Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Athens, OH

  • Published 2022/10/10

Athens is a city of learning, arts, and culture, with a long and enriched history since its inception.

Nestled between huge hills and scenic landscapes, the beautiful Hocking River flows through this modern city.

The climate here is delightful and suitable for tourists.

It is also the perfect compilation of new world charms and old-school romance.

Athens is also blessed with nature, teeming with lakes, gardens for recreation, parks, museum, and so on.

Interested to know more about this city?

Read on to find the 20 best things to do in Athens, Ohio.

Try Different Outdoor Activities at Stroud Run State Park

Sunny day at Stroud Run State Park

Don Bilski /

Wilderness and rugged terrains, with many trees sprawling across large acres of land, are what Stroud Run State Park is most known for.

It is nested in the Appalachian plateau and hence has panoramic views all around.

It abounds in natural beauty and has great trails along with water bodies like beaches and lakes.

Swim in the 900-foot sand beach on the east side.

Scuba diving kits are also available so you can enjoy gazing at some pleasant sea life.

Boating is permitted on the Dow Lake, with tie-up stakes provided on site.

The grounds of Stroud Run State Park

Don Bilski /

Nature walks are another attraction here as you snake your way through miles of forested lands.

Birdwatching is another thing you can do, as many species of birds fly through this forested terrain.

To top it all, camping grounds are also available here.

So you can plan out a great weekend trip or stay for a day or two in the lap of nature while enjoying all the above-stated facilities.

Nature trail at Stroud Run State Park

Don Bilski /

Visit the Kennedy Museum of Art

Exterior of the Kennedy Museum of Art

Asoep44, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Athens is a city blessed with several important historical structures.

One of them is the Kennedy Museum of Art, located in the Lin Hall.

This museum used to be the administrative building for the Athens Lunatic Asylum, also known as The Ridges.

This museum is the only part of The Ridges open for the public.

Front entrance to the Kennedy Museum of Art

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has no entry fees and contains many beautiful artifacts on display.

There are various exhibits showcasing the southwestern art styles.

Special traveling exhibits are also displayed from time to time.

Hiking at Various Trails in Athens

Athens Ohio Hiking

Don Bilski /

Since Athens is home to state parks and natural serves, hiking lovers will certainly love visiting this place.

Put on your sports shoes, choose any of the many trails available, and set off.

View from inside The Rock House

arthurgphotography /

Some great places to go hiking and trekking are Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, and Cedar Falls.

One of our recommendations would definitely be The Rock House, the only cave in Hocking Hills, which is located midway of a 150-feet cliff and has tunnel-like corridors.

Ash Cave in Ohio

James St. John, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Try Different Restaurants around the City

Court Street Diner at Athens, Ohio

Wendy van Overstreet /

Visit the Avalanche Pizza place for some of the finest pizzas.

It is touted as one of the best pizzas in the USA, so give it a try.

For those looking for a Mexican fill, you can visit Big Mamma’s burritos or the Casa Nuvea restaurant & cantina.

Shop sign of Big Mamma’s burritos

Wendy van Overstreet /

Bagel Street Deli has some delicious Bagels on offer and an excellent surrounding for a good date night with your partner.

Also, don’t forget Court Street Diner.

Gaze at the Beautiful Architecture of The Ridges

Exterior of The Ridges

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ridges is a name for the Athens Lunatic Asylum.

So you must be wondering what is so special about a place that used to house lunatics.

The architecture of this building is so beautiful that people flock from all over to see it.

Side view of The Ridges

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The place was sanctioned by the architect Levi T. Scofield whose works include prominent monuments like the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield and the Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland.

Furthermore, it used to house various Civil war veterans who had suffered from veterans apart from women going through trauma.

Facade of The Ridges

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Children and people suffering from alcoholism and TB also were housed in its premises during its operational years from 1874 to 1993.

Most of these poor souls never went back home and are buried in the nearby cemeteries.

View of The Ridges

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Downtown Area

Trail at Ohio University

Wendy van Overstreet /

Athens is great to explore on foot with plenty of shops and cafes located in the downtown area.

Also, don’t forget to explore the campus of Ohio University, home to many beautiful buildings that date back to the 1800s.

The road of Downtown Athens

Ed! at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn More about The Ridges at Southeast Ohio History Center

Those who found The Ridges fascinating should definitely visit Southeast Ohio History Center.

It is a learning center about the history of the asylum and showcases various exhibits from the hospital.

The famous Billy Milligan was also housed here, and his painting also holds a place at this history center.

Quilts from the civil war era sewn by women and a very intricate photograph gallery housing portraits by Elise Mitchell Sanford are some of the beautiful exhibits.

The in-house genealogy department has an area where visitors can research their own heritage.

The gift shop located also has various memorabilia to carry back home like t-shirts, mugs, and toys.

See the Art Exhibition at Dairy Barn Arts Center

Entrance doors of Dairy Barn Arts Center

Malachi Jacobs /

This farm is another reminder of how a democracy can help save historical monuments.

Dairy Barn Arts Center used to provide milk to residents of The Ridge and was spread over a large area of land.

It was to be demolished in the 1970s, but citizens protested and succeeded in it.

It was then converted into an art center.

Exterior of Dairy Barn Arts Center

Malachi Jacobs /

Quilting is one of the prime forms of art displayed here, and the artifacts are really very beautiful and intricately made.

There is also an art studio that conducts workshops and classes.

You can pay a visit just to look or even participate in one of the small workshops.

Solve a Mystery at Escape Rooms, Athens

Escape Rooms are some of the most interesting and fun games invented.

It’s the perfect way to spend some fun time with friends or family.

Get together with them and put your minds together to try and solve the mysteries.

With as many as six different types of escape rooms available, you will be spoilt for choice.

Have fun finding clues and solving intricate and quirky puzzles to find a way out.

What are you waiting for? Get your tickets now!

Cycle through Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Paved trail of Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Ed!(talk)(Hall of Fame) (Transferred by Cloudbound/Originally uploaded by Ed!), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 21-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway bears the name of the area’s original inhabitants.

The Shawnee called the Hocking River “Hockhocking,” which means “bottleneck” or “twisted,” while the Adena Indians who lived in the Hocking Valley over 2,000 years ago gave it the name “Adena.”

Hockhocking Adena Bikeway runs along the historic Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad tracks.

Nature view along Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Zack Frank /

The canal was badly damaged by floods on several occasions, particularly in the late 1800s, and the train replaced it as the preferred transportation route.

The bikeway may still see the canal basin’s ruins (between miles 5 and 10).

On your route to Nelsonville, you’ll pass through Ohio University and its sprawling campus before descending into the tranquil Hocking River forests that provide a scenic backdrop.

An abandoned tower at Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Zack Frank /

Attend the Spring Literary Festival

The famous Ohio University hosts the Spring Literary Festival, a three-day festival where authors from all walks of life are invited.

Various genres are explored, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Since its inception in 1986, it has hosted book readings, as well as reviews of various classical and famous books and authors.

It is sponsored and hosted by the English department and is free to visitors.

See Different Displays at Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery

The Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery was founded to inspire individuals of all ages to explore the world through hands-on learning.

Exhibitions and programs from many disciplines are intertwined at this museum.

There is a wide range of STEAM-based exhibitions at the museum, as well as programs and educational activities that are open to the public.

It promotes collaborative educational collaborations in Southeast Ohio.

The museum is a transformative center for discovery-based, hands-on education, boosting access to and equality in informal learning opportunities.

Play with Your Fido at Athens West State Dog Park

There are a lot of unique aspects of this park that are not often seen in other dog parks.

You don’t even need to carry your dog’s water dish.

Aside from the standard garbage cans, we also supply doggie bags.

Because of the park’s extensive tree canopy, you’ll be well-protected from the sun.

The park has a wide variety of seating options, and it’s easy to find a spot.

Picnic tables are located under two huge buildings in this area.

Shelter and shade are abundant thanks to this structure.

There is also a lot of grass for your dog to run around on and some agility equipment.

If you’re looking for a place to take your dog, go no further than this park.

Neither the municipality nor its residents are liable for any injury that may occur to your canine, and you are solely responsible for its well-being.

On their website, they provide a complete set of policies and procedures.

This park is a great area to spend time with your dog, and this may become your new favorite hangout in Athens, Ohio.

Go Winetasting at Pleasant Hill Vineyards

Athens, Ohio’s Pleasant Hill Vineyards is a small, family-run vineyard.

The winery, once a horse farm, opened its doors in 2012.

It provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Sit back and take in the sunset as you sample 10 different wines.

A unique event may even be attended!

Pleasant Hill is a wonderful place to visit, whether for a family outing or a romantic date night.

There is a log cottage connected to the Pleasant Hill Winery tasting facility.

Summer nights are made even more pleasant by the wide outside decks with two wood-burning stoves.

Ten wines, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Merlot, are available for tasting.

It also serves a wide range of sweet, dry, and semi-sweet flavors.

Do note that the vineyard offers bottles and glasses of wine separately.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Canoeing through the Lake Hope and Lake Logan State Parks

Scenic view of Lake Logan State Park

arthurgphotography /

The Hocking River is filled with hotspots offering Canoeing and kayaking services.

From beginners to experts, there are canoes and kayaks of various lengths.

You can even enjoy a leisurely raft trip through the slow currents in the water.

Tubes are also provided at these places.

View of Lake Logan State Parks

Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Special moonlight outings are also present, with full-night canoeing or kayaking trips on the rivers.

Fishing is permitted in the Lake Logan State Park.

Here, you may catch northern pike, bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and saugeye, among others.

Welcome sign of Lake Logan State Park

ehrlif /

Shop at Nelsonville Antiques and Vintage Market

If you are an antique lover, you must throng to this lively market to get great artifacts at affordable prices.

Art and furniture pieces from medieval times are on sale here.

This historic public square is an important landmark in the city and has splendidly beautiful antique stores all around.

You will love all the furniture from classical periods on display.

You can also shop for some small souvenirs to take back home for yourself and your friends.

There are various options available on sale.

Camp at Hocking Hills State Park

Gorgeous waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park

ehrlif /

Spring breaks are some of the most fun times of the year.

Kids get their holidays, so it’s the perfect time to go away with them for a trip.

Camping is one of the most pleasurable activities to have some fun and quality family time.

Hikers at Hocking Hills State Park

arthurgphotography /

Set up camp right in the midst of nature and have a nice, quiet weekend.

Enjoy some star gazing at night and identify the twinkling constellations along with your kiddo.

Cascades at Hocking Hills State Park

Pragadeesh Venkatesh /

For those families who want a little of everything, an RV is the perfect option.

Packed with all the essential modern facilities, this huge vehicle makes camping a lot less tedious and a lot more fun.

There are no parking areas, but this park provides a wonderful RV park with panoramic views.

Explore Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills Athens

Benjamin Simeneta /

Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular tourist spots in Ohio.

This magnificent gorge is a visual treat to look at and great for some nature photography.

Legend has it that that the hermit Richard Rowe used to live here with his two dogs.

He is the Old Man the cave has been supposedly named after him.

After his death, two brothers, Nathaniel and Pat Rayon, made this gorge their permanent homes.

But after their deaths, the cabin was relocated, and no one has since lived here.

Tourists admiring Old Man’s Cave

CiEll /

It is also said that the two brothers have been buried here.

As spooky as it sounds, the cave does give you a weird feeling.

In addition, there are various spots along the gorge as it cuts through some mighty and thick Blackhand sandstone.

Other than this, Hiking is also a great sport to enjoy on its various trails.

The whispering cave trail is moderately difficult but extremely fulfilling to undertake.

Hiking steps at Old Man’s Cave

Doug Lemke /

See the Lap of Nature at Cedar Falls

Scenic view of Cedar Falls

Kenneth Keifer /

Located near the Lower Gorge of Old Man’s Cave, these falls are sure to leave you heaving long sighs.

The scene here looks straight out of a picturesque postcard.

Moreover, it’s a comparatively lonely spot, which is perfect for couples.

It is highly voluminous and one of the biggest waterfalls in Hocking.

Downstream of Cedar Falls

ehrlif /

The Queer creek flowing nearby is very calming and yet falls over the slopes beautifully.

Hemlock grows abundantly in the nooks and crannies of this chasm along with other wild vegetation.

The steep hills and grottos in the surroundings will remind you of all the fairy tales set in the wild forest sides.

Catch a Film at The Athena Cinema

Exterior of the Athena Cinema

Chamberednautilus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watching a movie in a theater almost a century old is an experience you must not miss.

If you find yourself in Athens, catch a flick at The Athena Cinema.

The Athena Cinema is a community theater that screens foreign, arthouse, cult, and local films for free.

Majestic Theatre gave way to Schine’s Athena, which the current cinema replaced.

Today, Ohio University operates the theater.

You’ll have a great time at whichever film you watch and adore being a part of the local Athens scene.

Bring Your Skates to Athens Skate Park

The grounds of Athens Skate Park

Ed!(talk)(Hall of Fame) (Transferred by Cloudbound/Originally uploaded by Ed!), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Athens Skate Park, locally known as “the Rec Center,” is a modern 18,000-square-foot facility in Athens.

Grindline Skateparks constructed this concrete skatepark in 2003, making it the largest in the state of Ohio.

The entire pipe with a capsule is one of the most distinctive aspects of this one-of-a-kind skatepark.

Skateboarders, BMX riders, and in-line skaters are welcome to check out this incredible park in the past.

One of the greatest in Ohio, Athens Skate Park has hosted several professional skateboarders, including the legendary Tony Hawk.

Sit and Enjoy the Pond Views at Sells Park

You can reach Sells Park from the heart of Athens in a few kilometers.

Nearly everyone who visits Athens praises it as the city’s best-kept secret.

During the turn of the century, the Sells family was the first recorded owner of the home.

In 1939, they transferred land ownership to the United States federal government.

In 1979, Sells Park was born.

You’ll see a serene and beautiful scene when you reach Sells Park.

A small pond and several benches sit in the shadow of some trees in this picturesque setting.

Thanks to the network of hiking and biking trails found across its untouched terrain, you may also have an incredible adventure.

Spend quality time with your loved ones and furry friends at this peaceful park.

Play Mini-Golf at Dairy Lane

Dairy Lane is adjacent to the park on Richland Avenue.

It features 18 holes, each reflecting a different part of the Athens community, making this mini golf course one of the most distinctive in the United States.

With holes funded by businesses like Donkey Coffee & Espresso and Power 105.5 FM, it reads like a who’s who of Southeastern Ohio.

A mini-golf course is an excellent option for a leisurely afternoon out with the kids in one of Athen’s numerous parks.

You may also rent the shelter for special events in Dairy Lane Park.

Stock on Local Produce at Athens Farmers Market

Farmers, artisans, and Athens residents all pitch in to run Athens Farmers Market.

This community ensures that the abundance of homegrown goods is long-lasting and reliable.

Everyone, from natives to tourists, can find something fun to do at the lively farmers market.

You may get to know the locals of Athens on a personal level by visiting the Athens Farmers Market.

March through December is the market season.

The fresh vegetables and low prices at this market are a winning combination.

The live music performed by local artists is another draw to this market’s vivacity.

Final Thoughts

Ohio University may be the most famous institution in Athens, but it’s much more than that.

Athens, Ohio, is the ideal vacation spot for anybody interested in nature, art, culture, or history.

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