Awesome Annual Events in Atlanta: Your Complete Activity Guide
There are plenty of annual events in Atlanta to keep you entertained all year round, no matter what your interests are.
Whether you’re a native, newcomer, or just visiting for a long weekend, Atlanta has an array of annual events that will keep you entertained and coming back for more. From festivals to conventions to parades, every season of every year has something to offer everyone.
If you’re borderline obsessed with craft beer, Atlanta has several annual beer festivals. How about art? Numerous arts and crafts festivals make a yearly appearance. Music? We got you covered--some of the biggest names in music come into town for annual music festivals. With so many annual events going on in Atlanta, it’s hard to find down time. Hardly a weekend goes by when there isn’t something going on. Here are ten of some of the most popular annual events in Atlanta.
I know what you’re thinking. And the answer is no, this isn’t a festival about trees. At least not entirely. While it bears its name from being held every April when the Dogwood trees are in full bloom, this festival comes to showcase some of the finest arts and crafts in the Southeast. You’re sure to find something that catches your eye. From paintings to sculptures to photography, there’s something for you. The Dogwood Festival began in 1936, which means it will be celebrating its 80th year in 2016. For many locals, it’s the festival that really starts off spring. Sure, the winters may be mild in Atlanta. But there’s nothing like a good festival to really kick off the welcoming warm weather. Among all the artists booths are dozens of food vendors selling gyros, funnel cakes, kettle corn and more! The festival is free and held in Piedmont Park in Midtown.
Decatur Beer Festival
Arguably the most popular beer festival in Atlanta, the Decatur Beer Festival is held every October and features some of the finest craft beer around. Over 80 breweries flock to this annual event for beer enthusiasts to taste and enjoy their latest brews. It takes place right in downtown Decatur on the square. You can purchase a VIP ticket, which includes a special entrance (i.e. no waiting in long lines), access to day-long snacks, and the opportunity to taste beers that are specially made for the event. But, like regular tickets, they are limited. The Decatur Beer festival is so popular that it typically sells out within 24 hours, so bee sure to get your tickets right away!
Peachtree Road Race
More of a fitness buff? Then you’ll hate to miss the Peachtree Road Race hosted by the Atlanta Track Club. Often just referred to as “The Peachtree,” this 10k is the most popular of its kind in the world. Yes, you read that correctly--the world. Tens of thousands register every year for the race, which has been a staple event not only in the Atlanta running scene, but has become part of Atlanta’s unique identity since 1970. The race is held every 4th of July and starts on Peachtree Road right in front of Lenox Square, heads south into Midtown, ending on 10th Street near Piedmont Park, where post-race festivities take place. Perhaps one of the most popular features of the race is the official T-shirt. It’s only given to those who have completed the full ten kilometers, so those who do get one wear it with pride and maybe even a sense of dignity. Cost for the race is $35 for Atlanta Track Club members, and $38 for non-members. Like many other annual events in Atlanta, it sells out quickly.
Little Five Points Halloween Parade
As anyone who’s been to the Halloween Parade in Little Five Points will tell you, it’s the sort of event you need to experience. It’s truly one of a kind, and the most popular Halloween parade in the Southeast. Every year, more than 35,000 people attend the parade, which is held in Little Five, a district of Atlanta that is just east of Downtown. It’s a neighborhood that has a similar appeal to that of New York City’s Greenwich Village, boasting an alternative flare that attracts all things “indie.” More than just a costume parade, there’s food and music for all to enjoy. After the parade is finished, many people like to go to one of the many local bars or restaurants in the neighborhood to keep the party going well into the night.
This weekend-long convention is a cosplayer’s dream. It’s essentially a four-day costume party. Dragon*Con is held every Labor Day weekend, officially closing out the summer for Atlanta since 1987. It draws as many attendees as the Peachtree and takes place in five hotels in downtown Atlanta: the Hyatt Regency, Hilton, Marriott Marquis, Sheraton, and Westin Peachtree Plaza. Dragon*Con features a parade on Saturday morning for everyone to enjoy. But the parties and costume contests that are held in each of the five hotels in the evenings will cost you $90 for the entire duration of the event. Although this does not include certain items, such as your hotel room, the Guest of Honor Awards Banquet, and most of the workshops offered by the convention. Dragon*Con continues to grow in popularity and hosts many celebrities who speak and sign autographs. Notable past guests include William Shatner, the late Leonard Nimoy, Stan Lee, and many more!
The largest and most popular music festival in Atlanta, Music Midtown has been attracting some of the biggest names in music since 1994. Despite its six-year hiatus from 2005-2011, the festival brings in thousands of attendees from the region. The event is held in Piedmont Park every September, and features two stages, which allows for a quick transition from one band finishing their gig to another starting. So if live music is a passion of yours, be sure to check out Music Midtown.
Atlanta Pride Festival
For over 40 years, Atlanta has been on the front lines of gender equality with its Pride Festival. This annual event, hosted every October, attracts hundreds of thousands of people. In addition to the parade, Pride hosts live music and entertainment for everyone. It runs for an entire week, with the mission to celebrate and further promote unity among the gay community and beyond.
Bring in the New Year at Atlanta’s official New Years Eve celebration since 1989. The Peach Drop is similar to New York’s Ball Drop, and includes all-day events such as live music, food, and festivities. It is free to attend and is held in Underground Atlanta, a shopping and entertainment district in the heart of the city. Over 100,000 people attend this bring in the New Year with Atlanta’s Peach Drop, known officially as “the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in the Southeast!”
Decatur Book Festival
If you consider perusing your local bookstore an activity--a favorite one, at that--then the Decatur Book Festival is for you. It’s considered the largest independent book festival in the country, and has hosted over a thousand world-class writers. No wonder hundreds of thousands of self-described bookworms attend the event, which is held every year on Labor Day Weekend. Hundreds of authors (new and established) come to debut and discuss their latest works. The festival features poetry readings, book-signings, and a keynote speaker, who is typically a nationally or internationally recognized author.
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights
This annual holiday celebration is held at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and features thousands of spectacular light displays to help usher in the holiday season. A relatively new event, Garden Lights-Holiday nights is quickly becoming a favorite among Atlantans as well as visitors. It runs through the entire duration of the holiday season, from mid-November into early January. So as busy as you are at this time of year, there’s plenty of time for you to take a walk through Atlanta’s glimmering winter wonderland. Admission for adults is $26 on peak nights (Thursday-Sunday) and $23 on non-peak nights (Monday-Wednesday). For children ages 3-12, tickets are $20 and $17 respectively. Children under 3 are free.
As you can see, there are plenty of annual events in Atlanta to keep you entertained all year round, no matter what your interests are. These are only a handful of the many more festivals and celebrations that take place around town. It seems that hardly a weekend goes by when there isn’t something going on.
Lead image: flickr photo by ciron810 https://flickr.com/photos/32307961@N06/5338882453 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
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