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Stay close to home during this year's spring break

Once again, it's spring break and you're planning a vacation with the kids. This year, if you can't get away for the entire week, consider a shorter trip. Two or three days should be plenty of time to explore these nearby destinations.

There's no reason you and the kids can't learn a little something during spring break. Macon, which was founded in 1823, offers ample opportunities to explore the history of Georgia. From Atlanta, the drive to Macon on Interstate 75 south takes about an hour and a half.

The Ocmulgee National Monument (www.nps.gov/ocum/) features large earthen mounds built by the Indians who once lived in the area. The park's earth lodge dates back 1,000 years.

The city's neighborhoods feature a number of Greek Revival and Victorian houses, which attract many visitors. More than 5,000 buildings in Macon are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Don't miss the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (www.gshf.org), which is the largest state sports museum in the country, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (www.gamusichall.com), which includes a children's music museum. If you don't already know, Little Richard and Otis Redding grew up in Macon, while James Brown recorded his first single there. The Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band released albums on Macon's Capricorn Records label in the 1970s.

Of course, you'll have to eat while you're on vacation. Restaurants in Macon include Nu-Way Weiners (www.nu-wayweiners.com), a hot dog stand that has been operating since 1916, and Fincher's Barbecue, which sent barbecue to space on a NASA mission in 1989.

Call 1-800-768-3401 or visit www.maconga.org.

Head to Tennessee

If you head north, you'll find plenty of family fun in Chattanooga, Tenn. This city is about two hours away from Atlanta.

The city adopted its name in 1838, though trading posts had been established in the area in the early 1700s. Railroads have been important to the area since the mid-1800s.

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo train station (www.choochoo.com) is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. This spot includes vintage train cars, one of the world's largest model railroads, a Holiday Inn hotel, restaurants and shopping. In the 1940s, Glenn Miller's song "The Chattanooga Choo-Choo" earned the singer his first gold record.

Another area favorite is Rock City (www.seerockcity.com), a rock garden located on Lookout Mountain. Rock City opened in 1932. Take your family to the top of the mountain with a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway (www.lookoutmtnatrractions.com), which is the world's steepest passenger railway.

Families interested in exploring the mysteries of the deep have several options in Chattanooga. On Lookout Mountain, you can visit Ruby Falls, an underground cave that features natural rock formations and a waterfall. In downtown Chattanooga, visit the Tennessee Aquarium (www.tnaqua.org), which is home to many creatures of the sea, including sharks, squid, crabs and jellyfish.

Call 1-800-322-3344 or visit www.chattanoogafun.com.

Close to home

A two-night stay in Atlanta may not seem like much of a getaway, but imagine how much time you could spend at the city's attractions if you didn't have to worry about driving there and back. Book a room at one of the many downtown hotels and you'll be able to walk or take MARTA to museums, restaurants and shops. Visit www.atlanta.net.

Be sure to include one last trip to the World of Coca-Cola (www.worldofcoca-cola.com), which will close Saturday to prepare to move to its new building in May. If you have younger kids, check out the new Sesame Street exhibit at the Imagine It Children's Museum of Atlanta (www.imagineitcma.org). Older kids will probably enjoy the High Museum of Art (www.high.org). You may want to take in a show at the Center for Puppetry Arts (www.puppet.org) or spend an afternoon in Piedmont Park (www.piedmontpark.org).

You might want to consider buying the Atlanta CityPass, which includes immediate-entry tickets to the Georgia Aquarium (www.georgiaaquarium.org). The CityPass also includes admission to the World of Coca-Cola (while it's open), the High Museum and the Inside CNN Atlanta studio tour. Passholders can choose between visiting the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (www.fernbankmuseum.org) and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The pass also includes admission to either Zoo Atlanta or the Atlanta History Center (www.atlantahistorycenter.com). The CityPass is $59 for adults and $45 for ages 3 to 12. Visit www.citypass.com.