- Adam Kincaid For the AJC
Bought in 1834 for $450, closed to traffic in 1983, and today the 189-acre crown jewel of Atlanta green space, Piedmont Park is an Atlanta icon. Centrally located in the heart of Midtown, it’s big enough to host our largest concert and festival productions, and versatile in its offering for families, young professionals and day-drinking festival herds alike.
For that versatility and durability, we can credit Mark Banta, and the public-private partnership between the city of Atlanta and the Piedmont Park Conservancy he leads. The conservancy is a charitable community group entrusted with fundraising, operation and improvement in the park modeled after New York's Central Park Conservancy.
In 2016, Banta, president of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, told us that "While many come to the park for the big, exciting events, we're also working hard to generate the private donations that keep the space versatile in our offerings and sustainable in our operations for the benefit of all in Atlanta."
The park is open daily from 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
2018 events at Piedmont Park:
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
First held in 1936, this is the grand dame of Atlanta festivals. There were some years in its early days when the festival was not held, but it’s been an annual event for a long time now. It’s a celebration of dogwoods and spring and features a 5K run, an artist market, live music and plenty of food. There’s something for everyone at this festival and it’s usually very well attended since it’s the first or one of the first big outdoor events of the year.
Atlanta Jazz Festival
One of the biggest free jazz festivals in this great land of ours, the Atlanta Jazz Festival is always held on Memorial Day weekend. In addition to the free shows on three stages there are usually some related ticketed events all around town before and after the official dates. From the famous to the youngest to the up-and-comingest, every kind of jazz and jazz musician will get some time to shine.
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
May 31-June 3
Atlanta’s premiere eating and drinking event is also full of learning opportunities. There are cooking classes, of course, and grilling classes because it’s the South, y’all. But there are also tasting and technique classes. Many tasting classes focus on wine, but some may focus on bourbon, ham, chocolate, or other new tasty learning experiences. Technique classes may focus on a particular spice or style of cooking. Lots of events take place at the host hotel and at many eating venues around town, but the tasting tents will be in the Promenade area of Piedmont Park.
AJC Peachtree Road race
One of the best known 10K races in the world, the AJC Peachtree Road Race attracts world class runners as well as slightly less serious participants wearing all sorts of costumes. Many runners have done this event for decades and it’s often a family tradition with multiple generations out for exercise and fun. It begins at Lenox Square and runs down Peachtree St. to 10th St. and on into the park for a long day of music and fun.
Atlanta Ice Cream Festival
July is the perfect time for a festival celebrating ice cream, although you may have to eat that scoop fast before it melts. While ice cream is the focal point, this festival also focuses on health and wellness and family fun. There’s music and vendors selling other kinds of food and arts and crafts and the day always starts with a 5K cancer walk. Free.
Piedmont Park Arts Festival
The Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces invites you to come out to the public space known as Piedmont Park for “visual arts and family fun.” Whatever your artistic interests -- photography, sculpture, glass or leather and plenty more -- you’ll find it here. You’ll also find acoustic music, a play area and good and healthy things to eat and drink.
Festival Peachtree Latino
Festival Peachtree Latino has been held each August since 2000 to celebrate Hispanic-American culture. It has been reported as the largest multicultural event in Georgia; a mix of more than 250 exhibitors, arts and crafts, dance demonstrations, ethnic foods and live music from around the world. Festival Peachtree Latino is free to attend and open to the public.
If you think there is anything more quintessentially Atlanta than Music Midtown nights spent in Piedmont Park, we're all ears. The 2017 lineup was awesome as usual: Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, Wiz Khalifa, Collective Soul and Missio among many others. Catch all the Music Midtown updates, photos, video and more here.
Atlanta Pride Festival
The 47th annual Atlanta Pride festival came to Piedmont Park in October 2017, bringing its somehow-still-controversial parade to an end at Piedmont Park's 10th Street and Charles Allen Boulevard entrance. The park had entertainment and activities throughout the weekend, as both Atanta's LGBT community and visitors from around the world descended on the park and the unmistakable rainbow-themed crosswalks of 10th Street. The Pride Festival began in 1970 and continues today on a mission "to promote unity, visibility and self-esteem among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons." Previous entertainers and speakers of note include Coretta Scott King, Rep. John Lewis and Meghan Trainor.
Atlanta World Kite Festival
Yes, this festival is all about flying kites. Kids running around flying kites, kite geeks critiquing other kite geeks’ kites and probably, more kites. It’s also a family focused event and features some of the same things we find at many festivals including food, face painting, music, fun and did we mention kites?
Whether Piedmont Park remains a viable host to the concerts and festivals of Atlanta in the decades ahead will have much to do with Banta and his team. The conservancy must raise millions annually to keep the park running and to ensure its ecosystems are thriving in an environment where millions of people share the space today, and even more as the city grows. The park connects with the terminal end of the east side Beltline, a fact that is sure to drive substantial visitor increases in coming years.
"If we don't care for the park in the fullest sense, it will be difficult to keep the park in its form," Banta said. "But I am also confident that we can raise the financial contributions needed and the support in non-monetary contributions.
"There has been an incredible influx of young professionals to Atlanta who care about the sustainability of our most meaningful spaces. As our city is growing we are also becoming more sustainability-driven. We're finding better ways to interact with natural space, and more active participants in both the charitable and service-oriented commitments to Piedmont Park. Groups like the Young Professionals for Piedmont Park and other efforts – those are the initiatives that people spearhead to keep the sanctity of our space intact."
For those interested in supporting the conservancy or in learning more about Young Professionals for Piedmont Park, visit piedmontpark.org.
How to get there:
On MARTA: Use the Red or Gold rail line and get off at the Midtown station.
Walk east on 10th Street, and you'll reach the park in a few blocks.
By bus: The 36 N Decatur/VA Highland-Avondale and 99 Boulevard/Monroe/GA State routes travel along the park's south side. The 27 Cheshire Bridge route runs along the west side of the park.
By foot: Pedestrians and cyclists can access park entrances including Park Drive Bridge, 10th Street and Charles Allen, and Piedmont Avenue and 12th or 14th Street.
By car: Follow these directions and park in the SAGE Parking Facility, where fees start at $2.