The Great Outdoors
Atlanta’s 10 Best Outdoor Attractions
By Michelle Bourg
Whether you’ve been busy unpacking or working behind a deskall week, it’s time to take a break and recharge your batteries with some fresh air. Fortunately, Atlanta boasts a multitude of outdoor attractions that let you soak up some sun and enjoy a nice spring breeze while getting to know your new city. On the pages that follow, we highlight 10 of the metro area’s most popular spots for walking, hiking, catching a game, shooting the rapids and much, much more.
About a two-and-a-half-hour drive along I-85 South, Montgomery offers visitors a first-hand look at pivotal civil rights and Civil War moments in American history.
One of the most extensive urban redevelopment projects in the country, the Atlanta Beltline comprises 22 miles of reclaimed railroad corridor; when complete, it will encircle the city and link 45 neighborhoods, numerous parks, and additional trails. But the Beltline is more than just a trail; it’s the place where “Atlanta comes together” and a fun and unique way to experience the city.
From the pathway, you can take the family to the playgrounds and skate park at Historic Fourth Ward Park, visit the Carter Center, or stop for brunch or drinks on the patio at some of the city’s best eateries. It’s also a destination space for performances, art exhibits, and events such as yoga classes or the Lantern Walk. Of course, you can always just walk, rollerblade or ride your bike and enjoy the scenery, spring weather and Atlanta skyline.
Be sure to visit the website to view and download a map before hitting the trail. You can also register for a bus, bike or walking tour to familiarize yourself with everything the Beltline has to offer.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
The Garden is one of Atlanta’s most beautiful spots, with more than 30 acres of gardens, greenhouses and woodlands. Notable are the formal Levy Parterre with its fountain sculpture by Dale Chihuly, and the Fuqua Orchid Center, housing the largest permanent display of these flowers in the U.S. The Kandeda Canopy Walk lets visitors traipse among the treetops for an aerial view of the gardens. Back on the ground, there’s the Longleaf Restaurant or Quick Café, a gift shop, and a welcoming staff of experts happy to provide tips for your own garden.
The Garden also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, cocktail functions and seminars. Springtime events include the annual Orchid Daze and the Atlanta Blooms spring flower exhibit.
A second location of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is located in Gainesville, approximately 90 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta. A community and educational center, it hosts a series of adult classes and family programs. In addition to outdoor gardens, it features a model train garden and the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast, dedicated to the propagation of endangered plants.
Atlanta: 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta. 404-876-5859, Gainesville: 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville. 404-888-4760 Both: atlantabg.org
Atlanta Braves At Suntrust Park
Spring is here—time to “Play ball!” This April marks the debut of the Atlanta Braves in their new home at SunTrust Park near I-285 and I-75 in Cobb County near Cumberland Mall. This state-of-the-art stadium combines a classic look and feel with the latest technology for an unmatched fan experience and great sightlines for a clear view of every play.
SunTrust Park anchors The Battery Atlanta, a lifestyle destination featuring shopping, entertainment, dining, and luxury residences—all a line drive away from the stadium gates.
East side fans can take in a ballgame closer to home with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves at Cool-Ray Field in Lawrenceville, an intimate and welcoming park that provides a fun experience for everyone in the family.
Chastain Memorial Park
At 268 acres, Chastain is Atlanta’s largest city park. Centrally located just north of the Buckhead district, it’s home to walking paths, an amphitheater for major concerts, a tennis center, an equestrian center and a golf course.(Each facility is individually managed, so be sure to check in advance for hours and public access policies.)
Area kids helped design the new 40,000-square-foot playground, showcasing a wheelchair-accessible tree house, roller slides, a climbing wall, and an outdoor piano and music-making area.
140 W. Wieuca Road, Atlanta. 404-237-2177, chastainparkconservancy.org
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
A series of connected sites along the Chattahoochee River (“the Hooch”), the Recreation Area stretches roughly 48 miles from Cobb County to Lake Lanier. Along its length are varying opportunities for walking and running, hiking, biking, boating, fishing and horseback riding, as well as picnicking and wildlife watching.
The most popular unit is Cochran Shoals/Columns Drive, situated near Powers Ferry Road and I-285 in Marietta. Here, a wheelchair-accessible flat dirt path stretches north along the river for roughly three miles, connecting to additional walking paths and hiking trails. At the Jones Bridge unit in John’s Creek, you’re likely to encounter deer in the woods along the hiking trails or as you fish for trout in the river.
1978 Island Ford Parkway, Sandy Springs. 678-538-1200, nps.gov/chat
Stone Mountain Park
Located 25 miles east of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is actually the world’s largest mass of exposed granite, etched with a high-relief carving covering three acres and depicting Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback. View the carving from the Memorial Lawn and then head to the summit by cable car or walking trail for views stretching to the Appalachian foothills.
Back on ground level, you can ride the park’s full-size locomotive before taking advantage of the park’s 15 miles of trails, picnic areas, restaurants, boating and fishing and two championship golf courses. At Historic Square, a village of restored historic buildings houses the largest collection of period furniture and decorations in the south, set around a working farmyard.
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain. 800-401-2407, stonemountainpark.com
Located in the city’s center, Piedmont is Atlanta’s unofficial back yard and the setting for hundreds of annual events, including concerts, foot races, and festivals such as this May’s Atlanta Dogwood Festival.
Here, you can stroll, rollerblade or bike while taking in Lake Clara Meer, landscaped plantings, and stonework walls and steps that date back to the 1895 Cotton States Exhibition. There are playgrounds, a dog park, and of course plenty of green space. Sports facilities include baseball and soccer fields, tennis, basketball and bocce courts and a pool.
Before you go, stop by the Green Market for some farm-fresh produce, artisanal cheese, cut flowers and much more.
1071 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-875-7275, piedmontpark.org
Silver Comet Trail
This paved rail trail starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, 14 miles northwest of Atlanta, and extends westward 61 miles to the Alabama state line, where it connects to the Chief Ladiga Trail that leads to Anniston.
The trail passes through miles of scenic woodlands and picturesque towns. With just a two percent grade, it’s virtually flat (a rarity for this area), wheelchair accessible, and dogs are permitted. Parking is available at the trailhead; some trailheads have picnic areas and restrooms. Along the way you’ll meet lots of fellow walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers and horseback riders.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Don’t wait until summer to get your thrill on: Six Flags opens in mid-March for even more fun. Just 10 minutes west of Atlanta in Austell, this 300-acre theme park boasts more than 40 rides and attractions, from the toddler-friendly Riverview Carousel to the SkyScreamer. Wooden coaster buffs will love the famous Georgia Cyclone. This year also sees the unveiling of the 4-D “Justice League: Battle for Metropolis.” The park is also home to Hurricane Harbor Water Park, opening in May for wild and wet excitement. And of course, there are souvenirs and cotton candy.
275 Riverside Parkway, SW, Austell, 770-739-3400, sixflags.com/overgeorgia
Here you’ll meet more than 1000 exotic animals in carefully reproduced habitats, from the lions of the African Plains, to the silverback gorillas in the Ford African Rainforest, to the sun bears of the Asian Forest. There’s also a petting zoo with more familiar critters. But the stars are undoubtedly the giant pandas: Yang Yang, Lun Lun and their twins Xi Lun and Ya Lun. Zoo Atlanta is one of just four zoos in the country to host these special creatures.
The zoo is located just south of I-20 inside Grant Park, Atlanta’s oldest urban park. Its 131 wooded acres include children’s playgrounds, picnic areas, and the earthworks of Fort Walker, one of the city’s last remaining Civil War fortifications. There’s also a farmer’s market on Sundays from April through December and occasional festivals, including the Pickin’ in Grant Park BBQ and Blues Fest in May.
800 Cherokee Ave. SW, Atlanta. 404-624-9453, zooatlanta.org