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posted: 1/3/2014 5:30 AM

5 free things to do on your next trip to Atlanta

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  • A couple enjoys a sunny afternoon against the backdrop of the Midtown skyline from Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The nearly 200-acre green space in Midtown gives Atlanta residents and visitors a tranquil setting to picnic, play games, walk their dogs and relax in the meadow or along the shores of Lake Clara Meer.

      A couple enjoys a sunny afternoon against the backdrop of the Midtown skyline from Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The nearly 200-acre green space in Midtown gives Atlanta residents and visitors a tranquil setting to picnic, play games, walk their dogs and relax in the meadow or along the shores of Lake Clara Meer.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Visit the grave of "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell in historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Some of the most famous residents are Mitchell and golf legend Bobby Jones, as well as rows and rows of Confederate soldiers. You can do a self-guided tour at any time, or guided overview tours and special topic twilight tours are available every weekend between mid-March and mid-October.

      Visit the grave of "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell in historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Some of the most famous residents are Mitchell and golf legend Bobby Jones, as well as rows and rows of Confederate soldiers. You can do a self-guided tour at any time, or guided overview tours and special topic twilight tours are available every weekend between mid-March and mid-October.
    Associated Press

  • Shoppers pass through the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, which is now an urban farmers market that provides a lively atmosphere for browsing and grabbing lunch.

      Shoppers pass through the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, which is now an urban farmers market that provides a lively atmosphere for browsing and grabbing lunch.
    Associated Press

  • A couple walks along the Atlanta BeltLine as the midtown skyline stands in the background in Atlanta. The Atlanta BeltLine is an urban redevelopment project that aims to turn an old 22-mile railroad corridor that rings the city's in-town neighborhoods into a network of trails, parks, affordable housing and, eventually, transit.

      A couple walks along the Atlanta BeltLine as the midtown skyline stands in the background in Atlanta. The Atlanta BeltLine is an urban redevelopment project that aims to turn an old 22-mile railroad corridor that rings the city's in-town neighborhoods into a network of trails, parks, affordable housing and, eventually, transit.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Tourists visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached in Atlanta.

      Tourists visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached in Atlanta.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, offers free tours of King's birth home in the Sweet Auburn historic district in Atlanta.

      The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, offers free tours of King's birth home in the Sweet Auburn historic district in Atlanta.
    Associated Press

  • A visitor looks at the crypts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, which sit in the middle of a reflecting pool outside The King Center in Atlanta. A few steps away, visitors can walk through Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors.

      A visitor looks at the crypts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, which sit in the middle of a reflecting pool outside The King Center in Atlanta. A few steps away, visitors can walk through Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
By Kate Brumback
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Many people who visit Atlanta for the hundreds of conventions the city hosts each year never make it out of the few blocks around their hotels. But the city has much more to offer, and some attractions are even free.

Atlanta is a diverse, cosmopolitan city that is home to major corporations' headquarters, world-class cultural institutions and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs. It has a rich cultural and political history, plus parks and trails to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy during the many months of the year when Atlanta's latitude makes it pleasant to be outside. Here are five free things to do and see on your next trip to Atlanta.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site

The historic site is operated by the National Park Service. A film and an exhibition of photos, text and video clips in the visitor's center give a comprehensive overview of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership role. Up the street is the home where King was born. Tours of the birth home are free but must be reserved in person the day of the tour at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The crypts of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit in the middle of a reflecting pool outside The King Center. A few steps away, visitors can walk through Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors.

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Nearby lies the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which was a major economic, cultural and political center for African-American life for the first half of the 20th century, before a major highway bisected the neighborhood and decades of urban decline followed. Originally known as the Municipal Market, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market is now an urban farmers market that provides a lively atmosphere for browsing and grabbing lunch. Stalls run by butchers feature pigs' ears and feet, oxtails and many other animal parts and cuts of meat stacked neatly in trays behind glass. Produce vendors offer heaping stacks of collard greens, turnips and other seasonal produce. Prepared food stands offer a wide variety of lunch options, but it's fun to browse whether or not you buy.

The Beltline

The Atlanta BeltLine is a redevelopment project that aims to turn an old 22-mile railroad corridor that rings the city's in-town neighborhoods into a network of trails, parks, affordable housing and, eventually, transit. So far, only the 2.2-mile Eastside Trail has opened, with skyline views and regularly changing public art installations providing added scenery for those who walk, bike and jog along the path.

Piedmont Park

Sitting at one end of the BeltLine's completed Eastside Trail is Piedmont Park. Like New York's Central Park, the nearly 200-acre green space in Midtown gives Atlanta residents and visitors a tranquil setting to picnic, play games, walk their dogs and relax in the meadow or along the shores of Lake Clara Meer. The park also hosts major city events, like the Dogwood Festival in April and the Music Midtown festival in September, and the finish line of the annual 10K Fourth of July Peachtree Road Race.

Oakland Cemetery

The graves of dozens of Atlanta mayors and six Georgia governors, as well as the rich and poor of different races and different religions dot the gentle hills of Oakland Cemetery. Some of the most famous residents are "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell and golf legend Bobby Jones, as well as rows and rows of Confederate soldiers. Despite the surrounding busy streets and the clanking and beeping from the adjacent freight rail terminal, the 48-acre cemetery feels calm and peaceful. Self-guided tours are free whenever the cemetery is open.

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