Cool Fun in the Hot City
by Amanda K. Brown
It doesn't matter if the humidity's to blame or not, there's a reason our fair city's been dubbed "Hotlanta." The Southeast's capital for hot fun in the summertime, Atlanta never disappoints with things to do during the hottest months of the year. The city and its environs overflow with outdoor entertainment, festivals, parks, cultural events and more-you just have to know where to find them. To help you decide amongst all of Atlanta's outdoor offerings that go beyond the zoo and Braves baseball, here's a breakdown of the best ways to enjoy summer in the city.
Some of the most eagerly awaited concerts and festivals take place just as the temperatures go from hot to hotter. This summer is no different-you can't throw a rock in Atlanta without hitting a great concert. A slew of legendary acts hit town for Classic Chastain (404-253-5998, www.classicchastain.org), a series running June through August. Presented by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and held at Chastain Park Amphitheatre, this summer's line-up includes Santana, Wynonna Judd, Carole King, B.B. King and hometown girl India.Arie among others. Another popular draw at Chastain, the Delta Concert Series (www.atlantaconcerts.com/chastain.html) grooves through the solstice with Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello, Earth, Wind & Fire, James Taylor and more.
Cobb County's Mable House Amphitheatre (770-819-7765, www.mablehouseamphitheatre.com) is gaining a reputation for attracting well-known artists. This year's series, running through August, features an eclectic mix of musical heavy-hitters, from The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Marshall Tucker Band to Patty Loveless and television's Nashville Star tour. Another noteworthy venue, HiFi Buys Amphitheatre (404 -443-5090) lies south of downtown off of Langford Freeway and rocks out through September with artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Avril Lavigne, the Van's Warped Tour and Oasis with Jet.
Of course, for concertgoers on a budget, alternative rock radio station 99X plans on creating a free outdoor concert series to run Saturday nights for six weeks beginning July 9 at Underground Atlanta.
To avoid past years' rain, the wildly popular Music Midtown (404-249-6400, www.musicmidtown.com) moves this year to the weekend of June 10-12. Six stages, including one produced by Jermaine Dupri, will feature different genres of music and will showcase local and national artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, The Killers, Lou Reed, Keane, Keith Urban, Tom Petty, and the White Stripes. Competing for audiences across town the same weekend is the first annual VIBE MusicFest (www.vibe.com/musicfest) at the Georgia Dome, featuring the best in R&B, hip hop, world music and gospel with performances by Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Big Boi and Ludacris, to name a few.
Summer notoriously brings out the best and worst of Hollywood blockbuster extravaganzas, but for those looking for something a little different this year, check out Atlanta's favorite venues for cinema under the stars. Some Like It Hot, and those who do will love the classic film festival Screen on the Green (404-878-2600), held in Piedmont Park's "Meadow" at sunset each Thursday, June 2-30. Movie-lovers are welcome to bring low-backed chairs, blankets and picnics to these free outdoor showings. Sponsored in part by Turner Classic Movies, this year's films, shown on the park's 45-by-24-foot screen, include the aforementioned Marilyn Monroe-Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon favorite, with a special introduction by Curtis himself, Grease, The Birds, Mommie Dearest, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Several communities in the metro area plan to show films as well. Decatur's Cinema on the Square (www.decaturga.com), held on the Old Courthouse Square, will feature activities beginning at 7 p.m., followed by a movie at dusk on July 23, 30 and August 6. Families will love Roswell's Movies Under the Stars (770-641-3705, www.roswellgov.com). This summer film series takes place at alternating parks in Roswell through September, and will screen kid-friendly features such as Star Wars, Shark Tale and Racing Stripes.
What could be more romantic than sharing a hot summer night at the drive-in with your sweetheart? For those who think that kind of fun ended in the '50s, think again. The Starlight Six Drive-In Theatres (404-627-5786, www.starlightdrivein.com), on Moreland Avenue in southeast Atlanta, shows a mix of current and classic films on six different screens, seven nights a week, 364 days a year. Six bucks and a working radio are all that's required to enjoy two feature films in the comfort of your own car.
Often considered the Mecca for culture in the South, Atlanta attracts the best in handcrafted and homegrown wares. The back-by-popular demand Green Market at Piedmont Park (404-876-4024, www.piedmontpark.org) is held every Saturday through the end of August. This outdoor market features cooking demonstrations by some of the city's finest chefs, live entertainment and kids' activities, along with farmers and merchants offering Georgia-grown produce, baked goods, fresh flowers and a variety of herbs and cheeses. Downtown Atlanta's 85-year-old Sweet Auburn Curb Market (404-659-1665, www.sweetauburncurbmarket.com) reigns supreme as the place to find the freshest fare in vegetables and soul food, such as collard and turnip greens, yams and okra. The market, open weekly Monday through Saturday, is also known for the assortment of meats offered by vendors, including everything from catfish, pork, lamb and filet mignon to frog legs, rabbit and turtle. African and Caribbean clothing and cuisine are also popular draws to the market.
Atlanta produces more than just fantastic food, however. On June 4-5, the Virginia-Highland Summerfest (www.vahi.org) celebrates the beginning of summer with one of the best artists' markets in the Southeast, specializing in hip, funky fine, folk and unique art. Jewelry, photography, paintings and more entice those looking for something different to adorn themselves or their home. A 5K morning road race, live music and delicious dishes from local restaurants round out these two days of fun.
When the thermometer reaches for those mercury-bursting highs, there's no better way to cool off than enjoying a rush of summer wind on a roller coaster or getting soaked on a water park ride. Six Flags Over Georgia (www.sixflags.com/georgia), a coaster enthusiast's delight, offers a bevy of amusement rides for kids and adults alike. The latest addition to Six Flags, a new, two-acre water attraction called Skull Island, features three giant, water-dumping towers, six water slides and hundreds of interactive water elements. If you need more water to quench your thirst, head to Six Flags White Water Atlanta (770-948-9290, www.sixflags.com/parks/whitewater) where one of the tallest free-fall water slides in the world resides, along with other slides, raft rides and lagoon tides less likely to make you lose your lunch.
Traditional family fun can be found at Dixieland Fun Park (770-460-5862, www.dixielandfunpark.com) in Fayetteville. Go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf, batting cages and laser tag are just some of the reasons this attraction is so popular. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there's a 600-foot zip line and a new giant swing that begins its flight 65 feet in the air.
For a different kind of rush, try Road Atlanta (800-849-RACE, www.roadatlanta.com), just north of the city in Braselton. While the track gears up for this fall's eighth annual Petit Le Mans race, visitors who feel the need for speed can get hands-on experience behind the wheel at the Panoz Racing School, the Kevin Scwantz Suzuki School and the Audi Driving Experience.
With warm weather comes the desire to get out of the monotonous gym and into the great outdoors for some stimulating summer activity. There are several Georgia State Parks (800-864-7275, www.gastateparks.org) near Atlanta, including Red Top Mountain, just north of the city; Sweetwater Creek, west of the city; and Indian Springs, just south of the city. Each of these parks offers swimming, boat and canoe rentals, fishing, water skiing and miles of biking and hiking trails. The parks also host concerts, special events and nature hikes.
For family fun, nothing beats Stone Mountain Park (770-498-5690, www.stonemoutainpark.com). Kids love attractions such as Crossroads, an 1870s replica of a Southern town that includes the Treehouse Challenge; The Great Barn, filled with rope nets, mazes and slides; and the waterslide complex. Hiking, camping, boating, Scenic Railroad, Skylift, Tennis Center (built for the 1996 Olympics), and two championship golf courses round out Stone Mountain's repertoire. Of course, no day at the park would be complete without a viewing of the Lasershow Spectacular, which turns the mountain's exposed granite into a one milli on-square-foot natural screen.
Located 45 minutes north of Atlanta, Lake Lanier Islands (770-932-7200, www.lakelanierislands.com), a year-round, 1,100-acre resort, rents ski boats, pontoons, deck boats, houseboats and group excursion yachts. In addition, a variety of fishing and ski equipment is available for rental. The Lake Lanier Islands Beach & Waterpark features a three-story, interactive FunDunker, a man-made wave machine, lagoon and two wave pools. Horse lovers will adore the Equestrian Center, which takes visitors on scenic horseback trail rides, pony rides and riding lessons, and the Emerald Pointe Golf Club provides 18-hole, championship golfing for those wanting to hit the greens.
The Chattachoochee River National Recreation Center (678-538-1200, www.nps.gov/chat) presents excellent opportunities for leisurely paddling a kayak, raft or canoe (all available for rent at the center), fishing in the trout stream stocked with over 20 species of game fish, biking and hiking the 50 miles of trails.
From the Mountains to the Sea
Outside Atlanta, Georgia's access to both the mountains and beach make breaking away from the city easy.
High Country Outfitters
Chattooga and Ocoee Rivers
Rolling Thunder River Company
Nantahala and Ocoee Rivers
Brunswick & The Golden Isles
Includes St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island
Historic scenery, festivals and shopping along the gorgeous Savannah River
Fantastic Fourth Celebration-Stone Mountain Park
Lasershow and Fireworks
Fourth of July Celebration-Centennial Olympic Park
Family activities and fireworks
AirTran Airways 4th of July-Lenox Square
Kid Zone fun, live music and fireworks
Pied Piper Parade, Concert & Fireworks-Decatur
Callenwolde Concert Band and fireworks
Light up the Sky July 4th Celebration-Lake Lanier
Live entertainment, games, family fun and fireworks at the Beach & Waterpark