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Cheap, good fun in Atlanta — and beyond

By Mary Welch, For the AJC #atlanta-ga

Girls may want to have fun and fellas might want to hang with the guys, but sometimes the budget can be a downer. But that’s not a problem in metro Atlanta because there are plenty of activities for singles, couples and families that are reasonable in price, if not downright cheap. “There is so much to explore here in Georgia,” says Avondale Estates resident Laura Painter, who enjoys cheap weekend and day trips at state parks with her husband and sons.

Of course, it is advised that before going to these activities to check the website to see about COVID-19 restrictions, such as ordering tickets online, mandatory masks or restricted hours. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution rounded up a list of get-out-of-the-house things to do that will hardly make a dent in anyone’s budget.

Free to $20


Several area museums have opened, including The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, which offers several themed programs, including the Super Spectacular Science Show. “We have missed the laughter, play and discovery,” says Jane Turner, executive director. Next up is to have a Coke and a smile at the World of Coca-Cola and then walk over to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.


There are plenty of free yoga or reasonably priced yoga sessions around town, many of them outdoors. Check out the outdoor yoga class presented by Kaiser Permanente on non-event days on the Plaza Green at the Battery. Many studios offer a free introductory class.


Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday the RoleCall Theaterpresents “Lol… O, Laugh Out Loud… Outside,” a comedy series running through the end of October at the outdoor Amphitheater at Ponce City Market that includes sketch comedy by Mighty Shorts Comedy, comedian Joe Pettis and Whole World Improv Theatre. The theater company also offers a variety of other productions, including improv, Shakespeare and original, short plays presented in 48 hours.


The Second Self Beer Company is hosting free comedy shows the last Friday of every month. Seating is provided, but guests are welcomed to bring their own chairs or blanket.


There are plenty of lakes, including Lake Allatoona, Lake Blackshear, Fort Yargo State Park, Sweetwater Creek State Park and Stone Mountain Lake, where fishing is free or at a minimal cost. Let’s also not forget the Chattahoochee River for fishing as well. Bass, trout and catfish are just some of the fish that can be caught.


Even with social distancing, running is a great way to be outdoors and be a part of a community. Mountain High Outfitters spots a weekly run at Ponce City Market every Wednesday at 6 p.m. There are also a number of charity runs and group runs around town.


The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation is hosting a 43 Challenge designed to shine a light on the 43 children diagnosed with cancer every day. Supporters can donate $4.30 to $43 billion, but the key is to raise awareness by walking 43 minutes a day, doing 43 push-ups a day, baking 43 cookies or reading 43 books. You get the idea.

But whether your cause is animals, the homeless, endangered youth, the environment or children, there are nonprofits that can use a few helping hands.



Who doesn’t love to knock the pins over? There are several bowling alleys around town, some fancier and more expensive than others. But for starters, try Midtown Bowl, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. “We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the last 60 years — we are a full service, welcoming, neighborhood bowling alley,” says General Manager Mike Fortas.


A typical weekend camping at a nice campground or state park is around $30-$40 a night, says Painter. “We have found some wonderful first-class views for less than $100 for a weekend getaway.”

The Hall County part of Lake Lanier is the family’s favorite camping site. “There are several Corp of Engineers campgrounds that are in the area. They are very clean and affordable. This fall/winter we are going to explore Middle and South Georgia. Cherokee Veterans Park, (in Savannah), and Elijah Clark State Park are a few we have booked for the last part of this year,” she says.


The Aurora Theatre is offering several digital streaming productions and limited attendance outdoor events even though the Mainstage is still closed. The theatre is featuring Haunted Happenings where professional costumed storytellers give thrill-seekers a night to remember — and fear. It’s a 90-minute spooky-meets-history-in person ghost tour around Lawrenceville that features real stories and paranormal places. The tour begins and ends at the Aurora Theatre from Sept. 25 through Oct. 31. There are also Haunted Cemetery Tours and private ghost tours.


Some museums are pricier than others, and if your budget can stretch, the Georgia Aquarium is always a wonderful way to spend the day. Tickets for adults at The Atlanta History Centerare $23.42, but in all fairness, seniors and students are charged $19.60, so there’s a little savings. But if you haven’t seen the new Cyclorama, now is a good time. The Atlanta Botanical Gardenis always a relaxing way to spend the day outdoors.


Zoo Atlanta is open as are several nearby zoos and animal sanctuaries where you can see the animals and pet them. North Georgia Zoo and Animal Safari offer a variety of experiences involving farm and exotic animals. It is important to note that other places, such as the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo, Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary and Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, are under $20 or free.


There are several restaurants around town doing virtual cooking classes, such as Bellina Alimentari, which is hosting a virtual pasta making class Sept. 22, and has more classes on the schedule. The process is that participants go to the Ponce City Market restaurant and pick up an ingredient box (there is also a full meal option that includes wine, truffles and Caesar salad) and take it home for the virtual class. Bella Cucina in Buckhead is another store with cooking classes on its schedule as well as lifestyle classes.


The newly opened INDIEHOUSE Modern Fragrance Bar offers an afternoon of fun that ends with creating your own personal fragrance. The Alpharetta store stocks 42 independent brands and 150 individual scents from around the world. The INDIEHOUSE experience involves bellying up to the Mixing Bar and blending ingredients together until you create your own fragrance. INDIEHOUSE then bottles it, creates a custom label and name and you’re the next Coco Chanel. It also hosts DIY workshops with scent blending as well as group classes. The workshops are more expensive and cost $89 per person.

The Escape Game is a 60-minute adventure where participants start with a theme and then team up to solve puzzles and complete the mission. Groups of six or more receive 35 percent off bookings, and all bookings are private.


Like bowling, miniature golf is fun for all ages and skill levels. The Fringe at Area 51 is home to two 18-hole, family-friendly miniature golf course. It’s 45 minutes of fun. Pirate’s Cove in Duluth has 18-hole and 27-hole adventure courses, and on Mondays through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., it’s half price.


Escape the NETHERWORLD, is a series of exciting and challenging adventure games from the NETHERWORLD Haunted House team. At Escape the NETHERWORLD, the traditional escape room concept has a blood-curdling twist that gives visitors an hour full of thrills and chills. Guests can choose one of the four escape rooms including Tiki Island: Attack of the Shark God, Sasquatch: Bigfoot’s Revenge, Nosferatu: Van Helsing’s Secret or Haunted: Curse of the Night Hag. All bookings are private, and each game can accommodate up to eight persons.



Good Game powered by Topgolf Swing Suite provides endless opportunities for competitive fun. Good Game features Topgolf’s most advanced virtual golf and gaming simulator technology with a full slate of gaming options including Zombie dodgeball, soccer, hockey shots, baseball pitching and carnival classics. Although the cost starts at $55 an hour per bay, they frequently offer promotional discounts. Currently, it’s $20 per hour on Tuesdays.


Spend an afternoon — or a whole day — exploring the Beltline and eat your way through it. Start with coffee and then just walk around, wander into some shops, maybe grab some lunch or quick bites at Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Nina & Rafi, Hawkers, Two Urban Licks, Jai Ho, Rina, Lingering Shade or order some ice cream at Butter & Cream. As the day wears down, head over to Brasserie at Bazati for a glass of champagne and duck confit, or go upstairs to Estrella Rooftop for one of the best views of the city and a margarita and tacos. Don’t forget the beer, so drop by Orpheus, Monday Night, Best End, Wild Heaven and New Realm Brewing.


A demonstration lap, like the Kentucky Derby, is quick but exciting. Take a test drive in open-air vehicles such as the 911 Cabriolet and 718 Boxster.


You can literally eat your way around the world in Atlanta, but it’s better with experts. There are a number of food tours, such as Flavors of Atlanta, that introduce guests to copious restaurants and tell the stories behind them. For a cent under $100, Flavors of Atlanta offers a 3.5-hour Atlanta Food & Cocktail Tour that visits several intown restaurants while walking past landmarks, such as the Margaret Mitchell House.

Food Tours Atlanta offers food and history tours where you eat your way through Inman Park and Ponce City Market. The 2.5-mile walking tours, which are ADA compliant, involve five local restaurants, nine food tastings and one cocktail.