Spring, glorious spring! Yes, now is the time to shed your winter woes and embrace sunshine, flowers, food, fun, music, people — and life. And, what better way than attending a festival? Atlanta’s calendar is rich with festivals ranging from neighborhood get-togethers to epic music fests. There is not only something for everyone, chances are there’s something right in your backyard.
“Festivals are great because you can come out with your family and spend the afternoon,” says Randall Fox, executive director of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, which sponsors more than a dozen metro festivals. “It’s something to do that is free or cheap. And it’s fun.”
Here are a few highlights of the spring festival season:
St. Patrick’s Day
Yes, what would mid-March be without green beer? The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade marched down Peachtree Street last weekend, but you’ll find more gatherings of the Irish and friends happening this weekend. Over in Buckhead, Fadó Irish Pub is closing down Buckhead Avenue on March 17 and filling it with music, Irish dancing and the St. Baldrick’s head shaving for charity event.
Norcross celebrates March 18 with Irish-themed activities, music, dancing, and Irish cuisine served at Social Fox Brewing, 35 South Cafe and Taste of Britain. Both The Battery and The Roof at Ponce City Market will host bashes on March 17.
The metro area is alive with the sound of music and three of the biggest festivals — Shaky Knees, the Atlanta Jazz Festival and SweetWater 420 — all take place in the spring.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Shaky Knees Festival returns to Central Park with a star-studded musical line-up that includes the Killers, Muse and the Lumineers. In addition to the more than 60 established and up-and-coming bands performing, attendees will enjoy a variety of food booths — everything from vegetarian friendly corn dogs to barbecue.
Credit: Ryan Fleisher
Credit: Ryan Fleisher
The Sweetwater 420 Music Fest changed its location, reportedly over concerns about security, from downtown to its headquarters but will still feature a roster of musical acts that includes Shakey Graves, Ghostland Observatory and Kitchen Dwellers.
Regarded as one of the country’s biggest free jazz concerts, The Atlanta Jazz Festival is a three-day event taking place May 27-29 at Piedmont Park featuring noted musicians including Herbie Hancock, Julie Dexter, Naia Izumi, the Baylor Project and Kenny Barron Quartet.
For 41 years, Macon has celebrated “The Pinkest Party on Earth” during its Cherry Blossom Festival. For 10 days, the city turns pink as more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees are in full bloom. Not that we’re competitive, but Washington, D.C., has 3,800.
Also celebrating cherry blossoms are Brookhaven with its Cherry Blossom Festival (March 25 and 26) that includes a 5K run, music, food and family-friendly fun, and Conyers, whose cherry blossom festival is now in its 42nd year.
Credit: Jenni Girtman
Credit: Jenni Girtman
While Macon has cherry blossoms, Atlanta has dogwoods and the 87th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival, held on April 14-16, features myriad visual artists and artisans as well as music, international acts, food, a mimosa 5K run and a kids zone.
Metro Atlantans support the arts year-round, but that kicks into high gear during the spring and summer with festivals popping up all over. The purpose of these neighborhood festivals is to “support local and national artists,” says Fox. “Most people don’t understand that this is the way they make their living.” Even though his foundation organizes six festivals this summer, each one is distinct.
“Each neighborhood is different and each festival is different. What you will experience at Chastain is entirely different from what you’ll get at the Fall Festival at Ponce or Duluth. You won’t see the same artists at every single event and we have amazing food trucks and we rotate them all the time.”
The Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces produces several neighborhood arts festivals a year including: Spring Festival on Ponce: April 1-2; Sandy Springs Artsapalooza: April 8-9; Duluth Spring Arts Festival: April 29-30; Roswell Spring Arts Festival: May 6-7; Chastain Spring Arts Festival: May 13-14; Lavender Festival (Roswell): June 3; Piedmont Park Arts Festival: Aug. 19-20. For more on these festivals, check out the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces website at affps.com.
The Alpharetta Arts Streetfest takes place May 27 with more than 100 artists from around the country. The Decatur Arts Festival takes place May 5-7 and provides a weekend of live music, dance, comedy, theatrical performances and an expansive and diverse artists’ market. Among the performers are the Unscripted Shakespeare Ensemble, CubanaSong, the Atlanta School of Burlesque and the Mike Killeen Band.
Dunwoody’s favorite fundraiser, the Lemonade Days Festival, returns April 19-23 and features food, beverages, entertainment, rides and the popular “Dunwoody Idol” contest. Ten previously selected contestants will perform and on April 22, a panel of judges will select the winner, who wins a professional recording session.
Credit: Anya Reid
Credit: Anya Reid
The Inman Park Festival started in the early 1970s as a means to attract attention to gentrification efforts and now it’s just a big ole party with music, kids activities, a Tour of Homes, artists’ market and a fan favorite street parade.
The 20th annual Kirkwood Spring Fling takes place May 13 with a 5K road race, tour of homes, kids area, artist market and wing fling. A few miles down the road are the Virginia Highland Summerfest (June 9-10) and the Sweet Auburn Springfest, which is celebrating its 37th year with a variety of entertainment including music, dancing and comedy, as well as an international food court, kids zone and vendors.
Credit: Steve Schaefer
Credit: Steve Schaefer
For the last 38 years the Georgia Renaissance Festival has entertained and educated audiences about the olden days with jousting, artisan marketplaces, entertainment, acrobatic daredevils, falconry and juggling.
Enjoy encounters with butterflies at the 23rd Flying Colors Butterfly Festival at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Visit with live butterflies, meet with pollinator experts and enjoy food and live entertainment.
Cherry Blossom Festival. Noon-10 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; March 17-26. $10; free for under age 10. Free. 794 Cherry St., Macon. 478-743-1074, maconga.org.
Atlanta Dogwood Festival Noon-9 p.m. April 14; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. April 15; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 16. Free. Piedmont Park. 404-827-8663, dogwood.org.
Georgia Renaissance Festival. 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. April 15-June 4. $13.95-$29.55. 6732 Virlyn B. Smith Road, Fairburn. 770-964-8575, garenfest.com.
Lemonade Days Festival. 4 p.m.-10 p.m April 19, 20, 21; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. April 22; Noon-6 p.m. April 23. Free. Brook Run Park, 4770 N. Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. 770-668-0401, dunwoodypreservationtrust.org.
SweetWater 420 Music Fest April 22-23. $70-$240. Sweetwater Brewing Co., 195 Ottley Drive, Atlanta. 770-876-0251, sweetwater420fest.com.
Inman Park Festival. Tour of Homes: Noon-4 p.m. April 28; noon-6 p.m. April 29-30. Festival: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. April 29; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30. Tour of Homes: $25 in advance, $30 starting. Festival is free. Euclid Avenue and Elizabeth Street. 404-3122-6005, festival.inmanpark.org.
Shaky Knees Festival. Noon-11 p.m. May 5-6; Noon-10 p.m. May 7. $119-$5,500. Central Park, 400 Merritts Ave., Atlanta. shakykneesfestival.com.
Sweet Auburn Springfest. 11 a.m. May 13-14. Free. 230 John Wesley Dobbs, Atlanta. sweetauburn.com.
Kirkwood Spring Fling. Noon-8 p.m. May 13. Free; some events are ticketed. Bessie Branham Park, 2051 Delano Drive, Atlanta. historickirkwood.org/kirkwoodfling.
Decatur Arts Festival. 6-10 p.m. May 5; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 6; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 7. Free. 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. decaturartsfestival.com.
Alpharetta Arts Streetfest. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. May 27. Free. 175 Roswell St., Alpharetta. 678-297-6100, awesomealpharetta.com.
Flying Colors Butterfly Festival. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. June 3; Noon-5 p.m. June 4. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. 770-992-2055, chattnaturecenter.org.
Virginia Highland Summerfest. Festival kick-off 6-9 p.m. June 9; festival, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. June 10. Free. Along Virginia Avenue between N. Highland Avenue and Ponce de Leon Place, Atlanta. vahisummerfest.org.
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