Best Parks in Atlanta

Georgia's Best Parks for Outdoor Lovers

Although Atlanta is a bustling city, there is also lots of green space within the city and surrounding suburbs. Atlantans enjoy getting out and walking, running or even taking their dogs out to the park for a fun afternoon. Besides that, there are also many opportunities for beautiful picture taking at the many Atlanta parks.

Atlanta's answer to New York's Central Park is Piedmont Park. It is a breathtaking spot of green smack dab in the heart of the city. Not only is it ideal for relaxing and picnics, but there is also swimming, tennis courts, basketball and even a dog park. Other serene parks in the heart of the city are Grant Park and Lullwater Park.

A different kind of park is Stone Mountain. Located outside the city, the park is home to the largest piece of granite. This granite mountain is a sight to behold, with Confederate soldiers carved into it. A nightly laser show during the warm months as well as kid-friendly attractions, make this a great place for the family.

For historic sites that offer moderate trails, visit Sweetwater Creek State Park or Davidson-Arabia Preserve. Both have amazing vistas plus offer a more quiet space for hiking than some of the other congested spots. Further outside the city, there is Kennesaw Mountain and the Chattahoochee Nature Center. These are popular with families for all the educational information available.


Chattahoochee Nature Center
Photo courtesy of used in book.

This near 130-acre reserve spans into two metro Atlanta cities: Roswell and Marietta. Besides the abundance of wildlife that is present here, there are many beautiful hiking trails as well. Visitors should begin their exploration at the Discovery Center, where they can get a birds-eye view of the expanse of the nature center from the roof top. There's also a river boardwalk that traverses the wetland area. Kids will enjoy the many hands-on exhibits/ Don't miss Wildlife Walk, where visitors can enjoy up close and personal views of native hawks, owls and vultures. Don't miss seeing the park visitors "shooting the hooch" - floating down the Chattahoochee on an inner tube.

Recommended for Parks because: Located next to the Chattahoochee River this nature center is a natural playground that you want to be sure to visit.

Malika's expert tip: There's so much to do and see here, plan to spend an entire afternoon exploring all the nature center has to offer.

Read more about Chattahoochee Nature Center →

There are so many activities in Chastain Park - everyone in the family will enjoy a visit. Besides the running and walking trails that can be found throughout the park, there are also tennis courts and many fields for playing ball. Looking for a spot to host a family reunion? This is perfect as there are many pavilions that are well suited for this. Kids aren't forgotten as there are plenty of playgrounds to be found here. Of course, there is the amphitheater, that hosts outdoor concerts during the summer. Guests are allowed to bring in their own food and drinks during most of these events.

Recommended for Parks because: Chastain Memorial Park is the largest city park and includes jogging paths, playgrounds, tennis courts, a golf course, swimming pool, horse park and amphitheater.

Malika's expert tip: Find North Fulton Golf Course here. It is one of the area's best public courses.

Read more about Chastain Memorial Park and Amphitheatre →

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield

This site near Marietta is where the historic Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought. Nearly 70,000 men died, were wounded or captured during this battle, which was won by the Confederates. The site once belonged to the Cherokee Nation, forced into exile after making the "Trail of Tears." Today many serious hikers enjoy the miles and miles of wooded trails. There are multiple entrances to the park and a variety of trails, so visitors won't easily be bored. Besides hiking, find many enjoying a picknick or even horse-back riding through the trails. Visit off-peak times to easily land a parking spot.

Recommended for Parks because: Despite being nestled in one of the most populated areas of booming Cobb County, Kennesaw Mountain has retained a sense of serenity amidst the hubbub.

Malika's expert tip: Steeped in history, an important Battle during the civil war was fought on these grounds.

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Arabia Mountain, now a county and state park respectively, bear evidence of 19th-century human settlement and 20th-century quarrying activities. Arabia Mountain is also known as Stone Mountain's little cousin. Not too far from Inside the Perimeter, so just a short drive to pristine views and vistas. Two exposed granite monadnocks that formed hundreds of millions of years ago are the primary features of the area. Even when the sun is shining bright, much of the trails are in the shade. There are also many options besides hiking - run, walk, skate or ride. Difficulty ranges from easy to difficult.

Recommended for Parks because: Arabia Mountain Nature Center is where to begin a number of hikes, pick up a map, and check out the animals.

Malika's expert tip: Two exposed granite monadnocks that formed hundreds of millions of years ago are the primary features of the area.

Read more about Davidson-Arabia Preserve →

Northeast Atlanta

Located off Interstate 20, it is a surprise to find a large state park so close to commerce. The highlight of the trails here are the ruins of when there was a mill here. It is a beautiful and peaceful place to go hiking. Some trails are rather difficult so maybe not suitable for youngsters or Grandma. Make sure to check the length and difficulty of each trail before committing. There is also the creek, hence the name. Some like to walk across the water for fun (only safe when the water is rather low). The 215-acre George Sparks Reservoir is popular with anglers and provides a pretty setting for feeding ducks and picnicking. Dogs love to run around and splash in the water.

Recommended for Parks because: Sweetwater Creek State Park is only minutes west of downtown Atlanta, but once you are there, it feels worlds away.

Malika's expert tip: Make sure to bring cash to pay for the parking.

Read more about Sweetwater Creek →

Centennial Olympic Park

Located Downtown, this park provides spectacular views of the Downtown skyline. It was created for the 1996 Olympics and there are plenty of spots for picnics. Visitors can also be entertained by free music and lots of public art. Those who enjoy photography should take advantage of all the photo opportunities the park affords you. 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. Sometimes there are free concerts and movies in the park. Located near transit, so parking isn't an issue.

Recommended for Parks because: The playground here in Downtown Atlanta is great for kids, with its proximity to the fountains, Georgia Aquarium, the Children's Museum and Googie Burger!

Malika's expert tip: During the winter, there is an ice skating rink.

Read more about Centennial Olympic Park →

Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain Park

This 3200-acre park surrounds the world's largest granite mountain. Located just 16 miles east of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is well worth a visit for families. The five square mile park is Georgia's most visited attraction. The mountain features Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson carved onto the front of the stone. Stone Mountain Park visitors can choose to hike up to the top of the mountain. During summer months, a laser show is projected onto the granite along with choreographed music. Make sure to bring a blanket to sit on while you enjoy the laser show.

Recommended for Parks because: Stone Mountain Park is famous for the 400 feet carving of three Confederate war heroes, the laser light show, and the Crossroads family entertainment district.

Malika's expert tip: There are lots of activities for children too.

Read more about Stone Mountain Park →

Piedmont Park
Photo courtesy of flickr/MikeSchinkel

Piedmont Park is Atlanta's Central Park or at least a mini version of it. Among all the skyscrapers in the Midtown area, this is a beautiful piece of green. There are paved trails that many like to come and roller blade on a weekend afternoon. There's even a dog park for Fido. Besides the green space, there's a beautiful pond, a swimming pool, tennis and basketball are available too. People of all different types play at Piedmont Park, so everyone is welcome and no one is out of place. There are lots of free events, so check online sites to see the latest about events at the Park.

Recommended for Parks because: From hiking to playgrounds, scavenger hunts to a farmers market, there is a TON of affordable fun for families at Piedmont Park.

Malika's expert tip: Parking is difficult to find. Take Marta and walk the 10 minutes to the park.

Read more about Piedmont Park →

Chattahoochee Riverwalk
Photo courtesy of Columbus CVB

When looking for outdoor adventure, Columbus, Georgia has it all. Conveniently located just about 90-minutes southwest of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, it is home to more of the "best," "only" and "newest" outdoor adventures for outdoor lovers. The RiverWalk's miles of hard surface trails along the Chattahoochee are ideal for walking, cycling and jogging. The locale also provides visitors with a splash pad, public art, green spaces, an accessible rock-outcrop island for a close-up view of those rafting and kayaking, fishing, public entertainment spaces, historical architecture, birding and easy access to Uptown Columbus for great dining, shopping and entertainment. It serves as the starting point of the Blue Heron Zip Line course. As the "only" dual-zip lines that connect two states, thrill-seekers cross the Chattahoochee River not once but twice as they reach speeds of up to 40 m.p.h.

Recommended for Parks because: Outdoor lovers can walk, jog, or bike the beautiful Chattahoochee RiverWalk, an outdoor, 22-mile linear park, all year round.

Malika's expert tip: This is the perfect place to watch the white water rafters on the Chattahoochee River - an adventure named by USA Today as one of the "Best Man-made Adventures" on the planet.

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Cloudland Canyon
Photo courtesy of Lesli Peterson

Cloudland Canyon is a 3485 square acres state park located in North Georgia. It is one of the largest and most scenic parks located in the state of Georgia. the deep gorge cut through the mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek, where the elevation varies from 800 to over 1,800 feet. At the bottom of the gorge are two waterfalls. Here visitors can watch the water run over the sandstone and shale. There are several different trails around the park, but some may take several hours. The longest trail is 9 miles. There are also a couple 2 miles trails that are much easier on the legs.

Recommended for Parks because: Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of the prettiest of Georgia's state parks, and a beautiful Georgia canyon.

Malika's expert tip: Cloudland Canyon State Park is a perfect day trip from Atlanta, or if you'd like to stay over-night, there are regular camp and RV sites, as well as backcountry camping.

Read more about Cloudland Canyon →


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