Actually Cool Things You Can Still Do This Winter in Atlanta

There’s plenty to do this winter, we swear.

Winter in Atlanta is special. For a handful of weeks out of the year, Atlantans can actually experience what cold weather is like, and sometimes we even experience a bit of snow—and the city-wide disbelief and chaos that almost always ensues. And considering the ongoing pandemic, this winter is practically destined to be an especially memorable one for Atlanta. With that said, remember to check off everything on your COVID prevention checklist (avoiding large groups, social distancing, wearing a mask, etc.) when going heading out to enjoy everything that the season offers. Here’s your guide to all of the actually cool things to safely do in Atlanta this winter.

Drink and hit the rink

Next time you’re at Piedmont Park, grab a drink and hit the ice skating rink at Park Tavern. The Rink is officially open Monday through Thursday from 4:30 pm to midnight, Friday from 4:30 pm to 2 am, Saturday from 11:30 am to 2 am, and Sunday from 11:30 am to midnight, making it a boozy, late-night winter adventure. In addition to ice skating, fun and kitschy holiday decor, seasonal signature cocktails, holiday movies, festive eats, and more await.

Experience the Atlanta Festival of Lights

Atlantic Station
The Atlanta Festival of Lights is a drive-thru event happening at Atlantic Station this winter, and if you’re a sucker for festive lights and holiday decorations, then you won’t want to miss it. Every day from 6-11 pm, the special drive-thru experience is set to take drivers on a 20 to 30-minute light show. Tickets—which are $25 Sundays through Thursdays and $35 on Fridays and Saturdays—are good for an entire car, so bring as many people as you have seatbelts.

Have a movie theater all to yourself

Drive-ins were the resurgent cinematic hit of 2020, but now that winter has come crashing in, you may want to opt for a more warm movie-viewing experience. At the same time, you still may be uncomfortable with sharing a theatre with complete strangers, but there’s need to worry because Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema has the perfect solution for you. Anyone interested can now rent a theatre at the Midtown cinema, whether you wish to see a private screening of any of the great movies coming out this winter or simply want to get out and play video games on the big screen.

High Museum of Art, Atlanta
"Black City" by Julie Mehretu | High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Explore all of the current exhibits at the High

This winter, there are a lot of amazing exhibits housed at the High Museum of Art, including Julie Mehretu, Murmuration, Dawoud Bey: An American Project, Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands, and much more. To make sure that you’re able to thoroughly experience them all, now is the best time to get a membership at 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. 

Spend the winter with a homeless pet

Fight the winter blues and potentially save a homeless pet’s life this season by fostering a dog or cat through Best Friends Atlanta. Now that you’re spending more time at home, this is the perfect time for you to open your doors to a furry friend in need, and in turn, you’ll open space for Best Friends Atlanta to save another animal’s life this winter. You may even find the perfect pet while doing so.

Grab holiday gifts from an artist and market

West End
Last-minute holiday shopping? No problem. The Sunday Funday Artist Market at Cultured South Fermentation Co. is a weekly pop-up experience where visitors can shop for gifts created by local artists. Even if you’ve got all of your holiday shopping already knocked out, the artist market is a great way to get familiar with local artists and makers this winter, and maybe even buy some stuff for yourself.

Get free coffee

Various locations
Corner Bakery, which has six locations scattered across Atlanta, is giving anyone who walks through its doors a free cup of hand-roasted coffee. There’s no purchase required, no subscription trial, or anything other tricks involved. It’s free coffee, and that’s that.

Seek chilly thrills at Six Flags

As usual, operations at Six Flags are about to wrap up for the year, so the following weeks will be your last to experience the beloved amusement park until next summer. In addition to the brisk winds that will be hitting your face while riding roller coasters like Goliath, park visitors can expect special events, festive decor, and temporary holiday rides.

Warm yourself up with craft cocktails

Avalon, Buckhead, Old Fourth Ward
The Blitzen Room returns yet again this year, with the pop-up holiday bar making an appearance at or nearby all three Biltong Bar locations. Stop by the location nearest to you and warm up with festive seasonal libations, including Stave Me An Old Fashioned (Maker’s Mark, Calvados, walnut, bitters), Comet’s Cider (Maker’s Mark, spiced cider, maple, lemon), Chartreuse Hot Chocolate (green chartreuse, almond, drinking chocolate, white chocolate whipped cream), and more.

Become an Atlanta-renowned cornhole player

Put your tailgate game experience to the test this winter by entering a seven-week cornhole league. The weekly winter league will take place on Tuesdays, and every team that competes will have a fair shot at a championship trophy as well as other prizes. If your team manages to win it all, you’ll even get the opportunity to compete in the larger State Championship Cornament, which is much more official than it sounds.

Trade in your winter coat for a poncho

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.

Join a book club

Snuggling up by the fireplace with a good book is unmatched, and if you're already looking for your next read, then Acapella Books has you covered with both an impressive stock and a list of book clubs that you can join. There’s clubs for fans of literature written by BIPOC authors, horrific and thrilling tales, nonfiction, and everything in between, so sign up for one of Acapella’s book clubs and stay well-read all winter long.

Camp out in a yurt

Stone Mountain
Going on a winter camping trip is fun as hell—challenging, but worth it nonetheless. For a more luxurious camping experience that doesn’t force you to fully endure the weather and sleep on the hard, cold round, Stone Mountain has the camping (or rather glamping) experience for you, aka Yurts. The round, cabin-style tents are made of wood and canvas, and they feature log furniture, heat/air conditioning, electrical outlets, lockable doors, outside decks, picnic tables, a metal fire pit, and more.

Run a marathon

Hampton, Online
If you went a little too hard feasting during the holidays and are looking to get back in shape, consider participating in the 2021 Publix Atlanta Marathon. This time around, it will be held both virtually and in-person at the Atlanta Motor Speedway—the choice is all yours. And even though it takes place at the end of February, training for your marathon, half-marathon, or 5K will definitely keep you busy this winter.

Have a private paint-n-sip

If you’re interested in a night of painting and wine but also want to stay safe and warm inside, 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 winter.

Go on a cozy cabin getaway

The cabins in North Georgia are the best when it’s cold, so escape Atlanta for a spell and cozy up in any of the cabins available in Helen. In addition to enjoying the wood-clad decor of the cabins and lodges, there are gorgeous nature walks to embark upon, and the small Bavarian-style town has plenty of attractions to keep you entertained as well.

Wild Horse Grazing on the Beach in Cumberland Island, GA
Wild Horse Grazing on the Beach in Cumberland Island, GA | Josiah True/Shutterstock

Appreciate Atlanta’s wintertime beauty

Various locations
Whatever happens later this winter season, we know we’ll always have the outdoors. Paying a visit to all of the gorgeous hiking trails or outdoor reserves that you visited last summer is definitely worth braving the cold for. You’ll be able to see the different flowers and greenery that are present in the winter and simply take in the overall beauty of wintertime in Atlanta. Plus, you’ll be able to social distance while getting some fresh air.

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Joshua Robinson is one of the coldest contributors for Thrillist. For more of his awful puns, follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @roshjobin.
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