Treat yourself: How to explore Atlanta’s top attractions for free

Atlanta is home to many popular attractions, but if you’re paying for parking and admission for several people, a day out 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

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.

Location: 2600 GA-155 N, Stockbridge, GA 30281; Website: gastateparks.org/LibraryLoan; Contact: 1-800-864-7275

National sites in Georgia

Entrance to most national sites in Georgia are free, but four require visitors to buy parking or entry passes. Fees for these are waived for several days in 2022, including Aug. 4, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11. Families with fourth-grade students, veterans and Gold Star Families, active duty military or disabled relatives can also get free passes.

Chattahoochee Nature Center

Check out a pass at participating Georgia public libraries to get free general admission for four people.

Location: 9135 Willeo Rd, Roswell, GA 30075; Website: chattnaturecenter.org; Contact: 770-992-2055

Autrey Mill nature preserve and heritage center

Admission to this 46-acre preserve is free, but donations are appreciated.

Location: 9770 Autrey Mill Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30022; Website: autreymill.org; Contact: 678-366-3511

Yellow River Park

Admission to this park, which has 691 acres of forests and wildflowers, is free.

Location: 3232 Juhan Rd SW, Stone Mountain, GA 30087; Website: gwinnettcounty.com; Contact: 770-978-5271

Atlanta Contemporary art center

 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.

Location: Midtown - 535 Means St. NW; Website: atlantacontemporary.org; Contact: 404-688-1970.

Atlanta History Center

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.

Location: Buckhead/Northeast - 130 W. Paces Ferry Road NW; Website: atlantahistorycenter.com; Contact: 404-814-4000

Children’s Museum of Atlanta

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.

Location: Downtown - 275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr NW; Website: childrensmuseumatlanta.org; Contact: 404-659-5437

Georgia Aquarium

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.

Location: Downtown - 225 Baker St. NW; Website: georgiaaquarium.org; Contact: 404-581-4000

High Museum of Art

All visitors are admitted free on the second Sunday of each month from noon to 5 p.m. Online advanced timed-ticket reservations are recommended. 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.

Location: Midtown - 1280 Peachtree St. NE; Website: high.org; Contact: 404-733-4400

Center for Puppetry Arts

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. Free Fulton Saturdays: April 23, Fulton County residents, students and Fulton County Government employees will receive free Museum admission.

Location: Midtown - 1404 Spring St. NW; Website: puppet.org; Contact: 404-873-3391

The World of Coca-Cola

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.

Location: Downtown - 121 Baker St. NW; Website: worldofcoca-cola.com; Contact: 404-676-5151

Zoo Atlanta

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.

Location: East Atlanta - 800 Cherokee Ave. SE; Website: zooatlanta.org; Contact: 404-624-9453

The Atlanta Opera

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.

Location: Cumberland - 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway; Website: atlantaopera.org; Contact: 770-916-2800

David J. Sencer CDC Museum

Admission and parking for this museum, which is currently the only part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that’s open to the public, is free. The museum is open for self-guided groups of 10 people or less. If you’re over 18, you’ll need a government-issued photo ID, and non-U.S. citizens will need their passports.

Location: North Decatur - 1600 Clifton Road; Website: cdc.gov; Contact: 404-639-0830

This story was originally published by Mary Caldwell in 2016 and has since been updated.

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