Athens, Georgia is a vibrant college town about an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta. Historically exuding a progressive feel, Athens’ personality can be felt in the popular alternative bands of the ’80s and ’90s that called it home, such as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and the B-52s, as well as newer acts like Sound Tribe Sector 9. While it can be argued that the University of Georgia is the center of the universe here, Athens is an interesting town in its own right with lots to explore. It makes for a great day trip from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta.
Read on to learn about 8 Fun Things to Do in Athens, Georgia!
1. State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Run by the University of Georgia (UGA), the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a beautiful park to stroll through, replete with terraces, sculptures, and exotic flora. Admission is free.
2450 S Milledge Ave, Athens, GA 30605
2. Georgia Museum of Art
The official art museum of the state of Georgia, and one of the biggest attractions in Athens. Situated on UGA’s East Campus, the museum houses over 10,000 works of art ranging from Southern masterpieces to Japanese prints. Free admission Monday through Saturday.
90 Carlton St, Athens, GA 30602
3. Georgia Theater
Possibly the foremost live music venue in Athens, the Georgia Theater started life as a YMCA back in 1889. Today it hosts shows spanning the spectrum of genres, from Alabama Shakes to Run the Jewels.
215 N Lumpkin St, Athens, GA 30601
4. Downtown Athens
Just telling someone to go wander downtown sometimes feels like a cop-out, but doing just that can be a wonderful experience. It allows you to get yourself a little lost, and explore a new city at the same time.
The same can be said of Athens. For a town of only about 125,000 people, there are many architectural points of interest and sculptures to see and learn about. Athens has a very young energy to it, and it can be worth it just to walk around and soak that up.
5. The Grill
Exuding a strong retro feel, The Grill is a popular hangout for college students and locals. Founded in 1981, The Grill serves typical (but tasty) American food such as hamburgers, hot wings, and milkshakes, as wel as their signature “Feta Fries.” If you drink soda, be sure to grab a bottle from the vintage vending machine by the door.
Pro Tip: Snag one of the square, black “guide 2 athens” books from the newspaper rack.
171 College Ave, Athens, GA 30601
Situated in an historic downtown building, Ciné is the region’s sole independent arthouse cinema. It features two screens, a full bar, and an event space. The theaters utilize both the newest digital projectors as well as classic 35mm film projectors, depending on whether they’re showing the newest blockbuster or preserving the experience of a classic.
234 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601
7. Little Kings Shuffle Club
This is a great bar with a good-sized dance floor. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, the drinks are mixed well, they have live music, and they also provide board games and a foosball table. Some Yelp reviews call it a borderline gay bar, but we feel like it’s more of, as one reviewer called it, a “tolerant bar.” There is a large sign in the window out front that says “Refugees and Immigrants Welcome.” They play pretty good music, too, a lot of ’80s pop and some ’90s hip-hop.
There is one thing to be aware of about Little Kings. On weekends, they have a 25+ policy. You read that right; no one under the age of 25 is allowed. This might seem like commercial suicide in a college town like Athens, but Little Kings claims it weeds out the “frat element,” maintaining a more fun environment that doesn’t get too wild. We had a great time, at any rate, and the bar was happening without being crowded on a Saturday night.
223 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601
8. Hush Hush Silent Disco
We happened to be at Little Kings the night Hush Hush was setting up. For those of you unaware of what a silent disco is, imagine a concert where everyone listens to music through headphones, NOT from a single group onstage. It sounds weird, and may look weird, but it’s actually a ton of fun! The DJ hands out specialized headphones that in this case switch to one of three different frequencies. Each frequency lights up in a different color, as you can see in the photo above. Green is old school disco, blue is hip-hop, and red is for requests. That way, you have a few options of what you can dance to, and you can see which stations are most popular with the crowd.
Any Athens locals or frequent visitors have anything to add to this list? Go ahead and comment in the comments section below!