Photograph courtesy State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Athens, Georgia, may be well known as the home of the Georgia Bulldogs, but fall football weekends aren’t the only time to experience the flavor and spirit of the town. Visitors who head to Athens when the Bulldogs aren’t playing will find a town full of creative energy that’s found on stage, in galleries, on tap, in bloom, and on the plate. Antebellum architecture, a vibrant restored downtown, and the nation’s first state-chartered university are a compelling backdrop for an array of museums, concerts, top theatrical performances, and a world-renowned music scene.
Below are eight great reasons to visit Athens when it’s not football season. Check out these suggestions, and head to VisitAthensGA.com to plan your Athens getaway.
1. Get your groove on
Athens has been called “Live Music Central” by the New York Times and the best college-music scene by Rolling Stone. What started as a hotbed of indie rock with R.E.M. and the B-52s has spread into hundreds of bands playing a wide array of music. Live performances are around every corner in Athens, including on the patio at the Foundry, the rooftop of the Georgia Theatre, and the world-famous 40 Watt Club. Plan a visit during a festival such as AthFest (June 23-25, 2017) or the Sunflower Music Series (monthly summer dates) at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to sample the best of Athens’ music scene.
2. Savor local flavors
Athens is a rising culinary star, with chef Hugh Acheson of restaurant Five & Ten among the many talented chefs creating exceptional menus from local, seasonal, and sustainable fare. Make a date to sit down at hot spots such as home.made, Seabear Oyster Bar, and Heirloom, which are receiving regional and national notice. The Athens Farmers Market at Bishop Park is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning with plenty of the creative community on full display. Going far beyond veggies, the Athens Farmers Market is a gathering spot for makers of home goods and health/beauty products, and it’s loads of fun.
3. Sip a local brew
Head to the hometown of Tropicalia, one of the most in-demand beers among Atlantans. Brewed by Creature Comforts in a repurposed historic building in the middle of downtown Athens, tours and tastings are the best way to learn more about the brewery and sample the various styles and flavors. Make it a full Athens beer tour by including Terrapin Beer Co. and Southern Brewing Company on your itinerary. Beers from these local favorites and hundreds more are available at bars like Trappeze Pub and the Globe, or check out what’s on tap at Copper Creek Brewing Company. Hit Five Points Growlers on the way home for a tasty souvenir of your Athens visit!
4. Walk back in time
Cross over Broad Street and venture back two centuries to the early days of the birthplace of public higher education, the University of Georgia. Historic North Campus is modeled after Yale University. Relive your own glory days as a college student, or get the next generation excited about higher education as you stroll through campus. Off campus, the Athens Welcome Center offers self-guided tours of Athens’ historic house museums and neighborhoods as well as guided excursions by Classic City Tours.
5. Feel the creative energy
Athens is home to the Georgia Museum of Art, the state’s official museum, along with numerous local galleries showcasing the work of local, regional, national, and international artists. The Lyndon House Arts Center has bright, modern, airy galleries overlooking the foothills. A tip: the Center is attached to the Ware-Lyndon House Museum, meaning this attraction provides the best of both old and new in Athens. Be in Athens on Third Thursdays when galleries offer extended evening hours and special events.
6. Sample the best hip ‘hoods
Downtown Athens is a center of music venues, restaurants, nightclubs, and retail, all with an independent spirit. Stop in vintage shops, record stores—yes, Athens still has those—and boutiques for a fresh experience. The finds don’t stop in downtown, however. Just down Prince Avenue, you’ll see Boulevard and Normaltown, both hopping with activity. Hendershots and Avid Bookshop go beyond coffee and books to offering up special events and programs, and Old Pal has mastered the art of the cocktail. Just a few blocks down Lumpkin Street from downtown, the Five Points neighborhood has a vibe all its own. Special finds here include an Equadorian bean-to-bar chocolate shop, Condor Chocolates, a second location of Avid Bookshop, and Independent Baking Company. Can anything beat the smells of fresh-baked bread and chocolate? We think not!
7. Stroll through a garden
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia features 313 acres of themed gardens plus nature trails for hiking and birding and a stunning tropical conservatory. The Trial Gardens at UGA, located on South Campus across from Stegeman Coliseum, showcases plant varieties being developed to thrive in Georgia’s climate. Plus, each of Athens’ four historic house museums includes period gardens.
8. Venture outside
Walk, hike, climb, or kayak a bit off the beaten path. Start with a short, shaded trail past native, non-releasable wildlife at Bear Hollow. Plan a longer excursion at Sandy Creek Park, or head down the Oconee at Big Dawgs On the River. Athens has no shortage of outside activities.
Don’t wait for football season to head to Athens. This vibrant college town is a great getaway any time of year. Current events and happenings, themed itineraries, and special offers are available at www.VisitAthensGA.com.