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Best Free Sites in Atlanta

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In the shadow of downtown, this bucolic expanse is a constant reminder of the city's history. Dating from the 1850s, the cemetery was the final destination for all Atlantans until 1884, when private burial grounds began appearing throughout the city. The oldest section is near the main entrance, where legendary golfer Bobby Jones and author Margaret Mitchell are interred, although locating Mitchell's plain headstone can be a challenge. A brochure from the cemetery office will help you find famous graves and interesting sections. Tours are offered March through October.

Ebenezer Baptist Church was founded in 1886, and has since stood as a high-profile center for African-American leadership and worship in Atlanta. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his ministry in this unassuming structure, and gained a national voice through his sermons from its pulpit. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was also founded here. The church has recently expanded to a new sanctuary, but the original building continues to be a place of worship with services offered every Sunday and Wednesday. See website for visitors guide, weekly announcements, online services, and pastor bio.

A Civil War landmark as well as an expansive verdant oasis, Candler Park offers tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields and an outdoor pool. Perhaps the park's most unique feature is its nine-hole golf course that winds its scenic way through one of the east side's most pleasant residential neighborhoods. Often crowded, Candler Park is not the ideal place for a quiet jog, but sports are always being played and everyone is welcome.

A few blocks to the east of downtown, the Sweet Auburn neighborhood is home to the birthplace of America's most influential Civil Rights leader. Operated by the National Park Service, this historic site contains Dr. King's boyhood home, his tomb and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King and his father were both pastors. The district was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. This collective of historic monuments invokes poignant memories of Martin Luther King Jr., and the indelible mark that he has left on the American Civil Rights Movement. This historic site is home to many other monuments like King Center, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Prince Hall and a statue of the world-revered Mahatma Gandhi. The Visitor Center of the site shelters an insightful museum which sheds light on the legacy of Dr. King.

A rolling oasis nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, this lush park is interspersed with sprawling rock gardens. Built to enhance the infrastructure for the 1996 Summer Olympics, this park is fringed by a tapestry of buildings significant to the city, like the CNN Center, Philips Arena, and the Georgia World Congress Center. The nearly 500,000 commemorative bricks that make up its main walkway were part of fundraising efforts for the Games. During scorching Atlanta summers, children frolic in the ground-level Olympic Rings, which periodically shoot streams of water through their seven rings. One of the most promising features of the park is the fascinating 'Fountain of Rings', a technology-controlled fountain complete with music, light towers and a splash pad; not only is the fountain is a hive of fun and frolic, but it is also a great architectural feat. The park is also home to several other water features and is a massive locus for live music in the city's downtown. Bearing stunning semblances of natural wonders and an iconic Olympic legacy, Centennial Olympic Park is a site that Atlanta holds close to its heart.

Created mostly with land granted by Colonel Lemuel Grant, the "Father of Atlanta," Grant Park is the oldest surviving park in the city. Its landscape was part of the defensive line against Union forces in the Civil War, and the breastworks of Fort Walker remain as evidence of the Confederacy's defeat. The Cyclorama, a circular building filled with the world's largest painting, tells the story of the battle. The park's other main attraction is Zoo Atlanta, one of the only places in the country that you can see a set of giant pandas.

The most expansive and popular of Atlanta's city parks was originally laid out for the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895, and it now attracts more than 2 million visitors annually. Dog owners, sun seekers and sports enthusiasts flock to the Piedmont Park to enjoy the fair weather, largely unaware that this was the spot of the Battle of Peachtree Creek during the Civil War. Its picturesque locales also offer a romantic ambience. The 189-acre (76.48-hectare) facility is home to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and scenic Lake Clara Meer, and plays host to many of Atlanta's favorite concerts and festivals.

This 24,000-square-foot (2230-square meter) modern mansion has been home to the state's governors since 1968, when the mansion was rebuilt in the Greek Revival style. The two-story home features a library and a ballroom that comfortably seats 150 for dinner. Furnishings and paintings are neoclassical and feature many collections from Georgia artists. The second floor is the family's private residence and includes a large suite for visiting dignitaries. The free tour is self-guided, although hosts are available in each room to explain items of special significance. A virtual tour is available on the website.

Standing tall over Capitol Square, The Georgia State Capitol commands historic and architectural importance. Colored in rich white, the building displays a blend of neoclassical and classical revival architecture. It features elements like detailed pilasters and Corinthian columns which support a four-story front porch, or portico. The rounded dome is laden with gold leaf, and a statue of the Goddess of Liberty stands at it very top. The monument features a museum that chronicles the history of the state through various historic artifacts like portraits, statues, relics and fossils. It serves as the primary legislative building of the government of Georgia and also houses several office chambers where the General Assembly meets every year.

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