Atlantans love their dogs. It’s hard to throw a pint glass without hitting some trendy little pet-accommodating bistro, regardless of where you are in town. Still, don’t forget the leash — that’s the caveat. That being said, there are plenty of perfect, fido-friendly play spaces where your woofer-doodles can get some exercise, socialize, sniff things… you know. Dog stuff.
Oh, here are a couple of notes: the City of Atlanta has an ordinance that says dogs have to be leashed when in public (the following spots are all exceptions). Also, clean up after your beast. The city can actually levy a pretty substantial fine if you’re caught offending either of these rules. Plus, it’s just good manners.
Located in the heart of Piedmont Park, the Piedmont Dog Park offers three acres for dogs to run free, without the need for a leash (divided up into two areas: one for dogs that are more than 30 pounds, and dogs who are less than 30). The trails and landscaping are pretty meticulously maintained, there are some restrooms close by (for humans, anyway), as well as a smattering of water spigots for your pet. Hit up this place on the weekends, especially — the King of Pops makes an appearance with frozen treats for humans and special ones just for doggies. By far, this is the most central — and popular — dog park in Atlanta. There’s not a lot of shade, so drink plenty of water.
Half dog park, half bistro. It was only a matter of time before someone got the bright idea to combine the two, and at ParkGrounds, it works out great: your dog gets to play with his or her friends while you grab a bite — they have a great Cuban sandwich — and knock out some work on strong WiFi. Oh, and they have a full liquor license, so they also serve up beer, wine, and cocktails.
Neighborhood: Castleberry Hill
Around the time this small enclave got really popular, some concerned citizens had a thought — the cost of living in some sweet pieces of historic loft property means that our pups need a place to get some exercise. So in 2010, the City of Atlanta donated Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association a two-acre parcel of land on which they would set up the only off-leash dog park in all of the Downtown areas. Plenty of clean space for pets to run free, fresh wood chips to roll around in, and some sweet ornamental fencing created by local Castleberry artists.
Neighborhood: South Atlanta (Lakewood Avenue)
If you live south of I-20 and don’t feel the need to head into Midtown, there’s actually a pretty sweet spot that’s off the beaten trail for dog owners (this one is just near Aaron’s Amphitheatre). There are plenty of trees that provide some relief from a hot summer’s day, a few huge boulders scattered about for some back-to-nature fun, and the view is beautiful — it’s on top of a hill and grants a lovely view of a lake. Oh, and there are separate spaces for big dogs and small ones.
For Decatur residents, the choice is Adair (especially for medium-sized dogs — there’s only one enclosure) where there are rolling hills and flat spaces alike, fresh water, and plenty of shade trees. Plus, it’s only a few blocks to the west of downtown Decatur, so it’s super central.
Neighborhood: Old Fourth Ward
You get it? Because it’s on Freedom Parkway. Ah, puns. For real though, this park is darned cute, and the people who maintain it are fiercely proud — if you’re looking for a dog park that doubles as a social group, there’s hardly a better choice (T-shirts are for sale, and they have parties throughout the year). As for the park itself, there are two acres for dogs to run about, and while there’s not a huge abundance of shade, check in, especially if you live nearby — improvements to this little patch of land are taking place all the time, courtesy of donations by pet-minded locals.
If you’ve been around east Atlanta enough, you have hopefully discovered Oakhurst, the charming, historic neighborhood with the tiny, super-cool downtown (just next door to Decatur). There’s a clean, wide-open dog park here, too, far (enough) from the skyscrapers and traffic. Plus, it’s usually frequented by Oakhurst-ers, who are a notoriously friendly bunch. Just one thing: if you have a particularly big or small dog, keep in mind that there is only one enclosure.
Neighborhood: Old Fourth Ward
As Old Fourth Ward has been rocketing in popularity over the last few years, the construction of this newer park was inevitable: every other dog haven is just a little too far from O4W to be an easy walk. Located at Central Park, this is actually one of the larger parks on this list: at 5.5 acres (with separate enclosures for different sizes of dog), it’s been custom-scaped with pooches in mind — there are fountains, plenty of trees, and there’s way more than enough space to throw a tennis ball at top strength.
While it’s not uncommon to see some four-legged friends trotting about Buckhead on a leash, there actually aren’t too many nearby areas that are designated for off-leash fun. Just to the northeast of Buckhead’s main sprawl, however, is Brookhaven Park (just off Peachtree), which has a lovely fenced-in space just a few minutes’ drive away from some of North Atlanta’s most popular neighborhoods.