Atlanta’s Top Summertime Activities
Our Best Picks for Sun and Fun in the City
By Anna Bentley
The days are longer, the temperatures are higher and the weekendsare full of events, festivals, concerts and more; it’s summertime in Atlanta, and there’s no better time to explore your new hometown!
Whether you’re looking for an exciting outdoor adventure or a family-friendly attraction, Atlanta offers something for everyone, all summer long. Here are 13 of our top picks for fun and sun in the city this summer.
1. Explore Piedmont Park. Every city has its own treasured greenspace; for Atlanta, it’s Piedmont Park. On any given day, Midtown’s Piedmont Park is filled with joggers, people-watchers, dog walkers, sunbathers and Frisbee players—and on especially beautiful summer days, the best seat in the city is a patch of grass on its great lawns. Aside from its walking and jogging paths, another big draw is Lake Clara Meer, a stocked fishing lake with stunning views of Midtown Atlanta serving as its backdrop. The park is also a popular spot for many festivals and concerts throughout the year, including the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Atlanta Jazz Festival and Music Midtown. 404-875-7275, www.piedmontpark.org.
2. Enjoy the Botanical Garden. Nestled in Midtown just outside Piedmont Park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Wander through the garden’s 15-acre Storza Woods forest, see its impressive collection of tropical orchids in the Fuqua Orchid Center, smell the roses in the Rose Garden, explore the garden’s tropical and desert plant collection in the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory or peacefully reflect in the Japanese Garden. And remember to keep an eye out for special sculptures and water features as you explore the garden; pieces from its Art in the Garden collection are sprinkled throughout the space. Atlanta Botanical Garden also hosts special events and lectures throughout the summer.
3. Take in a Braves Game. Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Braves, its own Major League Baseball team, and Turner Field, located in the heart of Atlanta, is the home of the Braves. Travel to the Ted, as Turner Field is affectionately called, to cheer on the team. Come early to watch batting practice, stay after the game on Fridays for the free Friday Night Fireworks show and check the team’s website for special themed days, giveaways, postgame concerts and more (some of this year’s concerts include Boyz II Men and Charli XCX). That’s not all the city’s baseball options though; the Gwinnett Braves, the team’s Triple-A affiliate, will also play at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville all summer long. 404-577-9100, www.braves.com.
4. Visit Six Flags Over Georgia. Roller coasters. Water rides. Funnel cakes. Few things are more quintessentially summer than spending a day at a major theme park. Take the kids—or the kids at heart—to Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell for a thrill-filled summer adventure. This summer, THE JOKER Chaos Coaster joins Six Flags’ roster of roller coasters; Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a twirling teacups-inspired ride, is also new for 2015. It’s not all roller coasters and “spinsanity,” though; Six Flags also has exciting rides geared toward younger guests, as well as its own in-park water park, Hurricane Harbor. 770-739-3400, www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
5. Celebrate July 4th. For Independence Day celebrations, you’ve got plenty of options. At Stone Mountain Park’s Fantastic Fourth Celebration (www.stonemountainpark.com), the celebration lasts four days from July 2–5. During the day, enjoy the park’s family-friendly activities like hiking, fishing and mini-golfing; by night, experience the park’s famous Lasershow projected on Stone Mountain’s 825-foot granite mountainside, followed by a patriotic fireworks finale. Centennial Olympic Park’s 4th of July Celebration (www.centennialpark.com) offers live music and family-friendly fun, followed by a spectacular fireworks show at nightfall. And in Buckhead, the legendary Fourth of July at Lenox Square will celebrate its 56th year celebrating Independence Day with one of the largest fireworks shows in the Southeast.
6. See a Movie at the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. A special summertime treat, the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theatre pairs classic films and current blockbusters alike with the historic beauty of the Fabulous Fox. And, true to the Fox’s roots as one of the city’s finest movie theaters, all showings feature pre-show cartoons and a mini concert on Mighty Mo, the Fox’s custom-built Möller organ dating back to 1929. This year’s movie lineup and show times have not been announced yet, but check the Fox Theatre’s website for updates. 404-881-2100, www.foxtheatre.org.
7. Enjoy an Outdoor Concert. Atlanta’s amphitheaters come alive in the summer, hosting top touring acts and emerging artists alike. At Alpharetta’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park (www.vzwamp.com), you can catch the Barenaked Ladies, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston, Kansas and Rush this summer. Atlanta’s Delta Classic Chastain Park Amphitheater (www.classicchastain.com) will host Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Boyz II Men and Idina Menzel. And Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood www.aaronsamphitheatre.nett) will have Fall Out Boy, Lana Del Rey and Lady Antebellum. For a more intimate setting, try Park Tavern in Piedmont Park (www.parktavern.com). Its free Sunset Sessions at Park Tavern concert series will bring up-and-coming alternative acts to the tavern’s covered patio every Sunday night through September.
8. Take a Hike. From the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the banks of the Chattahoochee River and its many tributaries, there are nearly limitless options for day hikes around Atlanta. Get familiar with the area’s state parks by exploring its many trails, overlooks, waterfalls and historic sites. There are plenty of spots close to the city (Sweetwater Creek State Park, Morningside Nature Preserve and Sope Creek Park are all top picks), and the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains are only about 90 minutes away. 404-656-2770, www.gastateparks.org.
9. Patio Dining. Take advantage of the warm weather by dining al fresco at some of the city’s most picturesque patios. Intown, try Kevin Rathbun Steak in Inman Park, which overlooks the BeltLine, a burgeoning urban multiuse trail. Six Feet Under’s two locations offer distinctive patio views: In Grant Park, the seafood spot overlooks Oakland Cemetery, while the Westside location’s patio has more of an urban feel. Canoe in Vinings boasts a riverside bar, while the patio at East Atlanta’s Holy Taco makes it one of the city’s most sacred taco spots.
10. Hit the Beach. Atlanta might be a five-hour drive to the beaches of South Carolina, Florida or coastal Georgia, but there’s a much closer option: the shores of area lakes, including Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona. Both options feature all the perks of the beach without all the tedious hours on the road. And others, like Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens and Lake Lanier Islands at Lake Lanier, offer additional amenities and resort-style lodging. There’s a nearby option no matter what side of the city you’re on; see www.allatoonalake.org and www.discoverlakelanier.com for options north of Atlanta and www.callawaygardens.com if you’re south of the city.
11. Shoot the Hooch. A favorite lazy afternoon pastime for locals, “shooting the Hooch” simply means enjoying the Chattahoochee River, preferably in a tube or raft. The Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell (www.chattnaturecenter.org) offers guided canoe tours of the Hooch for beginners and advanced canoers alike, and at the appropriately named Shoot the Hooch (www.shootthehooch.com), you can rent tubes, rafts, canoes and kayaks from one of four locations along the river. Or, park at a National Park Service entrance and enjoy the river however you wish: fishing, swimming, kayaking or just relaxing on its banks.
12. Enjoy a Day Downtown. Five of the city’s top family-friendly attractions are conveniently centralized downtown, with Centennial Olympic Park and its interactive Fountain of Rings, a perfect spot for cooling off on a hot summer day—right in the middle. Across from Centennial Olympic Park are the World of Coca-Cola (www.worldofcoca-cola.com), a museum devoted to the city’s signature soda brand; Georgia Aquarium (www.georgiaaquarium.com), the world’s largest aquarium; and the newly opened Center for Civil and Human Rights (www.civil andhumanrights.org). Also within walking distance are the College Football Hall of Fame (www.cfbhall.com); Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (www.childrensmuseum atlanta.org); the CNN Center and its Inside CNN Studio Tour (www.cnn.com/tour); and SkyView Atlanta (www.skyviewatlanta.com), a 20-foot Ferris wheel offering unparalleled views of the city skyline. Actually, you might need a few days to take all of this in!
13. Find a Festival. Festival fanatic? Are you one who enjoys large crowds, festivities and the great outdoors? You’re in luck. Atlanta’s summertime festivals range from neighborhoodfestivals like the Virginia-Highland Summerfest (June 6–7; www.vahi.org/summerfest) and the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival (Aug. 29–30; www.summershadefestival.org) to monthslong celebrations like the National Black Arts Festival (www.nbaf.org). There’s the Flying Colors Butterfly Festival at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (June 6–7; www.chattnaturecenter.org), the Atlanta Street Food Festival (July 11; www.atlantastreetfoodfestival.com) and the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival (July 25; www.atlantaicecreamfestival.com). There’s even a music festival held in the city’s oldest cemetery: The 5th annual Tunes from the Tombs will be held June 13 at Oakland Cemetery (www.tunesfromthetombs.com).
Looking for a Unique Summertime Activity?
Strap on Some Skates at the Cooler
Ice-skating is a great way to have fun (and get a little exercise) while keeping cool. And there’s no better place to lace up and hit the ice than the Cooler, also known as the Alpharetta Family Skate Center. One of the state’s foremost skating and family recreation facilities, the Cooler features two ice arenas and a large roller-skating rink, and offers classes in figure-skating, ice-skating, roller-skating, ice hockey and roller hockey—as well as volleyball, yoga, wrestling and martial arts programs and a state-of-the-art fitness center. In addition, it’s open all year long! 770-649-6600, www.coolerathletics.com