Enjoying an afternoon of "Snow" at Georgia's Stone Mountain Park.
Updated: Jun 2, 2019
Growing up in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain means that going to hang out at Stone Mountain Park was a HUGE part of my teenage years. Cruising the park with your friends, skating at the ice rink, hanging out at the lake and watching the night time Laser Show was how we spent our summer vacations. It was 21 years since I had last been to the park, so this time, I wanted to go back with my family and share my memories with Jason and Sarah.
For those of you not familiar with Stone Mountain, it is truly a sight to behold. The mountain itself is a granite outcropping almost 1700 ft high and more than 5 miles in circumference at its base and it is the number one tourist destination in the state of Georgia. I lived in the city of Stone Mountain from 1983 until 1995 and it is what I will always refer to as "my hometown".
Unfortunately, it was also the "birthplace" of the reorganized white supremacy group, the Ku Klux Klan and was the location of annual cross burnings at the summit of the mountain for upwards for 50+ years. Needless to say, Stone Mountain is quite controversial, largely in part to the renowned carving on the side of the mountain depicting 3 prominent Confederate leaders: President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Since this is not the place to have a political debate, I'll let you come up with your own opinion regarding whether or not this continues to be a tribute to white supremacy and should be removed or it should remain, as it is part of Georgia history.
Some articles for you to read in your spare time:
But we're not here to talk about the history of the town of Stone Mountain and the Park, as I could seriously go on all day about it, but rather to talk about Stone Mountain Park as a tourist destination. Stone Mountain was the place of my teenage years and with so many fun times spent there with my high school girlfriends Krista, Kristie and Amy, I wanted my family to visit and see another part of Georgia that they had never seen. I knew it wouldn't be the same, but since we were going to be in East Tennessee over the Christmas holidays, I thought it would be fun to visit the park on our way home to Florida while they were doing "Snow Mountain", which started on November 17, 2018 and runs through February 24, 2019.
In front of the high carving at Stone Mountain is a large, sloped lawn area where the nightly "Laser Show" is held in the summer months and in the winter, they turn it into a 400 ft long snow tubing area for families looking for that winter weather experience without having to pay to go to a ski resort and realize your kids don't want to learn to ski or hate the snow. Prices start at $34.95 per person for 2 hours and they have package deals that include meals (don't bother...get lunch on your own as the selections are limited), but be sure to note that it that does not include the $20 per vehicle to get into the park. Oh and if you go on a super crowded day like we did parking is a total ordeal. Unfortunaely, the day we went was the only non-rainy day in over a week, plus it was during the winter break and over the holidays so there were a crap ton of families, sp parking was at a premium. If you want to cough up another $10 and park in one of the closer up lots, I STRONGLY encourage it, as you won't have to deal with finding a parking space and walking a country mile to get to the lawn where "Snow" is located.
On the day we went. Dec. 29th it was sunny and 60 degrees outside and with our jackets and layers of clothing, we were HOT. I feel sorry for all those who were in full ski clothing because they must have been burning up. Folks, this is not Telluride or Calistoga Ski Resort. This is tubing on man-made snow. Check the weather and dress accordingly. You will thank me for it later!
There are different runs available, dependent on the number of people and size of the tube you choose:
Large Round Tubes that fit approx 8 people (great for families)
Individual tubes for solo riding
Two-person tubes for tandem tubing
There is a moving walkway that transports you to the top of the tubing run, so you don't have to worry about carrying your tube all the way up the hill, which is honestly one of the worst things when it comes to winter weather sledding, but one of the best workouts you'll ever get! Once you get to the top, one of the attendants will ask how many are going in your party and in this case it was the 3 of us, so we shared our "tube" with another family.
You move quick on these things and it is super fun, BUT if you have any sort of back or neck issues, you want to be careful, as I did feel each and every bump. I only went down once due to me recognizing that this probably wasn't the best thing for my back (I am under doctors treatment for back and neck issues), so while Jason and Sarah continued to do the individual tubing, I took a walk down to the lake that is is front of the carving to take some photos and enjoy the weather. This is the area where the Stone Mountain Railroad rolls through and there are a number of paved walking areas where a number of mothers were walking with strollers and people jogging. When I look at this picture, all I can see is how BADLY the carving needs a good pressure washing, as it is so dirty and streaked, you can barely see the carving. Back in the 80's and 90's it was always so pristine and clear. Yes, I know that weather and age change things over time, but you don't see Mt. Rushmore looking all toe. I digress....
After Sarah and Jason finished their tubing, we went down to the snow play area and to be honest, it was just "Meh". It was 60 degrees outside so the "snow" was more like melted ice and it was hard and slippery to walk on. It wasn't like you could make snow angels or anything. There was no throwing of snowballs, so it was like "Oh this is nice...where to next?" I'm sure if it was nice and cold outside and the man made snow actually maintained the snow texture it would be much more appealing. I was more focused on not slipping and busting my ass on the ice, to be truthful.
After we finished with snow. we walked over to where the Summit Skyride was located in order to take the Aerial Tramway up to the top of the mountain. Yes, you CAN walk up the west side of the mountain where it slopes down gently over the course of 1.3 miles, as there are marked pathways, but seeing as how the last time I did that on Easter Sunday 1988, I managed to fracture my ankle walking down and it wasn't a fun experience. Trust me, it's not dangerous by any means, but rather I am a total klutz and didn't pay attention to where I was walking and wound up inadvertently getting my foot stuck in a crevice, while the rest of my body continued forward. The people I was with (including my own brother) INSISTED I was ok and that I was fine to walk the rest of the way back down, so I did. Later that morning, I was in so much pain and my ankle was swollen to the size of a small tree trunk, so I went to an urgent care clinic and after some x-rays it was determined I had fractured a bone in my ankle. I was on crutches and in a cast for 3 months. So...no walking down the mountain for me.
The wait for the tram was approx. 30 minutes and the ride up to the top was super smooth. The top of Stone Mountain is beautiful. On a clear day, you can see 50 to 60 miles away. To the west, the Downtown Atlanta skyline is visible, you can see the Midtown Atlanta high rises as well as Kennesaw Mountain, home of the June 27, 1864 Civil War "Battle of Kennesaw Mountain" between Union General Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnson, off in the distance to the Northwest. There is fencing that tries to prevent people from falling (after ignoring signs and climbing over safety fencing) or jumping off the mountain (suicides have occurred) so it is safe up there and it is a great place to go to relax and meditate on an uncrowded day. Sarah loved the view and found it so very peaceful. We were up there for about 45 minutes and it truly brought back a lot of memories for me.
There are so many other things to do at Stone Mountain Park that we just didn't have the free time to do, but I highly recommend:
Historic Square: A collection of old Georgia homes from 1795 to 1875 that have been restored and furnished with authentic period furniture and collectibles. There is also a Farmyard for interaction with livestock commonly found on a georgia farm. In the month of October there is a super cool "Tour of Southern Ghosts", where they offer night time candlelit guided tours to hear funny, spooky ghost stories. Back in high school I was one of the tour volunteers who would lead tour groups around, while I was dressed in Antebellum garb (No Scarlett O'Hara dress for me...I was in a sensible Navy and plaid dress. I know there is a picture of me somewhere in the dress, so I will will try to find the photo this weekend!) https://www.stonemountainpark.com/Events/A-Tour-of-Southern-Ghosts
The Scenic Stone Mountain Railroad incircles the base of the mountain and is a 30 minute, open-air ride for 5 miles around the park. The main train station is right at the base of the mountain. Kids love it!!
Camping at the Park is a lot of fun for a family! Stone Mountain Park has RV parking areas with water, electric, sewage, and/or cable, places for pop up tents, the even offer Yurts and RV rentals for you to enjoy a camping experience without having to bring the equipment or vehicle! I am so happy to have learned they do the rentals, as that is something I would love to do in the summer with the family!!
There is a really nice lake at the park and they also have Watercraft rentals at the lake! Although I will say that the last time I was at the park in 1997, back when I was single, I went canoeing with a boyfriend at the time and realized then and there that we did NOT work together well as a coordinated team. It was a good indicator that the relationship was doomed...LOL You can also go fishing on the lake, so please note that you must have a valid Georgia Fishing License. They can be purchased in advance online.
There are two hotels in the park where you can stay: The Stone Mountain Inn and the Marriott Evergreen Conference Center & Resort, both a part of the Marriott Hotel family. For Members of the Marriott Rewards program, a one night stay at the Stone Mountain Inn is 25,000 points is 35,000 points....in my opinion that is WAY high. For a weekend night in July (the perfect time to go catch the Laser Show) an advanced purchase guest room with 2 double beds at the Inn is $180 a night and at the Evergreen, it is $161 a night. Save your points and pay cash if you can. The Stone Mountain Inn is closer to the Lawn where the Laser show is, if that is the main reason you are visiting.
So there it is....our afternoon in the park. I wish we weren't so pressed for time, but it only makes me want to go back to Atlanta again for a longer trip with the family.