Summer in the City
|Fireworks at Lake Lanier
Tried and True Atlanta Fun
by Avery Thibadeau
In a new city, you’re no doubt curious to know what the “locals” do. How do Atlantans enjoy the summer months, and what experiences should you seek as indoctrination into Atlanta life? With its beautiful environment and sunny days that beckon you out of doors, you’ll soon discover that free time in Atlanta is something to enjoy, especially during the summer months.
Over 5 million people currently call Atlanta home, and many of those are energetic young professionals eager for life in the big city—and the city happily obliges, with hot spots and sizzling events all summer long. For others, the summer months in Atlanta mean long, lazy days of hanging out at the pool. But when the kids get stir-crazy (and they will), there’s plenty available to both educate and entertain. Indeed, whether
you are an outdoor adventurist, a history buff or a cultural connoisseur, in no time at all you too will revel in Atlanta’s tried and true summer offerings—just like the locals do.
A Day at the Park
|Piedmont Park; Georgia Dept. of Economic Dev.
Pick an evening to unwind at Piedmont Park
. On long summer evenings, the park is filled with people walking their dogs, running or rollerblading along the meandering, well-maintained paths. Join one of the many pick-up games of soccer or ultimate Frisbee on a Saturday afternoon, or bring a book to this urban oasis to soak up the sun, sights and sounds. Piedmont Park is home to Screen on the Green
, a festive Thursday night event in June that brings thousands flocking to enjoy film favorites while picnicking on the lawn.
On a corner of Piedmont Park is a much-loved watering hole, Park Tavern
. This restaurant, bar and brewery offers handcrafted and Tavern-brewed beers along with unparalleled views of the park. A rainy day perk? When the rain begins to pour, so does the tavern, welcoming you indoors with $1 drafts.
Meeting, Greeting and Shopping!
Atlanta’s eclectically-inclined spend their free hours at bohemian-styled Little Five Points, a neighborhood home to hip shops filled with unique items and unique people. Only in Little Five Points will you find Junkman’s Daughter, an alternative department store, on the same block as Wish Atlanta, a sophisticated retail space offering cutting-edge, breakthrough designer apparel.
Nearby Virginia-Highland offers a posh, uptown feel with its antique stores, art galleries, trendy boutiques and fashionable salons. Some of Atlanta’s favorite bars and restaurants, such as Atkin’s Park (reputed to be the oldest Atlanta restaurant) and Hand in Hand, have also made their homes here along Highland Avenue.
To unwind on Friday evening, grab a friend or a date for Martinis & IMAX at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Choose an IMAX movie—this summer, ride along the Tour de France or float leisurely above a coral reef—and then head for the martini bar. Dance to live music beneath two of the world’s largest dinosaurs while you wait for the show to begin.
Where the Wild Things Are
Atlanta isn’t without its share of wildlife. Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn offers an interactive, hands-on experience with all kinds of animals. In June and July, between 20 and 30 fawns are born at the game ranch. Greet them personally as you walk along the trails. Get up close and personal with large black bears (safely, of course), and visit with one of the largest herds of buffalo east of the Mississippi River. Bring your own food for the animals or purchase some from the park—your newfound furry friends will be grateful.
After a visit to the game ranch, make the short drive down Highway 78 to Stone Mountain Park for the evening’s Lasershow Spectacular. If you get there early enough, hike up the mountain or take the Summit Skyride cable car to the top for a view of Atlanta’s peaked skyline. But be sure to grab your seat on Memorial Lawn before sundown, because after the sky turns dark, it is soon lit up again with a fantastical 45-minute show of laser lights and fireworks.
Since 1996, countless children (and a few adults) have enjoyed playing in the fountain at Centennial Olympic Park. But recent park renovations have put a sophisticated face on this refreshing fun. The installation of 251 computer-controlled water jets and miles of underground pipes has resulted in the brand new Fountain of Rings show, in which music and lights accompany synchronized water choreography to the delight of the whole family.
|Atlanta Braves Fan; GDED
In the evening, hitch a ride from nearby Underground Atlanta with MARTA to Turner Field
for a Braves Game. Enjoy the old-fashioned fun of the game—sing along with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and after the game on Sundays, urge your kids to run the bases. On Friday nights, a spectacular fireworks display directly over the stadium will keep you in your seat long after the game has finished.
Flora and Fauna
A rose garden, a Japanese garden, a rock garden, a children’s garden—the Atlanta Botanical Garden beckons you to its flower-filled landscape. A place for both relaxation and education, the garden features summer camps and imaginative playscapes for children, and it hosts numerous adult classes each week. Enjoy romantic summer evenings with Cocktails in the Garden, held each Thursday, or buy tickets for the SunTrust Concerts in the Garden—this summer, enjoy music from artists such as Delbert McClinton, Atlanta’s own Indigo Girls and Joan Osborne.
|Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta
Few know that Zoo Atlanta
originated as a circus—it came to town in 1889 and never left. The zoo is now one of Atlanta’s favorite outdoor attractions, with live shows, educational classes and animals from near and far. Head from the African plains, where you’ll see giraffes and black rhinos, to the Asian forest, and then stop by to see Zoo Atlanta’s celebrated nine-month-old panda cub, Mei Lan, in her new habitat.
Hit the Road, Jack
If your tastes tend toward the active, then grab your bike and set out on the Silver Comet Trail. Sixty miles will take bikers, walkers or rollerbladers all the way to the Alabama border, if they so choose, along a converted railroad line. Although parking lots, water and restrooms are available at trail pick-up spots along the way, the trail begins in Smyrna. Our advice? Start and finish your day there, and pack a change of clothes.
After your day of exertion, you’ll have worked up an appetite, which will be more than satisfied at Canoe in nearby Vinings. This award-winning restaurant charmingly overlooks the Chattahoochee River—ask for a seat on the patio. A fresh and organic dinner such as pistachio-seared goat cheese followed by Georgia mountain trout will give you the boost of energy to then meander through the restaurant’s gardens down to the
river—a relaxing conclusion to your outdoor day.
Within Walking Distance
The Atlanta Preservation Center
is the perfect place to begin your exploration of Atlanta’s past with its walking tours of many of Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods. Delight in the striking homes of Grant Park, Inman Park, Ansley Park and Druid Hills, Atlanta’s first suburbs, or discover the landmark sites of historic Downtown. Take the tour of the lavish Fox Theatre, one of the few remaining movie palaces from the 1920s, and glean its mysteries. On the Sweet Auburn and Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District tour, visit many places significant to the Civil Rights movement and its leader. These tours generally last an hour and a half and occur on a regular weekly schedule.
Civil War Scenarios
Walk in the footsteps of Union and Confederate soldiers who fought in the Battle of Kennesaw from June 19 to July 2, exactly 143 years ago, at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Historic earthworks, cannon emplacements and the 2,888-acre battlefield have been preserved. An artillery demonstration offers insight into the use of the cannons, and inside the museum, an 18-minute video educates visitors about the Atlanta campaign and the Battle of Kennesaw. The museum also displays many artifacts and even the photos of soldiers who fought in the battle.
Continue your exploration of the Civil War in the air-conditioned comfort of the nearby Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. There, three permanent collections and a wide range of exhibitions offer visitors a glimpse into the daily life of Civil War soldiers, and a reproduction of a turn-of-the-century locomotive factory gives visitors a hands-on account of how locomotives helped recreate the South after the Civil War.
Fit for a King
The High Museum’s three-year partnership with The Louvre is bringing some of the world’s most treasured art to Atlanta in a series of rotating exhibitions, and this summer will be the last chance to view two collections before they return to Paris on September 2. Kings as Collectors features paintings and sculptures collected by Kings Louis XIV and XVI, while Decorative Arts of the Kings displays luxury items manufactured and enjoyed by the French kings and their royal court. Be patient as you meander through the exhibition, as many of these items have never before been displayed in the United States.
After a day of artistic enlightenment, take the evening to sit back and observe literature’s greatest dramas, tragedies and comedies brought to life with Georgia Shakespeare. Enjoy a picnic on the terrace of the theater before the show begins. In June and July, shows include the fantastical Pericles and the comedic misadventures of A Servant to Two Masters.
Filled with Flavor
If cultural flavor means food to you, start your day at the DeKalb Farmers Market, where fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, meats and cheeses from all over the world complement a surprising amount of packaged imports, wines and beers. This is the place for unusual goodies, whether you are planning a dinner party or just looking for culinary enlightenment. Spend some time perusing the aisles, and then indulge your exotic tastes in the Market Restaurant’s exotic selection of prepared foods.
The best Saturday mornings begin at the Green Market at Piedmont Park. Local farmers bring a wide array of fresh produce, herbs, flowers and artisan’s crafts to this open-air market, which is held every Saturday from May through October. With numerous vendors and unusual items, this is a fresh and sunny way to begin the weekend.
TOP 5 ATLANTA FAVORITES
1) Cheer on the Braves at Turner Field.
2) Pack a picnic and enjoy your favorite music at Chastain Amphitheater.
3) Relax on the lawn at Piedmont Park.
4) Soak up some rays at Lake Lanier.
5) Climb Stone Mountain, and then enjoy the Lasershow Spectacular.
|Screen on the Green; GDED
EVENTS NOT TO MISS
Screen on the Green: June 7 (Car Wash); June 14 (Butch Cassidy and the SundanceKid); June 21 (Funny Girl); June 28 (E.T.)
Decatur Beach Festival: June 15; Sixty tons of sand fill the square at this summer soirée.
Peachtree Road Race: July 4; An annual 10K race traversing Peachtree from Lenox Road to Piedmont Park.
July 4th Fireworks Display: July 4; take your pick! Fireworks are set off at Centennial Olympic Park, Lenox Square Mall, Stone Mountain Park and Lake Lanier Islands.
Chastain Delta Series: To name just a few: June 6 (Reba McEntire); June 15 (Lyle Lovett and k.d. lang); June 24 (Harry Connick, Jr.).