Street scene in Athens, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Georgia Theatre in Athens. Photo by @benjamingalland

Guide to Athens

Explore Athens, Georgia: An eclectic college town's with many attractions, places to stay, great restaurants and events throughout the year.

Nicknamed the Classic City, the college town of Athens is best known as the home to the University of Georgia, whose football team, the Georgia Bulldogs, won the 2021 & 2022 College Football National Championship. It's also home to a thriving music industry that gave birth to big names like R.E.M. and the B-52s, both of which reference Athens in their music. Today, there's a thriving downtown with locally owned restaurants and shops as well as restored Victorian homes.

Things to Do

There's plenty to do in Athens, even if you aren’t attending college football games.

Family at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, Georgia
Family at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Photo by Bryan Redding, @visitathensga

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a more than 300-acre site with numerous display gardens. There are five miles of nature trails where you can spot birds and other wildlife.

Georgia Museum of Art

On the University of Georgia campus, the Georgia Museum of Art has a world-class collection that serves as the state’s official art museum. The permanent collection has more than 9,000 pieces by Georgians like Lamar Dodd and Howard Finster, along with international artists and student works. Admission is free with a suggested donation.

UGA Special Collections Libraries

The UGA Special Collections Libraries are another resource of the campus, which holds items related to the history and culture of the state. It’s open for tours and includes a rare book and manuscript library and the Peabody Awards collection.

Ware-Lyndon Historic House

There are a number of historic homes in Athens, including the Ware-Lyndon Historic House. The Italianate design is one of the few seen on Antebellum homes. This National Register of Historic Places-listed house is also a museum and home to the Lyndon House Arts Center.

Georgia Theatre & 40 Watt Club

Live music is what really makes Athens shine. The most well-known venue is the Georgia Theatre, was built in 1935 and survived a devastating fire. It has hosted such acts as John Mayer, Zac Brown Band, and Sister Hazel, along with hosting live recordings. There’s even a rooftop bar! The 40 Watt Club is another favorite, hosting up-and-coming acts nearly every night of the week to crowds 18 and older.

Bar at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in downtown Athens, Georgia
Bar at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in downtown Athens, Georgia. Photo by @creaturecomfortsbeer

Craft Breweries

Take advantage of the Classic City’s craft breweries. Terrapin Beer Company was the area’s first, winning awards for its beers since opening in 2002. Set in a former textile factory, the brewery hosts tastings, tours, live music and socializing on the lawn.

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. transformed a 1940s tire warehouse in 2014 and went on to gain popularity for its flagship beer, Tropicalia, which had a cameo in the 2019 Marvel Studios movie "Avengers: Endgame."

Southern Brewing Co. opened in 2015 and serves IPAs, porters, and a selection of beers you can only get onsite.

Don't miss Athentic Brewing Co., which features a "Theoretical Fizzics Lab," where you can build your own hard seltzer, slushy, shandy, or sparkling water in the taproom.

Bear Hollow Zoo

Set in Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo is home to more than 120 species, including rescued animals that can’t be reintroduced into the wild. There are three black bears, bobcats, deer, owls and a bald eagle. The zoo is free and open daily.

Find more things to do in Athens

Places to Stay

Spend the night or the weekend in one of Athens’ best hotels, which are located either downtown or near the highway.

Colorful lobby at Hotel Abacus
Hotel Abacus in Athens, Georgia

Hotel Abacus (formerly Graduate Athens)

Originally a foundry, Hotel Abacus is a stylish hotel with a coffee shop, music venue, and decor inspired by its college town surroundings.

Hyatt Place Athens Downtown

Hyatt Place Athens Downtown is connected to the convention center and has nearly 200 rooms, including two suites. There’s also a bar and restaurant with free breakfast for members, free WiFi and a fitness center.

Hotel Indigo in Athens, Georgia
Hotel Indigo in Athens, Georgia

Hotel Indigo Athens Downtown

Inspired by the covered bridges found in the area, the Hotel Indigo Athens is a LEED-certified eco-chic boutique hotel with its own art gallery. The lobby coffee shop carries local Jittery Joe’s coffee, and the in-house restaurant is open all day.

Holiday Inn Express

The Holiday Inn Express Athens University Area is located within walking distance of the UGA campus and offers free daily breakfast, free WiFi, a fitness center and an outdoor pool.

Inside a guest room at ATH|BNB in Athens, Georgia
ATH|BNB The Rushmore in Athens, Georgia. Photo by Bryan Redding, @visitathensga

ATH | BNB The Rushmore

Perfectly located right in the Five Points neighborhood, the ATH | BNB The Rushmore is an idyllic bed and breakfast that is walkable to food, nightlife, and shopping. With breakfast from Cafe on Lumpkin (a real treat) and a serene luxury vibe found nowhere else in town, ATH | BNB delivers opulent flair at a great location.

Rivet House

Rivet House is a luxury boutique hotel that opened in summer 2024 in the historic Southern Mill development and blends chic accommodations and bespoke design with the spirit and beloved culture of Athens. Envisioned and developed by local husband-and-wife duo James and Jessica Whitley, and managed by the Indigo Road Hospitality Group, the 50-room hotel, spa, and restaurant are located in a former, previously overlooked denim mill.

Springhill Suites Athens Downtown & Homewood Suites

The Springhill Suites Athens has free WiFi, relaxing pool and fitness center. And the Homewood Suites is a short walk from the Classic Center and downtown Athens. Suites come with free WiFi and full kitchens, and guests have access to free breakfast and evening social daily.

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Where to Eat

Athens is known as a foodie city, thanks to two-time James Beard Award Winner and Top Chef Hugh Acheson. Chefs who came up through Acheson's Five & Ten kitchen have gone on to helm their own restaurants all over town.

Frogmore stew at Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia
Frogmore stew at Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee, courtesy of @visitathensga

Five & Ten

Located in the historic Hawthorne House in Athens’ Five Points neighborhood along UGA’s Sorority Row, the Five & Ten menu features seasonal elevated Southern favorites for dinner. Chef-owner Peter Dale began his culinary career at this flagship restaurant from Hugh Acheson, went on to develop acclaimed spots like The National, SeaBear Oyster Bar, Maepole, and Condor Chocolates, and bought Five & Ten from Acheson in 2024.

The National

The National is a casual neighborhood eatery inspired by the flavors and wine of the Mediterranean. They work with local farmers for seasonal ingredients.

Pet-friendly dining at Cali-N-Tito's in Athens, Georgia
Pet-friendly dining at Cali-N-Tito's in Athens, Georgia

Cali-N-Tito's

For Cuban and Latin dishes, visit funky Cali-N-Tito’s, which has outdoor dining that is pet-friendly and a menu that includes fish tacos, Peruvian pork and Cuban sandwiches. They have locations in Five Points and on the East Side.

Clocked

Burger lovers can’t miss Clocked, a downtown diner serving funky burgers as well as cheese fries, milkshakes, salads, sandwiches, and vegan and gluten-free options. They use USDA-certified ingredients.

Heirloom Cafe and Fresh Market

Locals love Heirloom Cafe and Fresh Market for the fresh and seasonal dishes at this farm-to-table cafe. The menu appeals to vegans and carnivores alike, incorporating sustainably produced ingredients.

Outdoor dining at Last Resort Grill in Athens, Georgia
Outdoor dining at Last Resort Grill in Athens, Georgia. Photo by @visitathensga

Last Resort Grill

Last Resort Grill is set in a former music venue and has artwork on every wall. It is open for lunch, dinner and brunch, with menu items like fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and cornbread crusted trout.

Brunch at Mama's Boy in Athens, Georgia
Brunch at Mama's Boy in Athens, Georgia. Photo by @mamasboyathens

Mama's Boy

Fuel up for the day at Mama’s Boy, a modern diner located on the Athens Greenway. Open for breakfast, lunch and brunch, don’t miss the French toast, breakfast hash and biscuits, paired with a hot cup of coffee.

Pulaski Heights Barbecue

Located in its namesake neighborhood, Pulaski Heights Barbecue is a casual BYOB eatery with pulled pork, brisket, ribs and smoked chicken with sides like squash casserole and collard greens. They also have old-school bottled sodas.

Oyster plate at Seabear Oyster Bar in Athens, Georgia
Oyster plate at Seabear Oyster Bar in Athens, Georgia. Photo by Seabear Oyster Bar, courtesy of @visitathensga

Seabear Oyster Bar

Seabear Oyster Bar is a swanky hangout popular for its happy hour. In addition to oysters, they have weekly ramen nights, sandwiches and snacks. Don’t miss their cocktails, including the Negroni slushies.

Southern-style sides at Weaver D's in Athens, Georgia
Southern-style sides at Weaver D's in Athens, Georgia. Photo by @visitathensga

Weaver D's

Established in 1986, Weaver D’s became a favorite for R.E.M., and in 1992, the band named its eighth studio album after the slogan. It's still serving up meat-and-three-style soul food fare, which includes fried chicken, boiled peanuts and skillet cornbread, and remains popular with Athens musicians.

ZZ & Simone's

Enjoy upscale Italian and Mediterranean fare with chic, elegant style in the Five Points neighborhood at ZZ & Simone's. The ambiance, service, and food are all top-notch, which Athenians in-the-know have come to expect from owners Shae and Ryan Sims, who also own the cozy and sophisticated Bar Bruno, also in Five Points.

Find more places to eat in Athens

Events

There’s always something going on in Athens, so plan your visit accordingly.

Wild Rumpus Halloween Parade and Spectacle in Athens, Georgia
Wild Rumpus Halloween Parade and Spectacle in Athens, Georgia

Wild Rumpus Halloween Parade and Spectacle

Wild Rumpus Halloween Parade and Spectacle is one such, held every fall to bring together the city’s creative energy. It has a parade, performances, and parties.

AthHalf Marathon

AthHalf Marathon allows runners to see the historic district and UGA campus on foot, with live Athens bands playing throughout the course. The event raises money for music and arts in elementary and middle schools.

Athens Wine Weekend

Athens Wine Weekend brings together wine aficionados and those new to wine with more than 100 wines from the world. Enjoy wine expert seminars, gourmet dinners with wine pairings, and other wine-related events.

Cyclists racing in the Twilight Criterium in Athens, Georgia
Cyclists racing in the Twilight Criterium in Athens, Georgia. Photo by @marigold_84

Twilight Criterium

Another fun event is Twilight Criterium, which is named one of the most unique races, held at night. It brings in cycling teams from around the world for courses of varying lengths, including competitive and family-friendly tracks.

Athens Pride Parade

Thousands of people and rainbows flood the streets of Athens each June for the Athens Pride Parade. Walking groups, floats and the crowd itself becomes part of the march through downtown celebrating LGBTQ+ rights, ending at The Classic Center Foundry Pavilion for a resource fair with booths, food trucks and performances.

AthFest Arts and Music Festival

Athfest Arts and Music Festival is one of the city’s iconic annual music festivals that features local and regional musicians and artists, an artist market, and a KidsFest section.

International Street Festival in Athens, Georgia
International Street Festival in Athens, Georgia. Photo courtesy UGA International Student Life

International Street Festival

Various UGA student groups and community organizations host exciting cultural displays and performances throughout the International Street Festival, which typically occurs in downtown Athens each spring. Explore different cultures without passports, planes, or hotels with performances, activities, and food from countries all around the world.

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Published: June 2024
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