Family fun, on a budget, is still possible in Atlanta! A day out with the kids doesn’t have to break the bank. While there are well-known attractions at Stone Mountain that you pay for, there’s some hidden gems that are absolutely FREE! These are the BEST Free Things To Do At Stone Mountain Park and I promise they’re fun for everyone in the family. As a bonus, you’ll actually want to come back to these spots again because they’re that good.
Technically, Stone Mountain is a huge rock that sits 16 miles east of Atlanta. On a clear day, you can see the Atlanta skyline at the top of Stone Mountain or vice versa if you’re in a tall city building. The mountain is most famous for its rock carving of 4 Confederate Generals.
There’s a small amusement park inside of Stone Mountain Park, but there’s also a ton of recreational activities and seasonal festivals (The Pumpkin Festival is our favorite). In total, there are 15 miles of hikes that vary in difficulty. Plus, there’s two 18-hole golf courses.
Families are probably most familiar with the amusement side of Stone Mountain Park, but there’s plenty of free fun to be found too!
Stone Mountain Park: Best Free Things To Do With Kids
So here’s the kicker – all of these actives are absolutely free once you’re inside the park. However, Stone Mountain Park charges a parking fee. Guests can either pay the daily parking fee of $20 per vehicle or the annual fee of $40 (which seems like a steal if you visit regularly).
Pedestrians and bicyclists can access the park for free through the South Woods Gate. Bring some family friends to split the parking fee or consider paying the annual fee if these activities look like something your family would do regularly.
The Grist Mill
This is my favorite spot! It’s a rare thing when a kid doesn’t love a spot where they can splash around in water. The Grist Mill area is shady and has plenty of picnic tables nearby. It’s a great place to have lunch and let the kids splash and explore! Plus, it’s a shaded spot where you can easily cool off from the Atlanta heat.
I recommend some kind of kids water shoes because the rocks do get slippery. As a parent, it’s a lovely and tranquil way to relax while the kids play.
This bridge originally stood over the Oconee River in Athens, GA in 1891. You can drive over this bridge, or park nearby and use the pedestrian walkway on the left of the bridge. We like to stand at the middle of the bridge and watch the boats, kayaks and paddleboards go by underneath!
Technically not free, but super cheap, you can rent your own kayak or float. The floats are $10 each and the kayak rentals are $20 each from Stone Mountain Adventures. But watching for free is absolutely fun too.
The Quarry Exhibit
Stone Mountain granite has been used all over the world. Throughout the years, 7,645,700 cubic feet of granite were removed from the mountain. Previously an active quarry, The Quarry Exhibit is an interesting outdoor display of how the granite was quarried and shipped to other locations.
Samples of different rocks are presented as well as boards showing the symbiotic relationship between the mountain and the plants & animals that live in and around it.
Kids will enjoy checking out the different rock samples and observing their differences while recognizing the effort that it took to remove the granite.
Stone Mountain Nature Trails To Hike
If your family needs a little motivation to get out and exercise, the nature trails are one of the best free things to do at Stone Mountain Park! The trails are various lengths and levels of difficulty, so you can find one that’s right for your family. The trails traverse approximately 15 miles of Stone Mountain Park.
There are two trails that I always recommend for families. The Nature Garden Trail is an easy 3/4 mile hike and the Songbird Habitat Trail is also great (see more information below).
Songbird Habitat and Trail
This area was created as the venue for the 1996 Olympic archery and cycling competition. Now it’s a songbird habitat! There is a meadow trail as well as a woods trail; both are one mile each and have a variety of plant life and food that attracts the birds. Dogs are not allowed on this trail, but kids love to see the bird habitats. Bring some binoculars if you want to stop for birding.
Historical and Environmental Education Center
It’s unbelievable, but some guests come to Stone Mountain Park and miss out on the exhibits in Confederate Hall because they’re somewhat hidden. It’s one of the best free things to do in Stone Mountain Park!
Inside is the Historical & Environmental Education Center and it’s pretty awesome. My son spent a lot of time with the interactive exhibits focusing on geology and ecology. The exhibits also provides information about Stone Mountain throughout the ages and the various peoples who called it home.
It’s also air conditioned, so this could be a good restorative stop for your family as well. In another area of Confederate Hall they sometimes offer programs, like reptile and bird talks that are designed for kids. Check the event calendar for more details.
The Walk-Up Trail
This is the most popular of the free things to do at Stone Mountain Park. It’s like a rite of passage. Follow the one mile trail up the mountain to get to an amazing view from the top of Stone Mountain. While the trail is just one mile, there are some very steep spots.
Children can absolutely do this but you might have to make plenty of rest stops. There are no water fountains on the trail, so be sure to fill up your bottles before you start. Dogs are allowed on this trail (with a leash). You’ll find restrooms, water fountains and a snack bar at the top of the mountain. In addition, there are sky cars that you can take back down for a fee if you decide you are done hiking.
The Stone Mountain Playground
This playground has been upgraded over the years and is one of the best in Atlanta now. Kids can spend hours playing on this playground and there’s great shaded spots for parents to watch.
Plus, there are picnic pavilions, shady benches, restrooms and water fountains. There are two playground areas within this site; one is geared toward younger kids. The one designed for older kids is pretty amazing.
There is also a long field in the enclosed area where older kids can run and play games such as soccer. Parking is plentiful.
Stone Mountain Great Lawn and Laser Show
You can’t go to Stone Mountain without seeing the laser show at least once! End your day of exploring free things to do at Stone Mountain Park with a picnic on the Great Lawn. Spend some time relaxing with your family while you take in the giant carving on the mountain.
If the Laser Show is in season, get comfortable and stay into the evening. The show is projected right onto the face of the mountain. The Laser Show is included in the $20 park entrance fee. Bring your own snacks and drinks to watch the show.
Spending the day at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t have to break the bank. Once you pay the park’s $20 entrance fee (that’s per vehicle, NOT per person) you can experience all of the above activities for FREE! Pack picnics and stay for the day. Your family will get to explore and discover together without stressing out over the price tag.