Athens, Georgia, is the home of the College Football National Champions, but weekends in the fall aren’t the only time to experience the Classic City. With a vibrant downtown, creative arts culture, and renowned music scene, Athens is full of reasons to visit when it’s not football season.
Even if cheering the Dawgs at Sanford Stadium isn’t on your itinerary, there are plenty of things to do for a perfect weekend in Athens!
Friday: Campus, Shopping, Dining
You can’t come to Athens and skip the University of Georgia entirely. The north side of the campus is full of beautiful Greek Revival architecture, serene green spaces, and stately magnolia trees.
Stroll through the Founder’s Garden and walk around the iconic arch (make sure you don’t walk through it if you aren’t a UGA graduate – it’s bad luck!) You can even ring the famous Chapel Bell, a school tradition after a winning game or a celebration.
This regal white oak tree legally owns itself and the eight feet of land surrounding it, making it one of the most famous trees in the world. Make sure to get a photo, but don’t stay too long – the tree is in the middle of a street in a residential neighborhood.
You can read more about this unusual tree here!
Vinyl Shops and Italian Food
For music lovers, Athens is known as the birthplace of chart-topping bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and The B-52s, among others, all of whom passed through downtown’s Wuxtry Records. It is the oldest record store in Georgia, founded in 1976.
Wuxtry specializes in used vinyl in all types of music and has consistently made the lists of top record stores in the country. You can find comic books, toys, and various curiosities at its upstairs sister store, Bizarro Wuxtry.
DePalma’s Italian Cafe is a vibrant and beloved Italian restaurant across from UGA. They serve tasty pizza and pasta. After dinner, stroll downtown Athens and stop at one or two of the many public houses available for an after-dinner drink.
Saturday: Breakfast, Mural Hunting, and Botanical Gardens
If you’re a fan of inventive donuts, you will love Zombie Coffee and Donuts! You can build your own creative concoction with toppings like Fruity Pebbles, bacon, Oreos, and more. Zombie serves Jittery Joe’s Coffee; a local Athens coffee company served in restaurants across the country. Make sure to pick up a bag before you go home.
Finding street art has become popular for visitors, and Athens has its share of quirky, Instagram-worthy murals. Some popular favorites at the Last Resort Grill, Pulaski Street, and Classic City Cycling. There are 29 by the last count, so keep an eye out and stage your own photoshoot.
The beautiful collection of gardens at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia was named one of the best gardens by USA Today. One of the prettiest spots in Athens, it has just over 300 acres where you can stroll the winding nature trails, admire the exotic plants in the arboretum, visit the chapel, and rest by the cultivated gardens and fountains.
Lunch, Sightseeing, and a Brew Pub
Clocked is a throwback diner that brings the ‘50s vibes and features burgers and sides made with organic, locally-sourced ingredients. Their milkshakes are said to be the star of the show. Order a classic hamburger or hotdog, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always go with the Peanut Butter Bacon or the Ring of Fire burgers.
One of the best ways to learn a city’s history is to tour one of its landmark historic homes. The Ware-Lyndon House is a chance to see a fashionable 19th-century home from the Gilded Age. This Greek Revival mansion has been carefully restored and decorated with antique furnishings, historical artifacts, and a period-authentic garden.
Athens has lots of beer. Terrapin and Creature Comforts are two great spots to taste local, hand-crafted brews and take home a commemorative glass as a souvenir.
Dinner and Live Music
Treat yourself to the best steak in town at Porterhouse Grill, Athens’s favorite of over 20 years. Porterhouse specialized in hand-cut steaks, surf-and-turf, and chicken and seafood options. Reservations are recommended, so plan ahead of time.
What better way to spend your time in one of the most celebrated music towns than to see live music at one of the oldest theaters? The Georgia Theatre hosts several weekly concerts for various up-and-coming and well-known bands.
Sunday: Brunch, Historical Offerings, and Art
This classic Athens brunch spot is known for its biscuit sandwiches and huge cinnamon buns. Try Mama’s Boy’sSalmon Cakes Benedict and Georgia Peach French Toast; you will thank me later.
This unusual cannon was created during the Civil War as an experiment by the Union Army. Never used in a battle, as it was deemed unsafe, it remains a prominent landmark beside City Hall in downtown Athens.
Athens has a vibrant arts scene, and the Georgie Museum of Art houses over 12,000 exhibitions in its permanent collection. You will see various media and art styles from every continent over centuries, from crafts significant to the state of Georgia to international art on loan from other galleries. The exhibits change quarterly, so you will probably have a different experience the next time you visit.
If you are still hungry, grab a classic Southern cuisine with a Southwestern flair lunch at Last Resort Grill, a cozy downtown venue. The shrimp ‘n grits are a favorite dish and be sure to leave room for one of the fabulous desserts in the large glass display case.
Animals and Chocolate: It’s a Wrap
A fun and free Athens experience, Bear Hollow is home to native Georgia animals, most of whom can’t be released into the wild due to injury or because they have been orphaned or have become too comfortable with people. You can see bears, birds, reptiles, amphibians, otters, deer, bobcats, and more.
On your way out of town, stop by Condor Chocolates for a tasty souvenir of your visit to Athens. This hometown chocolatier uses authentic chocolate-making techniques from Ecuador, home of the finest cacao in the world. Condor makes small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate bars, truffles, sipping chocolate, gelato, and more confections.
Although it may be time to head home, there is so much more to do in Athens that you should definitely plan a return trip as soon as possible. Next time, try to catch a Dawgs game!
This article was written by Allison Fulcher of Allison’s Wanderlands.
Read more of our Georgia posts:
A Guide to Dahlonega’s Wineries, Vineyards, and Tasting Rooms