Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information. However, the situation with Covid-19 is fluid and ever-changing. We’re doing our best to keep all of our stories and calendar up to date, but calling-ahead is a safe way to plan your day.
Staying home might be cheap, but we’re not going to lie—sometimes, it ain’t easy. Luckily for us, Atlanta is full of free (or really cheap) ways to have fun. And while you’re winning at the parenting game, you can also teach your kids the value of the dollar. Keep reading for our favorite ways to play in Atlanta that won’t break the bank.
photo: Abbie I. via Yelp
Walk on the BeltLine. This 22-mile loop gets better every year, with art installations to find and Atlanta’s tree canopy to enjoy. The Beltline’s group bike tours are a great way for participant to finish a 3-hour course, pedalling through neighborhoods and nature they may never have visited before. Here‘s a map of the BeltLine—just choose your nearest access point and begin your exploration!
Give mountain biking a spin at a beginner course. A short drive from the heart of the city lies multiple groomed mountain biking trails—most with beginner courses—for bikers who long to get off the beaten path. Check out our guide to the best beginner mountain biking trails near Atlanta, here.
Go skateboarding at a skatepark. Atlanta’s skateparks are spread out, which means accessing one is relatively easy, no matter where you live. The Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark is often the site of free beginner skateboarding classes on the weekends (check the BeltLine’s website to find out when to go), and the Brook Run Skate Park in Dunwoody is the largest skatepark in Atlanta, and is surrounded by trees (and near trails for biking, walking, and running).
Scope out the graffiti at Krog Street Tunnel. This urban canvas of images, words and ideas links eclectic Inman Park and Cabbagetown. Park somewhere nearby and take your time checking out the artwork—the area is pedestrian friendly—and afterwards, head to Inman Park for a treat at The Little Tart Bakeshop. The french apple tart will make everything better.
photo: Jake Colvin via Pexels
Have a picnic in a great spot. Enjoy Atlanta’s beautiful fall weather with a picnic under a canopy of brilliantly colored fall leaves at one of these awesome picnic spots.
Pick your gourds from a nearby pumpkin patch. While the grocery store will deliver on your pumpkin needs, it’s the fun fall perks—like hayrides, mazes, and inflatables, not to mention the acres of pumpkins—that will have you loading up your car and heading to the farm this fall. Just be sure to check in with each spot before you go to guarantee the pumpkins aren’t picked out. Many places offer free admission to the field, and you pay for what your pick.
Go apple picking in North Georgia. With mild temperatures well into the fall, many apple orchards are still pickin’ in October. Check out these spots, but call before you go to ensure there are still apples on the trees.
Explore the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. You can hit this indoor, year-round spot rain or shine to peruse the produce or prepared foods section. Get your children excited about a variety of foods from all over the world. For other farmer’s markets around town, check out this guide—but none will be quite as large or exotic as the DeKalb Farmer’s Market.
photo: Kenneth I. via Yelp
Visit the Noah’s Arc Animal Sanctuary. Noah’s Ark is a 250-acre sanctuary for abused, unwanted, and neglected animals in a park-like setting with paved pathways. Noah’s Ark is open Tuesday through Saturday. The Welcome Center, picnic area, and playground are open at 9 a.m. for visitors, and the animal habitat is open from 12-3 p.m.
Bike the Silver Comet Trail. Located 13 miles northwest of Atlanta, this 61.5-mile long path is free of charge and travels west through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. Expect a quiet, non-motorized, paved trail for walkers, hikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, horses, dog walkers, and strollers. Hop on at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna, and if you’ve had your coffee, you can go all the way to the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown. Otherwise, it’s out-and-back. Parents, heads up: there are no bathrooms along the length of the trail, so pack some baggies and wipes, just in case.
Explore Arabia Mountain. Once part of a quarry, Arabia Mountain is now protected as part of the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. This otherworldly rock outcrop is a monadnock, a geologic formation that has the seen the ground around it erode away, leaving the mountain we know and love today. Arabia Mountain also contains a variety of rare and endangered plants, such as Diamorpha, which grows in the fragile solution pit ecosystems that appear on the rock face. The Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP) is a 30+ mile recreational trail located just 20 minutes east of Atlanta. Walkers, cyclists and joggers share the multi-use trail. AWARE, or the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort, has been operating at the base of Arabia Mountain since 2006. The nonprofit rescues sick or injured wild animals, rehabilitates them at their facility and returns them to the wild.
Check out Kennesaw Battlefield Park. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a 2,965 acre National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign. Opposing forces maneuvered and fought here from June 19, 1864 until July 2, 1864. Picnic and play in designated areas and then enjoy a hike on some of the over 22 miles of maintained interpretive trails. Enjoy our weekend Ranger talks starting at 10:30 am. Talks are between 20 and 30 minutes and cover a wide range of topics.
Spend a day in Piedmont Park. With paved paths perfect for biking, triking, and boarding, a lake, fields, and playgrounds, this Atlanta institution is a great place to spend a day. For a parent insider’s guide to the park, click here.
photo: Vincent V. via Yelp
Check out Autrey Mill Nature Preserve & Heritage Center. Autrey Mill is a 46-acre preserve with 3 miles of trails that’s free to visit (donations are appreciated). Start your day at the Exploration Zone at the start of the Forest Trail, then check out the Visitor Center—home to over 30 different animals and a Living Lab, an area for kids to learn about the world around them, with little guided instruction.
Walk the trails at Blue Heron Nature Preserve. This 30-acre preserve in the heart of Buckhead has 3 miles of trails, and a community garden.
Go to the Georgia Aquarium on your birthday. Georgia Aquarium provides free admission to Georgia residents on their birthday. Simply go to their website and select the number of birthday guests that will be visiting during check-out.
Take a Georgia State Capitol Tour. The Georgia Capitol offers visitors an opportunity to view first-hand the most important government building in the state. Interpretive tours give visitors an overview of Georgia history and the Capitol building. For small groups, self-guided tours and Capitol apps offer a convenient way to explore the building at their own pace.
Check out the High Museum of Art on the second Sunday each month. On the second Sunday of each month, The High offers free admission for all visitors, who must adhere to strict social distancing and gathering guidelines. Access is limited to online, timed-ticket reservations.
photo: Vasha B. via Yelp
Explore Historic Oakland Cemetery. Atlanta’s oldest public park and the final resting place of many of the city’s most noted citizens, Oakland is less than a mile from downtown on 48-acres. Explore history and gardens, sculpture and architecture, and play under the ancient oaks and magnolias. Parent’s heads-up: while the gates are open, the Visitor’s Center and restrooms are closed until further notice.
Pay a visit to the Marietta Fire Museum or the Roswell Fire Museum. Discover and learn the history of the firefighting through collections of antique fire apparatus, tools, and gear dating back to the 1800s. Learn how fire departments have changed over time through self-guided tours.
Head to Zoo Atlanta with your library card. Gain free admission to the wonderful—but pricey—Zoo Atlanta through the Library Pass Program. If you have a library card, you can check out a family pass (for a family of four) at Georgia’s public libraries. The pass is available at participating branches in all 159 counties.
Hike Stone Mountain. Reach the summit of this vast monolith via trail (or take the Summit Skyride cable car, instead) to the rock’s peak. And while Stone Mountain Park offers amusements and seasonal attractions, tickets are pricey. For a less expensive alternative, summit the monolith and then check out buildings dating back to 1793 that fill the park’s Historic Square. A daily parking pass is available for $20, and you can access the trailhead for the 1-mile summit trail from the parking lot adjacent to Confederate Hall.
Not currently participating in family free days are The Children’s Museum of Atlanta and The Center for Puppetry Arts. The Fernbank Science Center, tours at The Governor’s Mansion, The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, and The Carter Center are also currently halting all operations due to Covid-19.
— Shelley Massey
featured photo: Abbie I. via Yelp