Beat the Heat
From Outdoor Festivals to Amazing Attractions, Atlanta’s Top Summer Happenings
By Kevin Forest Moreau
Summer in Atlanta means higher temperatures — but it also meansa heightened sense of anticipation. That’s because the city offers more entertainment options than most people can fit into a mere three months. Whether you’re into water slides, outdoor concerts or festive fireworks, you’re sure to have a good time while getting to know your new city.
Get in the Water
Summer’s warmer weather provides the perfect excuse to break out the bathing suit and cool off at one of Atlanta’s watery attractions. Lake Lanier offers plenty of recreation, whether you’re into boating or working on your tan at the Lake Lanier Island Resort, which includes a waterpark for the kids (lakelanierislands.com). Six Flags White Water offers a daunting array of waterslides as well as play areas for the kids (sixflags.com/whitewater). Or you can always just run through the synchronized water jets at the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park (centennialpark.com).
There are also plenty of good old fashioned swimming pools: the Piedmont Park Aquatic Center features a wading section, a floating channel and lap lanes for workouts (piedmontpark.org). You can also float down the Lazy River at Gwinnett’s Mountain Park Aquatic Center, a figure-eight-shaped section of the pool with two water slides to drop you in with a splash (gwinnettcounty.com).
For the ultimate Atlanta water experience, you need to “shoot the Hooch.” (Some claim that you’re not really an Atlantan unless you have). You can bring a tube and drop in at one of the parks in the Chattahoochee River Recreation Area for a leisurely float, or head to one of the area’s outfitters to rent vests, tubes, paddleboards, kayaks or rafts, along with directions. River Tubing in Duluth and (rivertubing.com) and Shoot the Hooch in Roswell (shootthehooch.com) have the goods. Be sure to bring sunscreen and a tube for the cooler.
Listen to Some Music Outdoors
There’s no better way to spend an evening than enjoying a cool breeze and some great music. Chastain Park Amphitheatre plays host to the likes of Paul Simon, the Moody Blues and Sheryl Crow this summer (chastainseries.com). The Zac Brown Band and Chicago and the Doobie Brothers are among the performers at Alpharetta’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park (vzwamp.com). Near the airport, Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood is the venue for rockers like Dead and Company and John Mayer (livenation.com), while Peachtree City’s Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater (also known as “The Fred”) offers shows by Melissa Etheridge, Richard Marx and others in an intimate 2,352-seat venue (amphitheater.org). The lineup at Southern Ground Amphitheater (formerly the Villages Amphitheater) in Fayetteville includes John Michael Montgomery, the Pointer Sisters and the Little River Band (southerngroundamp.com).
Summer in Atlanta means you’re never far from an outdoor festival full of music, food and fun. In June, the Virginia-Highland Summerfest showcases the picturesque Midtown neighborhood with a 5K race, artist market and more (vahi.org/summerfest). Also in June, the Candler Park Music and Food Festival celebrates just that—music and food, both of it hot and tasty (candlerparkmusicfestival.com).
July is the perfect time for The Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, a celebration at Piedmont Park that also features health screenings and a fitness walk to help you burn off the calories from all that cold stuff (atlantaicecreamfestival.com). August, meanwhile, brings The Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival, a one-day celebration that says it all in the name (decaturbbqfestival.com). Also in August, there’s the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival, held at Atlanta’s oldest park, a weekend of art, music and children’s entertainment, as well as a 5K race and lots (and we mean lots) of food (summershadefestival.org).
Take Yourself Out to the Ball Game
Treat your family to more than just peanuts and Cracker Jack when you attend an Atlanta Braves game. Cheer on the city’s baseball heroes as they face off against divisional rivals like the Phillies, Marlins, Mets and Nationals in their brand new home at SunTrust Park, one of the country’s best ballparks that boasts more seats closer to the field than any other Major League park. Plus, take a tour of Monument Garden and see the World Series trophy, take the kids to Hope and Will’s Sandlot, score a bobblehead and much more (mlb.com/braves).
You can also catch the game’s rising stars at Cool-Ray Field in Lawrenceville as the Gwinnett Braves bring AAA action to Gwinnett. Join the fans in the stands or spread out a blanket on the lawn and wait for that home run ball to come to you (gwinnettbraves.com).
See a Movie Under the Stars
Summer is movie season, and there’s something special about catching one under the night sky. The Northside Hospital’s Georgia Movies in the Park series brings recent family favorites to five area parks on summer evenings between May and August (georgiamoviesinthepark.com). This year’s titles include Disney’s Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This year, Movies in Central Park at Atlantic Station celebrates the 90s with a lineup that includes Fried Green Tomatoes and Twister (atlanticstation.com), and the B at the Movies series brings family films to 14 area parks on Saturday nights from May to August (B985.com). This year’s lineup includes Sing! and The Secret Life of Pets.
In Duluth, Flicks on the Bricks brings top films to the fountain at Town Green on the first Friday of the month from May to September. This year’s lineup includes Finding Dory, Captain Marvel: Civil War and Alice through the Looking Glass (duluthga.net). You can catch Disney’s Moana at Peachtree City’s Back to School Bash on August 5 as part of a big evening of fun with food, music, inflatables and more (peachtree-city.org). And the City of Smyrna is getting summer started by showing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in conjunction with its first Food Truck Tuesday of the season at Taylor-Brawner Park on May 30.
Do the Peachtree
Sorry, by now it’s too late to enter the AJC Peachtree Road Race. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the world’s largest 10K event. Every Fourth of July, “the Peachtree” draws 60,000 participants—including an elite field of the fastest runners in the world—and more than 150,000 spectators who line world-famous Peachtree Street to watch the action. Whether you watch the festivities from a coveted restaurant patio seat in the shade, dance to the music on “Cardiac Hill” near Piedmont Hospital or cheer the runners near the finish line at Piedmont Park, you’re sure to have a blast (peachtreeroadrace.org).
Ride a Roller Coaster
Or two. Or more. There are 11 to choose from at Six Flags Over Georgia, including Superman: Ultimate Flight, Blue Hawk and the Great American Scream Machine. But there’s even more fun to be had at Atlanta’s favorite amusement park, whether you’re a fan of bumper cars, train rides, carousels or water slides. From the Monster Mansion to live shows such as the slapstick fun of Shenanigans, there’s more than enough entertainment to while away a few summer afternoons (sixflags.com/overgeorgia).
See Something Spectacular
More specifically, the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision at Stone Mountain Park. Newly enhanced with state-of-the-art digital effects, this longtime attraction is dazzling audiences like never before. Watch as Confederate Generals Lee, Davis and Jackson appear to break free from the side of the mountain and float in the night sky, among other multidimensional illusions that accompany the famous fireworks display and a booming soundtrack of popular music. Make a day of it by arriving early to enjoy miniature golf, outdoor challenges, the Antebellum Plantation, the Summit Skyride and the Dinotorium (stonemountainpark.com ).
Come Inside for a While
Every now and then you need to get out of the sun (or sometimes, the rain) and take in some air-conditioned entertainment. Enjoy recent blockbusters and classic films (plus a vintage cartoon) in the glamour of a vintage theater at The Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival (foxtheatre.org). At Legoland Discovery Center, kids can go on a space mission, watch exciting 4D movies and create a masterpiece at the Master Builder Academy (legolanddiscoverycenter.com). Say hello to a beluga or a whale shark from inside the underwater tunnel at the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere (georgiaaquarium.org). Celebrate America’s favorite beverage at the World of Coca-Cola, an interactive museum with vintage items, a miniature bottling plant and three different theater experiences. (worldofcoca-cola.com). Make music with the Blue Man Group, launch a rocket, and ride a hovercraft at The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, (childrensmuseumatlanta.org), the place that invites kids to learn through play.
Say Goodbye with a Bang
Labor Day Weekend serves as the traditional end of the season, and Atlanta offers a number of ways to say goodbye. Dragon*Con, the Southeast’s largest science fiction, fantasy and pop-culture convention, draws thousands of fans with celebrities, panels and a costume-filled parade (dragoncon.org). The Decatur Book Festival, the country’s largest independent book festival, fills the Decatur Square with author events, writing workshops, book signings and plenty of activities for kids, including readings and signings by noted children’s book authors and illustrators (decaturbookfestival.com). And college football gets the party started for the season at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games: see Alabama take on Florida State and Georgia Tech face Tennessee at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (chick-fil-akickoffgame.com).
Celebrate Your Independence
Atlanta has many ways of commemorating Independence Day. Downtown, Centennial Park’s 4th of July Celebration shoots off some fireworks along with live music (centennialpark.com). The Fantastic Fourth Celebration at Stone Mountain Park features — count ‘em — four days of festivities on the park’s Memorial Lawn, with the iconic laser show culminating in a patriotic fireworks display that’s been voted one of the best in the nation (stonemountainpark.com), and the Atlanta Braves will light up the sky with Independence Day Fireworks following their game with the Houston Astros (mlb.com/braves). The Dunwoody 4th of July Parade features more than 2500 participants, including floats, animal units and marching bands (dunwoodyga.gov). Festivities begin at 10 a.m. for the Marietta Fourth in the Park, with a parade, concerts, food, a carnival and capping off with pyrotechnics at dusk (mariettaga.gov).