Atlanta is known for its many public parks and green spaces, which may be accessed for free and have earned Atlanta the nickname "the city in a forest." For lower-cost transportation options throughout the city, many attractions may be accessed via the MARTA public transit system, which offers bus, light rail, and subway service. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park
© NPS Photo
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park honors American Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1980 to preserve several Atlanta sites related to King's life and legacy. Attractions within the site include King's boyhood home, which may be explored as part of limited-availability free guided tours, and the preserved Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both King and his father served as pastors. A visitor center at the site offers free exhibits and video programs on King's work and the Civil Rights Movement, with more free civil rights exhibits and public special event programming offered at nearby Freedom Hall. Outdoor attractions include the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, which honors prominent historical social justice figures. Though parking at the site is only free to group tour buses, the site is easily accessible via MARTA public transit from the nearby King Memorial Transit Station and King Historic District subway stop.
450 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30312, Phone: 404-331-5190
2.The Atlanta BeltLine
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The Atlanta BeltLine is a major former Atlanta Belt Railway Company track path throughout the city that is currently under development as a planned multi-use trail connecting many of the city's landmarks and neighborhoods. The project originally received federal funding to begin construction in 2013, developed in 1999 as part of a master's thesis by a student at Georgia Tech. Currently, the trail is open in portions, with some areas in the process of development but walkable to the public in an unfinished state. When finished by 2030, the project will span more than 22 miles throughout the city, focused around a three-mile stretch near the city's central business district. Currently completed trails include the Eastside Trail, which spans between Piedmont Park and the Old Fourth Ward, and the West End Trail, which stretches between Westview Cemetery and White Street.
112 Krog St NE #14, Atlanta, GA 30307, Phone: 404-446-4404
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3.Centennial Olympic Park
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Centennial Olympic Park is one of Atlanta's premiere downtown public parks, originally developed in honor of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. The 21-acre park is maintained by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and showcases attractions such as an interactive Fountain of Rings, which uses computerized lighting and water jet synchronization to present periodic daily fountain shows. A collection of flags honor the host countries of previous Summer Olympics, with prominent sculptures honoring important Olympic figures throughout history. Annual public special events at the park include the Wednesday WindDown summer concert series and a Fourth of July fireworks display. Access to the park's attractions is free every day of the year, with both the Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena and Peachtree Center MARTA stations servicing the park. The park is also serviced by the low-cost Atlanta Streetcar circulator service, which stops at Centennial Olympic Drive.
265 Park Ave W NW, Atlanta, GA 30313, Phone: 404-223-4412
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© Atlanta Contemporary
Atlanta Contemporary is one of the American South's leading contemporary arts complexes, originally founded in 1973 as the Nexus grassroots artist cooperative. Today, the nonprofit, non-collection organization offers a permanent facility in Atlanta's West Midtown neighborhood, which is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the afternoon hours. Works by more than 100 local, regional, and international artists are highlighted in 6-10 rotating exhibitions throughout the year, with a specific focus on new artists and artists who have not had significant exhibition showcases in the region in the past. Affordable artist studio space is offered as part of the center's Studio Artist Program, which fosters collaboration between local working artists. More than 50 public educational programs are also presented each year, including children's programming and artist talks. Free parking is available for visitors at the Bankhead and Means Street parking lot, with free shuttle service available from Georgia Tech's city shuttle.
535 Means St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, Phone: 404-688-1970
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Piedmont Park is one of Atlanta's most prominent public parks, originally designed for the Piedmont Exposition of 1887 and reimagined in 1895 by legendary Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted to connect with the city's Ansley park system. As one of the city's largest athletic centers, the park offers a swimming center, a tennis center, and an Active Oval area featuring soccer, softball, and beach volleyball courts for public use. The Clara Meer Dock provides opportunities for permit fishing in the park, while two playgrounds incorporate unique modernist design elements, including the accessible Mayor's Grove Playground. During the summer months, park visitors can enjoy a number of major free festivals, including the Atlanta Pride Festival, the Dogwood Festival, and an annual outdoor summer film series. MARTA service to the park is provided via the city's red and gold lines at the Midtown and Arts Center subway stops.
P.O. Box 7795, Atlanta, GA 30357-0795, Phone: 404-875-7275
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6.Atlanta Monetary Museum
© Atlanta Monetary Museum
Atlanta Monetary Museum is the official monetary museum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, showcasing a variety of artifacts and exhibits related to the history and development of currency in the United States and around the world. Interactive multimedia exhibits showcase the history of American banking and the role of the Federal Reserve in the national and world economy. Exhibits also showcase rare American currency and bank-related artifacts. Individuals and groups of 10 or less may explore the museum at their leisure Mondays through Fridays between 9:00am and 4:00pm, with free guided tours for groups of up to 30 participants available with advance reservation at several scheduled times throughout the week. Though the museum does not offer free parking on site, it is easily accessible from MARTA's Midtown Transit Station, which is located directly across the street from the Federal Reserve building.
1000 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309, Phone: 404-498-8500
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7.The National Archives at Atlanta
© The National Archives at Atlanta
The National Archives at Atlanta holds a public collection of civic and genealogical records created by federal agencies and courts throughout the American South, including records held by the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and both Carolinas. The archives are open to the public Monday through Friday during business hours, with the exception of major federal holidays, though visitors should note that records cannot be retrieved later than 4:00pm daily. In addition to genealogical records, all public visitors are welcome to research and retrieve materials from the archives' significant collection of civic and political records, including holdings related to American history, government, civil rights, technology, public health, community life, and military conflicts from the 18th through the 21st centuries. More than 180,000 cubic feet of materials are available, including documents, photographs, maps, and architectural blueprints. Several other archival resources are located adjacent to the facility, including the Georgia Archives and the archival studies program of Clayton State University.
5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia 30260, Phone: 770-968-2100
8.Fernbank Science Center
© Fernbank Science Center
Fernbank Science Center is a public family science center museum that is overseen by the DeKalb County School System, offering free admission and parking for all visitors Mondays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours. The museum was originally opened to the public in 1967 and is intended to supplement the science education curriculum for located pre-K through 12th grade students, showcasing hands-on exhibits related to nature and technology, including collections and exhibits related to dinosaurs, microbiology, and the American space flight program. Major artifacts and facilities on display include a preserved Apollo spacecraft from the Saturn V test flight and an Aeronautics Education Laboratory. The museum is also home to the Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium, a 500-seat planetarium theater utilizing a 70-foot projection dome and presenting periodic public shows related to nature and the night sky.
156 Heaton Park Dr, Atlanta, GA 30307, Phone: 678-874-7102
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9.The Georgia Capitol Museum
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The Georgia Capitol Museum is located at the National Historic Landmark-listed Georgia State Capitol building, which serves as the primary headquarters for the state's executive and legislative government offices. The building's fourth floor has been home to a civic history museum since 1889, which may be explored as part of guided or self-guided tours Monday through Friday during business hours. The museum overlooks the state's legislative chambers and showcases significant artifact collections related to the state's natural, cultural, and social history, including native flora and fauna holdings and artifacts related to the region's indigenous groups. All of the Capitol building's public facilities are free and available for the public to explore, including its Hall of Valor, which showcases historic battle flags, and a collection of portraits of state governors and civic figures.
206 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334, Phone: 404-463-4536
10.The Georgia Governor's Mansion
© The Georgia Governor's Mansion
The Georgia Governor's Mansion has been the official home of each Georgia state governor since its opening in 1968. The three-level Greek Revival-style mansion was designed by architect Thomas Bradbury and is located on 30 acres within Atlanta's Tuxedo Park neighborhood in the city's northwestern region. The 30-room home spans more than 24,000 acres and showcases a swimming pool, greenhouse, children's playground, and tennis courts, with rooms inside including a formal ballroom with a capacity for up to 175 guests. It has been home to every Georgia governor since Lester Maddox, including future United States President Jimmy Carter. Free public tours are available Tuesdays through Thursdays during the morning hours, with reservations necessary for groups of 10 or more participants.
391 West Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30305, Phone: 404-261-1776
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11.The High Museum of Art
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The High Museum of Art is one of Atlanta's premiere fine art museums, located on Peachtree Street within the city's culturally-focused Midtown district. It was originally founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association and is located within the city's Woodruff Arts Center, which was opened in 1968 to honor the victims of the city's June 1962 plane crash, the deadliest aviation-related incident at the time. As one of the world's top 100 fine art museums, it receives more than 500,000 annual visitors, showcasing a collection of more than 15,000 prominent artworks, including African, European, and American works across a variety of media. Prominent works include James McNeill Whistler's masterpiece Whislter's Mother and The Shade by legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin, which were donated to the museum by the French government in honor of the city's plane crash victims. For a lower-cost transportation option, the museum is accessible via MARTA subway from the city's Arts Center Station.
1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309, Phone: 404-733-4400
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Oakland Cemetery is one of Atlanta's largest cemeteries and public park spaces, located on 48 acres in the city's Oakland neighborhood. The cemetery was founded in 1850 as Atlanta Cemetery and is the final interment spot of many of Atlanta's notable past citizens, including famed amateur golfer Bobby Jones and the city's "official historian," Franklin Garrett. A military section also houses more than 6,900 Confederate soldier burials, including more than 3,000 unknown bodies transported to the city, which served as a major medical hub during the war. Other sections include the 7.5-acre Potter's Field, which is reserved for burials for residents unable to purchase plots of land, and a section formerly used for African-American residents during the city's segregation. Impressive monuments and mausoleums are erected throughout the cemetery, which may be visited free of charge any day of the year.
248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312
13.Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking
© Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking
Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking is a museum located on the campus of Atlanta's Georgia Institute of Technology that is dedicated to public education and preservation related to the history of papermaking technologies. The museum is located within the institute's Paper Tricentennial Building and showcases the largest collection of paper-related artifacts held by any museum in the world, including more than 12,000 original manuscripts, paper manufacturing machines, and watermarks. A variety of temporary rotating exhibits focus on topics related to the history of paper and printing, with a permanent exhibit detailing the science and common technologies behind papermaking. The museum is open to the public Mondays through Fridays during business hours, offering free admission for individuals and groups of less than 10 visitors. Low-cost two-hour parking is available at the museum's private lot.
500 10th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30332, Phone: 404-894-7840
14.The Atlanta Farmers Market
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The Atlanta Farmers Market is one of the largest public urban farmer's markets in the world, open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The market serves as one of the top produce marketing and distribution hubs in the American Southeast, offering a garden center and retail center. It has been in operation at various locations since 1936, moving to its current 150-acre Forest Park location in 1958. A wide variety of wholesale and individual retail farmer's market stands are offered at the market, with hours varying from retailer to retailer. A welcome center is also offered on site, open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours. Visitors should note that some stalls do not sell produce and goods to the general public and are only available to grocers and wholesalers.
16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, Georgia 30297, Phone: 404-675-1782
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15.Art Stroll at Castleberry Hill
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Art Stroll at Castleberry Hill showcases one of Atlanta's most eclectic and artistic neighborhoods, located approximately one mile southwest of the city's downtown center. Every second Friday evening of the month, the neighborhood comes alive with visual and performing arts exhibits, installations, and performances offered at a number of area galleries and cultural sites. Many restaurants, bars, and performance venues throughout the neighborhood also offer discounts and deals in celebration of the art crawl event. Once a year, the art crawl's overseeing organization also presents the annual FLUX public art festival, which fills the neighborhood's streets with innovative performances and art installations. The neighborhood is accessible via the city's green and blue MARTA lines at the Dome/GWCC/Philips/CNN station, with street parking also available in some areas.
16.The Cascade Springs Nature Preserve
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The Cascade Springs Nature Preserve is a 120-acre nature preserve located within southwest Atlanta, showcasing beautiful historic homes, natural wonders, and Civil War-era remains. The nature preserve is located a short distance from Atlanta's downtown center and traverses a stretch of tranquil forest, offering visitor hiking trails showcasing the region's natural beauty, including the picturesque Cascade Creek Waterfall, located at the 1.3-mile mark of the preserve's main trail. Civil War battlefield earthworks are also showcased along the main visitor hiking trail, along with the remains of a moss-covered mortar-and-stone springhouse. Along the route, visitors can observe native flora and fauna of the region, including deer and migratory birds. The preserve is open to the public during the morning and early afternoon hours throughout the week, with extended early evening hours on weekends.
2852 Cascade Rd SW, Atlanta, GA 30311, Phone: 404-546-6744
17.The Sweet Auburn
© The Sweet Auburn
The Sweet Auburn is one of Atlanta's most historic neighborhoods, best known as the birthplace of 20th-century civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The district is one of more than 240 officially recognized neighborhoods in Atlanta and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark District since the 1970s, spanning 19 acres throughout one of America's most historic African-American business districts. Its name was popularized in 1956 as the result of a Fortune magazine article about the neighborhood's ethnic affluence, originally coined by American civil rights leader John Wesley Dobbs. It is home to major Civil Rights Movement-related attractions such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site and the APEX Museum, which presents exhibits related to African-American history and culture. Hip restaurants and nightclubs line the Edgewood Avenue business district, while the annual Sweet Auburn Festival in May celebrates the neighborhood's African-American heritage.
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18.The Atlanta Children's Christmas Parade
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The Atlanta Children's Christmas Parade is the American Southeast's largest holiday parade, held at the beginning of December each year and sponsored by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The parade was first held in 1981 and has become one of the city's top annual events, showcasing impressive floats and balloons alongside marching bands and civic organizations. It travels down downtown Atlanta's Peachtree Street , with public viewpoints offered all the way down the parade route. Attendees are advised to arrive early to secure prime viewing spots, including bleacher seating along the route. Before the parade, an annual Breakfast with Santa event is held at the Four Seasons Atlanta Hotel for an additional fee.
© Elevate Art
Elevate Art is an annual cultural festival held each October in downtown Atlanta, showcasing artistic exhibitions, installations, and live music and dance performances organized around a yearly event theme. The weeklong event is free to attend, though some performances throughout the week require a ticketed upcharge. Events include an annual opening night block party and a number of weeklong art installations showcased along the city's Broad Street Southwest. The event has been named as one of the nation's top 50 public art projects by the Americans for the Arts Public Network and has become a launching pad for the city's permanent public art scene, with many previous installations still displayed today at their original sites. Many nearby restaurants and bars also offer special events and discounts presented in conjunction with the event.
233 Peachtree St NE, Harris Tower Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30303, Phone: 404-546-6815
20.The Silver Comet Trail
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The Silver Comet Trail is a 61.5-mile multi-use trail that begins at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, located approximately 13 miles northwest of Atlanta's city center. The trail spans the route of the former Silver Comet passenger line of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which was implemented in 1947 and discontinued in 1969. It is accessible for walkers, joggers, hikers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and horseback riders and is pet-friendly, with well-behaved dogs permitted on leashes. The entire length of the trail is ADA-accessible, eventually ending at the Georgia-Alabama state line near the trailhead of the Esom Trail. At the state line, the trail connects to the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail, forming the second-longest combined multi-use trail route in the United States.
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21.The CDC Museum
© The CDC Museum
The CDC Museum, officially known as the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, is a free Smithsonian Affiliate museum located at Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters, offering exhibits and collections related to the history of public health and disease combating. The museum was originally developed in 1996 as the Global Health Odyssey Museum as part of the CDC's 50th anniversary celebration and showcases a variety of temporary rotating exhibits on various disease epidemics, public campaign measures, and cures throughout American and world history. The history of the CDC is also chronicled, with information provided about how the public can help combat disease and spread the word about disease prevention. The museum is open to the public throughout the morning and afternoon hours on weekdays, with extended evening hours offered on Thursdays. Admission is free for all visitors, with visitors over the age of 18 required to show government-issued photo identification or passports for entry. Free parking is also offered at the museum.
1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329, Phone: 404-639-0830
21 Best Free & Affordable Things to Do in Atlanta, Georgia Year Round
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, Photo: NPS Photo
- The Atlanta BeltLine, Photo: Courtesy of Bhargava - Fotolia.com
- Centennial Olympic Park, Photo: Courtesy of Chris - Fotolia.com
- Atlanta Contemporary, Photo: Atlanta Contemporary
- Piedmont Park, Photo: Courtesy of Heather - Fotolia.com
- Atlanta Monetary Museum, Photo: Atlanta Monetary Museum
- The National Archives at Atlanta, Photo: The National Archives at Atlanta
- Fernbank Science Center, Photo: Fernbank Science Center
- The Georgia Capitol Museum, Photo: Courtesy of dr_verner - Fotolia.com
- The Georgia Governor's Mansion, Photo: The Georgia Governor's Mansion
- The High Museum of Art, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Oakland Cemetery, Photo: Courtesy of dr_verner - Fotolia.com
- Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking, Photo: Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking
- The Atlanta Farmers Market, Photo: Courtesy of Ronald - Fotolia.com
- Art Stroll at Castleberry Hill, Photo: Courtesy of Monkey Business - Fotolia.com
- The Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Brent Hall - Fotolia.com
- The Sweet Auburn, Photo: The Sweet Auburn
- The Atlanta Children's Christmas Parade, Photo: Courtesy of Victor - Fotolia.com
- Elevate Art, Photo: Elevate Art
- The Silver Comet Trail, Photo: Courtesy of mmphoto - Fotolia.com
- The CDC Museum, Photo: The CDC Museum
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
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