Athens is eclectic, vibrant, and unique – a.k.a. the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. Whether traveling to town or a local looking to dig a little deeper, you can always discover something new in Athens. Local music, neighborhood art, and diverse food combine to create a multitude of experiences. From a family-friendly excursion to a night on the town, craft a weekend that’s perfect for you.
Food & Drink
As a foodie, I can one hundred percent vouch for Athens’ status as a food lover’s dream. From comfort food to gourmet dining, this town has it all. Check out a few of my favorites:
is a famed local hotspot and, coincidentally, the first place my husband and I went on a date in Athens. Founded by Peter Dale, who in 2012 was named Food & Wine magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Southeast, The National specializes in Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. The entrées are fresh and local, and their outdoor tables gave us a view of the popular Creature Comforts brewery, which, with its delightful patio space, is a sweet view. If you’re not that hungry, we strongly recommend this place as a dessert and drinks option - their gluten-free flourless chocolate cake with a rotating gelato topping and the Portuguese custard tarts are to die for!
Zombie Coffee and Donuts
This is a delightful pick-your-own-adventure breakfast spot and is great for kids (or your own inner child). I can pick a chocolate or vanilla donut base and then add a myriad of toppings. If you’re feeling salty and sweet, I recommend going for maple with bacon, and if you’re feeling whimsical, try the Fruity Pebbles for crunch. You can't go wrong at Zombie Coffee and Donuts!
is Athens’ famous local coffee roaster, and, as a caffeine addict, I can say that their fame is well-deserved. Pick from drip coffee or classic espresso drinks – my favorite latte syrup is lavender in the summer! Not a coffee drinker? Grab tea, apple cider, or hot chocolate! With one location right downtown, Jittery Joe's is a great low-budget date night option to grab a drink and stroll around UGA’s adjacent North Campus.
is a great go-to for outdoor seating. With cornhole, a giant screen, and often live music, Paloma Park's vibrant atmosphere is a huge part of its appeal. Their portions are huge, so it’s one of my favorites for a double date night. Order a few plates for the table and share laughs over a specialty cocktail like the Park Paloma or Blackberry Smash. My favorite shareables are the Buffalo Bao Buns and Chimichurri Frites. Make sure to stop by for brunch on Saturday or Sunday for $4 mimosas.
Café on Lumpkin
is another adorable brunch option, but they are most famous for their Afternoon Tea (reservations now required). A fellow Jane Austen-loving friend of mine and I love to split a teapot with scones and jam, finger sandwiches, and sweets. Perfect for your child’s birthday party or a day with gal pals, Cafe on Lumpkin is instantly recognizable with the draping ivy on the side of the building.
has a great covered outdoor seating area, as mentioned above, but has ample indoor seating as well with a modern industrial vibe. On Wednesdays, Creature Comforts hosts the Athens Farmers Market from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. If you buy a beer during the market, you get a token that can count as a dollar off at any of the vendors! A general town favorite (as well as my own) is their Tropicália IPA, the famed beer of choice for Thor in the Avenger’s Endgame movie.
Athens Beer Trail
If there’s anything Athens is more well-known for than its delicious assortment of local eateries, it’s the impressive array of craft breweries. If you’re worried about missing any hidden gems or local favorites when making your to-do list, we’ve got a solution – the Athens Beer Trail! The perfect beer-tastic itinerary has already been made for you. How do you participate? It’s simple. Stop by any of the six participating breweries to grab your field guide. Then, take your guide to the bartenders at the respective establishments to get a stamp. Once you’ve collected all six stamps, you can stop by the Historic Athens Welcome Center at 280 E Dougherty Street every day between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to claim a commemorative prize.
If you have lots of family visiting and don’t want to worry about the hassle of moving multiple cars to multiple locations, there’s a solution for that, too. Hop on the Athens Beer Trail Trolley! Running on Thursdays and Fridays through all six breweries, tickets allow for hop-on and -off rides during the entire operational window that day.
Which breweries are part of the tour?
- Akademia Brewing Company
- Athentic Brewing Company
- Be sure to try Visit Athens' exclusive beer: Wide Open IPA
- Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
- Normaltown Brewing Company
- Southern Brewing Company
- Terrapin Beer Co.
The Classic Vistas
incredible murals by local artist Jill Biskin hang on the walls of The Classic Center Theatre. Whenever I go to a show at The Classic Center Theatre, I get there a few minutes early to attempt to discover a few more of the gems included in the paintings. Beloved Athens landmarks are featured, like the 40 Watt Club, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the original Firehouse No. 1 (currently home to The Classic Center and the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau), City Hall, the “Murmur” train trestle, the Taylor Grady House, The Tree That Owns Itself, The University of Georgia’s North Campus, the Morton Theater, and the statue of the Greek Goddess Athena. See if you can find them all!
are a fun local scavenger hunt. The first one I ever saw was a blue one with yellow flowers on it in a hallway at The Classic Center. Curiosity kicked in, and I discovered that it was part of the “We Let the Dawgs Out” public art exhibit first brought to life in 2003. Though the official fundraising campaign of the project is over, many of the locally painted statues still exist around town. Find out their current locations here.
Georgia Museum of Art
one of my go-to Sunday afternoon spots. The Georgia Museum of Art has both permanent and rotating exhibits, its quiet halls are tranquility incarnate, and it’s easy to lose hours exploring. They also host special events like Drawing in the Galleries, where an artist gives you tips on sketching before letting you pick an inspired spot in the museum to attempt to recreate one of the pieces of art. The best part is that museum admission is free!
At The Classic Center
The Broadway Entertainment Series is a yearly offering. Buy season tickets or just go to a single show, but make sure you add it to your itinerary somehow because it is worth it. The mobile ticketing process is incredibly easy as friendly volunteers scan my ticket on my phone, and the curved stairways in the lobby are breathtaking (especially when decorated for Christmas!) Notable offerings in the past have been Cinderella (my favorite), CATS, and Kinky Boots. Check out this year’s lineup.
Concerts make up a significant portion of the yearly lineup at The Classic Center Theatre as well. I make sure to catch a few shows a year and, having sat in the front of the room and in the back of the balcony, I can vouch that there is not a bad acoustic seat in the house.
UGA Hockey is one of my favorite fall offerings. The room is kept chilled for the ice rink, so even if it is 80 degrees outside, as Georgia fall is prone to be, I can put on my favorite sweater and scarf, grab a hot cocoa, and cheer on the Ice Dawgs. The student tickets sell fast and are incredibly popular with UGA attendees! When the team isn’t playing, the rink stays open for public ice skating!
Athens Wine Weekend is a popular choose-your-own-adventure event. If you don’t have an entirely free weekend for the full package deal, you can pick one or two events to go to. While the events are all so unique it’s hard to compare (from a delectable multi-course dinner to a tasting), my personal favorite is Amuse-Bouche, which features bites from local restaurants and paired wine options. Standing in The Classic Center’s Atrium, which is modeled after New York’s Grand Central Station, it’s impossible not to feel classy strolling across the marbled floors with a glass of wine in my hand.
Botanical Garden of Georgia
The perfect spot to walk off some of the well worth it calories from trying all of the restaurants listed above is the UGA State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. As I walk through the winding path, I’m led through everything from an International Garden to a playground in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. As a nerd, I absolutely love the signs with fun facts and heritage details about the flora that are strategically placed in front of the garden beds as I explore. One of the most magical experiences of my year is when the gardens transform into a Winter Wonderland of Lights around the holidays, and attend every year that I’m in town. While this event requires purchasing tickets, it is definitely worth it.
Bear Hollow Zoo
Conveniently just a few minutes' drive from the Café on Lumpkin mentioned above is a great summer spot to visit, the Bear Hollow Zoo. The first thing I see when I walk in is the otter pool, with two otters playfully swimming in circles around each other. Next up on the right – an alligator! As you make your way further back into the park, past owls, a reptile house, and more, you get to the namesake attraction – black bears! This is one of my go-to spots if I want to do something unique but don’t have a full day to spend.
UGA North Campus
If you are looking for a great spot for a picnic or a stroll, the University of Georgia's North Campus is perfect! Directly across from downtown, I like to grab takeout from a restaurant and set up for lunch on the lawn. While eating, you can see the famed arch. Rumor has it that if you walk through it before you’ve graduated, you won’t graduate on time, so don’t be surprised to see students weaving around it instead of through.
Athens Music Walk of Fame
Travel through the decades of Athens’ iconic music heritage and see your favorite local artists names honored along the Athens Music Walk of Fame. Some artists include R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic, and Bob Cole.