Confession: I’ve lived in Gwinnett County for nearly 15 years, and I just took my first trip to Stone Mountain as a resident. It’s not like I’d never been to Stone Mountain. I just hadn’t been since I was eight, when my family came for the laser show. Funny how things change in 20 years (fine, 28 years. I’m getting old).

It all started with our friends from Louisiana coming into town after Christmas. After roughly eight hours in the car, we knew everyone would be itching to get out and stretch their legs. So we decided to go to Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain: a 400-foot snow-covered tubing hill and an enormous snowy play area. The perfect activity for our decidedly southern children who rarely get to play in the snow because it rains so darn much here. Speaking of the rain: it sprinkled all day. You know what’s hard to make when it’s raining? Snow. So.

On to Plan B, which began with the Summit Skyride. This high-speed Swiss cable car provided an up-close-and-personal view of the confederate memorial relief while transporting us over 825 feet above ground to the top of Stone Mountain. From the top, our below-sea-level houseguests marveled over the amazing views of the Atlanta skyline, the Appalachian Mountains and more (and yes, we locals marveled too. It’s pretty incredible).

With the rain having subsided, we decided to embark on the one-mile hike down the mountain, which took about 45 minutes with a four-year-old in tow. The rocky parts were a little slippery at times, but in general it was a very easy, pleasant walk, where we encountered deer and other basically tame wildlife. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the trail would dump us on the other side of the mountain, so we had a bit of a walk ahead of us to get back to Stone Mountain Village.
Since we were there for the last days of Stone Mountain Christmas, we also enjoyed the Polar Express 4-D movie experience which may or may not have made me a little teary, and a post-Christmas visit with Mrs. Claus and an opportunity to write thank you notes for her to deliver to Santa.

The best surprise of the day? The Dinotorium! Run by mad scientist Dr. McCavius, the Dinotorium is four levels of super slides, trampoline floors, climbing structures and over 65 interactive games for Dino Rangers-in-training. It’s designed for kids ages 5-12, but I can promise you that no one had more fun shooting each other with dinosaur eggs (foam balls) than the adults in our party. We ran around sweating for about an hour, totally earning our queso at dinner.

The coolest part of our Stone Mountain adventure is that we didn’t even do half of the awesome activities! Many of the attractions were closed until warmer weather; we’ll be headed back this spring to enjoy Geyser Towers, Camp Highland Outpost, the farmyard, miniature golf and SkyHike, as well as hiking the mountain again. Pro tip: an annual pass pays for itself in two visits!