Destination Travel Guides

Best Things to Do in Atlanta That Don’t Cost a Thing

I’m happy to announce a second guest post today from Olivia Parker, a writer and Atlanta local who has written some tips for us on the best free things to do in Atlanta. Enjoy!


Atlanta is one of America’s greatest cities to explore, but, with so many great shops and restaurants, a weekend can burn a hole in your pocket if you’re not careful. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to spend your time that don’t cost a thing. So, whether you’re new to the city or a long-time resident, here are some great – free! – ways to explore the city:

The Arts

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center

Located in the city’s historic Westside corridor and adjacent to the Georgia Tech campus, the Contemporary Art Center offers free admission daily. Learn to see art in a different way through the Center’s contemporary works by local, regional, national, and international artists. Mingle with other art enthusiasts at Thursday nights’ Contemporary Cocktails.

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High Museum of Art

The leading art museum in the Southeastern United States offers free admission on the second Sunday of each month as part of Family Fun at the Woodruff Arts Center. The museum features stunning artworks from around the world, and it is a work of art in itself, featuring the renowned architecture of Richard Meier and Renzo Piano.

Castleberry Hill 2nd Friday Art Stroll

Every second Friday of the month, the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll offers a self-guided tour that is free of charge. Stroll and shop through Castleberry Hill, Atlanta’s historic arts district which was named one of the top-10 arts districts in the U.S. Visit the fascinating and diverse galleries and get a taste of what Atlanta has to offer. Neighboring businesses and restaurants will be open and welcoming.

First Thursdays Artswalk

Thursdays more your thing? Peruse the work of Atlanta’s artists on the first Thursday evening of every month in a self-guided tour through the magnificent buildings and streets of downtown Atlanta. The event has grown with new programs and additional venues so that art lovers can view the artwork and tour the historic districts of downtown.

You can move at your own pace, and you can access some sample itineraries.

Festivals

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Whether it’s the Atlanta Dogwood Festival or the Atlanta Jazz Festival in the spring; the Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival in the summer; or Autumn’s Yellow Daisy Fest, the city comes alive virtually every weekend of the year with music, arts and crafts, and children’s activities.

Parks and Recreation

Music at Centennial Olympic Park

The 21-acre Olympic Park is not only the city’s lasting legacy from hosting the Olympics, but it is at the center of a thriving tourist district, featuring concerts, among other activities. Pack a lunch and head to Olympic Park for Music at Noon, a free lunchtime concert series that features pop, blues, rock, country, jazz, and R&B, all performed by local artists. Take the kids to frolic in the Fountain of Rings.

Stroll, Cycle, or Fish at Piedmont Park

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Travel just two miles outside downtown, and you’ll find Piedmont Park, one of Atlanta’s largest green spaces and playground for kids of all ages. There are baseball diamonds, soccer and football fields, and tennis courts. The sidewalks are part of the PATH trail for pedestrians, cyclists, and roller-bladers. Lake Clara Meer is routinely stocked with fish, including catfish, large-mouth bass, crappie, and bream.

Bring your pup to socialize in the off-leash area.

Books and Chess at Woodruff Park

The Woodruff Park Reading Room is an open-air reading room that works in partnership with the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library. Carts are stocked with a selection of books, periodicals, and newspapers, and the space presents terrific opportunities for literacy programming. The movable furniture allows for an intimate setting. All of the programming and publications are available for free.

If chess is your thing, play a game at one of the chess tables.

History

Explore Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Explore the paths of both known and unknown heroes by learning about the historical significance of Atlanta’s colleges and universities, such as Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Atlanta’s historically black colleges form the largest center of higher education of blacks in the world, and, for years, these institutions, their work, and the graduates they launched were a stark contrast to the everyday life of many black Americans.

Atlanta University, for example, was the alma mater of James Weldon Johnson and Walter White, among hundreds of the most distinguished blacks in American history.

Federal Reserve Bank Monetary Museum

Take a tour of the Monetary Museum and learn the fascinating story of money, from barter to modern times. You’ll also learn about the turbulent history of banking in America and see examples of rare coins and currency.

The museum offers a display on the history of money; interactive, multimedia exhibits explaining the Federal Reserve’s role in the economy; a view of the bank’s automated vault, where the robotic transports do the heavy lifting; and the cash processing areas.

The cash-processing operations are where millions of dollars are counted, sorted, or shredded daily. There are both group and self-guided tours.

Georgia State Capitol

One of the most recognizable features of Atlanta’s skyline is the glistening domed roof of Georgia’s state capitol. Take an interpreter tour and experience its grandeur, while learning first-hand about the most important government building in Georgia. The self-guided and group tours include a history of the building and the lawmaking process, plus the public galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate and the Georgia Capitol Museum.

Historic Oakland Cemetery

This hidden treasure is less than a mile from the heart of downtown. Founded in 1850, it’s the final resting place of many of Atlanta’s settlers, builders, and most noted citizens, such as Margaret Mitchell, Maynard Jackson, and Bobby Jones. It’s also a beautiful sanctuary of sculpture and architecture, and a botanical preserve with ancient oaks and magnolia trees. Wander the grounds as the city’s rich history unfolds for you.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

Visit the home where Dr. King was born and sit in the pews of Ebenezer Baptist Church where his father preached. Tour the King Center where you can see Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize and visit his final resting place, and that of his wife Coretta Scott King and Mahatma Gandhi. Stroll through the “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden, which is an artistic and floral impression of Dr. King’s life and ideals of peace through non-violence.

Each year, a poetry contest is held between students from local, national, and global schools. Winning poems are selected and installed in the rose garden for a year.

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