. You have to have at least two people. Call 706-322-0756.

Springer Opera House

The Springer Opera House, 103 10th St., offers tours of the theater, built in 1871, at 3:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. It's $5 a person and if you're lucky, you might see a ghost. Call 706-327-3688.

Columbus Museum

The Columbus Museum, 1251 Wynnton Road, has two activities for younger ones in the family.

At the museum, check out one of the Discovery Totes. Once you finish all the activities, return it to the front desk. Then you'll be entered to win one of five of the museum's magnetic doodle boards. The drawing will be made during the week of April 8.

Fantastic Friday is 10:30 a.m. April 5. Mr. Greg will teach kids to count through music and dance. There's a special art craft in the Galleria, where kids can get a temporary tattoo and go on a scavenger hunt. Seating for Mr. Greg's show is limited. Free.

Call 706-748-2562.

Callaway Gardens

There's Callaway Gardens, just up the road on Ga. 27. Once inside the gardens, there are walking and biking paths, a birds of prey show, the Tree Top Adventures rope course and zipline and plenty of flora and fauna to see.

Don't forget the Georgia and Alabama state parks. Just look on a map to find one nearby.

Atlanta

If your budget won't allow you to take a cruise, go to Disney World or fly to an all-inclusive destination, Atlanta is a more budget-friendly option.

The best way to see some of Atlanta's top attractions is the CityPass. You don't have to wait until you get to Atlanta to buy one. Travels by Donna sells them.

For $74 (for those 13 and older) and $54 (for children ages 3-12) you can get admission to the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and the Inside the CNN Studio Tour. You also have the choice of visiting the Atlanta High Museum of Art or Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Zoo Atlanta or the Atlanta History Center.

Just remember that the CityPass must be used within nine days of the first day you used the pass. It's possible to visit all five attractions over one weekend.

Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest one, features a ticket of $29.95 or $34.95 depending on the day. This new Total Ticket gets you into the galleries, the live dolphin show and other experiences, based on availablity.

The aquarium is at 225 Baker St. N.W.

Call 404-581-4000.

Legoland

Legoland Discovery Center is in Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree St., Suite G-1, and is another child-pleasing destination.

There are plenty of play areas, a laser ride, a 4-D cinema and an exhibit of iconic Atlanta landmarks made of Legos.

It's $19 for everyone 13 and older; $15 for children ages 3-12 and free for children 2 and younger.

Adults must be accompanied by a child to go into Legoland.

Call 404-848-9252.

Six Flags

Six Flags Over Georgia has a new ride, the SkyScreamer, that is 24-feet high, and will swing riders around in a 98-foot-wide circle at 40 miles per hour. Another new Six Flags ride is the Dare Devil Dive, a "euro fighter" coaster that has a 10-story vertical life before dropping. Both open this spring.

Six Flags is at 275 Riverside Parkway in Austell.

Call 770-948-9290.

White Water

White Water, Typhoon Twister takes four people in a tube down an enclosed five-story drop before going into a 67-foot-wide bowl where you're hurled around and around until dropping through a corkscrew chute into a splash pool. It's also scheduled to open this spring.

White Water is at 250 Cobb Parkway in Marietta.

Call 770-590-4067.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain Park will have its Spring FUN Break for two weeks this year, said public relations manager Jeanine Jones.

It's from 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. March 30-April 13 with a Lasershow at 8:30 p.m. each night.

You can watch "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island -- the 4-D Experience," featuring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hughes. It's a 12-minute film.

Tickets are $28, $22 for children ages 3-11.

All vehicles entering the park must pay a $10 parking pass.

Stone Mountain is at 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. in Stone Mountain.

Call 770-498-5690

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