2014 Biggest Events
The 35 HOTTEST Happenings of the Year
By Kevin Forest Moreau
As you’ve probably figured out by now, Atlanta is a pretty big place,with many, many things to see and do. So many, in fact, that as a new arrival, you may be intimidated just thinking about them all. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the metro area’s biggest events, from outdoor arts festivals to one-of-a-kind cultural celebrations. Mark your calendar for these hot happenings and prepare to explore some of the best entertainment the city has to offer. (Dates are subject to change. Check event websites for updates.)
The Peach Drop, Atlanta’s largest New Year’s Eve event, fills the Underground Atlanta shopping district with live music as thousands of revelers await the descent of a sparkling, 800-pound peach and a spectacular fireworks display. Dec. 31. www.peachdrop.com.
Atlanta’s premier Independence Day celebration, the Legendary 4th of July at Lenox Square Mall, boasts the largest fireworks display in the Southeast, as well as musical entertainment and food from top local restaurants. www.lenoxsquare.com.
Food And Drink Festivals
The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival highlights the food and beverage traditions of the South with chefs, mixologists, classes, tastings, dinners, special events and more. The festival takes place May 29-June 1 in Midtown Atlanta. www.atlfoodandwinefestival.com.
Each October, Taste of Atlanta serves up a dazzling smorgasbord of cooking demonstrations, competitions and seminars featuring some of the top chefs, bartenders and farmers in the region. Savor samples from more than 90 great local restaurants. www.tasteofatlanta.com.
In early November, the Cabbagetown Chomp and Stomp energizes Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood with a chili cook-off, live bluegrass music, a 5K race, games and more. www.chompandstomp.com.
Also in November, the Decatur Wine Festival takes over the historic square in downtown Decatur to showcase more than 500 wines from around the world. Attendees can also enjoy live entertainment and food from local restaurants. www.decaturwinefestival.org.
The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, billed as “a 22-day cinematic exploration of Jewish life, culture and history,” screens dozens of narrative and documentary films and also features guest appearances by actors, directors, scholars and more. The festival runs Jan. 29-Feb. 20 at various venues. www.ajff.org.
The Atlanta Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals in the country, shines a spotlight on a staggering number of films each year, from low-budget independent fare to award-winning documentaries and more. The 2014 festival takes place March 28-April 6 at various venues. www.atlantafilmfestival.com.
Out on Film is one of the oldest gay and lesbian film festivals in the nation, marking its 27th year in 2014. The festival takes place in October, running concurrently with Atlanta Pride, and also programs special events throughout the year. www.outonfilm.org.
The Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theatre offers the unique experience of watching classic films and recent hit movies on one of the largest screens in town. Before the show, enjoy a cartoon short and a singalong with the theater’s massive “Mighty Mo” organ. The festival runs on select dates June through August. www.foxtheatre.org.
For something a little different, Drive Invasion features cult films, classic cars and live music at the Starlight Six Drive-In each Labor Day weekend. www.starlightdrivein.com.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival features performances by notable and up-and-coming jazz musicians throughout the month of May, capped off with a free three-day festival in Piedmont Park over Memorial Day weekend. www.atlantafestivals.com.
Music Midtown has regained its crown as Atlanta’s premier music festival since returning in 2011 after a six-year absence. Held in Piedmont Park each September, it features two days of big-name acts on three stages; recent performers include Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters. www.musicmidtown.com.
Oktoberfest runs from mid-September through October in Helen, Ga., a charming replica of an Alpine village just 90 minutes from Atlanta. This colorful celebration of German food, beverage and music marks its 44th anniversary in 2014. www.helenga.org.
The Atlanta Greek Festival brings the sights, sounds, tastes and traditions of Greece to Atlanta’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral the first weekend of October. Enjoy souvlaki, gyros, moussaka, dancing, music and much more. www.atlantagreekfestival.org.
The Stone Mountain Highland Games bring the sights and sounds of Scotland to Stone Mountain Park during the third weekend of October. Thousands of people of Scottish descent participate in athletic events, dancing demonstrations and other events. www.smhg.org.
The Masters Golf Tournament is one of the major championship events in professional golf, drawing some of the biggest names in the sport. The 2014 tournament takes place April 7-13 at the Augusta National Golf Club, less than three hours from Atlanta. www.masters.com.
The Global Imports Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge returns to Sandy Springs for a seventh year of racing, food and fun in early May. The challenge caps the USA CRITS Series’ “Speed Week,” a nine-day string of bicycle races across the state. The event also includes the Taste of Sandy Springs food festival, with food and drink from more than 30 local restaurants. www.sandyspringschallenge.org.
The Peachtree Road Race, held on July 4, is one of Atlanta’s most beloved traditions. The 10K starts at Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead and ends at Piedmont Park in Midtown. More than 100,000 spectators line Peachtree to cheer on the participants. www.peachtreeroadrace.org.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series zooms into Atlanta Motor Speedway for a weekend of racing events billed as one of the most exciting events on the NASCAR schedule. Aug. 29-31. www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
The Inman Park Festival takes place the third weekend in April. Enjoy music, food, children’s activities and a tour of some of the nicest homes in this historic Atlanta neighborhood. April 25-27. www.inmanparkfestival.org.
The Sweet Auburn Springfest is a free outdoor festival designed to spotlight the businesses and organizations of the Sweet Auburn Historic District. Thousands of attendees flock to Auburn Avenue each year for food, art and entertainment. May 9-11. www.sweetauburn.com.
The Virginia-Highland Summerfest commemorates the beginning of summer with a two-day outdoor festival each June. The scenic Virginia-Highland neighborhood hosts live music, food, an artists market, a 5K race and children’s activities. www.vahi.org/summerfest.html.
The Grant Park Summer Shade Festival takes place the last weekend of August with art, live music, a 5K race, food and a family fun zone with storytellers, puppet shows and much more. www.summershadefestival.org.
The Sandy Springs Festival draws more than 25,000 attendees during the third weekend of September each year for two days of fine art, music, a pet parade, 5K and 10K races, gourmet and festival food, classic rides and much more. www.sandyspringsfestival.com.
The third Saturday of September brings Suwanee Day, a celebration of the bustling Gwinnett County city of Suwanee. This free festival features arts and crafts, a parade, food vendors, entertainment and lots of fun activities for the kids. www.suwaneeday.com.
One of the oldest fine arts festivals in the country, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival boasts a juried artists market featuring hundreds of artists working in paint, pottery, photography, sculpture, jewelry and more. The event also features food, live music, a disc dog tournament and children’s entertainment. April 11-13 in Piedmont Park. www.dogwood.org.
The Decatur Arts Festival features a month of events culminating in a weekend festival in May, featuring an artists market, a silent auction, performances, literary events and much more. www.decaturartsfestival.com.
The National Black Arts Festival stretches over the summer months with a roster of dance, theater, music, literature, film, visual arts and much more. The festival also produces year-round educational programming and special events. www.nbaf.org.
In less than 10 years, the Decatur Book Festival has grown into the nation’s largest independent book event. The festival takes place Labor Day weekend on and around the downtown Decatur square, with book signings, discussions, readings, writing workshops, food and book vendors, small press publishers and more. www.decaturbookfestival.com.
The Yellow Daisy Festival showcases the work of hundreds of crafters and artists, with food, music and much more. Sept. 4-7 at Stone Mountain Park. www.stonemountainpark.com.
The second weekend after Labor Day brings the Atlanta Arts Festival to Piedmont Park, with fine artists working in mixed media, photography, jewelry, paint and more. The two-day festival also offers artist demonstrations, classes, food and live music. www.atlantaartsfestival.com.
For four years, Flux Night has filled the streets of Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill Arts District with temporary public art projects including dance performances, live music, sound and light installations, parades and more, shining a spotlight on the city’s diverse and vibrant arts community. Flux Night takes place in early October. www.fluxprojects.org.
Travel Through Time And Space
Celebrating its 29th anniversary in 2014, the Georgia Renaissance Festival transports visitors to the 16th century, with knights and maidens, a jousting tournament, a petting zoo, artists and more than 150 entertainers to delight the crowds with juggling, storytelling, music and more. April 19-June 8. www.garenfest.com.
Fans of science fiction, fantasy and all corners of popular culture flock to downtown Atlanta for Dragon Con every Labor Day weekend. This four-day festival spreads across five hotels, with vendors, celebrity appearances, panels, a Saturday morning parade and thousands of costumed participants. Aug. 29-Sept. 1. www.dragoncon.org.
More Holiday Events
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hosts the Children’s Christmas Parade, which rolls down Peachtree Street in Midtown on
Dec. 7. www.choa.org/parade.
Get into the spirit of the season with Atlanta’s definitive version of A Christmas Carol, through Dec. 29 at the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre in Midtown. www.alliancetheatre.org.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer visits the Center for Puppetry Arts in a faithful adaptation of the beloved 1964 stop-motion animated special. Through Dec. 29. www.puppet.org.
The annual Festival of Trees lights up the Embassy Suites Atlanta Galleria Hotel with 37 gorgeous trees decorated by local nonprofits. Through Jan. 1. www.wcghotels.com/galleria-atlanta-hotel/festival-of-trees.
Gift of Lights transforms Atlanta Motor Speedway with festive displays of more than 1 million LED lights. Through Jan. 14. www.giftoflightsatlms.com.