“Mom, WHAT IS THAT??” My daughter asked me as a giant Emu peered at us, batting his beak into the fence looking for a bite to nibble on.
I’m not sure I had even seen an Emu in person and its slick, oily feathers and long eyelashes were in greater hyper focus than I expected. Being regarded by a giant bird-like-giant is not what you would normally expect after strolling through a quiet intown neighborhood. Big Lou the Emu tilted his head and regarded us before winding his giant, bendable neck over to the ground to see if we had dropped anything.
That’s when I realized Atlanta has plenty of weird and wonderful wildlife tucked away in the corners of our city. Here are five of my favorites.
The Land Trust
By now Big Lou and our family are old friends. He lives at the Land Trust in Candler Park, Atlanta where he enjoys grazing on grapes and vegetables. If his handlers and helpers are around, they’ll show you how to feed him properly by holding out your hand flat and breaking up food into small pieces. But Big Lou can get a little bitey when he can’t quite get a hold of the food in your hand. Around the bend from Big Lou’s fenced-in roaming area is a pond with turtles. Some will crawl up onto the bank to get in close range if you’re throwing in bread or other goodies.
Another bonus about the Land Trust is there’s a small, sandy playground area with a real bathroom adjacent to it. There’s also an outdoor amphitheater with live entertainment, shows, and a drum circle where the community comes out to hang out together on warm weather weekends.
Also located in Candler Park, Mulberry Fields is tucked away off of Iverson Street near Oakdale. Even locals who have lived in the neighborhood for years don’t necessarily know this lovely little garden exists. The gardens are available to rent to grow your own flowers and vegetables. There’s also a small play area and funky art installations like an old bathtub filled with rocks and indigo pebbles. But the real attraction is a tucked away chicken and goat farm just up the hill from the gardens. Bring carrots, celery, and greens for the goats and chickens to feed on.
You may have already seen Inman Park’s Springvale Park as you weave through the Little Five Points and Old Fourth Ward areas. A towering slide that conjures up images of theme park thrills can be found near the back of the park. But the front of the park holds a pond with turtles, ducks, and shark fins! Of course, these fins are just for show and not the real deal. My little girl always called them “shark pumps”. It’s a fun afternoon, but not the easiest place to bring a toddler who can essentially walk right up to the water’s edge to get a better look at the wildlife.
Doll’s Head Trail
Located off of Moreland Ave in the East Atlanta area of Consitution Lakes, Doll’s Head Trail is exactly what it sounds like. Walk down the cement path to the water and docks to see ducks, turtles, and wildlife before venturing left to follow along Doll’s Head Trail. Broken doll’s heads and old toys dot the trail, which depending on your child’s level of intrigue, can be hit or miss. Our old-school Scooby Doo loving daughter loves this hike, but her little brother gets disturbed by the copious amount of “broken” toys. Keep going and you’ll be treated to a cabinet full of art supplies where kids can sit down and add to the decor of the trail.
The Duck Pond
Okay, maybe it’s not a weird place to see wildlife, but the Duck Pond is certainly a welcome reprieve from nature nestled in the middle of Buckhead. Head to Peachtree Heights East for 7.5 acres of green space and rolling terrain that’s now home to over 40 specifies of birds. Ducks from Bobby Jones Golf Course make this spot a regular stop for their meal of breadcrumbs where locals come to play.
The next time your kids are driving you crazy, venture out to one of our favorite nature spots with an unusual twist. It’s a claiming reprieve from the grind and gives you a taste of some of Atlanta’s hidden gems.
Where are your favorite nature spots in Atlanta? Let me know by leaving a comment below!