Fernbank Science Center is a beloved community resource that's a popular spot with school groups and touring students. But it’s also open to the public and readily welcomes families with children of all ages who are eager to learn.

Situated in Atlanta’s Westchester Hills neighbourhood, the interactive children’s museum is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Atlanta. But once you step inside, it feels a world away from all the hubbub of the city. With free admission and parking (the only items that require an extra cost are planetarium shows and other special programs), state-of-the-art science exhibits, hands-on activities and even a woodland complex, there’s a lot to see, do and learn at this centre “dedicated to science literacy and life-long science learning for all people and all ages.”

Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta - one of the highlights of 10 Best Free Things to Do in Atlanta (Read all about Atlanta here)

photo by Web.fernbank (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

Highlights and features of the Fernbank Science Center

The Fernbank Science Center offers a wealth of exhibits, but some of its most popular permanent exhibits make the centre great for children (and their parents) with a love for space exploration or the natural world. The centre features the authentic Apollo 6 Command Module as one of its permanent exhibits, on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

There’s also a NASA Mission Control Room replica, so visitors can re-enact the Apollo missions to the moon. This is on top of the expansive, Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium, with its 500-visitor capacity. At the time of its opening, this was one of the largest planetariums in the United States, as well as the largest in the state of Georgia. With financial help from Lockheed Martin, the science centre refurbished the planetarium in 2012, for the latest and greatest in educational tech.

Nature attractions at Fernbank Science Center

At Fernbank Science Center, visitors aren’t only encouraged to look up to the stars, but down to the world beneath their feet as well. The nature attractions at the centre are very popular, with live animal exhibits featuring poison dart frogs and other reptiles, insects and more.

Fernbank Forest, an old-growth forest filled with wildlife, provides further opportunities to explore. For those who prefer their nature a little on the tamer side, the gardens at the centre provide educational spaces to enjoy pollinator gardens, edible gardens and perennial gardens – and thanks to Atlanta’s warm summer temperatures and mild winter weather, there’s hardly ever a bad time to visit.

Inside the centre, guests can get even closer to nature, via a Nikon exhibit that features light microscope photography, displaying natural wonders up close and personal, from butterfly wing scales to fish embryos.

photo by Mike Schinkel (CC BY 2.0) modified

Good to know about Fernbank Science Center

Located outside downtown Atlanta, Fernbank Science Center is most easily reached by car. As mentioned, both parking and admission are free, with tickets available for purchase for planetarium shows. Make sure to either eat before you arrive or pack a lunch as the centre does not have a gift shop nor a cafeteria with food available for purchase. If you bring your own picnic lunch, you can eat at the on-site picnic tables.

The centre is wheelchair accessible. For special nighttime observatory hours and events, be sure to check the centre’s website. Make an entire educational day out of your visit to Fernbank Science Center, with a visit to the adjacent Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Fernbank Forest.

Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta

Location: 156 Heaton Park Drive, Atlanta, GA 30307, USA

Open: Monday–Wednesday from 12 pm to 5 pm, Thursday–Friday from 12 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm

Phone: +1 678 874 7102

Holly Riddle | Contributing Writer