Actually Cool Things to Do in Atlanta This Summer

Make the most of it.

Within the first days of May, temperatures have started creeping into the 80s, so it’s only a matter of time before summer is here in its full glory. One of the most wondrous times of the year, summer in Atlanta means gorgeous weather, lively cookouts, late-night outings, and plenty of outdoor activities. Furthermore, many of the most beloved local events and festivals are making a return this year, so this summer is definitely looking like it’ll be one for the books, especially following the abysmal summer of 2020.

Still, don’t find yourself being lax and ignoring health and safety protocols over the next few months. Continue to wear your masks and social distance so that you can enjoy your summer without any COVID-related blips. Now, with that said, here the coolest things that you can do in Atlanta this summer.

Cool off at Six Flags White Water 

Unless you’ve never spent a summer in Atlanta before, you already know how high the temperatures are going to climb over the next few months. That being said, Georgia’s soon-to-be scorching weather is no good reason for you to put a damper on your vibe this summer, so whenever things get a little too hot for your liking, head over to Six Flags White Water. At White Water, you’ll be able to cool off with practically every attraction at the park, from its water slides and lazy rivers to its wave pools and splash parks.

Get some new gear at the Atlanta Streetwear Market

Unlike last summer, there should be plenty of opportunities over the next few months for you to pop out and show off your one-of-a-kind style. If you’ve already got outfits on deck that you’re waiting to debut, then perfect. If your closet is in need of a major upgrade, then pull up to the annual Atlanta Streetwear Market. From Saturday, June 12, to Sunday, June 13, ASWM is returning to celebrate “Atlanta's Creative Pulse” with plenty of vendors, pop-up experiences, and live entertainment. Make sure you secure your tickets as soon as possible because from now until May 31, early bird tickets to the Atlanta Streetwear Market are free.

Candler Park Music Festival 

Candler Park
Trust, we’re experiencing the same strange combination of excitement and disbelief that you are, but as it stands, the rescheduled 2020 Candler Park Music Festival is still slated to return this summer on Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5. Of course, we’re all—festivals included—adjusting to COVID-19 on a daily basis, so stay tuned to CPMF for all official updates regarding its return.

Witness the SUPERnatural at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Starting Saturday, May 15, the Atlanta Botanical Garden will be transforming once again for its latest exhibition—SUPERnatural: Aerial Art in Motion, Glass Art in Bloom. Whether you prefer to slide through for a sunny day in the garden or for a cocktail-fueled evening shindig, you’ll be able to witness “Dream Flora” (a custom-created skynet billowing in the air above Storza Woods) and over 150 over-scale glass floral sculptures placed throughout the garden.

Go on a hunt for limited edition records 

Various Locations
One of the coolest nontraditional holidays of the year is Record Store Day, which is an annual nation-wide celebration of mom and pop record stores everywhere. Of course, the pandemic absolutely disrupted Record Store Day last year, but now, audiophiles can rejoice because RSD 2021 will be held during the summer over the course of two days. On June 12 and July 17, celebrate Record Store Day 2021 by hitting up your favorite local record stores and grabbing some new vinyls for your collection.

Explore the 85th Annual Dogwood Festival

At the top of the New Year, we gave you all a list of everything that we were looking forward to in Atlanta in 2021, and the Atlanta Dogwood Festival was one of those events that we absolutely couldn’t wait for. Although it's been pushed back from its originally scheduled dates in April, the Dogwood Festival is slated to return later this summer and take place from August 6 to August 8. This beloved Atlanta staple will boast food trucks, rides and attractions, an artist market, a dog frisbee competition, and so much more.

Experience a modern take on mini golf

West Midtown
If you typically spend your summers hitting various beaches across the east coast, then you’ve likely spent some breezy nights competing against your friends and family for mini golf dominance. Now, you don’t have to go on a full-fledge vacay to get some good putt-putt in because Puttshack Atlanta is an upscale, tech-infused mini golf experience that will be calling your name all summer long. Once the clock hits 8 pm, it’s only open to Atlantans ages 21 and up, so spend a few of your summer nights experiencing all that Puttshack Atlanta has to offer.

See if you have what it takes to break out of prison

Atlanta has a reputation for having some of the most difficult and well-produced escape rooms in the South, and one of the most exciting ones that you can experience is The Escape Game at The Battery. With captivating games ranging from breaking out of prison to executing a museum heist, The Escape Game boasts several challenges that will test your wits and deductive reasoning skills, and the hardest part about the attraction is figuring out which escape room you should try first.

Spend a breezy evening on the roof of Ponce City Market

Old Fourth Ward
Nothing quite captures the joy of summer than carnival-style games, great sunset views, and drink-fueled evening outings. Luckily, the Roof at Ponce City Market has all of that and more. Whether you’re looking to awake your inner teenager, learn how to make cocktails that will surely wow your house guests at house parties this summer, or simply grab some food and gaze at Atlanta’s beautiful skyline, don’t let your summer pass by without visiting The Roof

Have a movie theater all to yourself

Drive-ins were the resurgent cinematic hit of 2020, but with huge, action-packed blockbusters—like Black Widow, Fast & Furious 9, and The Conjuring 3—premiering this summer,  you may want to opt for a more dynamic movie-viewing experience. If you’re interested in hitting the movies once again but hesitant to share a closed room with strangers, Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema allows you to rent a theater all to yourself. Whether you wish to see a private screening of any of the great movies coming out this spring or simply want to get out and play video games on an enormous screen, Midtown Art Cinema is the place to go

"Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors" exhibit
"Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors" exhibit | High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Become a high art aficionado

Over the next handful of months, there are a lot of amazing exhibits setting up shop at the High Museum of Art, including Our Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art, Underexposed: Women Photographers From the Collection, and much more. To make sure that you’re able to thoroughly experience them all, now is the best time to purchase a Museum Pass for the High. For $4 a month, you’ll have access to unlimited daytime admission to the Museum’s collection and most special exhibitions, and by the time winter is over, you’ll be a high art aficionado. And of course, you can’t forget about Second Sundays, when admission to the High is absolutely free.

Enjoy some cheap thrills at Six Flags

A decade ago, who would have thought that you’d be able to take unlimited trips to Atlanta’s favorite theme park for just $6 a month? Well now, Six Flags’ new monthly membership program has made that a reality, so visits to the park will be much more cost efficient for local adrenaline junkies. Still, whether you opt to get a membership or not, there’s no better way to spend a blazing summer day in Atlanta than by having a blast at Six Flags Over Georgia.

Tap into your inner artist

Old Fourth Ward
For an arts experience that is sure to invigorate you, check out the Splatter Studio at Ponce City Market. The creative space sidesteps typical painting events and puts visitors into space where anything—like literally getting splattered with paint—is possible. Each session at Splatter is one hour long with enough space for two to eight people to participate, and each participant gets a disposable poncho, disposable shoe covers, sterilized gloves and goggles, a 16x20-inch canvas, and access to splatter paint. Go unleash your creativity all season-long.

Join one of Acapella Books’ genre-specific book clubs

Whether you’re in college and officially enjoying the end of the semester or you simply understand the importance of vacationing, the summer is one of the best times of the year to check out some good reads. If you’re looking for some books that will keep you interested from start to finish, sign up for one of Acapella Books’ book clubs and immediately bury your nose in a book. The shop has several book clubs, with focuses ranging from literature written by BIPOC authors to classic horror stories, so any Atlanta-based bookworm will surely find one that interests them

Go glamping, er, camping

Stone Mountain
Don’t let the heat convince you otherwise—before the summer is over, you need to go on a camping trip. Still, camping during the summer isn’t for the faint of heart, so if you’d rather go on a pseudo camping trip, check out Stone Mountain Park. It offers a really nice camping (or rather glamping) experience by offering Yurt rentals. The round, cabin-style tents are made of wood and canvas, and they feature log furniture, air conditioning, electrical outlets, lockable doors, outside decks, picnic tables, a metal fire pit, and more.

Have the paint-n-sip come to you

If you’d much rather marvel at Georgia’s summertime beauty from the indoors, then a private at-home paint-n-sip is exactly what you need. The Paint Factory is a burgeoning Black-owned mobile paint-n-sip company that regularly hosts themed in-person events, and it also offers private at-home paint-n-sips as well as virtual classes. That way, you can still have fun while you social distance this summer.

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park
Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park | Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

Explore Georgia's beautiful outdoors

Various locations
One thing that we’ve learned after a full year into the pandemic is that even when the world shuts down, at least we have nature to turn to. This summer, take a visit to all of the gorgeous hiking trails, natural landmarks, and outdoor reserves scattered across Georgia. You’ll be able to see the different flowers and greenery that are starting to bloom while you take in the overall beauty of springtime in Atlanta. Plus, you’ll be able to continue social distancing while getting some fresh air.

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Joshua Robinson is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @roshjobin.
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