2013's Biggest Events
A Month-By-Month Guide to Atlanta’s Hottest Happenings
by Kevin Forest Moreau
Congratulations! You’re finally settled in your new city, and nowyou’re wondering what there is to do around here. No problem—we’re here to help. On the pages that follow, we’ve outlined the upcoming year’s most important events to mark on your calendar, from New Year’s Eve celebrations to Fourth of July fireworks, the city’s biggest festivals and more holiday happenings than you can fit under the tree.
(Dates are subject to change. Where no official 2013 dates are listed, please check attraction and event websites for updates.)
New Year's Eve
There’s no better way to dive into your new city than to ring in the New Year at the Peach Drop. Live music fills the Underground Atlanta shopping district as thousands of revelers wait for a sparkling, 800-pound peach to begin its 138-foot descent. The event is capped off by a visually dazzling fireworks display. More than 100,000 people attended last year’s celebration.
If you’re a football fanatic, you might prefer to spend the evening with several thousand other fans watching teams from the ACC and the SEC do battle in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, held every New Year’s Eve in the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which many locals observe at the Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church on historic Auburn Avenue.
Every Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, Georgia’s official weather prognosticator, General Beau Lee, emerges from his home at the Yellow River Game Ranch to predict the coming of spring.
Six Flags Over Georgia celebrates its 46th anniversary this year with two new attractions: the 24-story SkyScreamer and the Typhoon Twister.
Fans of independent movies, from low-budget horror flicks to award-winning dramas and documentaries, won’t want to miss the Atlanta Film Festival, held March 15-24 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
Don your best leprechaun costume, dance to authentic Irish music, watch traditional Irish dancers strut their stuff and wash down your bangers and mash with some green beer as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade makes its annual trek through downtown Atlanta, rolling down Peachtree Street from Ralph McGill to Woodruff Park.
Looking to erase the sting of their abrupt exit from the playoffs last October, the Atlanta Braves will host the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day of the 2013 season at Turner Field on April 1.
The Masters Golf Tournament, one of the sport’s major championships, tees off April 8-14 at the Augusta National Golf Club, less than three hours from Atlanta.
Enjoy two of the city’s biggest outdoor events back-to-back. First, the 77th annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival fills Piedmont Park with music, food, children’s entertainment, a disc dog tournament and hundreds of artists.
The following weekend, the 42nd annual Inman Park Festival showcases one of Atlanta’s oldest and most scenic neighborhoods with three days of music, food, a parade, arts, crafts, children’s activities and a tour of some of the area’s nicest homes.
The Decatur Arts Festival features more than 150 artists selected in a competitive jury process, as well as theater and literary arts, dance, performing arts, a fine arts exhibit, areas for kids and teens and a silent auction.
The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival showcases award-winning chefs, mixologists and local growers with a weekend of cooking and cocktail classes, tastings, seminars, dinners, discussions and more.
May 30-June 2.
Memorial Day Weekend
Each year, Memorial Day weekend brings local, national and international jazz artists to Piedmont Park for the three-day Atlanta Jazz Festival. The festival also celebrates “31 Days of Jazz” each May with daily jazz performances and various events around town.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Virginia-Highland Summerfest, a two-day outdoor festival along tree-lined Virginia Avenue in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. Expect live music, food, a juried artist’s market, a 5K race, children’s activities and more.
Dedicated to showcasing artists of African descent from the United States, Latin America, Africa and beyond, the National Black Arts Festival is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a stirring lineup of dance, theater, visual arts, music, literature, film and performance art.
Fourth of July
The Peachtree Road Race is an Atlanta institution billed as the world’s largest 10K race. Thousands of spectators camp out to enjoy live music and cheer on the runners.
The Legendary 4th of July at Lenox Square Mall is Atlanta’s premier Independence Day celebration. Revelers fill the area around this busy Buckhead shopping mall for an evening of live music, food and the Southeast’s largest fireworks display.
Centennial Olympic Park hosts its own 4th of July Celebration with free music and fireworks.
And the Fantastic Fourth Celebration at Stone Mountain Park includes the park’s breathtaking Lasershow Spectacular.
Bask in the last days of summer beneath beautiful, century-old trees at the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival. The weekend event features art, live music, a 5K, children’s entertainment and a fine food and wine event.
Celebrate the start of college football season with the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, as the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Virginia Tech Hokies do battle at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31.
Labor Day Weekend
Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy and popular culture or just want to do some serious people-watching, Dragon*Con is the place to be. Don’t miss the parade on Saturday morning.
Billed as the nation’s largest independent book festival, the Decatur Book Festival fills the downtown Decatur square with book signings, readings, writing workshops, food, panel discussions and much more.
If you love classic cars, corn dogs, vintage flicks and drive-in movie theaters, then you’ll want to park yourself at the Starlight Six Drive-In for Drive Invasion. This retro weekend features live rock bands all day and cult movies all night.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the fifth straight year, with a weekend full of events leading up to the big race on Sunday, Sept. 1.
Early September ushers in the start of the NFL season, with the Atlanta Falcons charging into the Georgia Dome.
Browse the works of more than 400 artists and crafters at the Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain Park while enjoying great food, shopping, children’s activities and demonstrations of everything from crafts to clogging.
On the second weekend after Labor Day, the Atlanta Arts Festival fills Piedmont Park with fine artists working in mixed media, photography, jewelry, paint and more. The two-day festival features artist demonstrations, classes, food and live music, as well.
In nearby Helen, Ga., the month of October is synonymous with the town’s signature celebration, Oktoberfest (which actually begins in late September). This authentic replica of an Alpine village comes alive with German cuisine, music and dancing.
Experience the sights, sounds, traditions and flavors of Greece at the Atlanta Greek Festival.
Taste of Atlanta, the city’s premier food and drink festival, marks its 12th anniversary in 2013 with demonstrations, competitions and seminars featuring the area’s top chefs, bartenders and farmers—and, of course, lots of great food and drink vendors.
Every weekend in October, the Pumpkin Festival at Stone Mountain celebrates the colors and traditions of fall with such activities as a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt, a pie-eating contest, a costume party, storytelling and more.
The Atlanta Pride Festival features live music, a parade, a dance party and more.
Oct. 12-13 at Piedmont Park.
Out on Film, one of the oldest gay and lesbian film festivals in the country, turns 26 in 2013 and programs special events throughout the year.
And in late October, the Atlanta Hawks take flight at Philips Arena as the 2013-2014 NBA season gets underway.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden gets into the Halloween spirit all month long. The weekly Fest-of-Ale combines seasonal brews and live music, local chefs compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, and Scarecrows in the Garden features more than 100 scarecrows handcrafted by local businesses, schools and organizations.
Zoo Atlanta’s Boo at the Zoo offers such family-friendly fun as a corn maze, a costume contest and, of course, the chance to view the zoo’s many exotic animals, usually over the last two weekends of the month.
The Little Five Points Halloween Parade brings an invasion of colorful costumes and live music to the quirky Little Five Points neighborhood.
Netherworld Haunted House, one of the nation’s top haunted-house attractions, features live actors, visually stunning special effects and gruesome creatures that may not be appropriate for pre-teens and younger fright-seekers.
The first Saturday in November brings the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens, featuring thoroughbred horse races, bagpipers, a hat contest and plenty of children’s activities.
Also on the first Saturday of the month, the Decatur Wine Festival takes over the historic square in downtown Decatur. Enjoy food from local restaurants, live entertainment and more than 500 domestic and international wine selections at metro Atlanta’s largest outdoor wine festival.
In addition to hosting the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, the Georgia Dome is also the site of the SEC Football Championship each December. Teams from the Eastern and Western divisions of the South eastern Conference face off to decide the reigning champion of the most powerful organization in college football.
Get into the spirit of the season with Atlanta’s definitive version of A Christmas Carol, staged by the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre.
It’s not Christmas in Atlanta until you’ve taken in a performance of the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre.
Holiday in Lights transforms Centennial Olympic Park into a wonderland made up of thousands of lights. The park also features an outdoor ice-skating rink.
The Lighting of Atlantic Station is an all-day celebration with live music, children’s crafts and other activities at this open-air shopping district.
Stone Mountain Christmas features live shows, storytelling, a Wonderland Walkway, the Polar Express 4-D Experience and much more. There’s also Snow Mountain, with snowman building, tubing and other fun activities.