Atlanta’s Top Places to Relax and Refresh
By Michelle Bourg
Whether you’ve been busy unpacking or working behind a deskall week, we all need to take a break and recharge our batteries with some fresh air. Fortunately, Atlanta boasts a multitude of outdoor attractions that let you soak up some sun and enjoy a nice summer breeze while getting to know your new city. On the pages that follow, we highlight 10 of the metro area’s most popular spots for walking, hiking, catching a game, shooting the rapids and much, much more.
One of the most extensive urban redevelopment projects in the country, the Atlanta BeltLine comprises 22 miles of reclaimed railroad corridor and has opened in phases. When complete, it will encircle the city and link 45 neighborhoods, numerous parks and additional trails. But the BeltLine, which is expected to be finished by the end of this year, is more than just a trail; it’s the place where “Atlanta comes together” and a fun and unique way to experience the city.
From the pathway, you can take the family to the playgrounds and skate park at Historic Fourth Ward Park, visit the Carter Center or stop for brunch or drinks on the patio at some of the city’s best eateries. It’s also a destination space for performances, art exhibits and events such as yoga classes or the Lantern Parade. Of course, you can always just walk, rollerblade or ride your bike and enjoy the scenery, summer weather and Atlanta skyline.
Be sure to visit the website to view and download a map before hitting the trail. You can also register for a bus, bike or walking tour to familiarize yourself with everything the BeltLine has to offer. 404-477-3003, beltline.org
Atlanta Botanical Garden
The Garden is one of Atlanta’s most beautiful spots, with more than 30 acres of gardens, greenhouses and woodlands. Notable are the formal Levy Parterre with its fountain sculpture by Dale Chihuly, and the Fuqua Orchid Center, housing the largest permanent display of these flowers in the U.S. The Kandeda Canopy Walk lets visitors traipse among the treetops for an aerial view of the gardens. Back on the ground, there’s the Longleaf Restaurant or Quick Café, a gift shop and a welcoming staff of experts happy to provide tips for your own garden.
The Garden also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, cocktail functions and seminars. Summertime events include the annual Concerts in the Garden series and the new Alice’s Wonderland Reimagined exhibition of topiary-like sculptures.
A second location of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is in Gainesville, about 90 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta. A community and educational center, it hosts a series of adult classes and family programs. In addition to outdoor gardens, it features a model train garden and the largest conservation nursery in the Southeast, dedicated to the propagation of endangered plants. Atlanta: 1345 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-876-5859, atlantabg.org
Gainesville: 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville. 404-888-4760
Atlanta Braves At Truist Park
Summer is here—time to “Play ball!” This year marks the fourth season of the Atlanta Braves in their new home at Truist Park near Interstates 285 and 75 in Cobb County near Cumberland Mall. This state-of-the-art stadium combines a classic look and feel with the latest technology for an unmatched fan experience and great sightlines for a clear view of every play.
Truist Park anchors The Battery Atlanta, a lifestyle destination featuring shopping, entertainment, dining and luxury residences — all a line drive away from the stadium gates. East side fans can take in a ballgame closer to home with the Gwinnett Stripers, the Braves’ Triple-A minor league team, at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, an intimate and welcoming park that provides a fun experience for everyone in the family. Atlanta Braves, 755 Battery Ave., Atlanta. 404-522-7630, braves.com Gwinnett Stripers, 2500 Buford Drive NE, Lawrenceville. 678-277-0300, milb.com/gwinnett
Chastain Memorial Park
At 268 acres, Chastain is Atlanta’s largest city park. Centrally located just north of the Buckhead district, it’s home to walking paths, an amphitheater for major concerts, a tennis center, an equestrian center and a golf course. (Each facility is individually managed, so be sure to check in advance for hours and public access policies).
Area kids helped design the new 40,000-square-foot playground, showcasing a wheelchair-accessible tree house, roller slides, a climbing wall and an outdoor piano and music- making area. 140 W. Wieuca Road, Atlanta. 404-237-2177, chastainparkconservancy.org
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
A series of connected sites along the Chattahoochee River (“the Hooch”), the Recreation Area stretches about 48 miles from Lake Lanier to Cobb County. Along its length are varying opportunities for walking and running, hiking, biking, boating, fishing and horseback riding, as well as picnicking and wildlife watching.
One of the most popular units is Powers Island, situated near Powers Ferry Road and I-285 in Sandy Springs. Here, a wheelchair-accessible flat dirt path stretches north along the river for about three miles, connecting to additional walking paths and hiking trails. At the Jones Bridge unit in Johns Creek, you’re likely to encounter deer in the woods along the hiking trails or as you fish for trout in or paddle in a boat down the river. 194478 Island Ford Pkwy., Sandy Springs. 678-538-1200, nps.gov/chat
Located in DeKalb County mere minutes from downtown Atlanta, Fernbank Museum’s facilities include dinosaurs, science explorations and historical cultural objects. But what some may not realize is Fernbank is also home to 75 acres of outdoor adventures.
An elevated walkway takes you from the museum’s terrace down into the treetops of Fernbank’s WildWoods, a large wooded area offering nature experiences for all ages during all seasons. Look for a variety of plants, flowers and other wildlife as the trails take you toward the wetland’s meadow and wildlife sanctuary. Guests can customize their WildWoods experience with numerous exploratory options tailored to both children and adults alike. WildWoods also provides access into Fernbank Forest, where the adventure continues.
Fernbank Forest, a 65-acre old-growth forest, offers several ways to continue your nature exploration. From a slow-and-steady stroll to a brisk walk, you can traverse over two miles of trails that will transport you from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta to a serene and tranquil environment. Keep your eyes peeled, as you never know what you might spot in Fernbank Forest, which includes countless plant species, including wildflowers and some of the state’s largest trees, and hundreds of animal species, including amphibians, reptiles and mammals. 767 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta. 404-929-6300 or fernbankmuseum.org.
Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park
Located 25 miles east of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is actually the world’s largest mass of exposed granite, etched with a high-relief carving covering three acres and depicting Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback. View the carving from the Memorial Lawn and then head to the summit by cable car or walking trail for views stretching to the Appalachian foothills.
Back on ground level, you can ride the park’s full-size locomotive before taking advantage of the park’s 15 miles of trails, picnic areas, restaurants, boating and fishing and two championship golf courses. Historic Square, a village of restored historic buildings, houses the largest collection of period furniture and decorations in the South, set around a working farmyard. 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. 800-401- 2407, stonemountainpark.com
Located in the city’s center, Piedmont is Atlanta’s unofficial back yard and the setting for hundreds of annual events, including concerts, foot races and festivals such as this September’s Music Midtown. I
n the park, you can stroll, rollerblade or bike while taking in Lake Clara Meer, landscaped plantings and stonework walls and steps that date back to the 1895 Cotton States and International Exhibition. There are picnic areas, two playgrounds, a dog park and, of course, plenty of greenspace. Sports facilities include softball and soccer fields, tennis, basketball and bocce courts and a pool. Before you go, stop by the Green Market for farm-fresh produce, artisanal cheese and cut flowers. 1071 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404- 875-7275, piedmontpark.org.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Get your thrill on all summer long at Six Flags. Just 10 minutes west of Atlanta in Austell, this 300-acre theme park boasts more than 40 rides and attractions, from the toddler-friendly Riverview Carousel to the SkyScreamer. Wooden coaster buffs will love the famous Twisted Cyclone. This year also sees the unveiling of the Catwoman Whip and Poison Ivy Toxic Spin rides in the Gotham City part of Six Flags. The park is also home to Hurricane Harbor Water Park for wild and wet excitement. And, of course, there are souvenirs and cotton candy. 275 Riverside Pkwy. SW, Austell. 770-739-3400, sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
Here you’ll meet more than 1,000 exotic animals in carefully reproduced habitats, from the lions of the African Plains, to the silverback gorillas in the Ford African Rainforest, to the sun bears of the Asian Forest. There’s also a petting zoo with more familiar critters. But the stars are undoubtedly the giant pandas: Yang Yang, Lun Lun and their twins, Xi Lun and Ya Lun. Zoo Atlanta is one of just four zoos in the country to host these special creatures.
The zoo is located just south of I-20 inside Grant Park, Atlanta’s oldest urban park. Its 131 wooded acres include playgrounds, picnic areas and the earthworks of Fort Walker, one of the city’s last remaining Civil War fortifications. There’s also a farmers market on Sundays from April to December and occasional festivals, including Summer Shade in August. 800 Cherokee Ave. SW, Atlanta. 404-624-9453, zooatlanta.org.