Best festivals in Atlanta
When: April 12-14
This is the ultimate springtime fête, found in Piedmont Park. For over 80 years, the Dogwood Festival has brought the community together for an outdoors fine arts market. Among the artists selling their crafts are jewelers, painters, potters, photographers and others. The market sprawls throughout the park, allowing you to enjoy the scenery. There’s also a kids village if your tots need a chance to burn some energy in that fresh springtime air.
When: April 19-21
Now in its 15th year, SweetWater 420 Fest is one of the city’s best harbingers of spring. Named after the brewery’s 420 Extra Pale Ale, the event is an Earth Day celebration that brings people together for live music, art and, of course, lots of craft beer. There’s even a tent dedicated to comedians and up-and-coming musical artists. This year, the festival takes place in Downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park. Headliners include Widespread Panic and The Avett Brothers.
Since its inception in 2000, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has treated film buffs to international movies filmed through the Jewish lens. This festival takes place in February and the most recent installation featured 76 films from 24 different countries. In addition to the screenings, expect guest speakers and a host of events held throughout the year (including screenings at rotating locations).
When: August 30-September 1
Calling all bibliophiles: this late summer festival held in Decatur is for you. It’s the largest independent book festival in the country and attracts authors from all over the world for presentations, writing workshops, readings and signings. It’s also a great excuse to visit Decatur Square, which is an Atlanta dining mecca.
When: March 9-23
You don’t have to be a science buff to love the Atlanta Science Festival. The two-week festival hosts events all over town dedicated to local science and technology. There’s something for the scientifically inclined of all ages, like Complete the Circuit, where middle-school girls can meet women in science, and the Astrobiology of Star Wars, in which scientists compare the planets and creatures from the movies to real life.
When: April 27-28
The event features art and live music but what sets it apart from other neighborhood affairs is its parade, held on Saturday. Get there early so you can grab a good spot and take in all the people watching. There’s the lively Seed & Feed Marching Abominables, people dressed as gnomes (last year, they attempted to break a world record) and other colorful sorts.
When: May 30-June 2
What’s not to love about a festival dedicated to all things food and wine? Held at Midtown’s Loews Hotel, this is an event for hardcore food enthusiasts. You can buy tickets for the tasting tent and sample bites from chefs all over the region, or you can level up to a day pass which gives you access to learning experiences. If you want to nerd out over the nitty gritty of specific ingredients, spirits and wines, then this is the event for you.
When: Late September
The Candler Park Fall Festival is a great excuse to visit the charming neighborhood known for its bungalows and craftsman homes. Held on the eponymous park in the center of the neighborhood, the festival is free and features two days of live music, a local arts market and plenty of tasty foods available for purchase. There are also fun ancillary events, like the tour of homes and 5K.
The Atlanta Greek Festival is gearing up for its 45th installment. It’s organized by the Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation and is a total feast for the eyes, ears and stomach. Munch on Greek specialties like gyros and souvlaki and, in-between bites, take in the entertainment by Greek bands and dancers. Want to take bites home without participating in the festivities? Make use of the awesome drive-through.
What’s better than chili when the weather starts to drop in November? Chomp and Stomp showcases the finest chilis made by professional chefs and at-home chili masters (anyone can enter!) for the perfect fall fest. Throughout the day, expect live blues music to keep your toes tapping and lots of beer flowing if you need something to quell the heat. All of this is for a good cause: proceeds from the fest benefit Cabbagetown’s parks and greenspaces.
Food enthusiasts flock to Historic Fourth Ward Park every fall to sample bites from over 80 Atlanta restaurants. Beer, wine and cocktails are also available for purchase (unless you splurge on VIP tickets, in which case you'll get to eat and drink for free). In addition to tastes and sips, the festival offers cooking demos and hands-on classes led by local chefs. Be warned: the festival gets busy and the lines can get long.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival will keep jazz lovers swaying for the 40th year in a row this May. Not only does the festival attract top names, but it does so while offering free admission to guests. It runs throughout the entire month at a variety of venues including MARTA stations, hotels, parks and restaurants. There are even events for the youngest jazz lovers in the family.
When: June 1-2
The Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell is easy to overlook if you’re in the city, but the butterfly festival is a good excuse to go visit. The nature center is peaceful with its bucolic setting near the river, and it’s especially a hit with kids. It takes place in June and features butterfly releases and encounters, crafts and plant sale.
In the thick of summer, you’ll be glad to find yourself at the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival in Piedmont Park. It’s not just about ice cream, though: the event also promotes balance by offering wellness and health activities. There’s even a Fight Cancer 5K, so you can run (or walk) it off for a good cause.