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Feb/March 2005

Family Fun for Under $10
Atlanta's Top-Rated Low-Priced Places
by Emily Horton

CNN Center Studio Tour. Photo: GDED
Have the expenses of relocating, finding a new home, moving and then redecorating given you a bad case of the budget blues? Not to worry. Atlanta boasts a wealth of opportunity for budget entertainment that could keep you and your family occupied every day of the week–all for $10 a hit or less. Perfect activities for getting to know your new city, these outing options show off the great diversity that is Atlanta. Try a few or try them all–you may even get to know the area better than the natives do.

Best Bargains
For only $10, you can get an up-close view of newsroom grit and glory at the CNN Center Studio Tour, where you'll see behind-the-scenes coverage of news in action. Even if you're not up for organized fun, meander through the center's lofty atrium and its countless shops and restaurants (, 404-827-2300).

At the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, pay tribute and learn a thing or two about one of the nation's–and the city's–greatest leaders. Access to the Birth Home and Ebenezer Baptist Church museums, as well as to all other exhibits and museums at the site, is free (, 404-331-5190).

Celebrate one of the South's most renowned literary works at Marietta's Gone With the Wind Museum, where Dr. Christopher Sullivan's expansive collection of memorabilia related to the regaled novel and movie is housed. ($5,, 770-794-5576).

Out of the ordinary but undeniably interesting, the American Museum of Papermaking, on the campus of Georgia Tech, showcases a remarkable 10,000-item-plus collection, from intricacies of the invention of paper to watermarks. (Free admission,, 404-894-7840).

The Center for Pupp etry Arts Museum houses a fascinating collection of puppets that portray the amazing diversity and cultural significance of puppetry across the globe. ($5,, 404-881-3391).

If you'd rather ogle more conventional exhibits, Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum (, 404-727-4282) showcases a bevy of historical gems; downtown's Atlanta International Museum of Design (, 404-688-2467) an affiliate of the Smithsonian, routinely brings inspired collections inside its walls. You can wander either of these free of charge.

Want more visual stimulation? The Fernbank Museum of Natural History boasts an IMAX Theatre worth raving about, and its Friday Martinis & IMAX events ($10 per ticket) are a great escape from the routine (, 404-929-6400). If you're ready for another round, the planetarium at the Fernbank Science Center, one of the largest in the world, offers riveting explanations of the Earth's canopy for just $4 (, 678-874-7100).

Stage Steals
Theater may be a splurge for anyone on a serious budget, but there are plenty of fantastic citywide learning experiences to be had for next to nothing.

One of the city's greatest deals for avante-garde theatre can be found in one of Atlanta's most eclectic neighborhoods, Little Five Points. At 7 Stages, catch the opening night production, when tickets are priced at an economical $10. (, 404-523-7647).

You can also find a deal at the landmark Fox Theatre when classic film features are offered in-house. Tickets are generally under $10. (For calendars of events, visit

Classical music productions can run up a hefty tab, but at downtown's charming Rialto Theatre in the Fairlie-Poplar district, Georgia State University students offer up their talents for free. (, 404-651-4727).

If you'd rather chill out to more current tunes, a number of Atlanta's bars and low-key music venues offer refreshing respite from the stereo and cater to music tastes across the board. For bargain admissions, try Smith's Olde Bar (, 404-875-1522) or Redlight Cafe (, 404-874-7828) in Midtown, Westside's Northside Tavern (, 404-874-8745), The EARL (, 404-522-3950) or Echo Lounge in East Atlanta (, 404-681-3600).

Up for a quieter cultural excursion? Callanwolde Fine Arts Center's poetry readings, held the first Wednesday of every month, often host nationally and internationally-recognized poets. An evening of poetic insight is a mere $3. For the same price, the center's monthly storytelling sessions celebrate the best of Atlanta's storytellers (, 404-872-5338).

The Great Outdoors
One of your best bets for finding low-cost entertainment is to venture out of doors. Only outside are you sure to find the greatest natural beauty Georgia has to offer. In most cases you'll have to pay only a parking fee, or in some cases, an entrance fee.

In Smyrna, you'll find easy access to the Silver Comet Trail, a paved, fairly level and increasingly expansive rails-to-trails project that now runs continuously for approximately 40 miles. Once complete, the trail will eventually measure 60 miles long. The scenery alone, with its tree canopies, winding bridges, trestles and serene rivers, is almost enough escape, but for further enjoyment, bring your bike, roller blades, or even your running shoes, Parking is free. (

Georgia State Parks are excellent candidates for outdoor exploration. Pay a $2 to $4 parking fee for access to walking and hiking wonderlands--Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, Sweetwater Creek, Tallulah Gorge and Unicoi among the most notable. For details on individual state parks and historic sites, visit

Closer to Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a haven for intowners looking to avoid the city's ever-present traffic. Check out the Cochran Shoals trail, where a $2 parking fee grants you access to its three-mile, packed-dirt loop. Perfect for running or walking your dogs or yourself; the main trail's off-road routes are ideal for trail running or easy hiking. For maps, visit (Visitors' center: 678-538-1200).

Seasonal Sensations
Some of the city's greatest events are fleeting seasonal specialties, but offer a unique peek into Atlanta's culture and are often incredible deals. Catch them while you can.

Aquafina On The Bricks. Photo: GDED
Hardly a secret any longer, Atlanta's biggest outdoor concert series events are enormously popular for good reason. On Friday nights throughout the summer months, $5 grants access to big-name bands at the Aquafina On The Bricks series in Centennial Olympic Park (; a $7 parking fee per vehicle suffices for entry into The Big Rock series at Stone Mountain (, where entry into the concert is free. If you'd rather avoid the crowds and settle in for something less high voltage, Decatur's Concerts on the Square, every Saturday in May and September, feature a number of fantastic local and national bands. As a bonus, you can cozy up to the music with your own picnic and blankets and make a night of it in Decatur's quaint downtown (

During spring and summer, get to know the local music scene free of charge at Centennial Olympic Park, where reggae, jazz, blues, folk and bluegrass fire up the mood. Wednesday WindDown offers mid-week tension relief; Music at Noon gives downtowners a break from the grind mid-day on Tuesdays and Thursdays (, 404-222-7275).

Even film enthusiasts can take their pastime outdoors during the summer when Piedmont Park highlights the best of classic film with Tuesday evening outdoor showings. The annual Screen on the Green series is free. (, 404-876-4024).

But lovers of arts, crafts and kitsch may get the best deal. Arts festivals and markets scatter the city year-round, culling talent from across the southeast–and sometimes farther–for giant community cultural affairs. Here some of the most buzzing: Piedmont Park's Dogwood Festival, April 8-10 (, 404-329-0501); Inman Park Spring Festival and Tour of Homes, April 22-24 (, 770-242-4895); Decatur Arts Festival and Garden Tour, May 15-30, (, 404-371-9583); Roswell Arts Festival, September 16-18, 770-641-3705; Virginia-Highland Summerfest, June 4-5, (, 404-222-8244); The Urban Market on Means Street, March 18-20, (, 770-481-0280).

Virginia Highland. Photo: GDED
Creative Callings
Then again, some of the most exciting excursions are the most unstructured, lending the most flexibility to craft your own adventure.

In the name of whimsy, bring a loaf of Sunmaid and feed geese in a local park, or bone up on the books you've been avoiding and settle in with a blanket and some literature instead.

If you're up for people watching, head to edgy Little Five Points, grab a slice of pizza and a beer. Savage (, 404-523-0500) is a good bet for well-made pies and a window seat.

If you'd rather roam, wander the spirited streets of Virginia-Highlan d and Morningside for window shopping–and don't forget to pick up a cup of ethereally good gelato from Paolo's (404-607-0055) or What's the Scoop? (404-724-0444) on your way.

Try Castleberry Hill's bourgeoning arts district or long-time favorite Bennett Street for gallery browsing--though keep close tabs on your wallet, or we can't promise you'll stay under budget.

Branching Out: Bargains around the State
If you've tired of the local scene or just feel like getting some fresh air for a few hours, Georgia has plenty to keep you occupied.
Madison, GA. Photo: GDED
Some of the state's simplest towns are also the most charming to explore. Stroll the quaint streets and antebellum homes of historic Madison, which General Sherman was rumored to have spared for its beauty. Madison is just an hour east of Atlanta. (, 800-709-7406).

One hour north of the city in the North Georgia foothills, Dahlonega's rustic appeal lures visitors with its cozy historic downtown and a fantastic array of adventure potential–think horseback riding, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, rafting or mountain biking. (, 706-864-3513).

The University of Georgia, one hour northeast of Atlanta, is home to one of the South's greatest music scenes, a number of excellent restaurants–including chef Hugh Acheson's renowned Five and Ten–and a low-key college vibe that might just persuade you to take up a few classes. Take the campus tour to get your bearings, and don't miss the Georgia Museum of Art, the State Botanical Garden or the Museum of Natural History. (, 706-542-0842).

Oenephiles can make a day of sipping at Georgia's wineries, most of which charge nothing or only a nominal fee for tours and tastings. Though the state isn't especially known for its viticulture quite yet, a handful of Georgia's estates are underrated gems producing some fantastic bottlings. For information on individual wineries, consult the Winegrowers Association of Georgia. ( 706-878-9463.

Check out the best of southern artwork at Augusta's Morris Museum of Art, where a $3 ticket gives way to the museum's collections, including its expansive array of paintings by southern artists, as well as to its current exhibits ( 706-724-7501).

Aero buffs should make it a point to drop by the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, the 4th-largest in the country, where 93 aircraft are displayed with a bevy of awe-inducing exhibits. Admission is free. (, 478-926-6870)

It's in Fayetteville, though, where you can really cut loose at one of the area's more affordable theme parks. Test your putting skills on DixieLand Fun Park's miniature golf course for $6, or take a spin on the bumper boats or go-karts for $5. You won't have to put a suit on again until Monday. (, 770-460-5862).

History and Culture
More historic and cultural sites to suit your tastes and please your pocketbook.
  • Oakland Cemetery: Atlanta's oldest and most architecturally ornate cemetery, where some of the city's most prominent figures, including Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell, were buried. (404-688-2107,
  • BellSouth Telephone Museum features a chronology of the invention and development of telecommunication in the U.S. By appointment only. (404-529-0971, www.bellsouth
  • World of Coca-Cola Museum: A virtual shrine to the world's most popular beverage. (404-676-5151,
  • Federal Reserve Bank Tour: Exhibits on the history of money and the Federal Reserve Bank's role in the U.S. economy. (404-498-8500)
  • Georgia Capitol Museum: Artifacts, exhibits and artwork depicting the history and significance of the Georgia Capitol building. 404-651-6996,
  • Governor's Mansion Tour: Walking tour of one of the city's most prominent representations of Greek Revival architecture, at 24,000 square feet, where Jimmy Carter, Zell Miller and Roy Barnes once lived, now the home of Governor Sonny Perdue. (404-656-1776,
Statewide Attractions
  • Rollins Planetarium: Stellar Friday evening shows on the campus of Young Harris College. (706-379-4312,
  • Columbus Museum: Classical and contemporary exhibits that showcase an eclectic collection of fine art, historical artifacts and archeological acquisitions. (706-649-0713,
  • Macon Museum of Arts & Sciences: Classical and contemporary artwork, and exhibits on astronomy and natural history. (478-477-3232,
  • Jimmy Carter National Historic Site: Plains, Ga., site of former President Jimmy Carter's present home, including his childhood home, farm, and school. (229-824-4104,

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