Atlanta’s Biggest Events
The Hottest Happenings of 2015
By Kevin Forest Moreau and Sheila Cosgrove
When you’re settling into a new city, there’s a lot of informationto keep track of. Between studying Atlanta’s neighborhoods, finding the best school for your children and mapping out the best route to work, you’re probably too overwhelmed to begin thinking about all the great things there are to see and do here. No problem! We’ve compiled a list of the metro area’s biggest happenings, from arts, food and music festivals to unique, one-of-a-kind events.
10 Unique Atlanta Events
Looking for a different way to ring in 2015? Jump into the frigid waters of Lake Lanier during the Polar Bear Swim at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. This annual tradition, a fundraiser for the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, also features a chili cook-off. Jan.1. www.lckc.org.
Watch in awe as hundreds of butterflies are released into the air during the Flying Colors Butterfly Festival at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. You can also walk among the butterflies and enjoy live music, a costume parade, children’s activities and more. June. www.chattnaturecenter.org.
Experience a wide variety of local and national arts performances during the Atlanta Fringe Festival. This annual event spotlights original works by professional, amateur and experimental performers in the fields of theater, dance, comedy and much more. June. www.atlantafringe.org.
Dress up as your favorite fantasy, science fiction, comic-book or other character and join the fun in the Dragon Con Parade. The parade is one of the highlights of the annual Dragon Con pop-culture convention that takes over downtown Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend. The 2015 parade takes place on Saturday, Sept. 15. For more information or to register for the parade, visit www.dragoncon.org.
After two decades at the Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre, Drive-Invasion—a celebration of B-movies, classic hot rods and rock and roll— relocated to Turner Field in 2014 with a kid’s zone complete with inflatables, face-painting and more. On or around Labor Day weekend. www.drive-invasion.com.
The third Saturday in September brings the East Atlanta Strut, a neighborhood festival known for its parade filled with colorful costumes. There’s also a 5K fun run, live music and much more. www.eastatlantastrut.com.
Speaking of colorful costumes, each October the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade attracts more than 35,000 spectators to a neighborhood many call Atlanta’s answer to Greenwich Village or the French Quarter. Billed as the Southeast’s signature Halloween festival, the parade is as fun, funky and diverse as the neighborhood itself. www.l5phalloween.com.
For more than 40 years, the Stone Mountain Highland Games have brought the sights and sounds of Scotland to Stone Mountain Park. Thousands of Scots and people of Scottish descent gather for a weekend of athletic events, dancing demonstrations, live music, shopping, children’s activities and more. The games take place the third weekend of October. www.smhg.org.
Atlanta’s character-filled Cabbagetown area hosts the Cabbagetown Chomp and Stomp— a combination neighborhood celebration, chili cook-off and bluegrass festival—in early November. www.chompandstomp.com.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival. This fun community event focuses on promoting fitness and healthy habits. And yes, of course, there’s ice cream—enjoyed in moderation, of course. The date and location of the 2015 festival have yet to be determined. Please visit www.atlantaicecreamfestival.com for the scoop.
6 Neighborhood Festivals
Highlighted by a tour of some of the neighborhood’s most gorgeous homes, the Inman Park Festival features a spring parade and three days of music, food, dance, children’s activities, and arts and crafts vendors. April 24-26. www.inmanparkfestival.org.
Billed as the largest free outdoor festival in the Southeast, the Sweet Auburn Springfest celebrates the rich heritage of the Sweet Auburn Historic District, a stretch of Auburn Avenue of cultural significance to Atlanta’s black community. The 2015 festival takes place over Mother’s Day weekend with food, art, music and more. www.sweetauburn.com.
The Virginia-Highland neighborhood in Midtown Atlanta welcomes the summer each June with the Virginia-Highland Summerfest, a two-day outdoor festival bursting with food, art, music, children’s activities and a 5K run. www.vahi.org/summerfest.html.
If Virginia-Highland ushers in the summer, Grant Park bids it farewell in grand style with the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival. During the last weekend of August, the park that gives the neighborhood its name welcomes thousands of visitors who come for art, live music, food, family-friendly activities and a 5K race. www.summershadefestival.org.
Marking its 30th anniversary in 2015, the Sandy Springs Festival offers two days of family- friendly fun each September with fine art, music, a pet parade, 5K and 10K races, great food, classic rides and much more. www.sandyspringsfestival.com.
In 2014, the community celebration formerly known as Suwanee Day expanded to become the two-day Suwanee Fest, entertaining approximately 55,000 visitors with arts and crafts vendors, festival food, live entertainment, children’s activities and a hometown parade. The 2015 festival takes place Sept. 19-20. www.suwaneefest.com.
Hot Holiday Happenings
While the main event takes place at midnight, the Peach Drop, Atlanta’s premier New Year’s Eve event, is an all-day affair. The Underground Atlanta shopping district is filled with carnival rides, street performers, festival food and live music, all leading up to the big moment when a sparkling, 800-pound peach descends to ring in 2015, accompanied by a spectacular fireworks display. Dec. 31. www.peachdrop.com.
Amazing fireworks are also a staple of the Legendary 4th of July at Lenox Square Mall. The Buckhead shopping center’s patriotic event features the largest fireworks display in the Southeast, along with live music and great food from some of the top local restaurants. www.lenoxsquare.com.
5 Sporting Events
Every Dec. 31, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl brings postseason college football excitement to the Georgia Dome. In 2014, the game became part of the new college football playoff format, making it one of the most important games of the year. www.peachbowl.com.
Atlanta’s annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves from Labor Day weekend this year. Qualifying starts Feb. 27 and the weekend culminates with the Atlanta 500 March 1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
The Masters Golf Tournament brings the biggest names in professional golf to the Augusta National Golf Club, less than three hours from Atlanta, April 6-12. www.masters.com.
The Global Imports Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge in May is part of the USA CRITS Series’ “Speed Week,” a nine-day string of bicycle races across the state. The Challenge also includes the Taste of Sandy Springs food festival. www.sandyspringschallenge.org.
The Peachtree Road Race is Atlanta’s most beloved July 4 tradition. Said to be the world’s largest 10K race with more than 60,000 participants, it starts at Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead and ends at Piedmont Park in Midtown. www.peachtreeroadrace.org.
12 Arts, Music And Culture Celebrations
One of the largest and longest-running film festivals in the country, the Atlanta Film Festival draws more than 25,000 people to a celebration of cinema that highlights hundreds of independent, animated, documentary and short films submitted from all over the world. The 2015 festival takes place March 20-29 at various venues. www.atlantafilmfestival.com.
The sight of vibrant dogwood trees is only one of the attractions of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. This annual event, billed as one of the oldest fine arts festivals in the country, also features food, live music, children’s entertainment, a disc dog tournament, and a juried artist’s market with hundreds of artists working in paint, pottery, photography, sculpture, jewelry and more. April 10-12 in Piedmont Park. www.dogwood.org.
Held in early May, Fiesta Atlanta is the Southeast’s leading Cinco de Mayo festival. This daylong celebration of Hispanic food, music and culture features folk dancing, arts and crafts, a 5K race and much more. The event takes place at Centennial Olympic Park. www.fiestaatlanta.com.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival features concerts throughout the month of May, capped off with a free three-day festival over Memorial Day weekend. www.atlantafestivals.com.
Every summer, the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival screens a mix of classic films and recent hit movies in the grand comfort of the Fox Theatre. Each film is preceded by a cartoon short and a singalong with the Fox’s massive “Mighty Mo” organ. The festival runs on select dates June through August. www.foxtheatre.org.
The National Black Arts Festival stretches over the summer months with dance, theater, music and more, and also produces special programs and events year-round. www.nbaf.org.
Every Labor Day weekend, the Decatur Book Festival takes over downtown Decatur with book signings, author discussions, readings, food and book vendors, small press publishers and much more. www.decaturbookfestival.com.
The Yellow Daisy Festival is a four-day, family-friendly event that showcases the work of hundreds of artists and crafters. It also features food, shopping, music, children’s activities and more. Sept. 10-13 at Stone Mountain Park. www.stonemountainpark.com.
Music Midtown is arguably Atlanta’s biggest music event, featuring two days of big name acts—in recent years, it’s hosted the likes of Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Lorde and the Zac Brown Band. The festival takes place in September at Piedmont Park. www.musicmidtown.com.
Now in its fourth decade, Atlanta Pride is one of the longest-running gay pride festivals in the country. Held in October in Piedmont Park, it features live music, literary events, a parade, a dance party and more. www.atlantapride.org.
Enjoy a bratwurst and a stein of beer during Oktoberfest, a celebration of German food, drink and music. The festival runs from mid- September through October in Helen, Ga., a charming replica of an Alpine village just 90 minutes from Atlanta. www.helenga.org.
The city’s leading food festival, Taste of Atlanta offers the chance to sample bites from more than 90 area restaurants. Held in October, the event also features a full menu of cooking demonstrations, competitions and seminars featuring some of the top chefs, bartenders and farmers in the region. www.tasteofatlanta.com.
Some dates are not yet finalized, and all dates are subject to change. Check websites for updates.