9 awesome ways to enjoy Labor Day weekend (and stay cool) in Atlanta

For many of us, Labor Day weekend offers an extra day off of work, an opportunity to enjoy one last summertime treat. So why not make the most of it, whether swimming in a lake or soaring in a hot air balloon festival.

Here’s a look at nine fabulous ways to enjoy Labor Day weekend:

Swim at the beach at Hard Labor Creek State Park

Normally open on weekends during August, Hard Labor Creek State Park, about a 45-minute drive east of Atlanta, will open on Labor Day Monday (Sept. 5). The beach is open during daylight hours. Parking is $5; beach entrance is free. Hard Labor Creek State Park, 5 Hard Labor Creek Road, Rutledge. 706-557-3001, http://gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek. Go to http://gastateparks.org/swimming to check out more state parks with sandy swimming beaches.

Labor Day tree climbing

Ever wondered why Georgia State Parks has a course in “tree climbing”? Well, here’s your chance to give rope tree climbing a go at Panola Mountain State Park while also enjoying the shade of an enormous tree (in what also happens to be a park close to Atlanta). 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 5. This crash course is a great side event for picnickers. No advanced registration required. Find staff at the tree by the bath house. Ages 8 and older recommended. Long shorts advised. $5 per person plus $5 parking per car. Panola Mountain State Park, 2620 Ga. 155 S.W., Stockbridge. 770-389-7801, http://gastateparks.org/PanolaMountain.

Callaway Gardens Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival

Soar into September at the 18th annual Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens. The weekend kicks off with the spectacular Friday Night Balloon Glow (Sept. 2) and continues all weekend long. Watch beautiful balloons in flight or hop in a basket for your own tethered balloon ride. Saturday (Sept. 3) is full of family-friendly events, including live music, beach activities that include swimming at Robin Lake Beach. Cap off the weekend with a final balloon glow Sunday night (Sept. 4) at Robin Lake Beach.

Friday (Sept. 2): Before 5 p.m., normal admission of $20 for adults; $10 for children; 5 and younger are admitted for free. Free for annual passholders. After 5 p.m. Friday is half-price of Special Event admission, which means $15 for adults; $7.50 for children; 5 and younger are admitted for free. Free for annual passholders.

Saturday and Sunday pricing (Sept. 3-4): $30, adults; $7.50, children ages 6-12; 5 and younger are admitted for free. Half-price for annual passholders. On Monday (Sept. 5), after the festival ends, spend time at Callaway for half-price of Special Event admission prices: $15 for adults; $7.50 for children; 5 and younger are free. Free for annual passholders. Callaway Gardens. 17800 U.S. 27, Pine Mountain. 1-800-852-3810, www.callawaygardens.com.

Stone Mountain Park: Labor Day weekend

This popular attraction honors everyday working heroes in a Labor Day weekend celebration featuring the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision followed by a special fireworks display Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights (Sept. 3-5). You can go to the park before the sun goes down and check out many other attractions including the Summit Skyride, SkyHike and Geyser Towers. Park hours for Labor Day weekend: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Lasershow with fireworks: 9 p.m. Saturday-Monday. Adventure Pass: $31.95. Note: You don’t need an Adventure Pass to go only to the laser show and fireworks (only the parking pass for vehicles to enter Stone Mountain Park, which is $15 for a daily parking pass or $40 for an annual parking pass). Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. 1-800-401-2407, www.StoneMountainPark.com.

ATLANTA AREA POOLS

It’s hard to beat lounging at the pool during a long weekend, and with most public pools getting ready to close for the season, it’s one last chance to swim. Here are some options.

The Piedmont Park Aquatic Center: Overlooking Lake Clara Meer, it features a beach entry, four lap lanes, and a current channel. There are also concessions, a small splash pad for the little ones, locker rooms, showers and lounge chairs on a landscaped deck. The season lasts until Sept. 5. $1, children 5 and under; $2, children 6-16; $4, adults (17-54); $2, seniors (55 and older). Hours now through Labor Day: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; noon-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. www.piedmontpark.org/do/swimming.html. Piedmont Pool, 400 Park Drive, Atlanta. 404-875-7275, ext. 324. Recommended parking is in the SAGE parking facility in the park.

Emory University’s Outdoor Pools: College kids and young families converge at Emory University’s Outdoor Pools, home to an Olympic-sized pool with 12 lap lanes, a shallow end (which fills up with little ones and their parents), two 1-meter diving boards and two 3-meter diving boards. There are also two outdoor terraces, a grill, and plenty of seating and shade with sky blue umbrellas and chairs. A daily pass is $10. It’s $120 for a 14-visit guest pass that never expires. Kids 2 and under are free. Summer facility hours through Labor Day: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; noon-9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Note: The pool remains open through Nov. 1. Fall hours (Sept. 6- Nov. 1) are noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Planning ahead: The visitor center parking is free on the weekends and during the week after 4 p.m. Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), 1946 Starvine Way, Decatur. 404-712-2430, saac.emory.edu.

MORE: Your guide to some of metro Atlanta’s best public pools

FOUNTAINS

If you are looking for a fun and quick way to cool off, head over to “Big Splash,” “Fountain of Rings” or any of the half-dozen other interactive fountains around metro Atlanta. With Centennial Olympic Park’s “Fountain of Rings” paving the way in 1996, these gigantic, glorified lawn sprinklers are public in the truest sense of the word: They’re all centrally located in parks, town squares, in a mall and along the Atlanta Beltline. And they’re free to frolic in. Here’s more about some of them.

“Fountain of Rings” in Centennial Olympic Park

“Fountain of Rings” is made up of five interlocking Olympic rings, each measuring 25 feet in diameter. The 250 computer-controlled water jets can reach heights of 12 feet normally, and some up to 30 feet during shows. Hours: Operates 365 days a year. Musical show plays four times daily — at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9 p.m. — with the fountain running continuously through that time period. Free. Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave W. N.W., Atlanta. 404-222-7275, www.centennialpark.com.

‘Big Splash’ in Town Center Park, Suwanee

Open since 2006, “Big Splash” features 43 jets, with a larger jet shooting up high in the center. The oval-shaped plaza opposite City Hall on the edge of the park is partially bordered by low stone walls ideal for sitting, and there’s a shaded area created by large, bright blue canvas “sails” on one end. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. Free. Town Center Avenue, Suwanee. 770-945-8996, www.suwanee.com.

Town Green Fountain in Duluth

Town Green Fountain in Duluth is set on a slightly raised circular plaza, the fountain has two rings of 12 gracefully arc-ed outer jets and 36 inner ones, with a center spray with heights reaching between 16 and 20 feet. Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; noon-9 p.m. Sundays. Operational until the last weekend in September. Free. 3142 Hill St. N.W., Duluth. 770-476-3434, www.duluthga.net.

MORE: Fountains, where you can find gushers of fun for all ages

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Jill Vejnoska contributed to this article.

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