Looking for a free or cheap activity to do with the kids this summer? Take them to the Fernbank Science Center — which is one of a handful of FREE museums around Atlanta.
Of special interest: FREE sky-viewing at the observatory on Thursday and Friday nights . Scroll down for details!
The Science Center has both FREE admission and free parking, all the time. The only thing you’ll pay for is the planetarium shows — keep scrolling for a Groupon deal that gives you two tickets for $9.
Don’t confuse the Fernbank Science Center with the flashier Fernbank Museum of Natural History!
It’s a common mistake, but the two are very different — and only one is free, while the other has a substantial admission price. The two are located in the same general area of Atlanta (the Druid Hills neighborhood) but are a couple of miles apart, with the Fernbank Woods between them.
In addition to it’s Exhibit Hall, the Fernbank Science Center also includes a planetarium where you can see star shows for just a few bucks (see the discounts listed at the bottom of this page) and an observatory that is open to the public on a regular basis.
Exhibit Hall hours
Current summer hours are:
- Monday through Wednesday — 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday and Friday — 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Saturday — 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sunday — CLOSED
NOTE: Hours can vary throughout the year. Please confirm hours of operation on Fernbank’s website before your visit, especially if a holiday falls on the day you’d like to go.
The Fernbank Science Center is located at 156 Heaton Park Dr., in the 30307 zip code of Atlanta.
The Exhibit Hall has a focus on nature, the environment, dinosaurs, astronomy, and space exploration.
Here are brief descriptions of the highlights — everything is FREE, unless otherwise noted.
The Apollo 6 Command Module
See the actual command module from the unmanned Apollo 6 mission, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 4, 1968!
The module is on loan from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, so don’t miss it. It is one of the most impressive exhibits you’ll see among the free museums in Atlanta.
Live Animal Exhibit
View unusual insects and reptiles that include poison dart frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, and more. The animals on display demonstrate the amazing diversity of the natural world.
Nikon Small World Exhibit
This intriguing photography display showcases the world as seen through the lens of a high-powered microscope.
Cumberland Island: A Fragile Beauty
Photographs depict the amazing biodiversity of this fragile ecosystem.
Upcoming events in 2020
Fernbank Science Center regularly holds free and low-cost events that are perfect for kids and families. You can view the science center’s full calendar online for more information on special events.
If you’ve ever seen a planetarium show, you know what an immersive experience it is — the wonders of the universe are on full display all around you, with no interference from the city lights.
The Fernbank planetarium features a 500-seat theater with a 70-foot dome, onto which the star shows are projected with state-of-the-art technology. It is one of the largest planetariums in the U.S.
You can buy tickets for the planetarium shows 30 minutes before each scheduled show.
Planetarium show prices:
- Adults — $7
- Students (age 3 – 18) — $5
- Seniors (62+) — $5
Planetarium shows are approximately 30 minutes long. If you’re bringing kids, make sure everyone visits the bathroom before the show starts, because there is no re-entry if you leave.
Family programs are suitable for kids under 10 years of age. Other programs are designed for kids over the age of 10, as well as adults.
Planetarium deals and discounts
There are a few ways to save money on planetarium shows at the Fernbank Science Center.
- If you’re an employee of the Dekalb County School System, your admission is FREE.
- If you belong to the Planetary Society, your admission is FREE.
- If you have a membership to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, your admission is FREE.
- If you have a membership to the Tellus Science Museum, your admission is FREE.
- If you belong to the ASTC Travel Passport Program, your admission is FREE.
The current Groupon deal
For a limited time, you can get a discounted price on planetarium shows, though Groupon.
There are two options available:
- Admission for two — $9 (save up to 36%)
- Admission for four — $15 (save up to 46%)
NOTE: You can use the promo code FLASH to get an extra 30% off at checkout — this is good up till midnight on June 17th.
And remember, if you sign up for and activate Ebates before you buy a Groupon deal, you can receive up to 6% cash back (you get a check or PayPal deposit at the end of each quarter).
If you’d like to see the real night sky, Fernbank also has observatory viewing that is free and open to the public.
Each Thursday and Friday, when weather conditions are favorable, you can view the night sky through the museum’s telescope. Viewing starts around 9:00 p.m. and usually goes to 10:30 p.m.
An astronomer is on hand to position the telescope, tell you what you’re looking at, and answer questions.
the Fernbank Observatory features the largest telescope in the southeastern United States.