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The Atlanta Areas Best Free Attractions: Save in the City



It's easy to spend a pretty penny in Atlanta considering the city's robust arts and theater scene, high-caliber restaurants, world-class shopping and jam-packed events calendar. Atlanta, after all, is a city on the move with a ton to offer. People are social. The cityscape is ever-changing. And, if you live here, or are stopping by, you should certainly indulge in a few of the pricier options, at least every once in a while. Just know that your agenda needn't be limited by your restricted funds.

Aside from those invariable splurges on six-course dinners and front-row tickets, you can live it up in Atlanta on the cheap quite easily, particularly when you factor in all of the things you can do in this city for free! If you love art, for instance, consider taking an art stroll or viewing one of the dozens of galleries across the city offering free entry–a few galleries that charge admission, like the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center,  even offer free admission days, so be vigilant about checking websites. Music fiends can catch free afternoon concerts across the city throughout the year (like Decatur's Blue Sky Concerts and Marietta's Concerts on the Square). History buffs can walk through countless historic sites and neighborhoods without opening their wallets. And, if you're the active type? There are no limits to your options when you factor in the area's lush parks, bike paths and green spaces. Free, at last!


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Buckhead's community-driven farmers market attracts visitors from across the city every Saturday morning from April through December. The largest producer-only market in the city, local farmers, artisans and chefs put down stakes at the towering Cathedral of St. Philip to peddle their wares. Come with a shopping list in mind, or just walk around and take it all in. You'll see everything from local vegetables and fruits to jewelry, furniture, homemade cheeses and butter. You'll inevitably feel inspired to cook something, or at least eat something, which is fortuitous, since food stands like King of Pops (popsicles) and Souper Jenny (incredible soups and salads) make an appearance. Check out the website before attending and see which chef is set to do a cooking demonstration for the day. The market is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon April through September, and 9 a.m. to noon October through December.




Castleberry Hill's vibrant art district takes over the second Friday of each month for this phenomenal free art stroll. Whether it's your first time seeing the neighborhood, or you're a regular in these parts, there's a good chance you'll discover something new while wandering in and out of each of the dozen or so galleries. Enjoy wine and small bites at several of the venues. Hair salons and small boutiques also open their doors to showcase small gallery collections and to host classes and parties coinciding with the stroll. Take your time soaking up the visual splendor within the appropriately named Big House Gallery and get lost in another world while observing famed National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry's permanent collection at Besharat Gallery.


Centennial Olympic Park


Located Downtown near the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, this park provides spectacular views of the Downtown skyline. It was created for the 1996 Olympics and there are plenty of spots for picnics or a leisurely stroll. One of the big draws, at least for children in the summer, are the fountains. Kids love splashing around in these fountains on hot, humid summer days. Various paid concerts and events take place at the park, though there are multiple free events there too, like the Music at Noon concert series every Tuesday and Thursday at the Southern Company Amphitheater. Marta is just a hop away, so it's easy to get there without a car.


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This month-long music celebration is regarded as one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country and is a must-see for music lovers. Kicking off May 1, the festival begins with 31 days of jazz held in sites all over the city--everything from MARTA stations to museums and local parks. Among the artists on this year's lineup are renowned guitarist Diego Figueiredo, South African jazz trumpeter Darren English and Grammy Award-winner Christian Scott, among dozens of others. The festival culminates in a stellar three-day weekend of music at Piedmont Park, filled with performances, an artists market, educational workshops and good food.


Located near the Downtown area, the historic Grant Park neighborhood is home to multiple area attractions including Oakland Cemetery, the Cyclorama, Turner Stadium, Zoo Atlanta, Grant Park Pool and Grant Park--the oldest park in Atlanta. Full of historic charm, a leisurely walk around the neighborhood makes for a fabulous impromptu tour of 1920s and '30s-style bungalows and Victorian homes dotting the landscape. The lush, leafy Grant Park offers abundant trees and rolling hills for a leisurely escape. There are also swings, a free swimming pool (opening Memorial Day weekend) and a basketball court. Get your bearings and take in the park's rich history with a free walking tour. The Sunday Grant Park Farmers Market brings together local farmers and purveyors and is a unique way to experience the neighborhood--and to stock up on the week's groceries.


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Oakland Cemetery
Photo courtesy of flickr/jeffgunn


Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta's first public park and oldest cemetery, is a breathtaking portal to the past. Centered less than a mile from downtown, the 1850 garden cemetery is the final resting place for more than 70,000 people including Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, over 6,000 Confederate soldiers and many of Atlanta's founding families. Take your time viewing the headstones of ancient Atlantans as you make your way through the botanical preserve dotted with magnolias and shady oaks. Guided tours are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are offered March-November on Saturdays and Sundays at 10am and 2pm and 4pm.


Center for Puppetry Arts
Photo courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts


Show your love for all things puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Regularly playing host to puppet performances for adults and children, the site is also home to a museum featuring permanent and visiting exhibits. Though museum admission is typically $8, Thursdays are free. The museum's permanent collection contains more than 350 puppets from all over the world--including "Pigs in Space" from "The Muppet Show." View examples of shadow, rod, marionette and hand puppets as you admire the extensive display of puppetry paraphernalia. Entry to the museum also grants you access to visiting exhibitions as well, perfect for visitors of all ages. After your free visit, come back for a paid ticket to one of the center's phenomenal performances (there are shows tailored specifically to adults, too).


Piedmont Park
Photo courtesy of flickr/MikeSchinkel


Catch a 360-degree view of the jaw-dropping Midtown Atlanta skyline at Atlanta's own version of Central Park. Walking trails, a running track, a playground, soccer fields, a swimming pool and a dog park are just a few of the perks to this sprawling city park. Open during daylight hours all year long, it attracts a wide-range of people looking for a fun, free way to enjoy being outdoors. Spend the afternoon jogging alongside the lake or simply throw down a blanket and catch a few rays. Food trucks are a common occurrence, particularly in the summer, so be sure to bring some extra cash just in case. Given its central location and abundant green space, it's also a popular location for various festivals and events held throughout the year.


Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Photo courtesy of flickr/eli.pousson


Drive through the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District and visit several of the sites important to the great civil rights activist. Parking and entry to all of the attractions is free. The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site includes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitor Center, The King Center (dedicated to promoting equality and peace, and regularly featuring traveling exhibitions)and historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King once preached. Both Dr. and his wife's remains are housed in a crypt on the grounds, with an eternal flame marking their legacies. Visitors can also take a guided tour of Dr. King's birth home.


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Originally conceived in 1999, the Atlanta BeltLine will ultimately connect 45 in-town neighborhoods with 33 miles of multi-use trails along 22 miles of historic rail corridors. Wildly supported by the community, the BeltLine is still in progress, though a large portion has already been built and is receiving regular use. Currently, you can enjoy four trail segments, four public parks, regular art events through Art on the Atlanta BeltLine and foot races through the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series. Plan your visit around an event, or simply bring your bike or grab a running buddy and find out what all of the hype is about.


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Meet Lesli Peterson

Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any...  More About Lesli

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