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10 can't-miss spring festivals in metro Atlanta

Plus 14 more that are pretty cool, too


Winter is gone, but some people may still be hesitant about outdoor activities.

As pollen begins to coat everything outside a dingy yellow, it can be hard to get yourself to leave the house.

To convince you, we’ve compiled our annual list of can’t-miss spring festivals. These (mostly) outdoor events are so thrilling that you’ll temporarily forget that you’re hot and struggling to breathe.

More on spring festivals in Atlanta:

See headlines for SweetWater 420 Fest 2017 lineup 

The Atlanta Brunch Fest is back for 2017

What's a jonquil and why is Smyrna obsessed?

Atlanta Film Festival 

The Atlanta Film Festival has built a bridge between international artists and about 25,000 curious filmgoers every year for 41 years. Each spring, film enthusiasts congregate at local theaters and venues such as Plaza Theatre and Ponce City Market to watch as filmmakers screen their latest works and host discussions about the industry.

AJC freelancer Andrew Alexander reports that festival organizers culled more than 6,000 submissions down to the 191 films that will screen March 24-April 2. Among the documentaries, narrative features and short films that will be screened throughout Atlanta, 40 of them have Georgia connections.

The festival will kick off with the writing and directorial debut of actor Bill Watterson. The comedy “Dave Made a Maze” will screen at Plaza Theatre. The Atlanta Film Festival will conclude with a screening of “Menashe,” a U.S.-Israeli film from the same studio (A24 Films) responsible for the 2017 Oscars’ best picture winner, “Moonlight.”

This year’s lineup also includes a documentary about Beyonce fans (“Waiting for B.”), DreamWorks’ animated comedy about an infant (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who talks when his parents aren’t around (“The Boss Baby”) and a virtual reality short that explores the memory of a woman living with Alzheimer’s (“Traces”).

March 24-April 2. Screenings, $10-$12 (individual screenings), $50 (opening and closing screenings). Ten-day pass, including Atlanta Film Society membership, $75-$750. Various locations including Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. www.Atlantafilmfestival.com.

Atlanta Francophonie Festival

All month, the 18th annual Atlanta Francophonie Festival has been celebrating French culture, but the fun doesn’t end until March 31. There’s still plenty more to do.

Scenes from Leonore Confino’s “Ring” will be staged during a free program at Alliance Francaise on March 25. Additionally, free concerts from Swiss and Canadian musicians will be on display during free concerts at Agnes Scott College and Red Clay Theatre, respectively.

Times vary. Prices vary. Locations vary. francophonieatlanta.org.

Atlanta Dogwood Festival 

The Atlanta Dogwood Festival certainly has one of the most popular juried fine arts markets among the spring festivals in metro Atlanta.

For 81 years, the festival has offered an opportunity for attendees to peruse handmade jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures and more.

In addition to fine art, the three-day festival will offer an opportunity to hear live music from jam bands, blues and pop musicians, among others.

This year, the VIP section has been reimagined. Visit Brats and Brews on April 7-8 if you’re hoping to indulge in a snack and $2 beers while listening to live music. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the festival, if available.

Backyard Bites & Brews is a similar VIP experience, but this ticketed event features samples from local restaurants and breweries. Attendees will select the “Best Bites” during this event, which is held on April 8. Tickets are $30-$40. Backyard Brunch will serve as a treat for VIP attendees on the festival’s final day. Tickets are $30-$40 and include brunch and a mimosa.

The festival will cater to families on April 7, allowing attendees to purchase unlimited ride wristbands and receive discounts on food and drinks. Family Friday will also include fireworks (around 8:30 p.m.) and African dance lessons from the Alliance Theatre.

Other festival highlights include disc dog competition and the Mimosa 5K, an AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifier, on April 8.

Noon-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. April 7-9. Free admission. Piedmont Park, along 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta. www.Dogwood.org.

Georgia Renaissance Festival 

One of the best indications that spring has arrived in Atlanta is the Georgia Renaissance Festival. The annual festival provides an opportunity for local residents and visitors to have some festival fun medieval-style in Fairburn.

Jousting, balancing acts, juggling and hypnotists are just a few of the eclectic spectacles that can be seen at the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

In between roaming the festival grounds and witnessing live entertainment, dine on fried potatoes (or fried green beans), smoked turkey legs, kielbasa sausage or meat pies, among other tasty treats.

This year’s themed weekends include Time Warp Weekend (which also doubles as Pet Friendly Weekend and College Weekend). Held April 22-23, the fan-favorite weekend invites attendees to indulge in their cosplay or costume fantasies. Another noteworthy weekend is Kids Free Weekend (April 29-30), which doesn’t mean the festival will be free of children. Just the opposite, actually. Up to four kids will be admitted with one paid adult. Buy one ticket and get another one free during opening weekend (April 15-16). Just before the festival ends, Romance Weekend will host a “mass renewal of vows” (June 3-4).

10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Memorial Day. April 15-June 4. $19-$22, adults 13 and older; $8-$10, children 6-12; children 5 and younger free. 6905 Virlyn B. Smith Road, Fairburn. www.Garenfest.com. 

Sweetwater 420 Festival 

Athens-based band Widespread Panic and the Trey Anastasio Band will headline this year’s SweetWater 420 Fest in Centennial Olympic Park.

From Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue to Atlanta-based DJ Thrice Groove, the three-day festival will feature a variety of established and rising artists.

In addition to musical acts and comedians, who will perform during the three-day festival on four stages throughout Centennial Olympic Park, festivalgoers will also have access to festival favorites such as food trucks, arts and crafts and, of course, beer.

Interact with SweetWater brewers between sets and help collect recyclable trash during the festival to receive a “Dumpster Diver” shirt. The shirts are made from recycled plastic. Wear your new gear to the Planet 420 village, where attendees will celebrate Earth Day and learn how to be eco-friendly.

1-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday. April 21-23. $138 (three-day pass), $56-$66 (single-day pass). Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave., Atlanta. Sweetwater420fest.com.

Big Shanty Festival

About 60,000 people are expected to visit downtown Kennesaw for the Big Shanty Festival.

The festival will offer live entertainment, food from about 20 vendors and more than 200 arts and crafts booths.

Peter Hart will bring his interactive Atlanta Puppet Show back to the festival, contributing to a fun list of family-friendly activities such as inflatables and sand art during the two-day festival. In addition to Hart, other live entertainment will include escape artist Lady Houdini, Frisbee-catching K-9s, Walking TreeMan stilt walkers and more. Local musicians will perform in downtown Kennesaw’s new outdoor amphitheater during the festival, too.

The highlight of the festival will likely be the parade that helps to kick off the festivities at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the help of more than 2,000 participants, including students from North Cobb, Kennesaw Mountain, Allatoona and Kell High School marching bands. The parade route will begin at Adams Park and continue into downtown Kennesaw via Main Street.

9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. April 22-23. Free admission. Downtown Kennesaw, 2829 Cherokee St., Kennesaw. Kennesaw-ga.gov.

Smyrna Spring Jonquil Festival 

The Jonquil City hosts two festivals each year. The first one takes place in the spring.

The Smyrna Spring Jonquil Festival will feature about 175 artists booths highlighting the work of Southeast artisans who specialize in handmade crafts, paintings, jewelry and various other art forms.

Browse and purchase handmade art before indulging in traditional festival fare such as cotton candy, corn dogs and snow cones from 15 food vendors.

Lady Houdini, those energetic K-9s and Walking TreeMan will participate in this festival, providing entertainment one week after appearing at Kennesaw’s Big Shanty Festival.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. April 29-30. Free admission. Village Green, 2800 King St., Smyrna. Smyrnacity.com.

Inman Park Festival 

One of the most anticipated spring festivals in metro Atlanta, the Inman Park Festival features an eclectic parade and a Tour of Homes to keep attendees entertained between trips to the juried arts and crafts show. The festival grew out of the Tour of Homes, which was created nearly five decades ago to showcase suburban life and historic homes. More than eight homes, including four that have never been open to the public, will be open for touring during this event. The Inman Park Methodist Church will once again participate in the Tour of Homes this year.

The annual parade will take place on April 29, but a two-day dance festival will provide indoor entertainment for families on both days of the festival inside the Trolley Barn. Dancers from Emory University, Atlanta Ballet Centre Theatre and the Georgia Ballet will participate.

The event is organized by a group of volunteers with the Inman Park Neighborhood Association, and proceeds from the 46th Inman Park Festival and Tour of Homes will benefit the local suburb.

Tour of homes preview: noon-4 p.m. April 28. Tour of Homes: noon-6 p.m. April 29-30. Festival: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 29-30. Free admission for festival. Tour of Homes, $15-$20. Various locations. Inmanparkfestival.org.

Sweet Auburn SpringFest 

The 33rd annual Sweet Auburn SpringFest is expected to once again highlight international cuisine, while offering an opportunity for families to hear local and national musicians of various ages and genres, along the streets of the Historic Auburn Avenue District.

Tens of thousands of people packed the streets of downtown Atlanta, causing detours and traffic congestion, during last year’s festival. This year, organizers are providing live entertainment as an incentive for taking the Streetcar into the festival and avoiding some of the traffic.

In addition to providing an opportunity for attendees to zip-line, shop, listen to live music and dine on food from a variety of cultures, Sweet Auburn SpringFest also serves as a chance for local residents and tourists to commemorate the cultural value of the historic district.

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday. May 13-14. Free admission. Historic Auburn Avenue District, 230 John Wesley Dobbs Ave., Atlanta. Sweetauburn.com.

Decatur Arts Festival 

Spanning throughout downtown Decatur, the three-day Decatur Arts Festival offers an opportunity for attendees of all ages to take in varied art forms. More than 150 artists from all over the Southeast are expected to participate in the Artists Market.

The festival kicks off on May 26 with an Artwalk that allows participants to explore downtown Decatur while indulging in art and complimentary food at local shops and galleries.

Other noteworthy events at this festival include the two-day silent auction (May 27-28), the annual Friends of the Decatur Library book sale (May 27) and a daylong Kids Arts Festival, featuring a parade, inflatables, clowns and, of course, art (May 27).

5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. May 26-28. Free admission. Downtown Decatur, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. Decaturartsfestival.com.

Atlanta Science Festival

March 14-25. Prices vary. Various locations. Atlantasciencefestival.org.

Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. March 25-26. Free admission. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta. brookcherryfest.org.

Festival on Ponce

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. April 1-2. Free admission. Olmsted Linear Park, 1788 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. Free. festivalonponce.com.

Woodruff Arts Center Family Festival

1-4 p.m. April 9. Free admission. Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. woodruffcenter.org.

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. April 15-16. Free admission. 6100 Lake Forrest Drive, Sandy Springs. sandyspringsartsapalooza.com.

Chastain Park Arts Festival

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. May 6-7. Free admission. Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. chastainparkartsfestival.com.

Snellville Days Festival

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. May 6-7. Free admission. Briscoe Park, 2500 Sawyer Parkway, Snellville. snellvilledays.org.

Mableton Day

8 a.m.-4 p.m. May 13. Free admission. Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, 5239 Floyd Road, Mableton. Mabletonday.com.

Suwanee Art in the Park

10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 13. Free admission. Town Center, 300 Town Center Ave., Suwanee. http://ngaa4arts.com/events/arts-in-the-park/.

Dunwoody Arts Festival

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. May 13-14. Free admission. Dunwoody Village Parkway, 1449 Dunwoody Village Parkway, Atlanta. dunwoodyartfestival.com.

Barefoot in the Park Arts Festival

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 13-14. Free admission. Buford Town Park, 2200 Buford Highway, Buford. barefootinthepark.org.

Kirkwood Spring Fling

10 a.m.-8 p.m. May 20. Free admission. Bessie Branham Park, 2051 Delano Drive, Atlanta. kirkwoodfling.com.

Canton Festival of the Arts

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. May 20-21. Free admission. Historic Downtown Canton, 94 North St., Canton. cherokeearts.org/festival.

Alpharetta Arts Streetfest

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Monday. May 27-29. Free admission. Milton Avenue and Main Street, Alpharetta. alpharetta.ga.us.

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