Among the many reasons people relish living in metro Atlanta is the splendidness of spring, and what better way to shrug off winter blahs than attending one of the many festivals that mark the season.
Spring festivals get you outside to browse artist markets, let the kids burn off excess energy and let you hear some music, people watch, breathe some fresh air and maybe even indulge in a funnel cake.
This week we highlight 10 of the best metro fests coming this season and we also have a list of more spring gatherings around Atlanta and across the state.
Georgia Renaissance Festival
This is where laughter and turkey legs reign as costumed characters roam the 32-acre “kingdom” presided over by Henry VIII. The 28th Georgia Renaissance Festival gets under way April 13 and runs through June 2 in Fairburn. Besides knights in shining armor and maidens faire, entertainment awaits you, including unique shows and a World Bazaar full of elaborate treasures created by more than 150 artisans who demonstrate their crafts. Festival shows feature juggling, music, comedic storytelling and feats of physical skill. The Royal Petting Zoo and an array of unique medieval amusement park rides promise to thrill the entire family. And whatever you do, don’t miss the original extreme sport — the Jousting Tournament of Kings — and the magnificent high-flying Birds of Prey and Animal Show.
10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends and Memorial Day, April 13-June 2. $19.95; $17.95 senior citizens; $8.95 ages 6-12. Free parking. 6905 Virlyn B. Smith Road, Fairburn. 770-964-8575, www.garenfest.com.
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
The granddaddy of Atlanta spring festivals was started in 1936 by Walter Rich of Rich’s department store and has become one of the nicest promenades of the season in the region.
The festival attracts visitors from all over the Southeast to walk the shaded sidewalks in Piedmont Park looking for unique pieces of art, jewelry and handmade crafts. You also can take in nonstop music at the main stage and international stage. Country music star Sara Evans performs on the main stage Saturday night of the festival, with an opening concert by Kurt Thomas beginning at 7 p.m. Take MARTA to the Arts Center Station or the Midtown Station on 10th Street and walk east on 10th Street to the park. If you drive, look for pay lots along Juniper Street and take the free shuttle to the park.
Noon–9 p.m. April 19; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. April 20; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 21. Free. Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive N.E., Atlanta. 404-817-6642, www.dogwood.org.
Sweetwater 420 Fest
Part Earth Day celebration, part music festival and part bacchanal, the weekend-long 420 Fest in Candler Park takes its name from the Atlanta brewery Sweetwater’s best-selling 420 Pale Ale.
Performers this year include George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and Anders Osborne.
The Comedy Tent will play host to yucksters and workshops for wannabes. Planet 420 will house nonprofit and environmental organizations. No dogs allowed this year.
4:20-11 p.m. April 19, noon-10 p.m. April 20, 12:30 to 7 p.m. April 21. Free or $5 a day for a wristband for those older than 21 who plan to buy beer. Candler Park, 585 Candler Park Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-691-2537, sweetwater420fest.com.
Big Shanty Festival
Downtown Kennesaw is home to the 38th annual Big Shanty Festival, mixing the rich heritage of Kennesaw and the Civil War era with fun for all. Kids from the area’s sports associations and high school students create floats for the kickoff parade that starts at Adams Park and runs through downtown starting at 9:30 a.m. April 20. It features floats, high school bands, marchers and more than 1,000 youngsters representing every sport association in the area. Students from the Allatoona, Kennesaw Mountain, Kell and North Cobb high school bands are scheduled to march in this year’s parade. Some 70,000-plus attendees are expected at the event, which will feature more than 400 booths with arts and crafts, food vendors, merchants and live entertainment.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 20, noon-5 p.m. April 21. Free. Main Street, Kennesaw. Facebook: Kennesaw Big Shanty Festival, 770-423-1330, www.kennesawbusiness.org.
Inman Park Festival
“Atlanta’s best street festival” is this popular event’s claim, and there’s no question the historic intown neighborhood knows how to throw a spirited, eccentricity-embracing spring fling.
The quirky, fun Inman Park Festival parade (2 p.m. April 27) brings out all sorts of creative expression, with appearances by the Attache Case Drill Team, the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable and paraders dressed as butterflies (the neighborhood symbol), garden gnomes and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, which transplanted from New Orleans to Atlanta more than a decade ago.
The Krewe organizes the marching gnomes in pursuit of an elusive Guinness Book of World Records title. The record is held by a British gathering of 478 gnome-costumed apparent adults, but the Atlantans are undeterred. “Should we give up?” the Krewe website asks. “Never! Why do we throw our pointy red hats in the ring, year after year? Because it is ridiculously fun, and we are silly people!”
The juried Arts and Crafts Show and Street Market runs 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 27-28. The Tour of Homes, spotlighting a mix ranging from rambling Victorians to cozy bungalows, goes noon-4 p.m. April 26 and noon-6 p.m. April 27-28 ($15 advance; $20 at the fest). Three music stages crank out the sounds from late morning through the afternoon April 27-28, and a program of classical and contemporary dance unfolds in the Trolley Barn 4-5 p.m. both days. The Kidzone offers inflatables and arts and crafts and other diversions all weekend. Free. inmanparkfestival.org.
Smyrna Spring Jonquil Festival
Welcome back the floral harbingers of warm weather April 27-28 with a two-day outdoor event in the heart of Smyrna that celebrates food, music, art, hand-made crafts and entertainment. Staged outdoors on the Village Green in downtown Smyrna, the rain-or-shine festival will boast more than 175 artisans from throughout the Southeast who will show and sell paintings, jewelry, clothing and furniture.
The guilty pleasures of festival foods are on the menu, including cotton candy, candy apples, corn dogs, hand-dipped ice cream, snow cones, polish sausage, chicken sandwiches and barbecue.
The family-oriented event will include Peter Hall’s Atlanta Puppet Show and acoustic music from Scott Thompson. Activities begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with the Jonquil Jog, a 5K run/walk, but registration is required for the ticketed race; call 770-319-5401 or register online at www.smyrnacity.com. Later in the day patrons of the Jonquil Festival also may want to visit the Annual Crawfish & Shrimp Boil, presented both days by Atkins Park at the Smyrna Market Village, immediately adjacent to the Village Green.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 27, noon-5 p.m. April 28. 200 Village Green Circle, Smyrna. 770-434-6600, www.smyrnacity.com/index.aspx?page=15&recordid=3238.
Taste of Alpharetta
Satisfy every epicurean whim with tasty bites from more than 50 Alpharetta restaurants at Taste of Alpharetta. The 22-year tradition returns to the historic downtown at 2 S. Main Street, across from Alpharetta City Hall.
The May 9 event, traditionally held on a Thursday evening, is billed as the largest “taste of” festival in the Southeast, and food booths will line Milton Avenue, Canton Street, Old Canton Street and Old Roswell Street, offering samples from such restaurants as Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktail, Sage Woodfire Tavern, 5 Seasons North and Wildflour. There will be two music stages and an area for kids with inflatables and other entertainment.
Visitors can park at no cost and use the free shuttle. Admission to the rain-or-shine event is free and the restaurants will charge between 50 cents and $3 for samples. Patrons pay with tickets, which will be sold in sheets of 10 for $5 each. There will be competitions 5-7:30 p.m. between local chefs on the Culinary Stage in five categories, from appetizers through dessert.
5-10 p.m. May 9. 2 S. Main St., Alpharetta. 678-297-6078, www.alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=195.
Sweet Auburn Springfest 2013
This is the 29th year for the festival, which organizers said brings 350,000 people to the historic Sweet Auburn district. This year, a new trolley line is being built down Auburn Avenue and so organizers have moved the fun to John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, a block away.
The event takes place in one of the few older business districts of Atlanta that has not been rebuilt in the past half century. This year’s festival features music from more than 30 performers, ranging from pop-rock to holy hip hop. Highlights will include R&B singer Alix Lapri at 1:30 p.m. May 11 and Dunaire Elementary School’s Dynamic Dolphins, who performed recently at the White House, at 11 a.m. May 11. The festival includes food, arts and other vendors.
5–10 p.m. May 10; 11 a.m.–8 p.m. May 11; 2–8 p.m. May 12. Free. 678-683-5647, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sweetauburn.com/Springfest2013.html.
Barefoot in the Park Arts Festival
This Gwinnett County gathering gets a boost over many suburban arts festivals every spring from its primo site, the Duluth Town Green.
The ninth edition, May 11-12, presents more than 100 booths dotting the terraced lawn in the heart of the Duluth business district, a welcome setting for shopping, entertainment, grazing on festival food and people watching.
Barefoot in the Park is a showplace for Duluth and Gwinnett artists, craftspeople and performers. Entertainment this year will include everything from Irish dancers to Taiwanese drummers, with many Gwinnett dance ensembles and community music groups represented.
In addition to the Juried Fine Arts Market, there will be a new folk art component this year, along with the Children’s Art Park, a beer garden, wine tastings, classes and demonstrations.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 12. Free. 3142 Hill St., Duluth. 678-677-0172, www.barefootinthepark.org.
Decatur Arts Festival
This is the silver anniversary of the popular festival, which this year is expected to draw upward of 50,000 people to the historic town square to check out 168 artists and craftsmen as well as entertainment, food and family-friendly fun.
Shoppers can find everything from jewelry to ceramics, paintings and sculpture. Special activities for kids are planned, and if you want to test your comedic chops a comedy tent will feature local acts, improv and an open mic. Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins will perform on the bandstand mid-afternoon May 25.
There will be a Kidsfest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 25 at the Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore St.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 26. Free. 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. The festival is accessible by MARTA to Decatur station and there will be a bike valet service. www.decaturartsfestival.com.