Albany GA rolls out the welcome mats for families
Mingle with the meerkats in the wild. Search the night sky for Black Holes. Meet creatures of the deep and go hands-on with interactive science and art projects. For families looking for wallet-friendly fun, Albany, Georgia has adventure that breaks the same-old/same-old mold but won’t break the bank.
Located on the Flint River in the southwest corner of the Peach State, Albany has a zoo, a Riverquarium, museums and lots of parks and gardens – but they are hardly run-of-the-mill – and many of the attractions are free. These include Turtle Grove Play Park at RiverFront Park, Legacy Park, Thronateeska Heritage Center (charge for the planetarium shows), the Albany Museum of Art, and the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center where kids can pick up a souvenir stuffed turtle, Albany’s mascot.
Chehaw, an animal and adventure park, is where the meerkats hang out – and these four furry charmers are always ready for their close-up. There are 55 species in the Wild Animal Park that was designed by naturalist Jim Fowler, the former host of television’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”: African black rhinos, cheetahs, lemurs, zebras, bobcats, gopher tortoises, American bald eagles and, the newest residents, baby emus.
Visit Chehaw’s Alligator Outpost and the children’s farm and stroll through a cypress swamp. Let the kids climb all over one of the largest children's play structures in the region and, this winter, go on a safari expedition for an up-close-and-personal tour to meet some of some of the animals.
The 175,000-gallon Flint RiverQuarium has a unique blue hole spring with more than 120 mysterious creatures – some, like the mudskipper and green heron, that you can meet during weekend animal encounters. Other ways to learn more about the animals are at the weekend dive show at the blue hole and the Saturday alligator feeding at Spring Run Creek. (You might see one of the RiverQuarium’s most famous residents, a rare albino alligator named Moonshine, who lives in the aquarium’s “Alligators: Dragons in Paradise” exhibit.) You can also grab a seat at the Imagination Theater and watch a movie that brings nature to life, like “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure.”
Interactive fun awaits at the Science Discovery Center at Thronateeska Heritage Center – where you’ll also find a planetarium and history museum – and at the Art Museum of Albany with its kid-pleasing Amazing Space interactive play area.
Kids can romp to their heart’s content at Turtle Grove Play Park, located at RiverFront Park, with its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain, and at the new Legacy Park, with 18-hole disc golf, fishing pond (poles available), soccer, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, sand volleyball, a mile and a half walking track, recreational facilities and more. The All American Fun Park lives up to its name with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.
Ease into downtime with a visit to the Albany Civil Rights Institute, where you can listen to the Freedom Singers perform a concert of “come-and-meet-hymns” on the second Saturday of each month, or a stroll through lush, new Radium Springs, one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, a gorgeous swatch of green with historic courtyard, indigenous and exotic flora and casino garden.
Fun family eateries include The Cookie Shoppe and Harvest Moon for pizza, among other kid-friendly places. Young shoppers will want to spend their mad money at the gift shops at the Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw. Albany has more than two dozen hotels – and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities. Information: Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.visitalbanyga.com, 1-866-750-0840