Did you hear that? Kids from all over North Alabama just squealed with excitement as they celebrate the return of the Lions Club’s Athens Kiddie Carnival.
Two years ago, my child and two of his little friends were among those big, bright eyes marveling at the sight of pint-sized carnival rides one summer night. Two adults, three kids, three hours of nonstop laughter and smiles, and less than $25 later, we conquered Athens’ greatest attraction for the preschool and elementary crowd. And we can’t wait to do it again!
Rides at the Athens Kiddie Carnival
Located across the street from Athens Middle School in a gated field are at least nine carnival rides sized just right for your “littles.” Two sets of amusement swings – one for the bigger kids and one for even the smallest, a whirly-twister, umbrella chairs floating you high into the sky, a bitty roller coaster, a bright yellow train, horses on a carousel, race cars, space ships, and a mini Ferris wheel are all waiting on your kids to jump aboard for only 50¢ a ride.
When you walk through the gate, you’ll be greeted by one of the many smiling Athens Lions Club members who volunteer each weekend to create this magical experience for children in the heart of the Valley. Lions Club volunteers, as well as local teen volunteers, are stationed at each ride to ensure your child has a fabulous and safe time. This has been a fundraiser and way to give back for the Athens Lions Club since the 1950s and you can tell that the volunteers are both pros at it and truly enjoy it! All the money raised supports vision screenings and eyeglasses for those in need and a children’s camp for kids with diabetes.
My good friend and I each took our 3 ½ year old boys and another friend’s daughter who recently graduated from kindergarten. Every single ride at the Athens Kiddie Carnival was perfect for them. I left my one-year old daughter at home with my husband but would definitely consider bringing her next time. Although several of the rides would certainly be too big for her, the yellow train and the carousel horses would be just perfect for her size and ability – especially since they let parents or older kids ride many of the rides to support the tiniest of “littles” if they need it.
But What Does It Cost?
Tickets for rides are 50¢ each. Snacks and drinks consisting of your typical “fair food” range from $1 to $3 and are available at two locations within the Carnival. Bingo (with prizes) for adults and bigger kids can provide hours of entertainment for less than a few bucks. You can even buy a souvenir t-shirt for less than $10. Potty training? No problem! There are bathrooms on site for everyone.
Parking is available across the street on what appears to be the track at Athens Middle School. It can get hectic as more people arrive, so if that worries you, get there early. Also, although the road is clearly marked with cones for pedestrian crossing across the street from the Carnival entrance, keep a close eye on traffic, as the road to cross can get pretty busy.
Gates open at 6:30pm and close at 9:30pm so you’ll be sure to enjoy a beautiful sunset while at the same time watching the smiles on your children’s faces.
In the early 1980s, my dad took me weekly to a kiddie carnival located at Brahan Spring Park in Huntsville. (It closed in the late 1990s.) Every time I asked to go, he said yes without hesitation and I can still remember the smile on his face and the joy in his eyes as he watched me ride each ride for what seemed like hundreds of times. I got to experience that with my own child at the Athens Kiddie Carnival and every time I think about it my heart still bursts with joy. I highly recommend that everyone reading this take some time to experience this wonderful children’s event in Athens this summer. You won’t regret it and you’ll make memories that will last well into your children’s adulthood (just like mine did).
Have fun and enjoy the Athens Kiddie Carnival!
Athens Kiddie Carnival At a Glance
Location: 309 E Forrest St. in Athens, AL (map)
Dates: June 22 – July 29, 2023
Hours: Thursday, Friday & Saturday night from 6:30 pm-9:30 pm
Cost: All rides 50¢, Cash Only.
View Athens Lion’s Club Website
Photo credits: Meg Hamilton
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Andi Stewart is a Decatur-native, who spent over a decade living in Miami. She finally returned home, married a boy she’s known since childhood, and loves raising her family in the hometown she adores. She has two children, a son and a daughter. She’s a professional Environmental Engineer who balances a full-time career with motherhood. She’s run more marathons than she can count (mostly because she really enjoys eating) and she loves her daily barre class and traveling. She is passionate about her River City community and when she’s not volunteering, she’s enjoying all her city has to offer.