Athens is a quaint and historic town in northeast Georgia. Famous for housing the University of Georgia, this college town has developed a unique music scene and a diverse artistic community. With all its distinctive character, there are tons of things to do in Athens, Georgia. Take in the history and colonial architecture, browse the antique shops, enjoy the city’s parks and gardens, or explore the rich cultural scene—Athens is yours to discover.
Athens is a city with many historical references to the Civil War. The Antebellum Trail is a 100-mile long walk that traverses seven historic Georgian communities, including Athens, which keeps its original and unique southern architecture. If you want to explore the civil war architecture and history further, pay a visit to the T.R.R. Cobb House museum. The house is located in downtown Athens, and its museum provides an authentic example of the antebellum architecture that was so common in this part of the country.
Athens is primarily a college town, and much of the city’s growth has been due to the University of Georgia. For that reason alone, the campus is worth a visit. More than that, the campus features stunning neoclassical architecture and lovely gardens. Make sure you visit the famous Arch, an 1857 representation of the architectural elements of the Great Seal of the state of Georgia. Look at the Arch, but don’t pass through it! Tradition holds that students at the University of Georgia may not pass through the Arch until they earn a diploma from the school.
Athens has a long history of producing world-renowned bands like the B-52s, R.E.M., and Widespread Panic. To this day, the city remains a mecca for music lovers; live music plays almost every night of the week somewhere in the city. From rock, jazz, hip-hop to blues, indie and classical, you'll be sure to find your favorites. If you visit in June, make sure you check out AthFest, the city’s biggest music and arts festival featuring local, regional, and national music acts.
Athens is home to the State Botanic Gardens of Georgia, affiliated with the University of Georgia. The gardens consist of over 300 acres of rolling hills and lush woodlands, where you can enjoy the plants and flowers local to all of Georgia’s climates as well as many from around the country. Take a leisure walk over 5 miles of nature trails; one of them is a hummingbird trail in which you can usually spot these quick-winged birds dashing from bloom to bloom. The gardens also feature greenhouses that can be visited by appointment.
Athens has a wealth of delicious local restaurants and cafes. Several companies offer food tours through Athens, highlighting the best of the region. Make sure you sample southern delicacies such as okra and fried green tomatoes, as well as local Athens favorites like mountain trout and Vidalia onions. If you’d like to meet local food producers, explore the markets to find organic farmers providing fresh produce and farm-baked goods.
The local brewery scene in Athens is just as good as its food. Creature Comforts is one of the most famous craft breweries in the city, and their West Hancock Avenue location features a large beer garden with regular live music. Taste their Tropicalia IPA, one of the most popular drinks with refreshing notes of grapefruit. If you're still thirsty, Southern Brewing Company and Akademia Brewing Company also produce award-winning local beers. Be sure to check them out.
To check out the arts scene in the city, you have plenty to choose from. The Georgia Museum of Art, also associated with the University of Georgia, is the official art museum for all of Georgia and features a permanent collection of over 8,000 pieces. The Georgia Museum of Natural History features a collection of artifacts that supports research and education for the University of Georgia. It also offers educational programs for children as well as adults. Best of all? The museum is free to visit. The Athens Institute for Contemporary Art is another option if you prefer modern art. The institute is a non-profit gallery that features rotating exhibitions on numerous themes from both national and international artists.
Are you a nature lover? You'll revel in the local municipal and state parks surrounding Athens. Watson Bridge Mill State Park is located about 30 minutes outside of the city and pays homage to the thriving mill town that was once there. It features a historic covered railway bridge and a swimming hole where you can cool off. Another option is Sandy Creek Park, a beautiful 782-acre park set around the stunning Lake Chapman. View wildlife from one of the park's many trails, enjoy a picnic, or simply relax at the beach. You’ll leave feeling refreshed!
Set in the leafy Memorial Park, the Bear Hollow Zoo features local animals that have been rescued and cannot be released back into the wild. They provide animals with health care, food, and safe habitat. The zoo is home to black bears, bobcats, deer, river otters, and opossums. There are also a number of birds including barred owls, red hawks, and a bald eagle. The zoo does not charge admission, so visitors can view the animals for free. Bring a packed lunch and enjoy it at one of the many shaded picnic tables.
The Middle Oconee river stretches southwest of the city, and it's the perfect place to have an adventurous afternoon on the water. Several local companies provide kayak and canoe rentals. They lead tours where visitors can observe wildlife as they paddle down the calm river waters. If you prefer, you can also swim in the river, go tubing, or even go white water rafting.