Free Things to Do in Atlanta

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‚Äďa 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!


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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It's an outside-the-box way to be social, see outstanding local art and get to know a charming historic neighborhood.

Kelly's expert tip: Don't limit yourself to the galleries. Be sure to check out the Living Walls mural projects at 142 Walker Street, 165 Walker Street and 333 Peters Street, too.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The park offers free afternoon concerts, a central community green space, regular markets and events and is within close proximity to other major Atlanta attractions.

Kelly's expert tip: Starting May 9, Park Market (full of goods from local artisans, bakers and farmers) will take place in the park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every second and fourth Friday.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Atlanta Jazz Festival is a free month-long event highlighting musicians from across the globe at venues throughout Atlanta.

Kelly's expert tip: View MARTA in an alternative light and join in for one of the Monday evening concerts.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Spend a restful day in the park, wander the farmers market, take a walking tour or drive around and look at homes. It's all free!

Kelly's expert tip: See Fort Walker, one of the last Civil War defense fortifications.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: History, storytelling and natural beauty collide at this local attraction suitable for people of all ages.

Kelly's expert tip: If you buy a guided tour, save your receipt. It gets you $5 off at popular watering hole Six Feet Under across the street.

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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).

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Revert to childhood as you immerse yourself into the fanciful world of puppetry.

Kelly's expert tip: If you live in Fulton County, you can also attend the museum for free on the first Saturday of each month.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Gorgeous views of the skyline paired with ample acreage of green space make for an idyllic way to spend an alfresco afternoon on the cheap.

Kelly's expert tip: Plan ahead. Call a few friends and pack a lunch, a book and a Frisbee. Make a day out of it.

Read more about Piedmont Park →

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Photo courtesy of iStock / lauradyoung

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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Get insight into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and legacy at this National Historic Site.

Claudine's expert tip: Reservations for touring Dr. King's home are first-come, first-serve, so it's best to arrive early. Tours are capped at 15 people.

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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.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is one of the largest wide-ranging urban redevelopment projects currently being built in the country. It's beautiful and has drawn wide community support.

Kelly's expert tip: Pedal your way through Piedmont Park, Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward on the Eastside Trail.

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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