15 cheap and free things to do in Atlanta

Between a brand new streetcar, a vibrant and growing food scene, new attractions across the city and a ton of urban green space, Georgia’s capital is having a moment. Well, more than a moment, more like a period of cultural growth that keeps on expanding. So if ever there was a time to visit Atlanta, it’s now. Even better, while you’re there, you don’t have to dip too far into your wallet, thanks to the spate of free and cheap things to do, see and eat. Save money, but still get a great sense of what Atlanta has to offer with these 15 free or cheap activities, eats and events.

Take an art walk

If you happen to find yourself in Atlanta on the first Thursday or second Friday of the month, you can take part in a free art walk via either a First Thursdays ArtWalk or the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll. The former takes place through various galleries in downtown Atlanta, many of which provide food and beverages for participants. The latter art walk focuses on Castleberry Hill, Atlanta’s historic arts district. Both are a great way to get in touch with Atlanta’s happening art scene while strolling around some unique neighborhoods.

Explore the Atlanta Contemporary Art Gallery

Get your art and culture fix for free at Atlanta Contemporary Art Gallery, which presents six to 10 exhibitions each year from local, national and international artists. Admission to the gallery has been free since 2015. Bonus: If you’re in the city on a Thursday, the gallery offers a program called Contemporary Cocktails where you can check out an exhibition or attend a special event or presentation. Admission is free, but there’s a cash bar featuring a different local bartender serving up drinks each week.

Catch some music in Olympic Park

This 21-acre park is a significant part of the legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, but it’s also a fun (and free) place to hang out for a few reasons. The park hosts a free lunchtime music series, Music at Noon, performed by local musicians, as well as a Wednesday evening concert series, Wednesday WindDown, where a ticket will set you back $5. If you go, make sure to check out the beautiful Fountain of Rings.

Watch a movie at the Starlight Drive-In

Movie buffs will want to think about catching a movie at Atlanta’s Starlight Drive-In Theatre, which has been showing the latest films since 1949.  A ticket will run you $9, but that gets you admission to two movies playing. Kids aged five to nine get in even cheaper – a ticket is just $1.

Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site

Learn more about civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy with a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site. Admission to the nearly 35-acre site is free and here you’ll find an informative visitor’s center, Dr. King’s birth home (of which free tours are offered), the church where he was a pastor and the “I Have A Dream” World Peace Rose Garden among other significant sites.

Hang out in Woodruff Park

There are many things to do in downtown Atlanta’s popular Woodruff Park that won’t cost you a thing. In addition to the chance to play bocce, chess and table tennis you can pick up a book or magazine in the open-air reading room (open April to October), admire the two cascading fountains or relax in the courtyard plaza. The park also offers free yoga on Wednesdays through the end of September.

Walk, bike or run along the BeltLine

Atlanta’s newest outdoor space is comprised of over 21 miles of unused railroad tracks that circle the core of the city. Here you’ll find numerous parks and green spaces, a skate park and several trails that take you through some of Atlanta’s most vibrant neighborhoods. The BeltLine is free to explore and the calendar of events is packed with free activities ranging from fitness to yoga classes and walking tours .

Take a tour of the Governor’s Mansion

Tours of the official home of Georgia’s 82nd Governor are offered for free on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. You’ll get to learn more about the history of the city as well as get to see the three floor, 30-room mansion.

Go on a brewery tour

There are a lot of craft breweries in Atlanta so beer fans have a few ways to sample the local goods. Most tours are cheap and will run around $12, but that gets you five or more samples that usually equal out to about 36 ounces, plus a branded souvenir pint glass. Some breweries to check out include Second Self Beer Company, Red Hare Brewing Company and Monday Night Brewing.

Visit the Atlanta Monetary Museum

Save money and learn about the history of cold, hard cash – for free – at the Atlanta Monetary Museum. Displays show the history of banking in America, rare coins and currency, the Federal Reserve’s role in the economy and more.

Play in Piedmont Park

Another park worth visiting is Piedmont Park for some free outdoor fun. There you’ll find everything from playgrounds and picnic sites to bocce courts, basketball, a farmers’ market, free fitness classes and a dog park.

Check out Fernbank Science Centre

Admission and parking are both free at the Fernbank Science Center where you’ll find exhibits dedicated to wildlife and space travel (including the unmanned Apollo 6 Command Module). Fernbank is also home to a planetarium, where stargazing will set you back $7 for adults and $5 for kids.

Browse Krog Street Market

Housed in a repurposed industrial space, Krog Street Market is a great place to hang out, browse unique vendors, people watch and grab a meal at some of Atlanta’s hottest restaurants.

Be awed by lasers and lights

The Lasershow Spectacular at Stone Mountain Park involves a whole lot of lights, lasers and fireworks, and is known as a must-do while in Atlanta. The shows run Saturdays throughout the fall and while the show is free, parking is $15.

Hang out for happy hour

Cut costs on food and drink by hitting up one of Atlanta’s many weekday happy hours. Get $5 Asian-inspired appetizers between 5 and 7 p.m. at Steel, snacks and drink specials are $6 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant, snacks and wine are $5 and cocktails are $7 at Thrive from 5 to 7 p.m. and get half-price appetizers at all four locations of Bantam + Biddy from 3 to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, to name just a few.

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What’s your favorite cheap or free thing to do in Atlanta? Share in the comments.

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