As the dogwoods and azaleas bloom in April, Atlanta comes alive again. While the weather finds a sweet spot between extremes, locals welcome the spring season with a full calendar of arts fests—both indoor and outdoor—that have been bringing communities together for years. Choose one, or all of them, and navigate like a natural with this list of the city's favorite happenings. On your mark, get set, fest!
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
The third oldest fine arts festival in the country and the longest-running festival in Atlanta, the 82nd Atlanta Dogwood Festival is held April 13-15 and is anticipated to draw more than 250,000 attendees of all ages to Piedmont Park. With live music, a kids zone, the Disc Dog Competition and much more, it’s no wonder this free event is a favorite kickoff to spring.
Getting There: Piedmont Park is a short walk from MARTA via the Midtown and Arts Center stations, as well as is accessible via the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Atlanta visitors and local staycationers alike can enjoy special rates at the festival’s hotel partner, W Atlanta Midtown.
The Lineup: In addition to the usual festival foods, serious noshers can get tickets to Backyard Bites & Brews. This curated food and drink experience takes place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, bringing together restaurants, chefs and local breweries with private seating under a spacious tent near the Main Stage.
The festivities begin Saturday morning with the Mimosa 5K, a fun run through Midtown followed by a champagne-and-OJ celebration.
As crowds stroll through the Artists Market, they pass tents from more than 250 artists showing works in media like drawing and painting, jewelry, fiber arts, mixed media, sculpture, glass, metal, wood and photography. Look out for Greenville, South Carolina-based artist Joseph Bradley who was one of the artists awarded in last year’s juried market and returns for 2018.
More than 200 performers take the International Stage in honor of the city's diverse cultures.
Sweetwater 420 Fest
Held on April 20-22, the weekend closest to Earth Day, the 14th annual gathering presented by Sweetwater Brewing Co. combines craft beer and live music with sustainability and education in Centennial Olympic Park. Day passes start at $56.
Getting There: Take MARTA to the Peachtree Center or CNN Center stations. Parking passes are also for sale online.
The Lineup: Lace up your shoes on April 21 at 8:30 am for an 5K road race that gives a new meaning to the term “beer run.” Then, fuel up with snacks from Atlanta’s best food trucks inside the Food Village. Wash it all down in the Sweetwater Experience tent.
Led by big names like The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sturgill Simpson and Vulfpeck, patrons can expect a jampacked weekend of rock, alternative, hip hop and electronic dance music.
Amplify Decatur Music Festival
Back for its third year, this concert series brings all-star Americana talent to the picturesque Decatur Square on April 14, while giving back in a big way. All funds raised will be directed to Decatur Cooperative Ministry (DCM) to support its efforts to prevent and alleviate homelessness in DeKalb County. Fun fact: the 2017 concert series featured Lucinda Williams and raised $40,000 for DCM. Tickets: $45-155.
Getting There: Take MARTA to the Decatur station. All major roads will be open and services such as Uber and Lyft are also smart options, and can drop you off near the festival gates.
The Lineup: Chow down on dishes from top local eateries like The Pinewood and The Iberian Pig. Sip on craft beers from Creature Comforts Brewing Co. and Decatur’s own Three Taverns. Beyond the festival gates, Decatur Square and its surrounding streets comprise one of metro Atlanta’s best culinary scenes with staples like Brick Store Pub, No. 246, Victory Sandwich Bar and Leon’s Full Service alongside a new addition, The White Bull—just to name a few.
Festival-goers will hear from The Lone Bellow, The Jayhawks, Amanda Shires and Parker Millsap. Don’t miss Dwayne Shivers, an Atlanta-based progressive folk duo, whose debut album “Buffered & Blessed” is slated for a 2018 release. Doors open at 3:30 pm, and the concert runs from 4-11 pm.
In addition to Amplify Decatur’s day of music, there are more shows scheduled at the legendary nearby listening room, Eddie’s Attic, throughout the weekend. Tickets are sold separately to hear artists like The Weather Station, Antigone Rising and more.
Atlanta Film Festival
Now in its fourth decade, the Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF)—one of only two dozen Academy Award-qualifying festivals in the country—is the city’s preeminent celebration of cinema. Held April 13-22, ATLFF is also one of the largest and longest-running film festivals in the country, welcoming an audience of nearly 25,000.
Getting There: Films are hosted by various venues throughout the city, including The Plaza Theatre in Poncey-Highland, Downtown’s Rialto Center for the Arts and Dad’s Garage Theatre Co. in Old Fourth Ward.
The Lineup: Attendees have the unique opportunity to discover new independent, international, animated, documentary and short films, selected from a staggering volume of submissions from all around the globe. One of this year’s buzzy marquee films is “Tully” starring Charlize Theron and directed by Jason Reitman.
There are different levels of entry, whether you want an all-access pass or a movie hopper card. All support Atlanta’s film community.
Want more? The five-day Creative Conference is ATLFF’s educational programming track, and offers a diverse mix of panels, talks and demos that delve deeper into the captivating world of cinema. Learn about topics from screenwriting and acting to funding and distribution—and how they all come together to create films that break the mold.
The Georgia Renaissance Festival
Calling all history buffs and “Game of Thrones” fans, kids and kids at heart: when you step inside these gates, you’ll find yourself transported back to 16th-century England. In its 33th season, the Georgia Renaissance Festival is held April 14 through June 3 and worth the drive, especially if you’ve never attended before. Adult tickets begin at $19.95 online.
Getting There: The festival is located approximately 30 minutes from Downtown. Find detailed driving directions on the festival website. Note: the main entrance to the festival is the second driveway on the right when coming west on Highway 74. Parking is free.
The Lineup: The 32-acre, family-friendly village includes 10 stages of endless entertainment. There’s so much to do for all ages, from catching an interactive show, chatting and laughing with costumed characters like The Knotty Nauticals to trying your skill at carnival games.
Immersive yourself in Renaissance culture among craft makers of pottery, clothing, jewelry and art. There’s also daily demonstrations of weaving, coin minting, spinning, sculpting, glass blowing and leather crafting.
Feast like royalty with enormous roasted turkey legs, fish and chips and more. Adults can enjoy hearty ales and locally made mead at pubs and taverns, too.
There’s something going on each weekend of the festival. On April 14-15, enjoy two adult tickets for the price of one. On April 21-22, up to four children can be admitted free with a paid adult. On April 28-29, bring pets, and students can get in for $8 with a college ID. Costumes are always welcome!
Inman Park Festival
For 47 years, this free neighborhood festival takes place during the last full weekend in April (April 27-29). It’s often considered one of the city’s most spirited and eclectic with live music, activities for kids, an artists’ market, tour of homes and creative costumes. Come early, stay late—there’s something for everyone.
Getting There: If possible, the preferred option is to walk or bike the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail to the fest. Free and secure valet bike parking is provided by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Take MARTA to the Reynoldstown/ Inman Park station, or use ride-sharing app. When you start seeing Inman Park’s butterfly logo abound, you know that you've arrived.
The Lineup: See historic Victorian homes as well as impressive remodeling work on this self-guided stroll. The home preview actually starts on April 27 from noon and 4 pm, and continues on Saturday and Sunday between noon-6 pm. Tickets: $20-25.
Wild and quirky groups like The Big Mask Project parade through the streets of Inman Park at 2 pm on Saturday.
There’s no shortage of good eats around Inman Park. Vendors serve street foods and festival staples, while nearby restaurants and Krog Street Market offer craveable cuisines and cool beverages.