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How to treat your kids to Atlanta’s top attractions for free

You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the Georgia Aquarium, High Museum of Art or other places

More than a thousand people voted for the top tourist spot in Atlanta. Stone Mountain finished in the top three. Piedmont Park, in the heart of Atlanta, was also among the favorites. But this attraction was the overwhelming winner. The Georgia Aquarium received more than 28% of the votes to take the title.

Atlanta is home to many popular attractions, but if you’re paying for parking and admission for several people, your day can get expensive.

Fortunately, many top destinations offer free admission on certain days or if you fall into certain categories. In addition, your local library is often a good source for free passes that you can check out just as you'd borrow a library book.

Here are some metro Atlanta attractions that offer free admissions under certain circumstances. Before you plan a trip, make sure to check the website or call your destination to see if there have been any changes.

Georgia State Park System 2600 Highway 155 SW, Stockbridge. 1-800-864-7275. https://gastateparks.org/. Library ParkPass: Patrons can check out a Georgia State Park ParkPass at a participating library system for free parking at any state park and admission for two people at Georgia’s historic sites.

National sites in Georgia. nps.gov. Fee-free days: Entrance to most national sites in Georgia is free, but four require visitors to buy parking or entry passes. Fees for these are waived for several days in 2021, including Aug. 25, Sept. 25 and Nov. 11. Families with fourth-grade students, active duty military or disabled relatives can also get free passes.

Chattahoochee Nature Center. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. 770-992-2055. https://www.chattnaturecenter.org/. CNC library passes: Check out a pass at participating Georgia public libraries to get free general admission for four people.

Autrey Mill nature preserve and heritage center. 9770 Autrey Mill Road, Johns Creek. 678-366-3511. http://autreymill.org/. Admission to this 46-acre preserve is free, but donations are appreciated.

Yellow River Park. 3232 Juhan Road, Stone Mountain. 770-978-5271. gwinnettcounty.com. Admission to this park, which has 691 acres of forests and wildflowers, is free.

Atlanta Contemporary art center. 535 Means St. NW, Atlanta 404-688-1970. https://atlantacontemporary.org/. Admission to the Atlanta Contemporary is always free. This includes lectures, gallery tours, film screenings and more, but some special events have a charge or require registration.

Atlanta History Center. 130 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. 404-814-4000. https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/. Museums on Us: Receive free admission the first full weekend of each month with your Bank of America/Merrill Lynch/U.S. Trust credit or debit card and a picture ID. The offer is good only for the cardholder and excludes special events.

Children’s Museum of Atlanta. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive, Atlanta. 404-659-5437. https://childrensmuseumatlanta.org/. Family Free Day: Each year, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta offers a free day for families. Families are required to register online for one of three sessions of Family Free Day. Only one session is allowed. Check the website to find out which day it’s occurring this year.

Georgia Aquarium. 225 Baker St. NW, Atlanta. 404-581-4000. www.georgiaaquarium.org.

  • Georgia Birthday Discount: Visit the aquarium for free on your birthday by showing your ID or birth certificate at any ticket window. The ticket must be used on your birthday.
  • Military Mondays: Current and former military members can get free admission at the Georgia Aquarium ticketing counter with a military ID in November and December.

High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-4400. https://high.org/.

  • Second Sundays: All visitors are admitted free on the second Sunday of each month. Access is limited to online advanced timed-ticket reservations.
  • Museums on Us: Receive free admission the first full weekend of each month with your Bank of America/Merrill Lynch/U.S. Trust credit or debit card and a picture ID. The offer is good only for the cardholder and excludes special events.
  • Military admission: All active and veteran military personnel, plus one guest, can receive free admission during regular museum hours. This includes free parking in the Woodruff Arts Center deck. You’ll need to show proof of service, and there’s a limit of two admission tickets per household. This admission is valid for walk-up tickets only.

Center for Puppetry Arts. 1404 Spring St. NW, Atlanta. 404-873-3391. http://www.puppet.org/.

  • Membership at the Center for Puppetry Arts: After becoming a member, you can get unlimited free admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum.
  • Blue Star Museums: The Center for Puppetry Arts is a participating organization in Blue Star Museums. Since 2010, the collaboration has offered free admission to all active-duty military and their families each summer.

The World of Coca-Cola. 121 Baker St. NW, Atlanta. 404-676-5151. www.worldofcoca-cola.com. Military Appreciation: Active duty, reserves and retired members of the U.S. military can receive free admission for the next available entry by showing a valid armed forces ID at the ticket window.

Zoo Atlanta. 800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-624-9453. www.zooatlanta.org. Zoo Atlanta Library Pass: Check out the Zoo Atlanta Library Pass DVD at your participating local library. When you return it, you’ll receive a voucher good for free zoo admission for up to three guests. You’ll need to show your receipt as well as your library card at the zoo’s front gate. The voucher is good for four weeks from the date the DVD is returned.

Museum of Design Atlanta. 1315 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-979-6455. https://www.museumofdesign.org/. Design Club Days: Admission to MODA is free the second Sunday of every month, and activities are offered for visitors of all ages.

The Atlanta Opera. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 770-916-2800. https://www.atlantaopera.org/. Veterans Program: All veterans and current military servicemen and women can reserve four free tickets for a main stage production at least seven days in advance.

David J. Sencer CDC Museum. 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta. 404-639-0830. https://www.cdc.gov/museum/about.htm. Admission to and parking for this museum, which is the only part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that’s open to the public, is free. If you’re over 18, you’ll need a government-issued photo ID, and non-U.S. citizens will need their passports. However, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the museum is closed to the public.

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