Grant Park

Named for Confederate Capt. Lemuel P. Grant, who helped build Atlanta's defense line, Grant Park (bordered by Sydney St., Atlanta Ave., Boulevard, and Cherokee Ave.) still contains vestiges of his fortifications. Near the intersection of Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue, you can see the remaining earthwork slopes of Fort Walker, a commanding artillery bastion with its original gun emplacements. Its cannons and caissons can be seen in the museum area of the Atlanta Cyclorama, one of Grant Park's two major attractions. The other is Zoo Atlanta. The park is open daily from 6am to 11pm; it's best to visit during daylight hours.

Piedmont Park

Piedmont Park, the city's most popular and centrally located recreation area (with its main entrance on Piedmont Ave. at 14th St.), was once a farm and a Civil War encampment. Its first public usage was by the elite Gentlemen's Driving Club, which bought the property as a site for horseback riding and racing. It soon became a venue for state fairs, including the spectacular Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895. In 1904, the property's 180-plus acres of woodsy meadow and farm were transformed into a city park with a varied terrain of rolling hillsides, verdant lawns, and lush forest around Lake Clara Meer.

Today, Piedmont Park is the setting for many popular regional events such as concerts and music festivals, and recently opened a 53-acre expansion. It contains softball fields, soccer fields, public tennis courts, a public swimming pool, and paths for jogging, skating, and cycling. The expansion added a public skate park and an interactive fountain. The park hosts a Green Market from 9am to 1pm every Saturday from May through mid-December, selling locally grown produce, artisan cheeses, fresh-cut flowers, and other merchandise. The park gets a lot of use, and in some spots can be downright scruffy-looking, but the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the city of Atlanta continue to upgrade the landscaping. A visitor center, where you can find information on the park and the surrounding area, is located at the Piedmont Avenue and 12th Street entrance. The park is a great place for children, with plenty of open, car-free spaces. Don't let the kids miss PlayScape at the 12th Street entrance; created by well-known sculptor Isamu Noguchi, it's a climbable series of brightly colored geometric shapes complete with ladders and slides. The people-watching in the park is superb, and the Midtown skyline beyond is magnificent. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is next-door.

Parking was also expanded recently, but it can still be difficult during special events, and authorities are quick to tow cars parked illegally. It's easiest to take MARTA to the Arts Center station and walk the few blocks down 14th Street. During special events, it's usually possible to take a shuttle to and from the station.

A great way to see the park and soak up some of its history is on a walking tour sponsored by the Piedmont Park Conservancy. These free tours depart from the visitor center at 11am on the first and third Saturdays in May through early December. During the 1 1/2-hour tour, guides will point out many historic areas, including remnants of the 1895 Piedmont Exposition, the Walker Farm, and the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. Call tel. 404/876-4024 for information.

Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park is one of the best places in the region for all kinds of outdoor activities: picnicking, boating (rowboating, canoeing, and sailing), biking (rentals are available), fishing, hiking, golfing, playing tennis, and swimming. The entrance fee (which includes parking) is $8 per car per day; an annual pass is $35.

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.