Atlanta is a fun city. While I lived there for two years, I never ran out of fun things to do. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Music! Atlanta has some of the best live music around. My favorite places were clubs with small jazz bands performing, and open mike events. Many people who grow up in Georgia have a lot of musical talent because they are exposed to so much good music all of the time. Don't write them off just because you have never heard of them before. The radio is also exceptional. In addition to playing great music, many of the DJs educate the audience about the music they are playing and of course announce musical events. For a special treat, go to a Morehouse or Spelman concert. (Their combined Christmas Concert, which is free, is the best concert I have been to. Ever.) The Atlanta Symphony is also excellent, though a little pricier. I always saved them for concerts featuring Southern music. I have never heard Porgy and Bess performed quite like they did it. Amazing.
2. Painting pottery. In every town I live in, I try to find the ways that people creatively express themselves...since I am not musical, I went looking for a different form of artistic expression for myself. For its size, I was surprised by how small the visual arts scene was and by how few visual artists worked there. However, I ultimately discovered pottery painting. While I will definitely categorize this as a craft rather than an art, it is a creative outlet, and there are a lot of pottery painting studios in Atlanta. At these places, you purchase a pre-molded piece of pottery that has gone through its first firing. Paints, glaze and studio time are usually included in the price of the pottery piece, and a lot of studios let you bring in refreshments and take your time enjoying the evening while you paint (check with the studio before doing this though). Sometimes multiple sessions are required to finish a piece, but that just makes the fun last longer. This is great way to kick back with friends after a long and stressful week.
3. Hiking. Stone Mountain is a fun place to hike and the head of the Appalachian Trail is not too far outside of Atlanta. Those two places afford some excellent hiking and some glimpses of wildlife.
4. Civil War reenactments. There is more passion about the Civil War in the South than is held among all Americans about the wars in the Middle East. Civil war reenactments are one of those culturally distinct, must-not-miss experiences that is required of everyone even stopping by in the South.
5. High Museum. This is a small but reasonably good art museum. They have excellent student rates and are generous in extending them to minimally qualified patrons. The exhibits are just big enough to be satisfying to art aficionados, and small enough to not overwhelm everyone else.
6. Bar-B-Que. Atlanta has a lot of good Bar-B-Que places. You can smell their smokers from miles away. Find one that smells especially good and give it a try.
7. Looking at the stuff in the backs of trucks. This sounds weird, but it is seriously wonderful...I have seen civil war cannons, confederate flags flying proudly, restaurant sized stand mixers, strange produce, animals, shirtless men, boiled peanuts....it is always lots of fun to see what is trucking down the freeways.
8. Cinema. There are some very good theaters showing strange indie films. At first I didn't appreciate how great they were, but when I was visiting family over the holidays, everyone was impressed with my hip repertoire of strange film recommendations.
9. Shopping. This is a guilty pleasure of all seasoned Atlantans, but the shopping is soooo amazing and there is so much of it. Hit the high-end designer fashion stores regularly and you can find amazing sales that actually make the clothes affordable. There are also surprising affordable housewares, furniture, and antiques. Most American made furniture is produced in the South, so the variety there is great, the quality excellent and the prices reasonable.
10. CDC museum. It is wonderful and free and you can learn about disease eradication, the seat belt campaign and other impressive public health efforts while you are there. The CDC educational staff has a wonderfully warped but understated sense of humor that makes hearing all of that science-y stuff a purely joyful experience.
11. Braves Game. I am not a baseball fan, but this is seriously a lot of fun. The sport is entertaining, but there is a show going on besides that....Blue Angels fly-over, waving battle-axes, crazy cheers from the audience, interesting scoreboard animations, people watching...it is a wonderful outing. Get onion rings at The Varsity afterwards....
12. CNN studio tours. It is interesting to see how the news is made. You can explore downtown Atlanta afterwards and underground Atlanta.
Enjoy these activities in September and many of them all year long as well.