15 ways to take in Atlanta – for free


A big city covered in trees and big on both warm weather and Southern hospitality, Atlanta is a treat for any visitor.

And people have caught on to The A – which has made prices in town creep up notably in recent years. But a visit to Georgia’s capital doesn’t have to break the bank.

In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all. Here are 15 of the best free things to do in Atlanta.

A water feature with text from Martin Luther King Jr’s writings at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Contemplate the legacy of the civil rights leader at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Park © Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

1. Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Park

Atlanta is proud to be the home of Martin Luther King Jr, and the national historic site that interprets his life and principles. The complex covers about 35 acres and includes his childhood home; the First Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was pastor; and the King Center, which was established by his wife Coretta Scott King, and includes the final resting place of the late couple.

Planning tip: King’s home is closed for renovations until November 2025, but the rest of the buildings remain open to the public in the interim. 

2. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art (OUMA) 

Make your way to the third floor of the Lowry Hall building on the campus of this small liberal-arts university to visit this museum, featuring rotating exhibits of work by Oglethorpe students as well as nationally and internationally recognized artists. 

Planning tip: OUMA prides itself on being accessible and celebrating disability culture in its exhibits. These accessibility features include gallery lights that adjust for brightness, and toggle between warm or cool light. The museum has wheelchairs to borrow and ADA-accessible entrances. ASL and DCI interpreters are available with two weeks’ advance notice. 

3. Atlanta Contemporary 

Atlanta Contemporary wants to keep art accessible to everyone – starting with its free admission policy. The museum also supports ambitious artists by commissioning artwork from artists who haven’t had a consequential exhibit in the Southeast.

Joggers and runners on the BeltLine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The amazing Atlanta BeltLine offers 22 miles for hiking, biking, walking and more © Christopher V Jones / Shutterstock

4. The BeltLine 

What once were 22 miles of abandoned railroad tracks has become a public space for walking, skating and cycling. Most of the paths are paved, and some stretches of the BeltLine open to parks, art and local shopping. Decide where you want to focus with this map, which shows the BeltLine’s many amenities.

5. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve 

Close to the hustle and bustle of a major city is this 135-acre nature preserve, where visitors can immerse themselves in the forest. Hikers can enjoy a small waterfall, small buildings covered in moss, and the many birds and deer that are often hanging out near the trails.

Planning tip: Map your route ahead of time to ensure you don’t get lost. Some parts of the trail fork off in other directions, which can be confusing on your first visit.

Graffiti inside the Krog Street Tunnel, Atlanta, Georgia
Cross through the Krog Street Tunnel to take in an ever-changing display of street art © Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

6. Krog Street Tunnel 

The underpass that connects two Atlanta neighborhoods, Inman Park and Cabbagetown, is best known for its impermanent street art. Working-class neighbors began using the Krog Street Tunnel as a public easel in the middle of the last century, and its allure has only grown since then. Commissioned artwork leading up to the tunnel tends to stick around, but the art inside the tunnel changes day to day. 

7. David J Sencer CDC Museum 

At this free museum, you can learn about the history of Atlanta’s world-famous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its legacy of stopping the spread of communicable diseases. Named after a former CDC director, the museum surprises with its depth, with two floors’ worth of displays to take in. Permanent exhibits on the lower level tell the history of the CDC and how it handled health threats in the 20th and 21st century; the top floor, where visitors enter the building, has space for traveling exhibits.

Planning tip: You’ll need to bring a state-issued ID or passport to gain entry to the museum. Parking is free in the CDC’s parking deck next door, but since the museum is part of the CDC complex, security protocols are rigorous. Take public transportation, or park across the street if you’d prefer to skip a full security scan of your vehicle.

Two "tiny doors" by Tiny Doors ATL, in the BeltLine / Old 4th Ward (L) and Kirkwood (R), Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Whimsy comes in the form of 7-inch doors scattered around Atlanta © courtesy of Tiny Doors ATL

8. Tiny Doors ATL 

This is a rare art experience where it pays to keep your eyes glued to the ground. Tiny Doors ATL is a series of 7-inch decorative doors that bring whimsy to many Atlanta landmarks. The doors don’t unlock anything – except your imagination.

Planning tip: See how many you can spot on your own; many tiny doors are found along or near the BeltLine. Or use this cheat-sheet map to plot a visit to as many as you want to spot.

9. Jackson Street Bridge 

This small bridge in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is well known for giving visitors an iconic view of downtown Atlanta.  Go during sunset’s golden hour to get the best lighting for your photos – just expect lots of other people to be there doing the same thing.

Local tip: There’s no place to park close to the narrow bridge. Avoid the hassle by taking a bus or biking there. If you can’t ditch the car, combine a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr National Park with a pit stop at the bridge before heading back to your car in the King parking lot.

An aerial shot of Piedmont Park at dusk, with the skyline of downtown Atlanta in the distance, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Historic Piedmont Park is a leafy oasis abutting some of Atlanta’s best neighborhoods © Sean Pavone / Getty Images

10. Piedmont Park 

Atlanta’s quintessential park, this 200-acre green space is packed with walking and biking trails, and hosts many of Atlanta’s biggest events, including Atlanta Pride and the Atlanta Jazz Festival. The Eastside BeltLine trail connects to the historic park, and onto Atlanta’s vibrant Midtown neighborhood.

Local tip: Walk the section of the Piedmont Loop trail that borders Lake Clara Meer to enjoy beautiful skyline views of downtown.

11. Centennial Olympic Park 

This downtown park celebrates the 1996 Summer Olympics, which took place in Atlanta. Decades later, many of the Olympic venues are gone or have been repurposed, yet this park remains a lively piece of Atlanta history.

12. Dolls Head Trail 

On this walk through the woods in Constitution Lakes Park, it’s hard to focus on nature. In a uniquely creepy touch, children’s toys, including pieces of baby dolls, are posed in and around the plants. Some people find it unsettling, others find it an alluring use of recycled material. Wherever you fall, taking a stroll on this short trail will give you something to talk about.

Historic grave markers and trees in fall foliage at Oakland Cemetery, East Side, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Oakland Cemetery is a bucolic place for a stroll, a picnic or even a yoga class © Cute babe / Shutterstock

13. Oakland Cemetery 

This historic cemetery on the southeast side of Atlanta is the final resting place for more than 70,000 people, including golfer Bobby Jones, country-music artist Kenny Rogers and author Margaret Mitchell. Yet this cemetery is much more than a burial ground. Each year, thousands of people visit the 88-acre property to walk through its gardens, go on a self-guided tour, or even attend a yoga class or wedding.

14. Fernbank Science Center

Local students will have fond memories of field trips to this small museum and planetarium – but the Fernbank Science Center is also open to the general public. (Its exhibits and parking are free; visitors can also buy tickets to visit the planetarium.) The educational exhibits impart information about nature and space, and are great for families with young children. The onsite astronomical observatory opens every Thursday and Friday from 9–10pm, weather permitting, and is also free to the public.

Planning tip: Make sure you don’t mistake the Fernbank Science Center with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, a natural-history museum (one that requires a ticket) a five-minute drive from Fernbank Science Center. While they share a name, they aren’t affiliated with one other. 

The Loss Prevention's 'Hero' mural of Congressman John Lewis is displayed downtown in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Atlanta icon John Lewis was larger than life – and so is this mural, by The Loss Prevention, near downtown Atlanta © Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

15. John Lewis Hero Mural

This brilliant 65ft-tall mural by artistic collective The Loss Prevention salutes one of Georgia’s true heroes, congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. In the middle of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, the artwork was unveiled in 2012. Ever since, Atlanta locals and tourists alike have been stopping at the corner of Auburn Ave and Jesse Hill Jr Dr to capture a photo of the Atlanta icon.

Keep planning your trip to Atlanta: 

This article was first published Mar 2, 2021 and updated Jun 1, 2024.



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