In Atlanta and its surrounding towns, the 4th of July revolves around four things: music, food, fireworks, and the Peachtree Road Race.
You might wonder at the appeal of a 10k race in Hot ‘Lanta on the 4th of July, but 50,000 participants and crowds of spectators love the Peachtree race. If you want to see it or take part, get there by the time the sun rises, or forget it. Don’t even think about parking. In fact, for the entire 4th downtown, don’t think about parking. Take MARTA. It will be crowded, but trust me, you’re better off, and on the 4th the trains will start running at 5 AM.
Wheelchair races come first, at 6:55 AM,and then the road race hits the street at 7:30 AM. Every kind of runner comes, from amateur to champion, and they all run their hearts out. And what do they get for it?
A t-shirt. Well, that,possible heat-stroke, and an indelible memory.
After the race, comes food. Picnics or barbeques in Stone Mountain park, in family backyards, or at any of the many parks scattered all over Metro are the main attraction, but plenty of area restaurants and bars will be offering specials, too, and every celebration spot will be crawling with food and beverage vendors offering funnel cakes, burgers, hot dogs, beer, and plenty of Cocoa-Cola, Atlanta’s pride and joy.
As for music and fireworks, they tend to go together. Atlanta has three major 4th of July celebration spots every year: Lenox Square, Stone Mountain, and Centennial Park.
Lenox Square is the oldest of these three, and for years it was the only place to be on the 4th in Atlanta. Following the Peachtree Road Race, everybody flocked to Lenox, and many, many people still do. In fact, if you choose this celebration, don’t wait til things get started about 5:30 PM or so to get there. Get there early, and don’t plan to leave, because you won’t be able to get out of the parking lot. Take MARTA, or find a side street and watch the fireworks and listen to the music from there.
Centennial Park is lately giving Lenox a run for its money for downtown celebrations. Here, it’s an all-day affair with emphasis on music, children’s activities, lots of food and beverage vendors, and morning to night fun. Again, parking will be basically non-existant, so if you don’t live near the park, take MARTA.
Outside of downtown, many people think Stone Mountain is the place to be, especially in the evening for the laser show and the fireworks display, which will turn your head around. Why not bring a picnic and enjoy the park for the afternoon, then settle in for patriotic tunes, laser insanity, and a spectacular color and sound explosion when the fireworks take off from both the base and the top of the already amazing Stone Mountain? And best of all, the only cost for this show is the small parking fee for your car.
Of course, if you don’t want to fight all that traffic and you still want music, fireworks, and all the rest, Marietta, Alpharetta, Roswell, and every other town in metro Atlanta has their own 4th of July blowout. Most years, we stay right here in Marietta, with music and fireworks that are mind-blowing enough for us on the Square. Even in our town, though, it’s better not to wait til the last minute. At least once, we’ve ended up watching the fireworks from our house a couple of miles from the square because we could not get through the traffic to get there. Mid-afternoon is probably a good time to start, and just stroll around and enjoy the sights wherever you are til the big activity begins.