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If your family is planning a trip to Atlanta this summer, check out the spots I’ve discovered from my Georgia native friends.

Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theatre

My first visit to the historic Fox Theatre is forever emblazoned in my mind. Designed to look like the interior of a Moorish castle, turrets frame a starry night sky projects on the ceiling.

Annually, beginning in July, the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival features classics at the Fox. Last year, the first afternoon was free! This year’s schedule will be released later in May (the “Harry Potter”series and “Casablanca” were shown last year). The best deals were available immediately after the schedule was announced (only $8 for most shows!) and prices increased after July 1 and again the day of the show. Foxtheatre.org.

More:How to save money and stay sane on your summer vacation

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Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Some good friends took us to Fernbank, and we loved it.

The Giants of the Mesozoic exhibit greeted us with a 123-foot replica dinosaur skeleton! The big guy was accompanied by another large land and several “flying” dinosaur skeletons overhead. My kids were in awe!

Then we watched a cool digital display envisioning how the Big Bang might have looked and explaining the formation of planet Earth.

A Walk Through Time In Georgia replicates regions in diorama form. Trees shelter foxes and deer. My 9-year-old animal lover was fixated on trying to find every species hidden in the exhibits. We explored the Okefenokee Swamp and Barrier Islands.

The highlight was a live alligator presentation where my children touched a real baby alligator. Dozens of kids (and adventurous parents) touched the baby alligator. (When the baby becomes too old for them to keep, it’ll be sent to a facility in South Georgia to transition to adulthood for release into the wild.)

Outside, the kids explored the WildWoods complex of wooden bridges, platforms and a rope tunnel. The one downside was my 5-year-old’s panic moment when separated from her older siblings; it’s awkward for adults to maneuver through a rope tunnel! Then, we strolled through beautiful Fernbank Forest with gurgling creek, stone landscaping and woodland plantings. A fun forest playground beckoned, but our afternoon arrival didn’t allow time for that and all the exhibits. If you make a summer visit, don’t miss your chance to splash in the creek-themed play zone (bring extra clothes and shoes). Find more info at fernbankmuseum.org.

Dunwoody Nature Center

Play the colorful outdoor piano or swing in a hammock under the leaf canopy at Dunwoody Nature Center. My kids freaked out for the three-platform tree-house playground. I hope to implement what I learned about rain gardens in my backyard. Events like Friday Night hikes and First Saturday programs are free. Learn the basics of camping on June 16 at the Backyard Campout event, or visit on Aug. 11 for the Butterfly Festival. Outdoor concerts are held two Saturdays per month in summer. See the website for details: dunwoodynature.org

More:Mom: The Park at Flat Rock, N.C. alone is worth a trip

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