20 Best Things to Do in Athens, GA

Athens, GA skyline
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With the mighty Blue Ridge Mountains as its backdrop, Athens is one of the most amazing places to check out in Georgia.

The city is mainly known for its cotton mills and music.

But were you aware of how many beautiful attractions there are in Athens?

Loved for its locals' Southern hospitality, Athens is an excellent place to go on vacation.

Here are the best things to do in Athens, Georgia:

Take a Stroll around Downtown Athens

Night view of streets in Downtown Athens
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Downtown Athens is the oldest area in the city.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Downtown Athens was highly significant in the old days.

Even today, you can see a lot of people crowded here during the evenings.

The area is remarkable.

Shops in Downtown Athens
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You can see a lot of buildings that resemble those from the British Victorian era.

At the same time, there are some modern structures here, too.

Athens is a perfect mix of old and new.

Restaurants at Downtown Athens
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When you're in Downtown Athens, don't forget to check out the City Hall, as it is one of the most essential structures in the area.

The nightlife here is fantastic and there are countless restaurants to try here as well.

Appreciate Nature at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia

A bee collecting nector from a beautiful white flower in State Botanical Garden of Georgia
John Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is one of the prettiest places to see in Athens.

It has flourished under the wing of the University of Georgia.

Not only are there a lot of wildflowers, camellias, and azaleas, but there is also a medicinal garden you could check out.

The botanical garden is divided into 11 areas.

These different parts house different types of flora and fauna.

There are natural trails inside the gardens that you're welcome to walk along.

You'll spot hummingbirds flying freely here.

Admire the Masterpieces at the Georgia Museum of Art

Exterior view of Georgia Museum of Art
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The Georgia Museum of Art is the official art museum of the state of Georgia.

It's one of the most gorgeous art museums you will ever see on a trip.

The museum's vast collection includes over 18,000 beautiful works of art.

You can see a lot of pieces created by talented American artists in the 19th and 20th century.

The museum organizes trips where you can check out all the art and learn the story behind each piece.

Go Kayaking on the Middle Oconee River

When it comes to the waters in Athens, there's only one word to describe them: gorgeous.

These waters provide some of the best adventures, too.

Kayaking here is a must.

The Middle Oconee River will provide the best views on a kayaking trip.

Rent a kayak and take your time going around the area.

It would be best to allot an hour or two, as there are almost 3.5 miles for you to explore.

Take the Kids to Bear Hollow Zoo

Name board of Bear Hollow Zoo
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Bear Hollow Zoo is an excellent place to hang out with your kids on a lazy afternoon.

It's not like other zoos.

Instead of bringing in perfect animals for tourists to admire, Bear Hollow Zoo shelters tortured or injured animals.

Playground at Bear Hollow Zoo
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After being nursed back to health, the animals are given a permanent home at the zoo.

It is also an interactive zoo, so the kids usually have plenty of fun here.

Snap a Few Pictures of the Tree That Owns Itself

Now, this is quite a quirky tourist attraction in Athens.

The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree that, according to legend, literally owns itself.

Can you imagine that?

Well, in Athens, anything is possible.

Colonel William H. Jackson, a professor who owned the land where the tree is located, was quite passionate about this tree.

He gifted a small portion of the land around the tree to the tree itself.

Yes, there is an actual deed.

Don't miss out on a chance to see it for yourself.

Go Hiking along the Birchmore Trail

Stream on Birchmore Trail
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Birchmore Trail is a gem within the city and provides excellent nature views.

The trail is pedestrian-friendly, too, so you can go on a run here.

Situated beside the Great Wall of Athens, the trail attracts many nature lovers.

Fred Birchmore, a famous adventurer, single-handedly built the vast stone wall at the age of 70.

The trail was named after him.

He's considered one of the legends of Athens.

Geek Out at the Georgia Museum of Natural History

Affiliated with the University of Georgia, the Georgia Museum of Natural History is a place of interest to those interested in branches of science like anthropology, geology, entomology, and geography.

The museum showcases a lot of plants and animal species native to Georgia.

You can also learn a lot about the state's different endangered species.

Sample Local Craft Beers at Terrapin Brewery

The Terrapin Brewery is one of the most popular places to get a pint of beer in Athens.

There are not many reputed craft breweries in the city, but Terrapin Brewery makes up for this.

You can take a tour around and see how the beers are brewed.

Since it's a fully functional brewery, you might catch the brewers making the beers right in front of your eyes.

Taste some of the best beers of your life at Terrapin Brewery.

You can even take home the ones you enjoy the most.

Check Out the Local Flora and Fauna at Sandy Creek Nature Center

Are you looking for some hiking trails amid lush greenery?

Sandy Creek Nature Center is your destination.

It's the best place to access some excellent hiking trails with wonderful scenery.

The presence of the wetlands in the background makes the place even more lovable.

You can be in close touch with nature here as it's filled with flora and fauna native to this region.

Are you looking forward to meeting some animals?

You might come across an armadillo while hiking here.

See the Famous Double-Barreled Cannon

Closer view of Double-barreled cannon
Gualberto Becerra / Shutterstock.com

It is now time to see some exclusive historic spots in the city.

While walking around downtown, you'll most likely spot the City Hall building.

In front of that building lies a structure that might seem odd at first glance but is actually historically significant.

Double-Barreled Cannon with flowers and beautiful building in the background
Kotivalo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Builder and mechanic John Gilleland built this cannon in 1863, as a gift to the Confederate forces.

Unfortunately, the gift was not accepted for several reasons.

Before accepting the gifts, they fired a couple of rounds as an experiment.

During this experiment, some trees were uprooted, a cornfield was massacred, and a cow was killed.

Now, the cannon just stands there as a memory.

Visit the Historic Taylor-Grady House

Beautiful white architecture of Taylor-Grady House
Hhoschton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For more than a century, the Junior League of Athens has taken care of this historic landmark.

The building's magnificent Greek Revival design makes it an ideal location for social gatherings, weddings, and vacation photos.

This home is included on the US National Register of Historic Places because of its rich history.

Explore the house's fascinating past by taking a guided tour of the property.

After the tour, you may also stop by the gift store to pick up a few souvenirs.

See Stunning Performances at Morton Theatre

Located in the heart of Athens' old district, the Morton Theatre is a well-known landmark.

Alice Carter Simmons of the Oberlin Conservatory gave a piano performance at the Morton Theatre on May 18, 1910, which was attended by people from different races.

There are several reasons why the Morton Theatre is a desirable venue for performing arts and other special events.

Comedic performances, dancing contests, stage plays, concerts, film festivals, and seminars have all been in the flexible rental area.

The Morton Theatre is a location where you can take part in making local history by attending performances or putting on your own productions.

Gaze at Local Art at the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art

This institute is a non-profit art facility maintained solely by volunteers, located a mile from downtown Athens in a restored warehouse.

Contemporary art exhibitions are held here four times yearly, focusing on the local scene and area talent.

The Athens Instute for Contemporary Art's displays have previously focused on poverty, democracy, fossil fuel consumption, ecology, and consumer culture.

The bulk of its other shows includes political and socially aware themes.

Private art displays, musical concerts, film screenings, and theatrical performances are held in the museum space when it is not being utilized for curated art exhibits.

Swing Your Club at the University of Georgia Golf Course

Sporting facilities at the University of Georgia are world-class and magnificent.

The par-71, 18-hole course is one of the finest in the nation for college golfers.

The Robert Trent Jones-designed course offers six tees for golfers to practice and fine-tune their swings.

A public golf course at the University of Georgia provides an excellent opportunity for students and tourists to play among the best college golfers in America.

This golf course is close to Sandford Stadium.

Catch a Football Game at Sanford Stadium

Aerial view of the Sanford Stadium
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Are you a sports fanatic?

Sanford Stadium is a must-see in Athens, so put it at the top of your itinerary.

Founded in 1929, this 97,746-seater stadium is the 11th-largest sports facility in the United States of America.

Logo of Georgia in a window at Sanford Stadium which overlooks the field
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This stadium will delight sports fans with its enticing pregame entertainment and upbeat ambiance.

Attending a home game of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, the stadium's in-house team is the best way to get a feel for the place.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Taste the Wines at Wolf Mountain Vineyards

Located in the heavenly Chattahoochee National Forest, the Wolf Mountain Vineyards has some of the best wines in Georgia.

Though it is one of the newest wineries in the USA, it has already received a lot of awards for its great wines.

Almost a thousand cases are produced by the winery every year.

You can go on a tour inside the cellar room and see how things are done.

Check Out the Dahlonega Gold Museum

Dahlonega Gold Museum
Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

The Gold Rush played an important role in American history.

When you go to visit the places that faced the Gold Rush, you will figure out that a lot of remnants are still there.

The same is the case with Athens.

Haloween decoration in front of Dahlonega Gold Museum
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When you see the Dahlonega Gold Museum, you will be reminded of how the old gold days used to be.

Interior view of displays at the Dahlonega Gold Museum
Dsdugan, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a museum along with a county courthouse.

In the museum, you can see a lot of equipment from the days of the Gold Rush.

You can see see the panning instruments along with some old gold coins, too.

The Dahlonega Gold Museum is located in a building that is quite old.

The construction dates back to the 1830s.

Visit the Amicalola Falls State Park

Scenic view of Amicalola Falls State Park
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There are some truly blissful spots on the outskirts of Athens.

Amicalola Falls State Park is one of the most beautiful pieces of land.

A beautiful wooden bridge and staircase built over the Amicalola Falls
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The Appalachian Trail that runs through it is gorgeous on its own.

Your eyes shall be blessed with some of the most splendid waterfalls, too.

Nature trail filled with tall trees and yellow leaves at Amicalola Falls State Park
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Plan a Day Trip to the Charming City of Helen

Spectacular view of Helen Square, GA
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If you've seen all the best attractions in Athens and still have some extra time on your hands, you can venture on a trip outside the city and check out this quaint city.

Helena is just a short drive from Athens—roughly 62 miles away.

People enjoying their ride on a horse carriage in Helen, Georgia
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The beauty of this little city cannot be described in words, and the way it resembles old European structures is unbelievable.

Helen will remind you of Bavaria, Germany.

Family enjoying tubing at Chattahoochee River in Helen, GA
BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com

You'll surely have fun touring the city.

The best part about visiting Helen is that you can go cycling around.

Final Thoughts

This college town has history, southern charm, and a burgeoning creative scene.

When it comes to art and culture, Athens, Georgia, is a wonderland that will keep you entertained for days on end.

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