Stone Mountain Park
This natural feature is located near the town of Stone Mountain which is on the eastern side of Atlanta, Georgia, USA and is the worlds largest granite outcropping and is actually classified as a hill, and not a mountain. According to Wikipedia, the hill is 1,686 feet above sea-level, 825 feet above the surrounding ground, and more than 5 miles in circumference. There are two ways to reach the summit, one is by an aerial tram called the Summit Skyride and the other is a one-mile hike up the west side of the hill. I would plan at least one full day here as there’s more to do than just see the carving and there’s a on site hotel and camping facilities if you want to stay the night.
I couldn’t spend the whole day here so I didn’t do everything the park has to offer as that would have taken at least a day or two to accomplish but I did do just about everything within the vicinity of the famous carving and it was well worth the time and money. First off when I arrived, I had to pay a $10 parking fee, I told the parking attendant where I wanted to go and she gave me a map detailing where everything was and pointed me in the right direction. I walked up to the ticket booths after parking my car and saw that there were different pass combinations based on what you wanted to do so I chose the Adventure Pass for $24.95 plus tax. That allows me to do pretty much everything in the area of the carving plus the Antebellum Plantation & Farmyard which I really didn’t have the time to do.
After buying my pass and getting my ridiculously large armband, I headed to the left to go ride the Summit Skyride.
This ride was originally built by the Von Roll company in Bern, Switzerland in 1996 and is a beautiful way to travel up to the summit and see the carving as well. Portrayed in the carving are three well-known members of the Confederate States of America (CSA) that served during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. They are, from left to right. President Jefferson Davis, and Generals Robert E Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and the horses they are mounted on in the same direction are Blackjack, Traveller, and Little Sorrel. The carving itself is the worlds largest bias relief carving and measures 90 feet by 190 feet and is recessed 42 feet into the hill. There’s a beautiful 360 degree view of the surrounding area from the top of the hill where you can see the Atlanta skyline some thirty miles away. There’s also a small gift shop and snack stand inside and air-conditioned building. Watch the video below for a trip up to the top, a 360 degree view from the top, and the trip back down.
Now that you’re back down, we’ll go right next door to Memorial Hall which talks about the history of the hill going back some 12,000 years.
Memorial Hall and lawn
Once inside, I recommend you see the film first as it gives a pretty good history of the carving and what it was used for by the Native Americans that called this place home. It is here that you’ll learn that Gutzon Borglum was initially contracted to carve a much larger relief in 1916. You may not recognize the name Gutzon Borglum, but you will recognize his next project which was the Presidential carvings on Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. Unfortunately, he was only able to complete General Robert E Lee’s head before the project ran into financial difficulties and he left the project. Augustus Lukeman, the next person to take up the project, decided to start with a clean slate and blasted Lee’s head off the hill and work continued until 1928 when work stopped again. The project sat idle until 1958 when then Governor Marvin Griffin and the Georgia State Legislature approved the purchase of the property from the Venable family and then hired Roy Faulkner in 1964 to complete the carving which was finished in 1972, nearly fifty-six years after the project was started. President Richard Nixon was invited to attend the dedication ceremony on March 3, 1972 but declined due to a scheduling conflict so Vice President Spiro Agnew came in his stead. Below are several photos taken from inside the museum including two full-sized replicas of parts of the carvings to give you an idea just how large the relief really is. Those two are of Blacker’s mouth and two of the three stars on General Lee’s collar.
Here you’ll see what the original carving was supposed to be in 1916 which was supposed to be the same three people fully carved out, leading an army that was marching across the face of the hill. That would have been quite an ambitious project even for Gutzon to complete in the twenty years he had to complete it.
Looking down the lawn between Memorial Hall and the carving, you’ll see 12 stations on either side of the lawn representing each of the states that fought for the Confederacy that describes what each state contributed to the war effort, the important people from that state, and what life was like in each of those states at that time.
Being that I’m a native-born and life long resident of Florida, I chose to take some photos of Florida’s station. Florida didn’t contribute much in the terms of man power as our population was fairly small and mostly concentrated in the northern panhandle part of the state but 16,000 men decided to serve in the war between the states and 2,000 of the 16,000 joined the Union army. Florida’s major contribution was as a supplier as our coastline was marked with swamps and inlets which were perfect places for blockade runners to hide from the Union Army and Navy not to mention that Florida supplied lots of salt to cure the meats as it was the only means of preserving meats for transportation to the Confederate troops many hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
At the end of the lawn and flanking both sides of the carving are Memorial Gardens both with statues and inscriptions carved in stone. The first one on the left is called Valor.
The one on the right is called Sacrifice.
In the center of the lawn, you’ll see a small building then some railroad tracks. The small building houses the laser projectors for the Lasershow Spectacular presented in “Mountainvision” Which means that the lasers are shown on the hillside. Unfortunately, I was there on a day when the nighttime show was not on so here is a video I found on YouTube that was posted this year. It’s a forty minute show with lasers, CGI projections, and some fireworks.
Directly to the right is the entertainment area.
This is the main street area of the park and is what is on the other side of the ticket booths if you were to go through the entrance that way.
This area contains gif shops, a 4D theater currently housing Journey 2 which is entertaining and inside an air-conditioned theater which is really nice, especially on those hot summer days. There’s also a restaurant, a few live shows for the kids, a few snack stands, some street entertainers, a putt-putt golf course, and the only station for the Stone Mountain Railroad which takes you in a full-scale forty minute train trip around the mountain.
The food in the restaurant is what you’d expect at a regional amusement park. There was pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, and hot dogs, with soda/pop, sports drinks, fruit juices, and water, and prepackaged cold cut sandwiches and healthy alternatives.
Stone Mountain Railroad
This is a forty minute round trip journey around the base of Stone Mountain aboard a fully refurbished diesel locomotive with open air carriages. During the trip, you’ll hear about the history of the hill including the quarry that used to operate here and what famous buildings and monuments were built using granite that was quarried here and the Old Man of Stone Mountain, Elias Nour. Here’s my on ride video of the train trip that has been edited down from forty minutes to just thirteen minutes.
We’re back to the entrance gates but we’re not done yet. To the left of the main ticket booths are two children’s climb and water play areas called Skyhike and Geyser Towers which are both included in the Adventure pass package.
To the right of the booths is the Ride the Ducks ride where you board an amphibious vehicle and literally drive into the lakes while staying dry for an extra fee of course.
I did mention that there is a hotel here and it is fairly large and within walking distance of the attractions I just described and you’ll see it in the back left corner of the photo below.
Well, now that brings us full circle was we are now back to the main ticket booths where it all started. I hope you enjoyed this review as well as the photos and videos I provided.