Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta has long been a favorite destination of my family. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl and learned early that there were plenty of free things to do at Stone Mountain!
While my kids love the attractions that require a ticket fee such as Sky Hike, mini-golf and the soon-to-be-closing Dinosaur Explore exhibit, sometimes it’s necessary to spend a low-key day out in nature, exploring at will. My youngest and I set out to discover all the free things at Stone Mountain Park that we could find!
There is a $15 daily parking/entrance fee; an annual parking pass is available for $40.
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!
I would advise some kind of 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!
The Quarry Exhibit
Stone Mountain granite has been used all over the world. 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.
Hiking / Nature Trails
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.
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.
Historical and Environmental Education Center
Y’all, I’ve been coming to this park for over thirty years and I have never poked my head in Confederate Hall. Shameful, I know. 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 gave 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. That day, we learned we had just missed a reptile and amphibian talk.
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 before you start. 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.
This playground has definitely been upgraded since we’d last been here. My son would have stayed here forever but it was already starting to get dark and I had to pull him with a promised that we would make this a must-stop on our next visit.
There are picnic pavilions and 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. My son is nine and obsessed with the show American Ninja Warrior. He used the playground as his own personal course and kept asking me to time him as he navigated all the obstacles.
There is also a long field in the enclosed area where older kids can run and play games such as soccer. Parking is plentiful.
The Great Lawn and Laser Show
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 $15 park entrance fee.
Spending the day at Stone Mountain Park doesn’t have to break the bank. Once you pay the park’s $15 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.