Summer Fun Countdown
Beat the Heat with Atlanta’s Coolest Happenings and Events
By Michelle Bourg
Summer’s Here! Things are—literally and figuratively— heating up,and now that you’re an Atlantan you’re ready to get out, have some fun and explore the city. We’ve put together a TOP 20 LIST of the city’s “greatest hits” of summer: the fun things to do, exciting places to go, and sensations to taste. Start now, and when Labor Day finally rolls around you can look back on a summer to remember.
1 | Get Festive
Now in its 35th year, the Virginia-Highland SummerFest (June 9-10) enlivens one of the city’s prettiest neighborhoods with an art show, road race, a kids’ fun area and of course plenty of food and live music (vahi.org). Atlanta’s packed summer festival season fills almost every weekend on the calendar and includes favorites like the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival on July 22 (atlantaicecreamfestival.com) in July, the Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival on August 11 (decaturbbqfestival.com) and the Piedmont Park Arts Festival on August 18-19 (piedmontparkartsfestival.com).
2 | Take In a Movie
Skip the megaplex and take in a free blockbuster by starlight, like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco, Jumanji and Black Panther at one of the metro’s outdoor movie screenings. Flicks on the Bricks takes place on the first Fridays of June through September at Duluth Town Green (duluthga.net). Hapeville’s Movie Nights Under the Stars happen June 15 and July 20 at Jess Lucas Park (hapeville.org). Northside Hospital’s Georgia Movies in the Park™ (georgiamoviesinthepark.com) play in Canton, Cumming, Woodstock and Dawsonville; films and dates vary by city.
3 | Take to the Streets
Atlanta is one of the most active running cities in the country: on any given weekend there are dozens of races going on all around the metro area, from tot trots and one-mile fun runs to marathons. Enjoy a run or stroll and then bond with new friends over sports drink and a banana. It’s a great way to check out your new city, meet people, get exercise and often, support a great cause. All this and a T-shirt too! For an event calendar, see atlantatrackclub.org.
4 | Catch an Outdoor Concert
Whatever your taste in music, you’ll love Atlanta’s live music scene, filled with major acts, up-and-comers, local artists and our own Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Major venues include Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park and State Bank Chastain Park Amphitheatre (livenation.com), Southern Ground Amphitheater in Fayetteville (southerngroundamp.com) and the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater in Peachtree City (amphitheater.org).
5 | Take Fun to New Heights
For a whole new perspective, head to Skyview Atlanta and climb aboard a 20-story Ferris wheel for a ride in one of its 42 climate-controlled gondolas. For an even better view, take a spin in the VIP gondola with its glass floor and Ferrari-style seats (skyviewatlanta.com).
6 | Explore the Beltline
Connecting 45 different intown neighborhoods, the Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails, streetcar lines and parks, lined with shopping, dining, cultural and recreation options. Check out a map at beltline.org and set out for your adventure, and then jump off the trail for a yoga class at Old Fourth Ward Park or an iced coffee from Dancing Goats Coffee Bar.
7 | Talk to the Animals
Spend a sunny day getting to know the hundreds of animals making their home at Zoo Atlanta, including the world-famous giant pandas. For an even more personal experience, try a Wild Encounter with a lemur, the pandas or the zoo’s pride of lions. Kids ages 4-14 will love getting an up-close look at the wild kingdom with the Safari Camp summer sessions (zooatlanta.org).
8 | Feast on the Street
In summer, everything just tastes better outside. Fix up a picnic and head to the park, or let the grub come to you—everything from hot dogs to lobster—via food truck. Lilburn Food Truck Tuesdays are the second Tuesdays of May to October (cityoflilburn.com), Alpharetta Food Truck Alley runs Thursdays from April to October (alpharetta.ga.us) and Duluth Food Truck Fridays are May to September alongside its Flicks on the Bricks outdoor movies that begin in June (duluthga.net).
9 | Hit the Beach
Atlanta may be a land-locked city, but you can still hit the beach without leaving the metro. Put on your suit, throw a trashy novel in your tote bag and head to Paradise Beach at Lake Lanier in Buford for a day of relaxing, beach volleyball or splashing at the LanierWorld water park (lakelanierislands.com). Sometimes you don’t even need water: At the 4th Annual Beach Bash on July 6, 100 tons of sand turns the Gainesville Town Square into a summer paradise, complete with hula hoop and limbo contests, live music and more (gainesville.org).
10 | Savor Summer’s Bounty
It’s the season for goodness from the garden, and at Atlanta’s many farmers markets, you’ll find locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers, artisan breads, cheeses, bath products, jewelry and art. The Green Market at Piedmont Park is open Saturday mornings from March to November and features live music, chef’s demonstrations and a children’s play area (piedmontpark.org).
11 | Salute the Red, White and Blue
Everywhere in the Atlanta area on July 4th, there’s sure to be a celebration. Marietta’s Fourth in the Park lasts all day and into the evening, with a parade, festival, concerts, and of course, fireworks (mariettaga.gov). The Roswell Fireworks Extravaganza is a city tradition, with a kids’ zone, food trucks and live music before the pyrotechnics get underway (roswellgov.com). And at Stone Mountain Park, the Fantastic Fourth Celebration caps a week of festivities with a special edition of its famous laser show right before one of the city’s biggest fireworks displays, with colossal Stone Mountain as a backdrop (stonemountainpark.com).
12 | Root, Root, Root for the Home Team
With SunTrust Park’s superb sight lines, you’ll feel like part of the action as the Atlanta Braves take the field. Arrive before first pitch to take in The Battery Atlanta, a dining, shopping and entertainment complex surrounding the park (atlantabraves.com). Scout the game’s future stars in Lawrenceville with the Braves’ AAA farm team, the Gwinnett Stripers (gostripers.com).
13 | Get Your Scream On
Add some crazy to a lazy hazy summer by heading to Six Flags over Georgia and its newest ride, the Twisted Cyclone, with a 10-story, 75-degree drop. For tamer thrills, the Dahlonega Mine Train and the old-fashioned Riverview Carousel are family favorites, and Hurricane Harbor offers wet fun for the whole family. And of course, there are games, live shows and carnival food galore (sixflags.com/overgeorgia).
14 | Put the Fun on Ice
“There’s nothing cooler than being ice cold,” and on the ice at The Alpharetta Family Skate Center, aka The Cooler (coolerathletics.com) or the ICE Center in Cumming (theice.info), all ages can lace up their skates for public skating, hockey and lessons.
15 | Shoot the Hooch
Floating down the Chattahoochee River on a sultry summer day is an Atlanta tradition. Bring your own tube (and a cooler) and drop in at one of the designated areas in the Chattahoochee River Recreation Area (nps.gov), or rent gear at an area outfitter, such as Nantahala Outdoor Center inside the Recreation Area in Sandy Springs (noc.com).
16 | Treat Yourself
Take a break from your quest for summer fun and unwind with a cold treat. And not just plain old orange or cherry—Atlanta’s very own palette-pleasing popsicles, King of Pops, are made with fresh local ingredients and come in flavors like blackberry ginger lemon, grapefruit mint, salted caramel, and this being the South, iced tea lemonade and peaches and cream (kingofpops.com).
17 | Play in the Sprinklers
Remember playing in the sprinklers as a kid? Bring the kids and relive those times at Lilburn Sprinkler Days (cityoflilburn.com), Wednesdays between June 6-27 and July 11-25 from 10 a.m. to noon at Lilburn City Park. After you’ve dried off, wander into the city’s picturesque downtown to enjoy the shops and eateries. Or, head downtown and dance in the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park (gwcca.org)—perhaps after a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.
18 | Venture Beneath the Waves
The puffins have landed—say hello to these fascinating seabirds, along with more than 700 other species of aquatic life at the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. For an experience your family won’t forget, sign up for a “Sleep Under the Sea” sleepover experience and enjoy a magical night under the star(fish) (georgiaaquarium.org).
19 | Get Out of the Sun
If days in the Atlanta sun have you feeling a little crispy, head inside for some climatecontrolled family fun. Legoland Discovery Center Atlanta will thrill fans of the famous building blocks with rides, interactive play areas and building opportunities for all ages (legolanddiscoverycenter.com). At the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, kids will have so much fun launching rockets, modeling in the Build-It Lab and painting in the art studio that they won’t realize they’re learning (childrensmuseumatlanta.org).
20 | Plan a Fun-Filled Finale
End your Atlanta summer with a bang: Head downtown on September 1 and check out the stormtroopers, zombies and monsters in the annual Dragon Con parade, a highlight of one of the country’s biggest pop culture celebrations. (dragoncon.org). Meet notable authors and characters from your childrens’ favorite books at the Decatur Book Festival, taking place August 31 through September 2 (decaturbookfestival.com). And kick off the college football season as the Auburn Tigers take on the Washington Huskies at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (chick-fil-akickoffgame.com).