The Best Free Things To Do In Atlanta This Year
Atlanta is a city with many personalities. You can equally find yourself dining at top-end restaurants as you can find yourself meandering through lovely hidden gardens and learning about its rich history. We've put together the best free things to do in Atlanta to help you find inspiration for your next visit.
1. Centennial Olympic Park
Built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, Centennial Olympic Park is now an Atlanta icon. The main feature is its Fountain of Rings, a synchronized light, music, and water show that delights patrons in the area and is an ideal spot to cool off on a hot summer's day. You’ll often find live music and unique events taking place in the 22-acre park, and as it's situated in the middle of downtown Atlanta, it’s constantly buzzing with tourists and visitors. If you have a couple of hours to spare, grab a picnic blanket and lunch and watch the world tick by.
2. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
There's no doubt you'll be inspired and humbled after visiting Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, as Atlanta itself is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised. Admission is free to all the buildings and historic sites, and with 35 acres of history to explore, you'll have your work cut out for you visiting them all. The best place to begin your visit is at the National Park Service Visitor Center where you can join a free guided tour of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home. Be sure to arrive early as the tours go on a first-come-first-served basis.
3. Arabia Mountain
Just east of Atlanta, you'll find yourself in a secluded National Heritage Area, one of only 49 designated areas in the United States. Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area is the lesser-known sibling to the popular Stone Mountain, but for many, it is even more impressive. Trade in the crowds and commercialization and enjoy the 1.3-mile hike up to the summit where you'll be rewarded with views overlooking Atlanta. Better yet, make yourself a picnic and enjoy a full day spotting the unique plants and animals, and otherworldly geographical features who call Arabia Mountain home.
4. Monetary Museum
Museums don’t always scream a good time, but who isn’t fascinated by ‘The Story of Money’, especially when admission is free? For groups of 10 or less, you can pop into the museum anytime between 9 am and 4 pm and enjoy a self-guided tour. You’ll learn how money changed from barter to modern times, take a look at rare coins and currencies, and even watch millions of dollars being counted and sorted. There are also interactive and multimedia exhibits for those who need a bit more excitement added to their learning.
5. Piedmont Park
It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering around the 211-acre Piedmont Park, enjoying the many rejuvenating green spaces and free activities. Think Central Park, but add in warmer weather and a touch of southern charm, and you’ll find yourself coming back time and time again, especially as Piedmont Park is located right near downtown Atlanta. If you’re out and about over the weekend, keep an eye out for live music and unique festivals popping up all around the park. Plus, if you’re a dog owner (or lover!), there’s even a special Piedmont Dog Park set aside for your four-legged friend.
6. Fernbank Science Center
You’ll hardly notice your brain filling with valuable information as you wander around the huge exhibit hall and the 65-acres of forest at Fernbank Science Center. The center is dedicated to lifelong learning, so no matter your age, you’ll pick up new facts about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Learn about dinosaur skeletons, visit the electron microscope lab, check out an authentic Apollo spacecraft, and ponder the stars in a 70-foot planetarium – all for free! The opening hours do vary throughout the year, so be sure to check out their Facebook page or website before visiting.
7. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
While Kennesaw Mountain is a slight drive away from Atlanta, it’s well worth the day trip. The park itself is most well-known for being the site of a major Civil War battle, but you’ll also find over 18 miles of hiking trails, bike paths, and grassy picnic spots. If you’re feeling extra energetic, climb to the top of the 1,800ft summit and take in views of the Atlanta skyline and Kennesaw Mountains neighbor, Stone Mountain. Or, if you’d prefer, head into the visitor center to learn about the park's rich history, then catch a shuttle to the summit.
8. Atlanta BeltLine
If you are visiting or live in Atlanta, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself on the Atlanta BeltLine at some stage. While the finished product is still a work in progress, much of the project has been completed, and it’s easy to head out for a day-long stroll and visit many of the public art displays and pop-up events along the trail. If you have limited time, we recommend checking out the Northside Trail. You’ll instantly feel like you’ve left the city behind as you wind through Tanyard Creek Park, cross multiple bridges and even venture under a giant wooden train tower!
9. Carter Center
Located just 2 miles from downtown Atlanta, you’ll find the peaceful and engaging Carter Center – a not-for-profit organization founded by Jimmy Carter back in 1982. There is a small fee to enter the adjacent museum and library, however, it’s completely free to wander around the grounds which includes the Circle of Flags, a well-kept rose garden and Japanese garden, and a koi pond. Both the gardens and grounds are open from sunrise right through to the late evening, and with many tucked away gardens and paths, you’ll find time slips away as you enjoy the beautiful scenery.
10. Ponce City Market
Set in an old Sears, Roebuck & Co retail store and warehouse distribution building, you’ll find the buzzing Ponce City Market with everything from your local coffee café, gourmet restaurants, a rooftop amusement park, and even well-known office headquarters. While there’s plenty to spend your money on, exploring the building and its many unique offerings is a worth-while (and free!) all-day event. For the best experience, head there in the early afternoon when the shops are fully open or on a Tuesday evening when the Farmers Market is overflowing with Georgia’s finest produce.
11. The Goat Farm
Contrary to what the name suggests, The Goat Farm is actually a visual and performing arts center located in West Midtown. Set on 10-acres, there's plenty of space to wander around and check out the different stages and tucked away performance areas - you may even recognize a few places where The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were filmed. If you're planning a visit, keep an eye on their events page as they host film screenings, art exhibitions, workshops, and many other unique events throughout the year. While the Goat Farm doesn't accept donations, it's still worth bringing a few dollars to check out the highly-rated coffee shop next door.
12. Noah’s Ark
Noah’s Ark is a heart-warming animal sanctuary where people of all ages can visit and learn about the incredible species who call the sanctuary home. With over 1,500 animals housed, including bears, Bengal tigers, monkeys, parrots, and even llamas, you’ll have your work cut out for you visiting them all. Don’t forget to check out ‘The Clubhouse’ too, which is home to a bear, lion, and tiger who have been best friends since they were cubs. Admission is free from noon to 3 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, but it is encouraged to bring a small donation to help with the costs of feeding so many hungry mouths!
Without spending a penny you can get back in touch with nature, learn about Atlanta's unique history, increase your fitness, enjoy live events, and much more. Start ticking off your favorite things to do in Atlanta for free from this list and see for yourself the many personalities of Atlanta!
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