14 Annual Atlanta Events to Consider when Planning Your Trip
Make the most out of a trip to Atlanta at any time of the year with these excellent area events.
Atlanta is a great place to visit at any time of the year. The city is full of so much life that you can’t go far without running into something fun and exciting going on. Best of all, there are tons of annual events that take place throughout the various parts of town. These happenings can keep you and your whole family entertained no matter when you plan your visit. Check out this list of the 14 best annual events to consider when planning your next trip to the Atlanta area.
The Peach Bowl is a college football game that is usually played on January 1 each year. It has been hosted at the Georgia Dome for the past two decades, and it is a wildly popular game that attracts tons of spectators every year. The biggest fans visit Atlanta for the entire week leading up to the Peach Bowl, which is known as Bowl Week and features tons of exciting activities for the more die-hard football fans. During Bowl Week, fans can enjoy Fan Night at the Georgia Aquarium, the Georgia Power Chalk Talk, and the big tailgating party, as well as plenty of other events to keep spirits high and ready for the big game. Don’t miss the Peach Bowl Parade on New Year’s Eve morning!
When visiting for the Peach Bowl, consider staying in one of the official team hotels near the venue. Depending on which side you’re rooting for, you might stay in one of two side-specific accommodations, or the third “blended” option, which is perfect for fans who might not be quite as invested in the outcome of the game as others. If these hotels are booked up, check with the overflow hotels in the area. These buildings are not completely rented for the big game, but they do contain blocks of rooms devoted solely to fans like yourself.
If you do plan to enjoy one of the area events during your stay, before you attend the game, consider booking a Peach Bowl package. These packages provide discounted prices on game tickets and events, including the game and tailgating party package that runs around $130 per person. There are also travel packages available to help you find deals on your accommodations at some of the overflow hotels.
You can find out more about ticket and package prices at the Peach Bowl’s web site.
Best of Atlanta
Every late winter, the Cobb Galleria Convention Center plays host to the Best of Atlanta Party, which has been going strong for nearly three decades. This major event is widely recognized as the best food-related party in the city, and restaurants consider it a great honor to be chosen as one of the featured places to eat at this exciting happening. Over two thousand guests visit the stalls set up by the selected restaurants, where they can sample drinks and dishes prepared by the chefs themselves for this special occasion. While visiting the Best of Atlanta party, be sure to participate in the silent auction. Proceeds go to local charities, and in 2015, all proceeds went to the Giving Kitchen, which supports restaurant workers in times of health-related crisis.
Opt for the VIP ticket, which is available in limited amounts and provides unlimited tastings at all of the represented area restaurants as well as a gift bag, early admission to the event, and a subscription to the Atlanta magazine which hosts the party. If you can’t quite swing the cost of a VIP ticket, the general admission still includes unlimited tastings and the magazine subscription, so you’ll still be able to eat your way through the best restaurants the city has to offer without spending too much money!
Visit the Best of Atlanta Party web site, courtesy of Atlanta magazine, to keep tabs on how the upcoming event is progressing.
Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival
Technically, Conyers is a district on the east side of Atlanta, a short drive away from the city center. Conyers has been hosting an annual cherry blossom festival for 35 years, and this April event is a ton of fun for the whole family! During the event, visitors can participate in arts and crafts, games, and dancing that crosses cultural boundaries. Guests can also enjoy delicious international food and drinks that are sure to please. This is one of the best places in the United States to enjoy the blooming of the traditional Japanese cherry blossom tree in all its natural splendor.
If you plan to visit the Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival, be sure to wear your pink and green festival colors! Judges quietly observe the outfits and strollers of the festival-goers, and they select the best and most colorful representations of the cherry blossom by handing out ribbons throughout the day. Be sure to make your presence known for this silent competition. Dressing in your festival colors might also earn you small discounts from select food and craft vendors, so give it your best shot.
While enjoying the festival, consider signing yourself or your whole family up for the on-site scavenger hunt. This fun event pits groups and individuals against each other to be the first to find hidden blossoms throughout the festival grounds. When you find the blossoms, return them to the information booths to claim your prize. Once you’ve finished searching for prize blossoms, head over to the Atlanta Puppet Show or the Air Dog Show to enjoy some truly fun family entertainment.
You can find a schedule of festival events on the city of Conyers web site.
Georgia Renaissance Festival
In late April and early June, visit the Georgia Renaissance Festival to get your knight on! This fun-filled, family-friendly event is a perfect combination of outdoor entertainment, traditional food, arts and crafts vendors, and a dash of geeky costuming. Whether you want to dress up in period-specific clothing, come as a wizard or a fairy, or just show up in street clothes, you will be more than welcome at the Georgia Renaissance Festival!
The festival grounds are lined with faux cottages and shacks from which vendors sell their handmade goods. While you peruse their offerings, you might be accosted by a jester or entertained by traveling bards who sing and play instruments as they wander the festival grounds on foot. After doing some shopping, stop by to see some of the festival’s entertainment, and you might even catch a glimpse of the king and queen! Don’t forget to sample some of the tasty medieval meals available here as well. Turkey legs are always a favorite Renfaire treat.
Tickets to the Georgia Renaissance Festival are cheaper when you purchase them ahead of time online. An adult ticket costs $19 online, while a child’s ticket runs $8 (children under 5 can get in for free). However, if you are traveling as part of a group, you might consider splitting the cost of a Royal Value Combo Pack, which includes 4 tickets, 4 meals with 4 drinks, 4 games or rides, 4 coupons, and $10 off up to 4 costume rentals. This package only costs $100, so split between the four of you, it can be an excellent deal!
The Georgia Renaissance Festival main entrance is located at 6905 Virlyn B. Smith Road in Fairburn, Georgia, on the southwest side of Atlanta.
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival is an excellent local arts and crafts event featuring over 250 artists competing and showcasing their work for the city to see and enjoy. Sculptors, painters, pencil artists, and more are represented throughout the festival dates, and several pieces are chosen as winners of this prestigious event. The Atlanta High School Art Exhibition also takes place during the Dogwood Festival, and shows off the finest work of the best artists from schools in the area. This juried competition makes a huge impact in the lives of artistic high school students from the city and beyond.
Be sure to check out the International Stage located within the festival grounds, and enjoy live performances from the many different ethnic cultures that are represented within Atlanta itself. These musicians and dancers showcase the art of performing to the best of their incredible ability, and guests often leave having learned a little something about the people that make up the city around them. If you’re in town for the Backyard Barbecue and Brews dates, be sure to check out this delicious ticketed event to sample food and craft beers from restaurants across the city.
Get an education about eco-friendly living when you stop by the Eco-village, where green and sustainable operations are explained in vivid detail. Guests can learn about arts and crafts creations using sustainable materials and green processes, then study up on how to make green decisions in their own lives. Finally, take the kids to the Kids Village and allow them to participate in their own arts and crafts before they head to the inflatable bounce houses to work off some energy!
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival takes place in Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta.
Stone Mountain Laser Show
Technically, the Stone Mountain Laser Show is a little bit more than an annual event, as it takes place throughout the summer months. However, it is something of a local tradition, and the first day of its performance each year draws massive crowds that don’t dwindle very much throughout the rest of its season. The show includes laser lights and fire-based special effects, as well as a projection on the side of Stone Mountain itself. The spectacular event finishes off with a burst of fireworks in the sky over the mountain, all of which celebrates America and the city of Atlanta.
Although the Stone Mountain Laser Show itself does not cost anything to attend, you do have to pay $15 to park at Stone Mountain. You might make the most of the cost by spending the day exploring the park, then catching the show at night before you leave. Bring a blanket to spread out on the grass and enjoy seating under the stars, or try to snag a table at the Laser Show Snack Terrace. The show lasts about 45 minutes, and it will run in the rain, but will be cancelled in case of storms in the area.
The Stone Mountain Laser Show starts in May each year, and finishes its yearly run near the end of October.
Music Midtown Festival
Join other guests at the Music Midtown Festival to enjoy a jam-packed two-day event full of music, merriment, and partying! The festival takes place at Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta, and it is a family-friendly event, so you can feel safe bringing the kids along. The event usually takes place on a Friday and a Saturday, with the Friday concerts beginning at around 4pm and the Saturday concerts starting around noon. Some of the bigger name performers do take the stage later on at night, so be prepared to spend several hours at the festival if you have a specific singer in mind to see.
When in town for the Music Midtown festival, be sure to check out one of the preferred area hotel accommodations. These hotels provide a discount for anyone who is staying for the festival, and their close proximity to the event means you will have the benefit of a shuttle service so you won’t have to try to find festival parking. If one of the preferred hotels is not available, check out the other hotels in the area that might have blocks devoted to the Music Midtown Festival. Also bear in mind that there are always several big name performers present at the event (such as Elton John), so if you do have to travel from your hotel to the park, be sure to give yourself plenty of time!
A two-day general admission ticket runs around $125 per person and includes a wristband for easy access to the event as well as unlimited entrance. If you prefer to have access to select preferred viewing areas, as well as complimentary alcoholic beverages in a special lounge, you might want to choose the $600 two-day VIP pass instead. Finally, you can upgrade to a two-day super VIP pass, which includes catering as well as plenty of extra goodies, for $1200 per person. For the most part, the general admission ticket is a perfect option for the majority of guests.
Purchase tickets to Music Midtown Festival online through the festival web site.
Stone Mountain Fantastic Fourth
Back at Stone Mountain, the Fourth of July gets special treatment! This exciting event has been voted as the “Best Place to see Fireworks in Atlanta” as well as one of the “Most Spectacular Fourth of July Shows” in America. With such grand compliments, you wouldn’t want to miss this great opportunity. If you happen to be in town during the Fourth of July, be sure you and your family have time to check out this incredible fireworks experience. During the show, you will get to enjoy the Laser Show as it is normally performed, followed by a special Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza that lights up the night sky over the mountaintop.
Because the Stone Mountain Fantastic Fourth event is very popular, the park fills up pretty quickly early on in the day. When the parking lot is full, the park will close, so be sure to arrive in plenty of time to get a space! Parking for the event costs $15, but the event itself has free admission. The park welcomes guests with picnic lunches or dinners. You might enjoy bringing along a meal for yourself and your whole family to enjoy while the sun sets over the park, before the show gets underway. You can also purchase food from the Laser Show Terrace pavilion if you prefer. Because of the parking lot situation, you might be better off paying to park outside the Stone Mountain area, then catching a shuttle or walking in to attend the Fantastic Fourth event.
Check the Stone Mountain official web site to find out when the Fourth of July show will begin.
Atlanta Underground Film Festival
Atlanta is a major cultural hub of creativity, and it is no surprise that the city is responsible for the Atlanta Film Series, which highlights a multitude of delightful and thought-provoking films across every genre. At different times throughout the year, you might catch the Animation Attack Spring Film Series, the Atlanta Shortsfest during the Summer Film Series, or the Atlanta Horror Film Festival during the Fall Film Series. However, by far the most exciting part of the year of films is the Atlanta Underground Film Festival, which is also a part of the Summer Film Series.
The Atlanta Underground Film Festival takes place in August most years, and provides an opportunity for indie filmmakers and actors to put their best foot forward. The more unique the film may be, the better and more widely appreciated it will surely become during the days of this festival. For those who are involved in the production of these films, the festival offers the chance for their voices to be heard. And for guests who simply want to take in the best in the world of indie films, the event provides ample opportunities to do just that!
If you are a filmmaker or independent actor yourself, be sure to network with the other members of the industry at one of the many parties that take place throughout the event. Hobnob with your peers over cocktails at one of the participating area bars or lounges, and be sure to show your support by catching as many of the movies as you possibly can. Of course, if you’re just a film buff, you can still enjoy the packed schedule of indie movies on display during this weekend-long event!
You can find a schedule of all the upcoming films at the festival’s web site.
Anime Weekend Atlanta
There’s a little geek in everyone, but there may be a much bigger geek in some. For those people, Anime Weekend Atlanta is the place to be! This huge event takes place over the course of a weekend at the end of September and showcases the finest from the world of anime, or Japanese animation. Although anime is the main focus of the event, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, and technology are all also represented by the plethora of fans and panelists that attend every year.
This is a true “geek convention,” so by all means, dress up in a costume if you want to! You won’t be alone. The convention features a Saturday night costume contest where some of the best costume designers go head to head against each other to find out who can take home the top prize in many different categories. There is also a rave on Saturday night, so as soon as the costumes come off, the glow-stick jewelry goes on! Guests party well into the night at this exciting event, but bear in mind that the panels and dances are not considered family-friendly after 9pm.
Anime Weekend Atlanta takes place in the Cobb Galleria Convention Center, which is attached by a covered walkway to the Renaissance Waverly Hotel. The Renaissance Waverly tends to book up months in advance, but there are several area hotels that offer a discount for attendees of this popular convention. A three-day ticket to the convention usually runs around $50 per person, or you can purchase single-day tickets at the gate only for a discounted price.
Purchase tickets online at Anime Weekend Atlanta’s web site.
Georgia Apple Festival
About an hour’s drive north of the city center of Atlanta, you will find the small town of Ellijay, Georgia, which plays host to the Georgia Apple Festival. This event is packed full of craft and food vendors, as well as plenty of hands-on and interactive experiences to provide tons of fun for the whole family. With over 300 stalls selling food, handmade goods, and more, you are sure to find something you want to take home as a souvenir from your visit. Tickets to the event are only $5 per person, with children getting in for free, so you’ll be sure to have plenty of extra money to spend at all those stalls as well!
During the Georgia Apple Festival, be sure to participate in all of the shows, parades, and contests that take place as part of the overall event. During the first week of the festival, take part in the Arts and Crafts Showcase in downtown Ellijay, then head over to the Civic Center to check out the antique cars at the Classic Auto Show. You might also want to submit your most delicious concoction in the Apple Pie Recipe Contest! If you visit during the second week of the festival, you should be able to catch the local Apple Festival Parade or the Apple Queen Pageant.
Of course, the main draw of the Apple Festival is the apples! Orchards from around north Georgia all participate in the festival, bringing delicious fresh apples straight from the trees to sell at their booths during the event. Over ten orchards take part in the festival. Be sure to pick up some delicious fresh-squeezed apple juice, cider, or hard cider from the orchards, and take home a bag of fruit to enjoy as well!
The Georgia Apple Festival takes place at 1729 South Main Street in Ellijay, Georgia, at the Fairgrounds.
Festival of the Nativity
For a peaceful and elegant religious-based Christmastime event, check out the Festival of the Nativity, which takes place in Peachtree City, just outside of Atlanta. Tour a display of over 500 different nativity sets of various sizes and shapes, both indoors and outside. The nativity sets are lovingly set up on event days, and then taken down and repackaged again so as not to sustain any damage. It takes several volunteers to ensure that this simple but meaningful event goes off without a hitch.
While you are visiting the Festival of the Nativity, be sure to stick around to enjoy the live instrumental music that provides a backdrop to the tour. The tour itself is free to enter, and parking is free as well, so this can provide you and your family with an hour or two of budget-friendly entertainment during Atlanta’s holiday season. Bear in mind that children are welcome at the nativity display, but you may want to keep wandering hands from getting too close to the breakable sets!
Festival of the Nativity is held at 101 South Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree City.
Christmas at Callanwolde
Callanwolde Fine Arts Center was once the home of Charles Howard Candler, the eldest son of the man who founded Coca-Cola, and one of the company’s earliest presidents. Today, it serves as a mansion-sized community arts center where local residents and visitors alike can participate in workshops, classes, exhibitions, and more. Throughout the year, visitors can also enjoy tours of the mansion's many rooms, and can learn about the history of the Coca-Cola founding family, its fortune, and its empire.
During the holiday season, Christmas at Callanwolde transforms the mansion into full holiday splendor. For sixteen days during the month of December, guests can explore the mansion and take a tour of its many stately rooms, all decked out for this festive time of year. Each room has a different theme, and each seems more elaborately decorated than the last. After your tour, you can also take part in one of the holiday craft workshops on-site, or check out the artist market to take care of some of your holiday shopping. Don’t forget to stop by and listen to some of the live music that takes place on the Callanwolde mansion grounds! All proceeds from the Christmas at Callanwolde events go to the Fine Arts Center, which serves the community in many ways, including providing artistic, written, and performance art education.
The Christmas at Callanwolde events are very family-friendly, but even so, the house tour might be a little boring to younger members of your party. If you do bring kids along, be sure that they can remain patient throughout the house tour, and will not touch any of the breakable decor. They might prefer to look around at the vendors in the artist market, or you might even luck out and visit on a day when there is a children's craft workshop taking place. If you plan to sign yourself or one of your kids up for a workshop, you might be better off calling ahead, to ensure that the class does not book up before you can get there.
Christmas at Callanwolde takes place on weekdays from 11am-7pm and weekends from 9am-4pm during the holiday season.
When visiting Atlanta for the New Year, be sure to visit the annual Peach Drop, one of the biggest New Year’s Eve parties in the southern United States! This exciting event starts at 11am the morning of New Year’s Eve, and keeps on going well into the night, right up until the 800-pound giant peach is dropped as part of the countdown to the New Year. Of course, for those who really want to party, plenty of revelry continues even after the year has been properly rung in. Be prepared to come early and stay late when you hit up this event!
Most of the daytime events are perfect for kids and families who might not want to stay out all night long but still want to participate. Kid-friendly singers who are popular with the preteen age bracket begin performing as early as 11am and continue until around 5pm. During the day, too, lesser known bands and singers take to the stage to make their voices heard and keep the crowd entertained. After 5pm, more popular artists begin to perform, all leading up to the big event at midnight.
When planning your trip to see the famous Peach Drop, keep a few tips in mind. First of all, remember that the peach is going to fall whether the weather is nice or not, so it is in your best interest to pack an umbrella or a jacket, just in case it rains or gets very cold. The event is free, which means it is going to be packed, with plenty of downtown Atlanta streets staying closed throughout the duration. You will need to park in a local garage, which will include a parking fee that can rack up to a significant amount if you are staying in the area all day. Most of the restaurants in town, and all of the clubs and bars, will be open late for the event, so don’t worry about finding a place to eat and drink while you’re partying!
The Peach Drop takes place at Underground Atlanta, at 50 Upper Alabama Street Southwest in Atlanta.
Whether you choose to plan your trip around a specific event or you just want to see what’s going on the next time you’re in town, you can be sure to find the perfect annual happening for your next visit to Atlanta. Pick your favorite, and bring along your friends and family! Many of the best local events are perfect for the whole family, while some are better suited for couples or solo travelers. No matter what you're looking for, you won’t be disappointed by any of the exciting events on this list.
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