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The need for speed

  Melissa Lowrie

Canoe Kids
By Melissa Lowrie
Photos by Melissa Lowrie
If January has you feeling a bit sluggish, a spin around the track is just the thing to rid yourself of the winter blahs.

My son has been asking about karting at the Atlanta Motorsports Park since the track was built. For years, I got away with telling him he was too young and we’d push the visit back a few more months.

I finally relented.

Our mother-son adventure began at the front gate of the Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) in Dawsonville. We were greeted by a guard and I was asked to sign waivers and received a wristband. I didn’t throughly read the document I signed, but I guessed it said not to take my Ford on the track and to avoid breathing on the fast cars.

A group gets a briefing before heading for the track.

We got a good view of the big-boy track and the above-mentioned fast cars as we drove the perimeter of the park to the karting office. From there we registered and initialed another set of waivers (you wreck it, you buy it and probably a hold harmless if I drive my kart into a wall ... I’ll have to get better at reading those). We also paid. It wasn’t cheap, but it was totally worth it. We’ll get back to that.

amp     photo  
The rental karts await racers. These karts can reach 55 mph.     The view from my kart, behind kart 58, just before starting.  

When signing in, you choose between one, three or five sessions. The sessions last eight minutes each; we split the difference and opted for three. I was asked if I wanted insurance, at $5 per cart, or a head sock. Plus tax and without the optional insurance, I paid $188 for the two of us.

A staff member starts the kart.

We headed outside to pick helmets and get a (what seemed like) 30-second tutorial on the karts, flags and the track. The two things I absorbed were that I needed to go “full throttle” up the first hill or I’d stall out. And don’t slam on the brake, that will make the kart spin out. Even though I heard that last bit, I still did it, and proved him right.

Did I mention these karts weigh 450 pounds without fuel or a driver? Oh, and they can get up to 55 mph. Clearly, this wasn’t my brother’s go-cart of the 80s.

There were only five other racers in the first session, and that was a good thing. Four of us were first-timers and the others veterans. Unlike a car or golf cart, you won’t be able to work the brake and the gas with one foot. The brake is on the left with no way to access it with your right foot. This took a bit of getting used to, but it didn’t take long.

Thumbs up from this Canoe Kid.
Our first session was spent getting used to the kart and the winding, .85-mile track. The other racers were taken off the track after the 8-minute session, and we were all alone on the track for the second eight minutes, until we got the checkered flag to come in. We were told we’d get a 10 minute break while the owners had a turn on the track.

These privately-owned karts looked like mini Formula One cars. And while I had been very satisfied with my rental kart, I now knew there was something way, way better. Anyway, maybe for Christmas next year.

After the break, we went back out for our final session. It was great. The experience was so fun and not nearly as scary as skydiving. My son agreed, after removing his helmet, he said, “That was sick.” (Sick in kid slang means crazy, cool, insane—extremely high praise.)

That said, he was nervous at first and admitted he wouldn’t have gone without me. There are chairs set up for spectators, but I’d advise a spin around the track. The AMP website,, says these karts are “Very fast! Fun for ages 12 years to grandpa and grandma.” The site also says there are karts available for kids as young as 5, but we didn’t see those.

Public karting (for non-AMP members) is only available on certain days and times. Visit the website for a calendar and additional details. There is also a link to register on the site.

If you are the parent or grandparent of a kid in the 12-20 age range, check out the karts at Atlanta Motorsports Park. You’ll be a hero. For those with younger Canoe Kids, keep this in mind for something to do in a few years or with your significant other while the kids hang with a sitter.


I hope you and your Canoe Kids have a fantastic 2015 full of new adventures. Happy New Year.

Canoe Kids chronicles child-approved adventures in North Georgia. Melissa Lowrie, husband Parish and their two children have enjoyed life in Big Canoe since 2006. Past columns are archived on

Canoe Kids Jan. 2015


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