Confederate Relief at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta Georgia 4 header

Um, What’s up with Stone Mountain?

Georgia, ooohhh Georgia… Yep, it’s on our mind a lot because we love it.  Or at least we love most of it.  And we always think it’s hot in the South.  Like, always.  It’s not though.  Did you know they can get snow and frost and stuff?  OMG!  Okay, that’s an extreme reaction to standard weather, but when we travel to the Southeast we are counting on sunshine, humidity and thunderstorms, and we expect this any time of year.  Recently we were seeing the sights with our family that live in Atlanta and we all went to Stone Mountain, who graciously welcomed us.  It was a sunny day…but stone cold.  We went to stone cold Stone Mountain.  We froze; we rode a gondola; we froze; we rode a train… It was an experience to learn from.  Besides the cold what other unexpected surprises did Stone Mountain offer us?

 

Thrills at Stone Mountain

What did we find at Stone Mountain in Atlanta? History, a gondola and a protest? More than we bargained for. 2traveldads.comThrills and claustrophobia.  Ever been on a gondola?  We’re not talking about a romantic boat voyage for two through the canals of Venice.  We’re talking a skytram-type scary can of people soaring through the air with hundreds of feet below to potentially plummet down.  Can you tell that the gondola isn’t for everybody?  While all five kids we had with us were excited to fly through the sky, this dad (Rob) was not!  It wasn’t so bad, I guess, but I wasn’t stoked for the ride back down.  I guess it’s a good family travel activity.

Tip:  if you have a brave kid, try to get them to the front part of the gondola car.  The sweeping view will impress them, even if they’re already a daredevil.

We waited in line for the skyride and it was chilly.  Or was that the staff manning the queues?  Both actually.  The service wasn’t stellar by any means.  Anyway, we eventually got into the gondola and they jammed it full.   Thank goodness nobody freaked out, because it was the perfect setup for a group panic attack.

Note:  even contained attractions, such as a gondola, tend to have handicap accessible spots for the ride.  If the staff isn’t paying attention to a guest in a wheelchair or with walking assistance, be the bigger person and make way or move out of the ADA spot.

Despite the scary ride, the view is worth it.  When we got to the top of Stone Mountain it was the most beautiful and clear day Atlanta has ever seen.  Oh, and the Atlanta skyline was a sight at sunset!  It was gorgeous and made for a wonderful photo op… that everybody on top of Stone Mountain took advantage of.  

Protesting at Stone Mountain

Confederate Racial Protest at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta GeorgiaDo you know who else took advantage of the clear day with lots of people visiting the park? Confederate sympathizers.  If you didn’t grow up in the USA or if you’ve not lived in the South you might not be familiar with this group of people.  They’re a bunch who like to relive or revive the days of yore when there was segregation, acceptable racism, and general mallady towards non-white people.  If you live anywhere with half a consciousness you know this just isn’t cool and is completely unacceptable.  And it’s not something we want to encounter during family travel.

Why were they there? – the folks with the confederate flags were on top of Stone Mountain that day because they were protesting the installation of a Dr Martin Luther King Jr memorial on the mountain itself.  The monument:  a copy of the liberty bell echoing the “I Have A Dream” speech.  The placement:  ON Stone Mountain.  The outcome of the protest:  nothin’!  For more information about the monument and the disparity of the public, see here.

Stone Mountain Itself

Confederate Relief on Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta GeorgiaOn the face of the huge granite stone mountain is a carved relief.  Everybody’s heard of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and it’s no doubt one of the most recognizable scenes in the United States.  Well, Stone Mountain has its own historical scene that depicts some Southern icons:  Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  If you haven’t heard of these guys, let us fill you in.

Jefferson Davis – president of the Confederacy

Robert E Lee – leader of the Confederate army

Stonewall Jackson – General of the Confederate army that led many campaigns

Here’s the thing:  the relief on the face of Stone Mountain is on privately owned property and falls under a piece of Georgia legislation that preserves history, specifically Confederate monuments.  There’s been talk of removing the carving via sandblasting, but it’s protected and will remain on the face indefinitely.  That’s that.

Stone Mountain has an old west town??

Stone Mountain Christmas lights 2traveldads.comMoving past the Confederacy trying to make a comeback, there’s more to Stone Mountain to do.  There is this structure, the Great Barn, and it’s really just an enormous indoor playground and (for kids) seems like tons of fun.  There’s a bit of an obstacle course outside too, but we didn’t get to do it because it was so late in the day.  And then there are shops to go through.  Loads of them.  And if you’re there on a cool winter evening, you’ll find they have a wonderful selection of warm clothes for the ill-prepared frozen guest.  There’s also a 4-D theater to see some sort of movie that is more than a 3-D experience… we didn’t do it either.

Oh yeah, so we were there while Stone Mountain was getting set up for Christmas and the lights were AMAZING.  While we don’t have tons of compliments to throw out there for the Park, we will be the first to say that Stone Mountain does an incredible job decorating for the holidays.  Or should we say the do a great job for Christmas.  There was even a ridiculously festive parade.  Like, Disney-style parade, and it was very well done.  There’s also a portion of the Park that is turned into Snow Mountain, which allows for sledding and other snow sports even when Georgia’s not getting a winter blastChristmas Decor at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta Georgia 2.

Tip:  besides the Christmas lights to warm us, there were realllllllly good cinnamon buns.  Hands down they were the messiest bread product we’ve ever tried, but they were awesome.  They tasted like southern hospitality and sugar.  I think they may have been glazed with the sweat of Paula Dean.  We have no other dining tips than this, as we didn’t love the other food we had.

All aboard!!

Locomotive Train in Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta Georgia 3Yep!! There is a for realz locomotive that runs around Stone Mountain.  It’s not a fast one and it’s not cushy like the dreamliners of the 20s, but it’s pretty cool.  We were there late in the day and during the holiday, so we were treated to a Christmas Sing-Along.  It was fun.  And awkward.  The train ride would’ve been more cool had it been during the day…and during the rest of the year.  Halfway around the mountain there is an old time show set that is used for cool western shows in the summertime.  During the winter, it’s set up for a telling of the nativity story.  Once that’s done, you just keep going around Stone Mountain and singing songs.  I bet it’s neat during daylight…

Tip:  if you’re not raising your kids in a Christian household, you may want to give them a little background before visiting a religious site or activity.  You don’t have to do a ton of prep work, but you know that kids always have questions and sometimes a short mention of some background is a good way to help them understand what they’re seeing.  

Example:  being on a train in the dark and all of the sudden hearing about angels and a savior and such.

Example:  visiting a cathedral and explaining why people go there or are kneeling… or why there are life size crucifixes hanging.  Most adults have seen these things their whole lives typically, but not all kids have.  Just a thought.

For a full list of attractions at Stone Mountain (including Ride the Ducks) check out their website.

 

Chris Taylor Waiting for the Train in Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta Georgia 2So, besides being cold and experiencing a few aspects of the South that we hadn’t talked to our kids about, what did we think of Stone Mountain?  We don’t recommend it and won’t be back.  There are many views in the world that are as lovely or better than what you see from the top of Stone Mountain.  There are better ways to learn about history and respecting others than seeing people protesting and participating in racial events.  There are actual historical sites that have character and active businesses that you can patronize instead of the manufactured Stone Mountain gift shop village.  There are other train rides available in other towns that offer more distance and better sights.

All in all, Stone Mountain was a way to occupy and afternoon.  We got to be there with family and the kids all enjoyed just running around, so that was nice, but we think next time we’re in Atlanta (which is often) we’ll find a few other interesting activities that are more in line with our idea of family travel.

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29 Comments

  • Shobha

    Thanks for the assessment! We’ve been to Atlanta a few times and Stone mountain was one of the things we always mean to do but never got around to. Looks like I’m not missing much.

    January 25, 2016 at 12:01 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      Yeah, it was kind of a weird place to visit with some awkward moments…

      January 25, 2016 at 5:52 am
  • Crysta Parkinson

    Oh my goodness. I guess today we get to see that whole “demonstration of democracy thing” up close and personal… Yeah. Um, uncomfortable pauses…

    January 25, 2016 at 8:10 am
  • Claire at Tin Box Traveller

    Thanks for the low down. We’ll scratch that off our list! I hope all the unpleasant stuff went over your kids’ heads.

    January 25, 2016 at 11:52 am
  • Amy

    Well I’m glad for once people let a sandblasting idea go and allowed something historic to actually remain where it was meant to be! And as a Canadian, I am always fascinated by the extreme views of some of the south that live on to this day! Would absolutely love to see Atlanta, but will take your advice, and skip this one.

    January 25, 2016 at 6:46 pm
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      I’m confused by your comment. The history behind the relief on the facade is important to remember lest it be repeated, but the area really does perpetuate the confederate theme and sentiment that’s still alive. I’d be lying if I said that while we were there we didn’t feel that the monument and its support is completely appropriate in this day in age, particularly in a region that’s primarily African-American. All opinions are welcome here, but yeah, from the Confederate Hall to the Antebellum plantation, the monument, its references and the activities that surround it are very racist and truly out of place and uncalled for today.

      January 25, 2016 at 8:52 pm
  • Joanna

    I was just in Stone Mountain for MLK weekend. It’s sad that people still think that segregation is okay. Hope that disturbing moment didn’t ruin the kids’ experience

    January 25, 2016 at 9:45 pm
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      The baby had no clue. Our oldest knew something was up and we tried to explain a little bit, but thank goodness he couldn’t grasp why people don’t like people or are mean. He’s the sweetest boy and I hope he never changes.

      January 26, 2016 at 5:08 am
  • Renne Simpson

    Ha, my hometown. Sigh. I remember climbing that mountain every day when I was younger (but not during the winter – that’s just crazy for a sun-lovin Georgia gal like me)! At that age, I had no clue what Stone Mountain represented, until I grew up. When I first moved there, it was a predominantly White area, and then over time, the population completely shifted to a predominantly African American one – yet, somehow Stone Mountain Park has managed to get away with continuing to be a haven for the diehard Confederacy-lovers. It’s a slap in the face to the majority of Stone Mountain residents.

    January 25, 2016 at 10:04 pm
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      Very well said and we completely agree. It’s a pocket of weird.

      January 26, 2016 at 5:07 am
      • Renne Simpson

        Have you ever been to Rock City in Georgia? It’s a bit of a road trip from Atlanta, but I think your kids would like it. I wrote a post about it over the summer. Amazing views.

        January 28, 2016 at 6:56 pm
        • 2TD-Rob
          Rob Taylor

          Never heard of it. Perhaps our next trip should include some lesser known sites!

          January 29, 2016 at 6:42 am
  • Marta

    I have to say, this is the first time I’ve heard of Stone Mountain or of confederate sympathizers and I find your story fascinating (from a purely anthropological point of view) and immensely disturbing. I understand that sometimes it’s important to preserve a monument that recalls dark times, lest we forget so to speak, and of course freedom of speech is something we should all fight for, but the celebration of hatred and inequality is just not acceptable, ever. Even more, I find disturbing how this is all intertwined with train rides, shops and Christmas songs: I bet the protesters don’t think there is anything weird in celebrating slavery and then head to the cinema with their kids- as long as their family is ok, nothing else matters not? I hope your next day out with the family turns out less annoying than this one and the kids can be oblivious to this side of humanity as long as possible 🙂

    January 26, 2016 at 7:13 am
  • Kevin Wagar

    Looks like a beautiful place, too bad about the flag wavers, but I guess obstacles help remind us of how lucky we are that they are mostly apart of the past. I didn’t know much about Stone Mountain, but if I get down to Georgia, I’ll definitely take the time to visit.

    January 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm
  • Liz@worldwidewithkids

    Sounds very weird. Im not feeling the gondola either, I would be the leader of the group panic attack lol. Hoping to road trip the US next winter, think we will give this place a miss.

    January 28, 2016 at 12:56 am
  • LocalNomads

    Soooo many thoughts on this article…! First, I can totally understand the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped in a packed gondola…They’re a lot more fun when you not worried you might be approaching the weight limit!

    Stone mountain seems like an interesting place in itself, sounds to me like it was a nice chance to teach your kids some important lessons on tolerance. They’ve got an impressive piece of art there, even though it’s a picture of a bunch of racists. I hope the money they make doesn’t go to any racist causes though…

    Finally, I loved your tip for dealing with religious situations with nonreligious kids…. I never thought about how scary it might be for a child to see a life sized crucifix if they had no context for it.

    You made a great post out of an awkward day. Nice work Rob.

    January 28, 2016 at 9:51 pm
  • mark

    Sound like a good place to Visit Rob, my kids would love the sky Gondola. In Europe they love cable cars and ski lifts. The ski lift in Zakopane Poland is amazingly high and steep.

    January 28, 2016 at 11:56 pm
  • melody pittman

    My husband used to go to Stone Mountain a lot as a kid and has always wanted to take our family there. I have never been interested and never heard anything really good about it so I’m glad to see I didn’t just make it up. Sorry your experience wasn’t very good but we all have those. 😉 Appreciate the honesty.

    January 29, 2016 at 8:44 pm
  • Voyager

    It is a very interesting and different story you tell and Stone Mountain does sound intriguing.

    January 30, 2016 at 8:07 am
  • Liesbeth

    Georgia, oh Georgia… I LOVE that song, I put it on my road trip CD, it was pretty much the only decent song on it haha 🙂 Did you know they have welcome boards saying “thanks for having Georgia on your mind”? Loved that too! But what’s up with those Confederate sympathy guys??? Is that an actual thing?!? OMG! I was in Charleston when they took down the Confederate Flag, it was a whole ceremony and all but I thought it was more like symbolic and that nobody believed in these “values” anymore… Apparently (and sadly) I was wrong…

    February 5, 2016 at 3:23 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      Yep, that’s spot on. There seems to be a lot of surface action to update the South to hide a lot of the Confederate sentiments… but then even the people taking action to physically remove flags or dismantle monuments will openly talk about how they disagree with removing them. They so often just refer to them as a “part of history” that shouldn’t be forgotten. Why shouldn’t it be? They too often have reasons that don’t stand in today’s society.

      February 5, 2016 at 5:36 am
  • Gretchen

    What IS up with Stone Mountain? I prefer my giant hunks of granite without Confederate soldiers, personally. I like to imagine an alternate reality where no one ever carved anything into it or built a theme park around it, and it’s just a pretty place for a hike. Oh well. We live less than an hour away, so we make it there from time to time; it’s fun to hike up or down with older kids (although the last part is very steep and almost as terrifying as the tram). And USUALLY there aren’t any protesters with Confederate flags. But, yeah, like you said (in the comments, I think), it’s not so much that the carving is there as that the park is unwilling to treat it as a learning experience about a tragic part of our history and insists on celebrating it.

    February 17, 2016 at 7:37 pm
    • Rob Taylor

      Exactly. And Stone Mountain maintains its stance, only randomly giving an impression that it understands the cultural offense it’s committing. Oh my, if I ran the world… 🙂

      February 18, 2016 at 6:08 am
  • Karin

    Pfff, it sucks that people still go by those untolerant harmfull ideas. It´s sad. There are almost no foreigners living where I come from and people are crazy racist anyway; now that there are refugees coming in from Syria and elsewhere, many speak of “muslim invasion” (which is clearly bullshit and we have almost no appliers for the asylum in my country, like 15 people submitted last year). And instead of a work permit, countries give them social money. No way that is going to work out. It´s very complex and the racism isn´t helping to solve the issues.

    February 18, 2016 at 2:41 am
    • Rob Taylor

      Well stated. And truly the active, openly racist folks are a solid minority in the area here, but they are loud about it. I’d love to see us melt some more cultures/people that need a new home into the USA. We do have the ability.

      February 18, 2016 at 6:07 am
  • Melissa

    Sadly I think you need a history lesson! The civil war was not just about slavery. Yes there are many ignorant people out there that have no clue what they are talking about with historical inaccurate flags. Most of the men in the civil war were just trying to protect there family and land. People love to forget about Grant that burned , raped, and destroyed hole towns he was a Northerner. Both sides were at fault and it was so much deeper then slavery. You should have taken the opportunity to teach your children tolerance and how important history is, and knowing the truth about history. Sadly I think you missed a great learning opportunity for you family. Not a southern sympathizer just someone who loves history good or bad because history teaches us so much. Both sides were wrong but it was also something that built this country.

    April 8, 2016 at 3:03 pm
    • Rob Taylor

      I know it was about more than slavery, for sure. When explaining things to a four year old and keeping things in simple terms, we did share more detail than what we included in this post, but also didn’t get into the details of the slaughter and rape from both sides. We would feel equally disheartened about visiting a monument to Grant or Pickett as visiting Stone Mountain. The brief history we did share when paired with the protesting by vocal, racists toting their Confederate flags led us to only share one aspect of Stone Mountain’s current symbolism and how society interacts with it. Without giving a full on history lesson and citing sources as we go, we keep our explanations brief.

      I’ve also updated this post to reflect a less pointed statement about the leaders represented, as you’re right, they were more than fighting to uphold slavery, but still we will not glamorize the South to having a legitimate reason for maintaining and leveraging the symbols on Stone Mountain or the flags the protesters held.

      April 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm
  • Tara

    Loved this post, only because we visited family in Atlanta as well, and we also ended up at Stone Mountain (we go to a lot of the same places). We didn’t know anything about it, and we even had reservations to camp. It was summer and the kids played in the water park, went into some weird farm/funhouse attraction, and witnessed a crazy, country, super-patriotic light show. It was intense and kind of sad, and I can’t imagine that we’ll go back either.

    May 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm
  • American Pancake

    When I moved to Georgia almost exactly 3 years ago I had researched Stone Mountain and just the mere fact that the location was basically the birthplace of the Klu Klux Klan in this area gave me the heebie jeebies and I just would not want to go there at all. I did enjoy your piece on your visit though.

    August 18, 2017 at 9:43 am

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