Atlanta, famed for being “The City in the Forest” has no shortage of outdoor areas to film in, and accessibility and rules for some of the area’s most iconic parks change all the time.
Here’s a look at some of Atlanta’s most popular public parks, with some information on shooting in each:
CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK:
Location: Downtown Atlanta
As indicated by the name, Centennial Olympic Park was created during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Supposedly one of the last public spaces designed for the Olympics, Centennial has become a jewel in Atlanta’s crown, a pocket of green space that attracts tourists to it’s popular interactive fountain, crowds to outdoor music events, and film crews for it’s distinct skyline and open spaces. Close to CNN and the Skyview Atlanta ferris wheel, it includes water features and open grassy spaces over its 21 acres.
Centennial park filming requires a permit issued by the City of Atlanta as well as any location fees negotiated with the city. Parking, once plentiful in private lots, has become much tighter with Atlanta’s intown resurgence, so reserve space in your budget to buy out a parking lot nearby.
Location: Midtown Atlanta
The green beating heart of Atlanta, Piedmont Park’s location at 14th Street puts it directly in the middle of the city and Atlanta’s intown boom. 189 acres of green space are encircled by the not only the city, but the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Piedmont Driving Club, a high-end golf club. Lake Clara Meer sits in the center of the park, with the Midtown skyline visible over the surrounding trees.
Piedmont Park also features tennis courts, softball and soccer fields, and extensive paved walking and cycling paths.
Piedmont is a popular festival venue, and shooting during events like the annual Dogwood Festival and Jazz Fest can make crew parking all but impossible; so it’s best to check the calendar if you’re thinking about this park. The wide array of looks available and the convenient access (including a fairly new parking deck) make up for the occasional schedule restrictions.
Location: City of Atlanta
“Grant Park” can refer to both the park itself and the Victorian neighborhood that surrounds it. Bounded on one side by Zoo Atlanta, the park itself is 131 acres, originally designed by the sons of Fredrick Law Olmstead, and is Atlanta’s oldest public park. The elaborate tombs of Oakland Cemetery are nearby, and the park has nearly year round green cover due to the extensive pines and live oaks in the park.
Grant Park does not have the developed sports facilities of Piedmont Park, but is untouchable as a romantic, historic location, particularly with the beautifully renovated homes that surround the park and many of the original stone walls still in place.
STONE MOUNTAIN PARK:
Not technically in Atlanta but in the nearby town of Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain Park is an interesting hybrid – a state park leased to a private concessionaire. The park itself is enormous – big enough to include it’s titular mountain, which is 5 miles in circumference, a covered bridge, a quarry exhibit, a 5-mile hiking trail, AND an amusement park – as well as an antebellum farm and a three-acre bas-relief carving. Oh, and there’s a cable car.
Most of the park is natural and managed by the park stewards to be as close to it’s original state as possible, with a great deal of trouble taken to protect native species and rock formations. The amusement park is a bit Dollywood-esque, with an emphasis on Southern folksiness. Stone Mountain lake surrounds the mountain on three sides, and is frequently used by paddleboarders, kayakers, and fishermen. There are posted rules about a limit of 10hp on boat motors, but I’ve seen filming there with larger powerboats so this can clearly be addressed in a permit.
The climb up trail to the summit of the mountain is amazing, especially over the last 200-300 feet, when you leave the tree line and scramble up bare rock; however the view of Atlanta is often obscured during the day by clouds or air pollution. Sunsets in any area of the park are spectacular.
Permits are required by both Stone Mountain Park and the City of Stone Mountain, which are two separate entities.
RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK:
The first taste of the Appalachians in Georgia, Red Top Mountain State Park is located near Cartersville, about an hour north of Atlanta. As filming discovers more of the small towns surrounding the city, counties like Bartow – which contains the park, and the towns of Cartersville, White, and Emerson have become locations, with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy 2, The Revised Fundamentals of Caring, and Manhunt filming in the area. The Cartersville City Commission has recently implemented a filming ordinance requiring a local film liasion and placing restrictions on filming around the holidays.
The Park itself is surrounded by the 12,000 acre Lake Allatoona, with several lookouts over the lake from hiking trails in the park, and is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. There’s a gravel mountain bike trail and even a small sand swimming beach, but the real attraction is the stunning fall foliage and lake views. There are also a number of granite and stone quarries in the area that have been used for filming.