Experience a staycation full of fun right here in town

by: Nelson Hicks Updated:

A visit to DeKalb Peachtree Airport was the first stop.

ATLANTA - The kids have returned to school and with no time off in sight, it might be a while before the next family vacation getaway.

But it doesn't have to be.

WSBTV.com's Nelson Hicks recently experienced a staycation.

GALLERY: What to do on a staycation

Most people have heard of the term staycation. It's a vacation where you experience what's around rather than driving a few hours to another destination.

And Atlanta is in no short supply of things to do on a staycation. And a staycation can be much less expensive than a full-fledged vacation.

First up, book a room. There are countless ways to book a room in the Atlanta area, but I picked Hotwire.com. It's similar to Priceline.com in that customers can see the approximate area, star level and price for a hotel, but you can't see the actual hotel name before you pay for it.

I ended up with a room at the downtown Sheraton, rated as a four-star hotel, for $59, about $70 after taxes.

Now that the room was booked, it was time to experience the Atlanta area. First stop, the DeKalb Peachtree Airport.

While it's not on the list of Atlanta's most visited tourist attractions, there is something unique about the airport. First off, it has a playground that's right next to the runway. Kids can slide down the slides, swing on the swings and hang from the monkey bars while watching planes take off and land just 100 or so feet away. Talk about cool!

Following time at the playground, head on over to the restaurant and lounge located at the airport. It's called  Downwind Restaurant and Lounge. It offers great burgers to go along with the great views. Customers can dine on some appetizers while watching planes come and go.

After filling up with dessert, it was time to head downtown. There's so many things to see and do in the Atlanta area. There's the Botanical Gardens, Atlanta Braves games, the High Museum, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Center for Puppetry Arts, Fernbank, Imagine It!, Piedmont Park, Six Flags and the list goes on and on. I started with simply walking around the city.

After walking several blocks, I came upon the Westin Peachtree Plaza. It's the circular hotel the dots the downtown landscape. I wasn't staying there, but that didn't stop me from taking the 73-story elevator ride to the top of the hotel. There, visitors can take in 360-degree views of the city below. The Sun Dial restaurant is atop the building and offers a high-end dining experience. There's a lounge up there, too.

The elevator ride to the observation deck is $6 for adults, $3 for kids. Rather than paying the money to ride up, grab the kids and make a pit stop in the lounge. For the price of a family of four, visitors can grab an appetizer and a couple drinks at the lounge and get the free ride to the top.

While atop the Westin, it was easy to spot a massive crowd at Centennial Olympic Park. That made it the next stop on this staycation.

There was a concert at the park that day and it's not uncommon to find special events going on there every weekend. Even if there isn't a special event, kids will no doubt love taking a run through the Fountain of Rings.

"The Fountain of Rings is the centerpiece of Centennial Olympic Park and is one of the most recognized and photographed landmarks in Georgia," the website for Centennial Olympic Park states. "Millions of international and local guests visit the Park every year to enjoy the world’s largest interactive fountain featuring the Olympic Ring symbol. Its photographic image also greets millions of visitors at the Atlanta Airport and delights a new generation as the State’s representative on the latest Here & Now Monopoly game board."

From the park, there was time for a quick bite before calling it a night. There were plenty of dining options on the walk back including the Hard Rock Cafe.

Up and at 'em the next morning, and it was time for a trip to Zoo Atlanta. The zoo features more than 1,000 animals from 200 different species. It offers some new features this year, including an opportunity to feed the giraffes or to go behind-the-scenes with the elephants, pandas and Komodo dragons.

Discount tickets are available to the zoo, but did you know that a family of four can actually go for free? Here's how. Every library in the state has a DVD from the zoo that patrons can check out. Watch it, return it and get a receipt for a free trip to the zoo.

Obviously the DVD is in great demand at most libraries. Call the local branch to find out if it puts people on the waiting list for the DVD or if it's a first-come, first-served basis.

After a full day at the zoo, it was time to wrap up this staycation.

It was an action-packed weekend offering several new memorable experiences, experiences that we didn't have to venture far from home to enjoy.