Looking for a free or cheap activity for a date or family outing? Head to the Fernbank Science Center — which is one of a handful of ALWAYS FREE museums around metro Atlanta.
Of special interest: FREE sky-viewing at the observatory on Thursday and Friday nights. Scroll down for details!
The Science Center has both FREE admission and free parking, all the time. The only thing you’ll pay for is the planetarium shows — and they are very affordable for most people.
Don’t confuse the Fernbank Science Center with the flashier Fernbank Museum of Natural History!
It’s a common mistake, but the two are very different — and only one is free, while the other has a substantial admission price. The two are located in the same general area of Atlanta (the Druid Hills neighborhood) but are a couple of miles apart, with the Fernbank Woods between them.
In addition to its Exhibit Hall, the Fernbank Science Center also includes a planetarium where you can see star shows for just a few bucks and an observatory that is open to the public on a weekly basis.
Exhibit Hall hours
Summer hours are:
- Monday through Wednesday — 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday and Friday — 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Saturday — 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sunday — CLOSED
NOTE: Hours vary throughout the year. If you’re looking at this during the school year, please confirm hours of operation on Fernbank’s website before your visit.
The Fernbank Science Center is located at 156 Heaton Park Dr., in the 30307 zip code of Atlanta.
The Exhibit Hall has a focus on nature, the environment, dinosaurs, astronomy, and space exploration.
Here are brief descriptions of the highlights — everything is FREE, unless otherwise noted.
The Apollo 6 Command Module
See the actual command module from the unmanned Apollo 6 mission, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 4, 1968!
The module is on loan from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, so don’t miss it. It is one of the most impressive exhibits you’ll see among the free museums in Atlanta.
Live Animal Exhibit
View unusual insects and reptiles that include poison dart frogs, snakes, turtles, spiders, and more. The animals on display demonstrate the amazing diversity of the natural world.
Fernbank Science Center regularly holds free and low-cost events that are perfect for kids and families. You can view the science center’s full calendar online for more information on special events.
If you’ve ever seen a planetarium show, you know what an immersive experience it is — the wonders of the universe are on full display all around you, with no interference from the city lights.
The Fernbank planetarium features a 500-seat theater with a 70-foot dome, onto which the star shows are projected with state-of-the-art technology. It is one of the largest planetariums in the U.S.
You can buy tickets for the planetarium shows 30 minutes before each scheduled show.
View the planetarium schedule
Planetarium show prices:
- Adults — $10
- Students (age 3 – 18) — $5
- Seniors (62+) — $5
Planetarium shows are approximately 30 minutes long. If you’re bringing kids, make sure everyone visits the bathroom before the show starts, because there is no re-entry if you leave.
Family programs are suitable for kids under 10 years of age. Other programs are designed for kids over the age of 10, as well as adults.
Planetarium deals and discounts
There are a few ways to save money on planetarium shows at the Fernbank Science Center.
- If you’re an employee of the Dekalb County School System, your admission is FREE.
- If you belong to the Planetary Society, your admission is FREE.
- If you have a membership to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, your admission is FREE.
- If you belong to the ASTC Travel Passport Program, your admission is FREE (some exclusions apply).
- If you’re active or retired military, you qualify for a discount at the door.
If you’d like to see the real night sky, Fernbank also has observatory viewing that is free and open to the public.
Each Thursday and Friday, when weather conditions are favorable, you can view the night sky through the museum’s telescope. Viewing starts around 9:00 p.m. and usually goes to 10:30 p.m.
An astronomer is on hand to position the telescope, tell you what you’re looking at, and answer questions. The Fernbank Observatory features the largest telescope in the southeastern United States.
NOTE: The observatory will open only when there is a clear view of the night sky. Please call 678-874-7102 between 8:30 PM and 9:00 PM on the night of your planned visit for observatory updates.