This is my kids' fall break and we are traveling from Tennessee to Orlando, Florida. So we packed up the car, said bye to the pets and housesitter and off we went on Sunday. From past experience I know that we never, ever leave when we (I) want to, so to de-stress I now plan to stop midway to our destination in order to get into a vacation frame of mind. Using points through the Sheraton Hotel system, we stayed in Atlanta at the Sheraton Suites Galleria. We've visited nearly all the Sheraton Hotels in and around Atlanta. So far this one is our favorite. The suites are perfect for a family of five. Each room has a couch that pulls out to a full size bed. So if you get a room with two doubles and use the pull-out, it fits our family size perfectly. The hotel is in an easily accessible area that appears to be safer than the others. Best yet, it is connected to a beautiful mall with lots of restaurants. Just a note, if you ever want to stay there, request that your room is on the mall side, not the side of the interstate. It is quieter.
I am a planner and believe that there are lots of things that are fun to do without breaking your wallet. I wanted to find something to do that was appealing to the kids and the adults in Atlanta before we drove the rest of the way to our destination. We started our morning at the beautiful IKEA store downtown. The restaurant opens at 9:30 and breakfast is free (eggs, bacon & potatoes) on Mondays until 11. Also, if you join their family discount program, you get free coffee whenever you visit. So for about $8 we had the free breakfast, coffee, kid drinks, fresh fruit and a couple of sides for the five of us. Of course, you will probably purchase something in the store but if you planned on that, it is quite the bargain!
Our next stop was the Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum. It is in the center of Atlanta and totally cool (and free). Parking was not a problem. There are pay spots around the square. I think it was around $2.50 for about an hour and a half which was perfect. The bank is huge but the museum portion is fairly small. When you walk in you go through security and then sign in to get badges. Some of the highlights were seeing the history of money, examining counterfeit money, lifting a real brick of gold worth nearly three quarters of a million dollars, seeing a $100,000 bill, and actually seeing the workers count piles and piles of money. There are a lot of touch screens that even the younger kids enjoyed. The museum also gives away small packets of shredded money to the visitors. My son was allowed to take enough to pass out to his classmates when he returns to school. I highly recommend visiting if you are passing through Atlanta. It's educational and who doesn't like seeing wagon loads of cash?
Another option in Atlanta that was my second choice is to visit the MLK Museum which is free as well. Probably we'll try it out the next time. Also, as we were driving south through Georgia, I noticed an aviation museum along the way. Since technology is so totally cool now and I was able to google it on my phone, I discovered that it was free and contained just a ton of planes. It will also be on my list of things to do the next time we travel this way. It's the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, GA. It has 93 aircraft and hundreds of exhibits on a 43 acre site. My kids would love it. It also appears to be close to the interstate which would make it an easy stop along the way.
We finally arrived in Orlando last night around 9 pm. We are staying in a condo resort where we have a full kitchen and two bedrooms, one with two doubles for the kids. It's a timeshare (boo, hiss) that we purchased years ago to force ourselves to actually go on vacation (it worked). I actually do really like it because it is gated (safer for kids) with lots of activities and pools. Just fyi, in case you ever want to bring frozen food with you, it does stay frozen/really cold for 24 hours if you first put in two fully frozen chickens in the bottom, fill the rest with frozen foods, and then top off with lots of ice.
What's on the list of things to do today? Well, it never goes as planned but I did a little research of free fun Orlando things to do and usually have something up my sleeve when the kids get bored. Orlando also has a lovely IKEA, and it just so happens that today is the day that kids eat free all day. We may try it out tonight. It has a great kids play area. Also, there is a site that promotes events called Yelp! which has made a deal with a few local museums around here during the month of October where if you mention Yelp! you get in for free. The Morse Museum of American Art is one of those and we may try it out since it is cloudy and possibly rainy here today. Or maybe I'll just have another cup of coffee...