Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Atlanta may be rich in culture and American history, but it's also an affordable destination ideal for the budget-conscious traveler. After all, this progressive Southern city offers visitors plenty to do and to see at no cost. With an abundance of free historic sites, unusual museums, and outdoor recreation opportunities, travelers can keep busy in the ATL without breaking the bank. For our favorite free things to do in Atlanta, consider these top ten sites and attractions.
Be sure to check updated hours of operation for the below attractions before planning your trip as closures due to the coronavirus pandemic may still be in effect.
1. Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Maintained by the National Park Service, the Queen Anne-style home at 501 Auburn Avenue where Martin Luther King Jr. was born is one of Atlanta’s top tourist destinations. Visit the galleries, gardens, and monuments that pay tribute to arguably the most prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Take a ranger-guided tour (also free) of the place where Martin Luther King Jr. spent the first 12 years of his life. The site is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but check the National Park Service website for updates.
2. Stroll Through Oakland Cemetery
Founded in 1850, this cemetery is an eternal home for many of Atlanta’s most important builders, settlers, and influential individuals. Visitors can admire the cemetery's impressive mausoleums and sculptures, as well as the oaks and magnolias in the botanical garden.
3. Play in Piedmont Park
With a regular Green Market, organized activities, and other major festivals and events usually taking place throughout the year, Piedmont Park is a great place to experience Atlanta's distinct culture with locals. The 189-acre green space is also a popular place to picnic, play sports (there are bocce, tennis, and basketball courts), and even go for a swim on a particularly balmy day. Some facilities are closed and many events are currently postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic — check the website for updates.
4. Learn About Public Health at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum
A truly unique museum from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exhibits explore public health topics through a variety of mediums. Admission is free, and the museum is open on weekdays. The museum is currently closed due to the pandemic, so check the website for updated information.
5. See Local Art at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
Located in Atlanta’s Westside corridor, the Contemporary Art Center offers free admission daily (except Mondays, when it is closed) and features as many as 10 exhibitions every year, with an emphasis on local Southeastern artists who have not had their works displayed in a major way. The museum is currently open with health and safety measures in place, including reservable timed tickets to limit capacity.
6. Learn about Money at the Atlanta Monetary Museum
Follow the history of money, from ancient bartering techniques to modern-day bank regulations. For many, this is an opportunity to learn about the complicated policies and systems that control money in America — but even kids will love watching the cash processing operations (counting, sorting, and shredding). The museum is currently closed due to the pandemic, so check the website for updates and reopening information.
7. Walk the Atlanta BeltLine
Considered one of the most successful examples of urban renewal in the country, this 22-mile corridor encircling Atlanta is a great place to stretch your legs in the ATL. Running from the tip of Piedmont Park to Reynoldstown, the Eastside Trail is one of the most popular sections for hiking, cycling, and jogging.
8. Check Out Local Galleries on the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll
Castleberry Hill, a warehouse district that is considered one of the most progressive neighborhoods in the city, offers maps and info sheets for self-guided art strolls during the second Friday of each month. You'll visit a variety of studios, restaurants, and mixed-use spaces — find a full list of businesses on the website. Tours are currently on hold, so check out the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll Facebook page for updates.
9. Visit Centennial Olympic Park
With its food, various annual festivals, interactive fountain, and history, Centennial Olympic Park is a great place to visit during a stay in Atlanta. Learn about Atlanta, the legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games, history, and architecture through the free audio tour. The park is currently closed due to the pandemic, so check the website for reopening information.
10. See Famous Filming Locations on a DIY Georgia Film Tour
Did you know that several major movies were recently filmed in Atlanta? Check out filming locations for The Hunger Games, "Black Panther," "Captain America: Civil War," and more on a DIY walking tour.
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