The end of summer is traditionally marked by the Labor Day holiday, with many water parks and pools saying goodbye to the warmest season of the year after the long weekend.
But why not stay open past Labor Day while the weather in the Atlanta area is still plenty warm for enjoying the water?
Here’s a look at five places in Atlanta or close by where families can continue to swim and enjoy water, with most remaining open well beyond the official end of summer (which is still a few weeks away).
The Water Park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
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There’s still an exciting and refreshing Atlanta amusement park at Lanier Islands, but don’t look for the name “LanierWorld” anymore. Starting with this year’s season, the park is now Margaritaville at Lanier Islands. And it’s open on Labor Day and weekends through Sept. 30.
Safe Harbor Development and Margaritaville, the global lifestyle brand, have teamed up to develop and run operations of the entertainment complex, including the beach, water park, and Blue Ridge and Shoal Creek campgrounds (as well as the wintertime’s Magical Nights of Lights).
If you are looking for water fun, the water park is the place for you with everything from raging river slides to a slide with a vertical plummet to flying across the lake on a zip line.
New attractions at Lanier Islands have been added, including a weekly margarita cruise (which is a separate cost of $79.99 per person) and a new RV resort coming in spring 2019.
Visiting the sandy beach stretching more than a half-mile along the shores of Lake Lanier, a spot known as Paradise Beach, is free — with the exception of holidays or special events, when the cost is $10 a person.
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays through the end of September (one exception is on Sept. 22, when the water park is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m.); 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 3 (Labor Day). Day passes for the Water Park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands are $31.99-$45.99. 7650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. 678-304-3120, lanierislands.com/margaritaville.
Don Carter State Park — Gainesville
On the northern edge of Atlanta, Don Carter State Park is positioned right where the Chattahoochee River meets Lake Lanier. Georgia’s newest state park and the first state park on Lake Lanier, one of its big draws is a large sand swimming beach and bath house. This is a great beach for day trips — you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or cool off in the water after hiking or biking Don Carter’s multiuse trail through a hardwood forest. Overnights are another possibility at the park’s cabins, RV campground or primitive camping area. And check out the website for special activities, including night hikes, campfire stories and nature crafts. Don Carter remains open throughout the year with many swimmers enjoying the water well into October.
7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville. $5 parking fee. 678-450-7726, gastateparks.org/DonCarter.
Fort Yargo State Park — Winder
Winder is convenient to both Atlanta and Athens. The large swimming beach at Fort Yargo runs along a 260-acre lake where you can also kayak or canoe. It’s a nice spot for large groups with picnic or group shelters for rent, and wedding planners should note its beach pavilion that seats 150. Go to the website for upcoming events, including paddle after dark excursions and movie nights under the stars. Note: Fort Yargo is also open all year but no boat rentals after Labor Day weekend.
7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. $5 parking fee. 210 S Broad St., Winder. 770-867-3489, gastateparks.org/FortYargo.
Canoeing and kayaking in the Dahlonega area
Peak tubing season may be coming to a close (many wrap it up over the Labor Day weekend), but there’s still plenty of time to go canoeing and kayaking and explore the beauty of the North Georgia mountains. All levels of experience will find their own adventure — from first-time paddlers to those who prefer more of an adrenaline rush from the rapids — with Appalachian Outfitters, which offers excursions through October. Trips include the gentle rapids of Lower Chestatee and the more technical, larger rapids of Upper Etowah.
Starts at about $25 per person. Appalachian Outfitters River Outpost, 2084 S. Chestatee St., Dahlonega. 706-864-7117, canoegeorgia.com.
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) and two 1-meter diving boards. And this fabulous pool (heated during October to maintain a requisite minimum temperature of 78 degrees) remains open until Nov. 1.
You can buy a 14-visit guest pass that, along with the pools, also gives you access to eight tennis courts (including two clay), an outdoor sand volleyball pit, indoor and outdoor basketball, a fully equipped fitness center, locker rooms and a cafe. There are also two outdoor terraces, a grill, and plenty of seating and shade with sky blue umbrellas and chairs. Tip for planning ahead: The visitor center parking is free on the weekends and during the week after 4 p.m.
Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Labor Day. Hours after Labor Day and through Nov. 1: noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. $120 for a 14-visit guest pass that never expires. Kids 2 and younger are free. (Emory faculty/staff and affiliates/alumni can get passes/memberships at a significant discount.) Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), 1946 Starvine Way, Decatur. 404-712-2430, saac.emory.edu.