Welcome to Athens, Georgia - a city where Southern charm meets a vibrant music scene and a rich history. A jewel of the Peach State, Athens promises a unique blend of tradition and modernity that never fails to captivate its visitors. This city is extra special to me since it's where I attended college. Athens is one of those quintessential college towns that offers This travel guide is your gateway to discovering the best things to do in Athens, GA, from the iconic University of Georgia to our thriving arts and food scene. Come along on this journey and experience for yourself what makes Athens so special!
Explore the University of Georgia
The University of Georgia, nestled in Athens, is not only an academic hub but also a rich historical site worth exploring. Did you know that it's the oldest public university in the USA? It's nicknamed "the birthplace of higher education" and its history is as rich as the student body is vibrant. Okay, I might be a bit biased because I'm an alumna of UGA (class of '15, GO DAWGS!), but it really is a special school. A lot of the items on this list are things on campus at the university, but I felt it was important to start this list out with an overview of the significance of UGA to the town of Athens since the two are so deeply intertwined.
Visit the historic North Campus
North Campus, the historical core of UGA, is a must-visit when in Athens. Wandering past (*not through) its iconic archway, you'll be transported back in time amidst beautiful 19th century buildings. Be sure to visit the Chapel, an Athens landmark featuring a 170-foot tall bell tower that chimes every hour. Don't miss out on Herty Field, the birthplace of collegiate football in the South, where a quiet garden now stands. Take a leisurely stroll through Founders Memorial Garden, a living tribute to the founders of America’s first Garden Club. Each spot on North Campus is steeped in history and tradition, and is a testament to the university's rich heritage.
*Tradition at UGA says that only graduates of the University of Georgia are allowed to walk through the arch, everyone else must go around. You can read about the tradition of the Arch here.
Stroll through the Georgia Museum of Art
The Georgia Museum of Art, located on UGA's East Campus, is a treasure trove of visual arts that is sure to captivate any art enthusiast. This was one of my favorite regular stops when I attended UGA as it was the perfect place to find quiet space alone and to draw inspiration. This impressive museum houses a vast collection of American paintings, works on paper, and decorative art pieces. It regularly hosts fascinating temporary exhibitions, alongside its permanent collection, spanning across various periods and styles. The museum offers free admission, making it an unmissable pit-stop in your Athens, Georgia journey.
The historic Georgia Theatre, an emblematic part of Athens' vibrant live music scene, is a must-see. Originally built as a theater in the late 1935s, it has transformed over the years into a cherished live music venue, hosting an array of big-name acts as well as local bands. Stepping inside, you're met with a unique blend of history and modernity that creates an intimate and unforgettable concert experience. Don't miss the rooftop bar, which provides a spectacular view of downtown Athens. Check out their website for upcoming shows.
Address: 215 N Lumpkin St, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Hours: Varies by show
Admission: Varies by show
Appreciate nature at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a hidden gem in Athens, is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature's beauty. Spread over 313 acres, it is a living museum teeming with a variety of plants. Whether you wish to explore the colorful flower garden, stroll through the shade garden, or hike along the nature trails, there is something for every nature lover here. What's more, entry is free! Don't forget to stop by the gift shop for a souvenir to remember your visit.
Address: 2450 S Milledge Ave, Athens, GA 30605 | Google Maps
The Athens Farmers Market is a lively gathering that brings together local producers and consumers all year long. From farm-fresh produce, artisanal baked goods, to handcrafted products, you'll find a wealth of Georgia-grown treasures here. You can meet the growers, enjoy live music, and even participate in demonstrations or workshops. It's truly a delightful way to spend a morning, and to support the local community in Athens.
There are two different days and locations you can find the farmers market:
Saturdays (all year long) from 8:00 am-12:00 pm in Bishop Park
Athens, Georgia, boasts an impressive craft beer scene that invites all beer lovers to embark on a self-guided brewery tour. With several renowned breweries, such as the Terrapin Beer Co. and Creature Comforts, you can sample a diverse range of locally brewed beers. Each spot offers a unique atmosphere, from taprooms with live music and outdoor spaces to those offering behind-the-scenes brewery tours. Remember to check each brewery's hours and tour options before setting off on your flavorful journey.
Discover the Sandy Creek Nature Center
Just a short journey from downtown Athens, the Sandy Creek Nature Center offers an oasis of natural beauty and education. With over 225 acres of woodlands and wetlands, Sandy Creek is a haven for nature enthusiasts, boasting a network of trails for hiking and bird watching. The center also offers interactive exhibits, live animals, and a planetarium that will fascinate both kids and adults. This enriching experience is a must-do in Athens, offering you the chance to connect with nature in a tranquil setting.
Address: 205 Old Commerce Rd, Athens, GA 30607 | Google Maps
Hours: Nature center is open Tuesday-Saturday 8:30 am-5:30 pm, closed Sunday & Monday; Trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset
Visit the Bear Hollow Zoo
Bear Hollow Zoo is a small, charming community zoo nestled in the heart of Athens, Georgia. Home to a variety of orphaned or injured wildlife native to Georgia, it provides a unique opportunity to encounter and learn about the state's indigenous species. The zoo houses animals such as black bears, bobcats, and numerous bird species. Admission is free, making it a great budget-friendly activity for families or nature enthusiasts.
Address: 293 Gran Ellen Dr, Athens, GA 30606 | Google Maps
Hours: Everyday 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Explore the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art
The Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, also known as ATHICA, is an independent, non-profit gallery that fosters and showcases contemporary art in Athens, Georgia. Known for its cutting-edge exhibitions, ATHICA provides a platform for both emerging and established artists to present their work in an inclusive environment. With its rotating exhibits and community events, it is a beacon of creativity and innovation in Athens' thriving art scene.
Address: 675 Pulaski St Suite 1200, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
No visit to Athens, Georgia would be complete without experiencing the electric atmosphere of a University of Georgia (UGA) football game. As you immerse yourself in the sea of red and black in Sanford Stadium, you'll quickly understand why UGA's football culture is legendary. Whether you're a die-hard sports fan or just love a good tailgate, the camaraderie and spirit are contagious. Grab your tickets in advance, wear your best Bulldog gear, and prepare for an unforgettable display of athletic prowess and school spirit.
This is hands down my favorite thing to do in Athens, Georgia! There's nothing better than cheering on my dawgs between the hedges and screaming at the top of your lungs with 90,000+ fellow fans. Trust me, it's an experience greater than just about any other football stadium in the country (college or NFL).
Address: Home games are held in Sanford Stadium - 100 Sanford Dr, Athens, GA 30602 | Google Maps
Hours: Varies game to game
Admissions: Varies game to game, but tickets are certainly more expensive right now since UGA is currently reigning back to back national champions.
Maybe football isn't your favorite sport, no worries, UGA ranks top in the country for a variety of sports including (but not limited to) swimming, gymnastic, and volleyball. No matter what your favorite sport is or what season you happen to be looking for things to do in Athens, Georgia, there's always an athletic event happening on campus.
Visit the UGA Observatory
The University of Georgia (UGA) Observatory is an often overlooked gem for stargazers visiting Athens, Georgia. Located atop the Physics Building, the observatory offers public viewings during the academic year where visitors can gaze upon the cosmos using the observatory's 24-inch telescope. Whether you're an astronomy enthusiast or simply want to try something different, the UGA Observatory provides a unique opportunity to view distant worlds and galaxies, transforming a regular night into an extraordinary experience.
Address: Physics Building, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 | Google Maps
Hours: Check website for public viewing schedule
Take a relaxing walk (or run) in Oconee Forest Park
Oconee Forest Park, located adjacent to the University of Georgia campus, is a hidden gem in Athens. This park spans over 60 acres and features a well-maintained network of walking and running trails that wind through a lush, tranquil forest. Nestled within the park is Lake Herrick, a picturesque spot for fishing or simply to enjoy the serenity. Whether you're in search of a peaceful retreat or a refreshing outdoor workout, Oconee Forest Park is a perfect choice.
Address: 1198 S Milledge Ave, Athens, GA 30605 | Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Browse the unique shops in Downtown Athens
Athens is a shopper's paradise, brimming with unique boutiques, vintage stores, and local artisan shops. While most stores are in the downtown area, some great shops can also be found at Five Point, Prince Ave, and beyond. Strolling through Athens' charming streets, you'll discover a wide range of items from handmade crafts, vintage records, to fashion-forward clothing and accessories. It's the perfect place to hunt for one-of-a-kind souvenirs or simply while away an afternoon enjoying the vibrant local shopping scene. A few of my favorite shops include Epiphany, High Country Outfitters, Wuxtry Records, Heery's Clothes Closet, Bizarro-Wuxtry Comics, Toys, & Stuff, Avid Bookshop, Half-Moon Outfitters, and even Daily Groceries Co-Op if you're looking for a healthy and tasty snack while in town.
Eat your way through Athens' incredible food scene
Athens, Georgia is a gastronomic paradise that will satisfy any food lover's cravings. The city's culinary landscape is as diverse as it is delicious, with an array of cuisine options ranging from Southern comfort food to avant-garde fusion dishes. Don't miss out on the opportunity to savor world-class dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients in this vibrant food scene. There are a lot of wonderful restaurant options in Athens, Georgia so be sure to checkout our travel guide: 35 Best Athens, Georgia Restaurants | A Travel Guide for Food Lovers.
Grab a sweet treat at the UGA Creamery
Don't leave Athens, Georgia without stopping by the UGA Creamery. This beloved institution on the University of Georgia campus has been scooping up rich and creamy ice cream since 1908. With a variety of flavors to choose from, ranging from classic vanilla to seasonal specialties, there's a sweet treat to satisfy everyone's palate. Whether you're a student seeking a study break or a tourist exploring the campus, the UGA Creamery is a delightful pit-stop that shouldn't be missed.
Address: Environmental Health Science Building, 101 Dairy Science Bldg, Athens, GA | Google Maps
Delve into history at the Athens-Clarke County Library Heritage Room
The Athens-Clarke County Library Heritage Room is a treasure trove for history buffs and genealogy enthusiasts visiting Athens, Georgia. This special collection room houses a vast array of resources including local and state history books, city directories, maps, photographs, and a comprehensive collection of genealogical research materials. With an emphasis on Athens-Clarke County and Georgia history, it gives visitors a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the area's rich past. Friendly and knowledgeable staff are always on hand to assist with research or guide you through the collections.
Address: 2025 Baxter St, Athens, GA 30606 | Google Maps
Exercise or stroll on the North Oconee River Greenway
The North Oconee River Greenway is a picturesque trail stretching over 8 miles, offering an idyllic backdrop for a leisurely bike ride. As you pedal along the scenic pathway, you're treated to stunning views of the river, lush woodlands, and vibrant local flora and fauna. The trail is flat and well-maintained, making it suitable for all fitness levels. It's a peaceful retreat, right in the heart of Athens, Georgia. Taking a bike ride, walk, or run here is a wonderful way to relax, soak in the natural beauty, and get a bit of exercise all at once.
Address: 800 E Broad St, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Visit the Tree That Owns Itself
One of the most curious attractions in Athens, Georgia, is the famous Tree That Owns Itself. This white oak tree, located at the corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets, is a local landmark with a unique story. According to local lore, in the early 1800s, a professor at the University of Georgia, William H. Jackson, so loved the tree that he wanted to ensure its protection. Thus, he supposedly deeded the ownership of the tree and the land within eight feet of it to the tree itself. Although the original tree fell in 1942, a new tree was grown from one of its acorns and continues to stand as a testament to Athen's quirky charm. It's a quick visit, but well worth the trip to see this unique piece of Athens history.
Address: 277 S Finley St, Athens, GA 30605 | Google Maps
Hours: Open 24 hours
Explore The Classic City by trolley
Discover the sights and sounds of Athens, Georgia aboard a historic trolley tour. This delightful journey offers a comprehensive view of the city's rich history, vibrant culture, and charming architectural gems. The trolley tour provides a relaxing and informative way to explore the Classic City without the hassle of navigating through city traffic. Whether you're a history enthusiast, architecture aficionado, or simply a curious traveler, the trolley tour is an engaging way to discover the many facets of Athens. Athens Trolley Tours even offers a tour specifically designed to visit some of the best breweries in town, so if you're a beer enthusiast, this might be the responsible way to hit up some of the best spots in the area.
Address: Tours leave from The Classic Center - 300 N Thomas St, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Hours: Varies by tour
Admission: Varies by tour
Admire the historic architecture of homes in Athens, Georgia
A stroll down Milledge Avenue in Athens, Georgia, is a must for anyone with an appreciation for historic architecture. This stretch is lined with beautifully preserved mansions from the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of which now serve as sororities and fraternities for the University of Georgia. The Greek life houses, with their grand columns and intricate details, offer a look into the area's rich architectural history. Among these architectural gems is the Taylor-Grady House located over on Prince Avneue, a significant example of Greek Revival architecture and a notable landmark in the city. Its grandeur and history offer a fascinating glimpse into the past, making it an essential stop on any architectural tour of Athens.
Taylor-Grady House: 634 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Discover local music at the 40 Watt Club
The 40 Watt Club is an absolute must-visit in Athens, Georgia, especially for music lovers. Known as one of the birthplaces of the American indie rock scene, this legendary music venue has hosted performances by notable bands such as R.E.M., The B-52's, and Pylon. Its intimate setting coupled with an electric atmosphere provides a unique and memorable live music experience. Whether you're into rock, pop, country, or indie music, there's always something for everyone at the 40 Watt Club.
Address: 285 W Washington St, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Learn about Georgia's natural history at Georgia Museum of Natural History
The Georgia Museum of Natural History is a treasure trove for anyone intrigued by the natural world. Home to extensive collections that cover archaeology, botany, geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate biology, mammalogy, ornithology, and paleontology, it offers visitors the opportunity to delve into the diversity of Georgia's natural history. Whether you're an academic, a student, or just a curious visitor, you'll find the museum's exhibits both educational and fascinating.
Address: Natural History Bldg, Athens, GA 30602 | Google Maps
Athens, Georgia is not only known for its rich history and music scene but also for its vibrant street art. As you explore the city, you're bound to encounter numerous murals, sculptures, and installations that add a burst of creativity and colour to the cityscape. These public artworks, created by local artists, reflect the spirit and culture of Athens. They provide a unique way to understand the city's artistic pulse and social issues. For art enthusiasts and casual observers alike, a self-guided tour of Athens' street art is a rewarding way to discover the city's diverse and dynamic art scene.
Catch a film at Ciné, Athens' only arthouse cinema
The Ciné, located in downtown Athens, Georgia, is a non-profit cinema that offers a unique selection of independent, international, and local films. This arthouse cinema provides a lively and intimate atmosphere for film enthusiasts who are seeking something beyond mainstream movies. Along with its two-screen theater, Ciné also houses a bar and an art gallery, making it a cultural hub in the heart of Athens.
Address: 234 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Hours: Varies by show
Admission: Varies by show
Take a detour to the unique Double Barreled Cannon
Located in Downtown Athens, the Double Barreled Cannon stands as a unique piece of American Civil War history. Designed to fire two cannonballs connected by a chain, it was intended to cause widespread damage on the battlefield. However, the inventive weapon was never used in battle due to its impractical and unpredictable nature. Today, it is exhibited in front of the City Hall as a symbol of ingenuity and a fascinating glimpse into the past. Visitors can view the historic cannon at any time, making it a convenient and intriguing stop during your exploration of Athens.
Address: 301 College Ave, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Hours: Open 24 hours
Visit the Lyndon House Arts Center for a dose of local art
Settled in the heart of Athens, Georgia, the Lyndon House Arts Center is a community-oriented visual arts complex that serves both artists and art enthusiasts alike. Housed in a beautiful, historic Greek Revival style building, it features contemporary gallery exhibitions, workshops for all ages, a festival of artists' shops, and more. This vibrant center not only showcases the works of local and regional artists but also provides an inspiring space where the community can engage in the creative process.
Hours: Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Tuesday & Thursday 10:00 am-8:00 pm, closed Sunday and Monday
Enjoy a live concert at the Morton Theatre
The Morton Theatre, situated in downtown Athens, Georgia, is a historic venue that has been a cornerstone of the city's cultural scene since 1910. As one of the first vaudeville theaters in the United States to be built, owned, and operated by an African-American, it holds a significant place in history. Today, the restored theater hosts a range of events, from live concerts and stage plays to film screenings and community events. With its rich history and vibrant programming, a visit to the Morton Theatre is a must for those seeking a taste of Athens' cultural heritage.
Address: 195 W Washington St, Athens, GA 30601 | Google Maps
Athens Memorial Park, located in Athens, Georgia, offers a serene environment for leisurely strolls and family outings. Spanning over 72 acres, this beautiful park is home to a zoo, swimming pool, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a tranquil lake. With its lush greenery and peaceful ambiance, it's an ideal spot for nature lovers and those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can feed the ducks, watch the zoo animals, or simply relax amidst the park's scenic surroundings. This is our favorite dog park to take our dog, Kramer, to run around at when we're in town. Athens can get really hot and this park offers lots of shade. Pro tip: take some bug spray though!
Address: 293 Gran Ellen Dr, Athens, GA 30606 | Google Maps
Hours: Open daily until sunset
Admission: Free, but there may be fees for certain facilities
Whether you're an art aficionado, history buff, film enthusiast, or someone in search of leisurely outdoor activities, Athens, Georgia has something to offer everyone. Its vibrant street art, historic landmarks, unique cinema, enchanting park, and thriving art centers make it a city worth exploring. We hope this guide helps you to discover and appreciate the diverse and dynamic character of Athens. Remember, every corner of this city has a story to tell — so take your time, look closely, and enjoy the journey!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!