Looking for the best things to do in Atlanta in 2021? In this list, you’ll find more than 21 amazing activities and events to enjoy in 2021, including 6 must-do FREE activities!
We also completely revamped this article in February 2021 so that activities are up-to-date. All activities are either virtual or COVID-safe with plenty of physical distancing. Let’s dive into a year filled with adventures, creativity, delicious food, and awe-inspiring experiences.
Read on to discover the best things to do in Atlanta in 2021 – we can still have plenty of fun this year!
TLDR: What you’ll find in this post:
- best things to do in Atlanta
- amazing Atlanta COVID-safe attractions
- date night activities in Atlanta that are COVID-safe
- best things to do in Atlanta in 2021
- and much more!
1. Visit the National Parks on one of six free days – FREE!
To kick off our list of the best things to do in Atlanta in 2021, check out America’s National Park System’s six entrance fee-free days this year. You can visit any of our country’s 400+ National Parks for free, including places in and around Georgia. This is a perfect time to explore the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park near Macon, GA and the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, AL.
2021 fee-free dates are: Jan 18, April 17, Aug 4, Aug 25, Sept 25, and Nov 11. Please note that many National Parks have visitors’ centers and other facilities, so be sure to call ahead before going. Currently, face masks are required in federal building and on federal lands.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park’s indoor facilities are currently closed, but visitors are welcome to park and enjoy a self-guided campus tour. To complement your experience, we highly recommend Atlanta Food Walks’ King Historic District Tour (rated by Conde Nast as one of the top ways to experience Atlanta).
The King Historic District Tour has limited group sizes of no more than 10 people, masks required, with the entire experience outdoors and contactless. On this guided tour, you will also visit the King birth home.
2. Explore Atlanta’s historic cemeteries – FREE!
In Victorian times, cemeteries also functioned as public parks, meant to be a place for locals to gather, chat, picnic, and commune with the dead. Oakland Cemetery (est. 1850, pictured) is the City of Atlanta’s oldest public cemetery and a popular spot.
Other great choices include the Decatur City Cemetery (est. 1823), Westview Cemetery (est. 1884), and South-View Cemetery (est. 1886).
All four are peaceful and beautiful green spaces with walking trails, stunning mausoleums, and many important Atlanta leaders and citizens buried within their grounds. All of these locations currently have their visitors’ center and/or offices closed to the public, but you can still walk through and enjoy the cemeteries.
3. Discover Georgia’s history and culture with food
Stay physically distant while exploring our city and state’s awesome eats! One great option is Unexpected Virtual Tours, which offers live Southern-themed history virtual tours with local Treat Boxes (pictured) shipped directly to your door.
Another great option is the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival’s live cooking classes from local chefs with some options including kits you can pick up at local restaurants. And, if you’re into tea, check out Just Add Honey’s tea blending classes, which are occasionally offered on Instagram.
4. Make some street art – FREE!
Atlanta GA has a vibrant street art scene, and it’s so much fun to immerse yourself in it. Walk down to Krog Street tunnel with your spray paint can and create some of your very own artwork.
While you’re there, check out (but don’t paint over!) the gorgeous murals from the Forward Warrior project and on the Beltline. Other locations we love for viewing street art include Downtown Atlanta, Cabbagetown (pictured, by @lelabrunetart for Forward Warrior), and Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward.
5. Catch a movie at the drive-in
Drive-in movie theaters made a big comeback in 2020 – and for good reason! Catching a flick on the big screen outdoors is a fun, retro way to enjoy a night out. The Starlight 6 Drive-In is Atlanta’s quintessential drive-in experience. Be sure to also check out the Plaza Theatre Drive-In for socially distanced fun.
Both theaters are showing classic favorite movies along with newer releases, and you can bring your own food and drinks to both drive-in theaters! Or, for an at-home option, rent a projector from NixNax Entertainment, a local business started by seniors at Decatur High School!
6. Eat your way through the city with an experience or festival
You can experience Atlanta’s food in unique ways with some of the city’s fascinating food experiences.
Try Atlanta Food Walks’ Grant Park Past & Future Food Walk. You’ll try 9 modern and Southern fusion tastings from 3 locally-owned food stops on this COVID-safe 2.5-hour small group tour, including a jaunt through historic Oakland Cemetery. Eating plus visiting historic sites sounds like a winner.
Or, check out the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival Reimagined in fall 2021 (date and details TBA) and Pantry & Provisions’ Meal Kit Boxes with everything you need to prepare a local-to-Atlanta, chef-created, four-course dinner!
7. Learn about Atlanta’s rich African American history and culture
Take the King Historic District Tour. This COVID-safe Atlanta experience isn’t just one of our best things to do in Atlanta in 2021; this is one of our favorite activities ALWAYS. Atlanta has been America’s hub for Black movements and culture for more than a century, with significant impact from many African American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, Andrew Jackson Young, Jr., Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., and many others.
To learn more, check out the National Center for Civil and Human Rights’ digital exhibition, We Share the Dream: King’s Beloved Community, as well as the museum’s virtual tour. (While you are in Centennial Olympic Park, you can also visit other attractions like the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium. Both have put in place COVID-safety measures and timed entry.).
In addition, the Sweet Auburn neighborhood has new interpretive and historical markers along Auburn Avenue. Wander and read along on one of Atlanta’s sunny days!
We also recommend the Atlanta History Center for an interactive exhibit on the role African Americans played in the 20th century in Atlanta.
8. Hang virtually with Atlanta’s musicians
Atlanta has one of the most dynamic and creative music scenes in the country as well as dozens of live music venues. But, as music venues have closed, musicians have become creative in how they share their art with us. Atlanta favorite The Indigo Girls frequently host livestream concerts as well as “restream” videos of past performances at large venues.
Treat yourself to a mellow weekend morning by streaming the music of local crooner Puddles Pity Party while sipping his just-released custom coffee blend, created with Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. Or, kick it up a notch by hiring Mermaid Motor Lounge, a band on a boat, to come to your neighborhood and perform!
9. Find your favorite ATL brewery patio
Many of Atlanta’s favorite breweries offer outdoor patios, food trucks, and even live outdoor music. With a focus on German-inspired lagers, Tucker Brewing Company (pictured) offers a family-friendly and pet-friendly beer garden (the largest in Georgia!), an on-site kitchen, and live music every Thursday-Saturday night.
On the West Side, Reformation Brewery (Smyrna, Woodstock, and Canton) offers outdoor seating and tasty brews. On certain days, you can also enjoy cornhole, food trucks, and trivia. You can also bring your own food to enjoy!
10. Enjoy fresh-picked fruit straight from the ground
There are so many places where you can pick produce around Atlanta, but our favorite is Southern Belle Farms, about 45 minutes outside the city. Their 2021 season begins in April with strawberry-picking. During the rest of the year, you can also pick blueberries, blackberries, peaches, muscadines, and pumpkins.
Another great option in the Lawrenceville area is DJ’s UPick Blueberries for picking in June and July. Or, join local nonprofit Concrete Jungle (pictured) year-round on a volunteer fruit picking day to spend time outdoors while helping provide food for people in need.
11. Make a new four-legged friend
With many people still working from home for the foreseeable future, this is the perfect time to foster a furry friend. It’s a win-win: you’ll enjoy the unconditional love and company of an animal while providing them with some much-needed attention, care, and comfort.
Lifeline Animal Project is the largest sheltering organization in Atlanta, caring for more than 16,000 homeless animals each year. Want to make a difference in an animal’s life but don’t want to commit to fostering? Lend a hand with one of Lifeline’s remote volunteer opportunities!
12. Get a taste of history and homestyle food at Manuel’s Tavern
Founded in 1956, Manuel’s Tavern has become known as Atlanta’s most famous political bar. Its former owner, prominent DeKalb politician Manuel Maloof, created the tavern specifically to focus on conversation, going so far as to ban live music or a jukebox. The bar is an almost-required stop for Democratic candidates, and Jimmy Carter announced his 1970 gubernatorial bid at Manuel’s.
The tavern is still the place in the city to talk politics, or just enjoy a beer and delicious food. Their outdoor tables are perfect for warm-weather dining. To explore Manuel’s virtually, check out the website Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern, which details all of the historical artifacts at the tavern.
13. Entertain the young at heart with puppetry programs
The Center for Puppetry Arts is a unique Atlanta treasure for all ages. In pre-pandemic times, the Center offered stunning live puppetry performances (with family programming as well as adults-only shows!), a museum with the world’s largest collection of Jim Henson puppets and artifacts, and dynamic, hands-on educational workshops.
Its jaw-dropping museum collection and the whimsy, creativity, and fun of its programming makes the Center for Puppetry Arts one of the best things to do in 2021 or any time! These days, the museum is still open with timed ticket entry and masks required. You can also catch the Center for Puppetry Arts’ virtual programming at home, which includes both live and streaming online puppet shows as well as curriculum-based workshops.
14. Get fit in the great outdoors – FREE!
Exercising is a great way to boost endorphins, de-stress, and build your confidence. Atlanta is known as the “city in a forest” because we have so many beautiful outdoors spaces and trees. Exploring our great outdoors is one of the best things to do in Atlanta in 2021 and for years to come!
There are plenty of ways to get fit outside, especially when our weather makes outdoor activities possible year-round. Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard with High Country Outfitters and paddle along the Chattahoochee. You can also rent tents and backpacks for all your outdoor adventures. Another option: hang out in your backyard and participate in free virtual live and recorded fitness classes with Love You Healthy, Piedmont Park’s exclusive fitness partner.
15. Sway to classical and modern music with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra always puts on a fantastic show, and 2021 looks to be no exception. The ASO will virtually perform classics like Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Chopin. During spring and beyond, in-person concerts will resume with Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, with the entire soundtrack played by the orchestra.
Additional highlights this year include the tracks of the classic rock band Queen, the music of Postmodern Jukebox, and the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII Remake. The ASO also has a digital library of past performances, recent livestreams, and recordings to get the feel of being at the symphony at home.
And, while you are in the area, consider taking a quick trip to visit the High Museum of Art, another Atlanta gem.
16. Go for a walk beyond the Beltline – FREE!
The Beltline is Atlanta’s most famous walking path, but there are many other incredible walking locations in the city that are much less crowded. Try the Atlanta Freedom Trail that connects the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Park with The Carter Center and includes the beautiful Freedom Park. Or, opt for the beautiful Silver Comet Trail, the creepy-but-beloved Doll’s Head Trail at Constitution Lakes Park, or Decatur’s paved South Peachtree Creek Trail (pictured).
After burning off calories, head for lunch at Ponce City Market.
17. Travel to the safari(ish)
For those visiting Atlanta, our animal-focused attractions are a must do. Zoo Atlanta is open for outdoor exploration with limited entry and ticketed spacing throughout the zoo. The African Savanna habitat is beautiful with elephants, giraffes, lions, ostriches, and meerkats surrounding several interconnected watering holes.
The Savanna space opened in summer 2019 and more than tripled the space that the zoo’s elephants have to roam. Be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time. Zoo Atlanta has frequently sold out since it’s a popular outdoor-only experience.
18. Stop and smell the orchids at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is one of the most creative and unique botanical gardens in the country. During Orchid Daze in February, the garden’s Fuqua Orchid Center is home to an annual exhibition with thousands of fragrant orchids in bloom. The garden will also host outdoor children’s activities, including Garden Grooves (song and dance parties) as well as storybook time.
For adults, the garden offers drawing classes, Tai Chi, and workshops on cooking from your garden. Enjoy the Atlanta Botanical Garden in all seasons – delight in spring flowers, have a picnic in the summer shade, admire the scarecrows in the fall, and be mesmerized by the beautiful garden lights during winter.
Another idea – take a quick day trip and head to Lake Lanier Island or Callaway Gardens.
19. Move from fear to fascination with SHARKS!!! – one of the newest and best things to do in Atlanta in 2021!
At the end of 2020, the Georgia Aquarium opened its largest expansion, a new shark gallery called Sharks! Predator of the Deep.
In one of the largest and most dynamic shark exhibits in North America, guests can gain a deeper appreciation for the important role that sharks play in the ocean. The saltwater gallery features floor-to-ceiling glass windows plus includes interactive stations and a shark cage dive area. The new shark gallery is definitely going to be one of the best things to do in Atlanta in 2021, so don’t miss this one!
Note that tickets are only available online in advance, masks are required, and entry is timed to ensure distancing. Reduced capacity protocols and temperature checks are also in place.
20. Unlock your inner artist with a painting party
These days, you’re probably still spending a lot of time at home – and maybe you’ve noticed that your living space could use some new artwork. Enter The Paint Factory, a local, Black-owned mobile “sip and paint” company that offers private art sessions as well as virtual party options. With a two-hour guided lesson, you and your friends, family, or coworkers will be able to create the canvas of your dreams!
Or, go the DIY route and buy some supplies from your favorite local art store while streaming a YouTube painting tutorial. Either way, you’ll be able to hang your finished piece of artwork with pride.
21. Pack the ultimate picnic
We love picnicking all the time – but during a pandemic, the picnic HAS to round out our list of the Best Things to Do in Atlanta in 2021! The perfect picnic starts with a great picnicking location. Luckily, there are loads of these in the city. You could head to Lullwater Preserve, Grant Park, Piedmont Park, or your favorite grassy neighborhood area.
Next, you’ll need some delicious snacks and treats for your picnic. One popular option is to head to Alon’s and pick up some easy, ready-to-eat options like sandwiches, pasta salad, specialty sodas, and much more. If you’re feeling extra-fancy, snazz it up with amazing charcuterie-to-go boxes from Graze Atlanta, which can be customized to your snacking preferences.
However you’re spending 2021, we hope you’re staying safe and enjoying life to the fullest!