There's good trout fishing on the Chattahoochee River, in the North Georgia Mountains, about 1 1/2 hours from downtown. Many lakes in the area are good for bass and striper; these include Lake Lanier (www.lakelanier.com), a 38,000-acre reservoir about 45 minutes away. Fishing licenses, which can be bought at most sporting-goods stores, Walmarts, Kmarts, and online at www.gadnr.org, are $3.50 for 3 days and $9 for the season (for Georgia residents; nonresidents pay $20 for 3 days, $45 for season). A trout-fishing stamp is $8 (in season) or $13 for non-Georgia residents.
The Fish Hawk, 3095 Peachtree Rd. (tel. 404/237-3473; www.thefishhawk.com), has been selling quality tackle for more than 25 years. Specializing in fly-fishing, the store carries all kinds of fishing gear and outdoor clothing and can also supply the requisite license. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and can tell you where to find the fish you seek and anything you need to know about applicable state regulations. They also offer a fishing guide service. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
For additional information, serious anglers can contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, License and Boat Registration Unit (tel.800/366-2661; www.gadnr.org).
The Stone Mountain Golf Club (tel. 770/465-3278; www.stonemountaingolf.com) is a beautiful nationally ranked public facility, boasting some areas that are adjacent to the park's lake. Robert Trent Jones, Sr., designed 18 of the 36 holes. A pro shop is on the premises, and lessons are available. For weekends and holidays, reserve the Tuesday before the day you want to play; at other times, reserve a week in advance. A restaurant/clubhouse has a large deck overlooking the lake. Greens fees, including cart and taxes, are $39 Monday through Thursday from 7:30 to 10:50am; $55 Friday to Sunday and holidays from 7:30 to 10:50am; prices may be lower in the off season. There is a parking fee of $10 per car to enter the park. The course is open daily from 7:30am to an hour before dark.
In-Line Skating & Biking
Piedmont Park is the place to skate, and the nearby Skate Escape, 1086 Piedmont Ave. NE, at 12th Street (tel. 404/892-1292; www.skateescape.com), is the place to rent equipment. This establishment has all kinds of bicycles and skates for rent or sale, plus helmets, bike locks, and accessories. You can also buy skateboards here. Conventional and in-line skates can be rented for $6 per hour, $15 per day; three-speed or children's bikes are $6 per hour, $25 per day. If you have an out-of-state driver's license, a major credit card is required as ID; alternately, you can leave a deposit of $150 for skates, $250 for bikes. Skate Escape is open daily in the spring and summer from 11am to 7pm, and the folks here will give you good advice about routes through the park. MARTA: Midtown.
Nature Walks & Scenic Strolls
Atlanta offers many wonderful places for quiet nature walks and easy day hikes. Below are just a few of the options.
The Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Rd. (tel. 404/814-4000), stands on 32 woodland acres and has self-guided walking trails and five gardens. You'll discover many plants native to the region along the forested mile-long Swan Woods Trail.
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a series of parklands that punctuate the 48 miles along the Chattahoochee River -- from Buford Dam at Lake Lanier, north of the city, to Paces Mill at Vinings, just outside Atlanta's northwestern limits. Along the way, trails range from flat, easy walks to more strenuous ridge and valley hikes. Lace up your sneakers to enjoy some of the unspoiled parts of the scenic Chattahoochee River. Admission is free, but there is a $3 parking fee. For maps and more information, contact the National Park Service (tel. 678/538-1200; www.nps.gov/chat).
Stone Mountain Park is 16 miles east of downtown on U.S. 78 and has thousands of acres of beautiful wooded parkland and lakes. There's a walking trail that goes up and down the moss-covered slopes of the mountain; you'll be delighted by the wildflowers that bloom here each spring. Twenty acres of wildlife trails crisscross the park, passing through natural animal habitats and a petting zoo. Hard-core hikers will enjoy the challenging hiking trails.
Sixteen miles of extensive hiking trails meander through the beautiful scenery at Kennesaw Mountain/National Battlefield Park, Old Hwy. 41 and Stilesboro Road, Kennesaw (tel. 770/427-4686). Trail maps are available at the visitor center.
Piedmont Park, centrally located with its main entrance on Piedmont Avenue at 14th Street, provides a glorious setting for strolls, jogs, and bike rides. The wonderful Atlanta Botanical Garden is next door.
Château Elan, 30 miles north of Atlanta at exit 126 off I-85 in Braselton (tel. 678/425-0900), has nature trails along St. Emilion Creek (forested with tulip, poplar, oak, hickory, and beech trees) and by Romanée-Conti Pond. There are picnic areas on the lovely grounds, and custom picnic boxes can be purchased at Café Elan.
The Fernbank Science Center, 156 Heaton Park Dr. NE (tel. 678/874-7102), has 1.5 miles of paved trails with trees, wildflowers, and plants labeled for identification. This unspoiled natural environment is home to many animals and birds; in addition, a small pond teems with aquatic life.
The nonprofit PATH Foundation (tel. 404/875-PATH ; www.pathfoundation.org) is dedicated to creating and maintaining a network of walking and biking trails in metropolitan Atlanta. So far, the organization has completed more than 100 miles of greenway trails. The most accessible is around Chastain Park in the northern part of the city; it's an easy, paved 2.6-mile trail looping around the rolling hills of the park and golf course. The Atlanta-Stone Mountain Trail, which goes from the Carter Center to Stone Mountain Park, is another popular trek. Maps are available at most biking and sporting-goods stores. Call the above phone number for more information and advice about where to begin your journey.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center (tel. 888/905-7238; www.noc.com) leads white-water rafting adventures on the scenic Chattooga River in North Georgia (it's the one you saw in the movie Deliverance) and the Ocoee River in Tennessee (which was an Olympic venue). Put-in points for both rivers are about a 2-hour drive from Atlanta. Trips vary in length (from a few hours to a few days) and difficulty.
The Chattooga has Class II and III rapids in Section III, and Class III, IV, and V in Section IV. The roller coaster Ocoee has Class III and IV rapids only. Kids must be at least 10 years old for easy trips, 12 or older for more difficult rapids. The company also offers canoeing and kayaking trips, plus excursions of varying difficulty on other rivers. All of the expeditions are immensely popular, so make reservations as far in advance as possible.
Prices vary depending on the length and difficulty of the trip, and weekends are more expensive than weekdays, summer trips more expensive than spring and fall. Half-day trips begin at about $35, full-day trips at about $85; both rates include equipment, a guide, and transportation from the outpost to the river. Rafting season is April 1 to October 31, with occasional trips in March and November.
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has several spots where canoers, kayakers, and rafters have access to the cold, slow-moving Chattahoochee River. Call the National Park Service (tel. 678/538-1200) for more information. Watercraft can be rented year-round from the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center (tel. 770/395-6851) at the Johnson Ferry and Powers Island units in the recreation area.
Almost every Atlanta hotel has a swimming pool. In addition, there is a sandy lakefront beach (complete with water slides) in Stone Mountain Park.
If you're really serious about getting wet, there's also White Water, exit 265 off I-75 on North Cobb Parkway in Marietta (tel. 770/424-9283), a water theme park.
The City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department operates 12 outdoor hard courts at the Sharon Lester Tennis Center at Piedmont Park (tel. 404/853-3461), all of them lit for night play. No reservations are taken; it's first-come, first-served. There's free parking at the courts, and showers and lockers are available on the premises. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday 10am to 9pm, and weekends 9am to 6pm. Fees are $3 per person per hour during the day, $5 per person per hour when courts are lit.
The city also has 13 outdoor clay courts and 10 outdoor hard courts (16 are lit) at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, 2125 Northside Dr., between I-75 N. and Peachtree Battle Avenue (tel. 404/609-7193). Courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis; no reservations are taken. There are showers and lockers available. The courts are open Monday to Thursday 9am to 10pm, Friday 9am to 7pm, and weekends 9am to 6pm. Hours from Labor Day to April are abbreviated; call ahead for details. Court fees are around $6 per person per hour on a soft court and $3 per person per hour on a hard court, depending on the hour of play. There's a lot of team tennis played here, so call ahead to check court availability. For information about other city courts, call the Office of Recreation (tel. 404/817-6766).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.