Beyond the green space, Atlanta parks are filled with numerous activities that might be a surprise to first-time visitors. To help ensure that you get the most out of a visit to Atlanta, we've sorted out some of the highlights for each of the city’s best-known parks.
1. Take in history through nature at Piedmont Park
Piedmont Park is one of Atlanta’s top attractions for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. (Lisa Panero, flickr)
Throughout the 211 acres of Piedmont Park, there are bocce courts, the Active Oval area with its running track, fields for softball and soccer, and two sand volleyball courts. There are also basketball courts, multiple playgrounds for the kiddos, tons of perfect picnic spots (with grills available on-site), a dog park for the pups -- you name it, Piedmont Park's got it. With all those activities at your disposal, though, you could easily forget the significance (and beauty) of the immense greenery that surrounds it all.
You’ll find more than 100 different tree species at Piedmont Park, including some of the oldest of their kind -- referred to as champion trees -- in the city. The self-sustaining woods on the northern half of the park is where you'll find many of those. While the skyline view reflected in Lake Clara Meer is one of the most visually striking aspects of the park, you'd be remiss to skip exploring its stretches of leafy, towering trees. Nature lovers and history buffs alike can reference this walking guide, provided by Piedmont Park, which connects the landscape to its incredibly rich history.
2. Shop the Farmer's Market at Grant Park
The "People's Playground" is converted into a bustling public market every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with more than 60 vendors making healthy, local food available to all. Stock up on fruits and veggies from organic farms, buy artisanal breads and baked goods, or grab some ready-to-eat deliciousness -- coffee, pasta, pizza, pastries and King of Pops treats are just a few of the tempting options. The Grant Park Farmer's Market also offers stellar special events, like demos from some of the city's best chefs, craft markets and yoga classes.
3. Peruse an outdoor art museum at Freedom Park
Freedom Park features an impressive outdoor museum. (Lisa Panero, flickr)
The city's biggest linear park is also its largest outdoor museum. Permanent and temporary installations dot the more than 200 acres of Freedom Park, including conceptual sculptures like the Tree of Life, located at the intersection of Oakdale Road and North Avenue; or the colorful, inspiring One Woman Rising, between Moreland and Euclid avenues. Don't miss the iconic Homage to King, either; the flawlessly crafted steel profile of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the southwest corner of Boulevard and Moreland is a bonafide Atlanta art landmark.
4. Sip cocktails at Atlanta Botanical Garden
Free for members, Cocktails in the Garden runs from May through late September and offers visitors an unforgettable nighttime nature experience. (It's ticketed for non-members.) The series is often curated around temporary art installations and exhibits, so you can take in a specialty cocktail while checking out the latest in the Atlanta Botanical Garden's attractions -- and, of course, strolling the garden to marvel at the current blooms and a catch a scenic skyline-sunset combo.
5. Get wowed by skaters at Historic Fourth Ward Park
The Historic Fourth Ward Park is home to an impressive collection of challenges for skateboarders and BMX riders. (TimothyJ, flickr)
Christened and funded in part by legendary pro Tony Hawk, the sizable public skate park at the Historic Fourth Ward Park is a hands-down highlight. Watching athletes show off at this concrete wheeled-sport haven is a new pastime for Atlantans; skaters and BMX bikers test their skills in one large bowl, another medium one and a street course that's dominated by challenging ramps and rails. Hawk is a repeat visitor, too: He recently dropped in unannounced to pop a nollie alongside locals.
6. Experience the classic mountaintop view at Stone Mountain Park
The mainstay Georgia park boasts about 15 miles of trails, but the most iconic path, of course, is the one-mile climb to the top of Stone Mountain. On a clear day, the scene from the vantage point stretches more than 60 miles: At 1,686-feet high, you'll get a jaw-dropping view of both the North Georgia mountains and downtown Atlanta. The 2.1-mile round trip features swaths of crimson-red succulents, wildflowers and striking stone outcrops. While it does elevate drastically, its short length makes it manageable even for beginners. It's perfect for groups of mixed levels who love to earn their way to gorgeous views; make the trip at dusk for an especially memorable experience.
7. Take the kids to an outdoor playscape paradise at Little Nancy Creek Park
This relatively new Buckhead neighborhood park became a fast favorite for kids (and their parents) when it unveiled its impressive playground in 2011. Designed for all ages, the 8,000-square-foot play area includes a challenging tower for older kids to explore, and slides and smaller climbing structures for the little ones. The building of Little Nancy Creek Park was community-driven, winning the Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park group an "inspiration award" from local nonprofit Park Pride shortly after its grand opening. The surrounding woods, tree canopy and creek afford the area an almost rural feel -- it truly is a gem of an outdoor play experience for kids and their parents.
Originally written by RootsRated for Atlanta CVB.