Rites of spring: 10 things you must experience when Atlanta’s in bloom

Dogs play in the water feature of Newtown Dream Dog Park in Johns Creek.
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Dogs play in the water feature of Newtown Dream Dog Park in Johns Creek.

Story by CURT HOLMAN and ADRIANNE MURCHISON

Going by the calendar, springtime lasts from the vernal equinox on March 20 through the solstice on June 21. In the Atlanta area, it unofficially begins the first day you wear short sleeves outside, and ends when the heat and humidity drive you back indoors. Here are 10 things you definitely need to do to enjoy the city at its most beautiful and temperate, before that window of nice weather closes with summertime.

Climb Stone Mountain

More than 1,600 feet high at its summit, the top of Stone Mountain (stonemountainpark.com) is famous for its Easter sunrise service. But even if you missed it this Easter, spring makes the ideal time to visit: It’s not too hot to make the make the climb, and the clear air makes the view all the more spectacular.

Driving when the dogwoods blossom

It’s not always easy to predict, but the peak of Atlanta springtime comes when the dogwoods and other flowering trees put out their colorful finery, and most of the city feels like an oversized garden. On a weekend morning, take a leisurely drive through the rolling hills of Buckhead and the city’s other lovely residential neighborhoods when Atlanta looks its best.

Visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Locals and visitors can commune with a wide variety of natural wonders at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (atlantabg.org). Recently renovated, the facility includes such highlights as the Canopy Walk, Storza Woods, Fuqua Orchid Center and eye-catching sculptures.

Insider tip

Stop by the Fuqua Conservatory lobby at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. Sundays to watch the “Frog Feeding” as the conservation team cares for the Garden’s resident rare amphibians.

Cool off with King of Pops on the Atlanta BeltLine

Combine several quintessential Atlanta experiences in one outing. During a visit to the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, enjoy a refreshing popsicle from King of Pops (kingofpops.com), which has a walk-up window in Inman Park and usually a stand at The Shed at Ponce City Market. Such flavors as chocolate sea salt and key lime pie are available year round, but consider sampling a seasonal treat. Just be sure to take the wrapper and popsicle stick with you, rather than litter the trail that’s becoming one of Atlanta’s signature features.

Groove to the Atlanta Jazz Festival at Piedmont Park

With events throughout the month of May, the Atlanta Jazz Festival (atlantafestivals.com) culminates in celebrations over Memorial Day Weekend, marking the unofficial end of spring and beginning of summer in a relaxed yet festive fashion. Bring a picnic blanket to Piedmont Park and enjoy your favorite snacks and beverages as cool, improvised melodies feel the air.

Take in neighborhood concert series

Outdoor music performances with local rock and blues bands, Nashville singer-songwriters and more return in May, and many continue until early fall at Heritage Sandy Springs, Dunwoody Nature Centre, Glover Park in Alpharetta and Chukkar Farm in Alpharetta.

Run with the dogs

Fun-and-run dog parks such as Brook Run in Dunwoody and Morgan Falls River Park in Sandy Springs welcome big and small pooches to play in separate spaces. Newtown Dream Dog Park in Johns Creek is set on a picturesque acre and artificial turf where pets run through sprinklers, hoops and over a bridge.

Visit the new Sandy Springs City Green

Sandy Springs third annual “Food that Rocks” event takes place June 9 at the heart of the its new City Center. Twenty nearby eateries, such as Hammocks Trading Co., Three Sheets and Hudson Grille, participate in the “taste of the town” event, which also features specialty cocktails and brews, and live music. The event benefits Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Ian’s Friends Foundation for pediatric brain tumor research, and Second Helpings food rescue organization.

Tour outdoor sculptures

Creations by international artists dot neighborhoods and green space along the Northside. Donors to Roswell’s permanent public art collection have gifted six sculptures from the city’s 2017 “ArtAround Roswell Sculpture Tour.” Pieces such as a African woman sculpture by Nigerian artist Fred Ajanogha are positioned on Roswell Riverwalk near the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Others are located in Roswell Historic Square and Roswell Area Park. Meanwhile, Sandy Springs celebrates public art in its “Playable Art Park” at Abernathy Greenway Linear Park. Alpharetta showcases bronze statues of children holding hands in a “Friendship Ring” outside Alpharetta Community Center. And Milton’s public art includes sculptures displayed outside the state-of-the-art library on Mayfield Road.

Walk through nature preserves and hidden parks

Three parks in Sandy Springs offer a respite from bustling activity on nearby roads. Lost Corner Preserve on Brandon Mill Road was a working farm in the 1800s. Visitors enjoy a renovated cottage, walking trails, a community garden and more. John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve, located next to the North Fulton Annex on Roswell Road, is 30 acres of serene nature with wildlife. The long road into Chattahoochee River National Recreation Center at Island Ford invites visitors to take a timeout from their daily routines to sit beside the river, picnic or hike through wooded spaces.

Insider tip:

Lost Corners Preserve has 60 community garden plot beds. There is currently a waitlist for beds, but interested gardeners are encouraged to visit the park's website to see the updated waitlist or join. friendsoflostcorner.org

CURT HOLMAN is editor of Living Intown. ADRIANNE MURCHISON is editor of Living Northside