Roaming around the state of Georgia? Experiencing all of the best things to do in Athens, GA, will be an adventure in itself. In this vibrant college town, you’ll find students and alumni rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs, an exciting live music scene with performances at the Athens Farmers Market, Georgia Theatre, Morton Theatre, and more.
Bask in the Southern charm of Athens, Georgia, at Ware-Lyndon House or the Lyndon House Arts Center. As many of Athens’ historical landmarks are scattered throughout the city, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the city’s past as you explore all its top tourist attractions.
Ready to discover what to do in Athens, Georgia? Plan the perfect trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Athens, GA.
Best places to visit in Athens, GA
Bear Hollow Zoo
Located inside Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo is one of the coolest places to go in Athens, GA, for families. Visiting this 225-acre park, you’ll get to see more than just black bears.
River otters, American alligators, deer, bald eagles, wild turkeys, the Great Horned Owl, and the Eastern Screech Owl are some of the many other animals you can witness at Bear Hollow Zoo.
If you’ve never witnessed a quail up close, check out the zoo’s Northern Bobwhite Quail. Stop by the reptile house to learn about the different reptiles that live there.
All the animals cannot be released back into the wild as they have been raised at the zoo all of their lives.
State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Sprawling out 313 acres, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a must-see for nature lovers. The garden is home to several beautiful themed gardens and nature trails that are the perfect addition to your Athens, GA, sightseeing adventure.
Spend time roaming around the Flower Garden to rejuvenate among its dahlias, peonies, and tropical foliage. Sink into the International Garden to discover plants that shaped our diets and traditional medicine. Or take a walk through Georgia’s agricultural history in the Heritage Garden.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia also hosts educational programs for children and adults.
Adult educational programs include classes to earn a Certificate in Native Plants, Garden and Nature Rambles, and the annual Nature Plants Symposium.
There are children’s educational programs and venues at the botanical garden such as the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden and the Sweet Pea Club (ages 3-6).
The Garden Gnomes Docent Program features activity tables set up throughout the garden that only take 5 to 10 minutes to do. It will help children to learn more about nature.
The Children’s Garden Passport allows youngsters to explore the botanical garden like a scavenger hunt. Once the child finishes all the designated activities, they get a stamp on their Garden Passport that shows they are a Garden Earth Explorer.
Georgia Museum of Art
Located on the University of Georgia campus, the Georgia Museum of Art is not only the state’s official art museum as of 1982 but also an academic museum.
Enjoy art collections such as the Thompson collection, American Art, Decorative Arts, and the Daura Collection and Study Center.
American art is the greatest focus at the Georgia Museum of Art. You can see work from Albert Bierstadt, George Inness, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, and other notable artists from America’s history.
Get free one-hour admission for the time slot that you select when you visit their official website. Grab a reservation online so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Sandy Creek Nature Center
Located in Sandy Creek Park, the Sandy Creek Nature Center spreads across 782 acres of beautiful Georgian nature. For outdoor adventurers, it’s one of the coolest places to see in Athens, GA.
The Sandy Creek Nature Center log cabin was built in 1815 and has still been maintained to this day. Stop by to view reptiles, aquariums featuring freshwater and marine wildlife, and other exhibits that give all visitors an interactive learning experience.
When you’re done exploring the Sandy Creek Nature Center, try one of the activities at Lake Chapman on-site. Explore the nature trails nearby the lakeside for a peaceful walk. Get active with disc golf activities scheduled.
Boating activities are also available in the park throughout the spring and summer. Check their official website for more details.
Downtown Athens Historic District
Downtown Athens Historic District was designated as a place on the National Register of Historic Places in August 1978. It started just adjacent to Broad Street near the historic North Campus of the University of Georgia.
Stop by the Historic Athens Welcome Center to get a tour of Downtown Athens with a reservation. When you’re done visiting, take a walk in their on-site historic museum, and don’t forget to grab a souvenir from their gift shop.
Athens City Hall is 0.2 miles around the corner from the welcome center. Check out the available children’s and adults programs that teach people how to conserve water year-round.
Explore the Georgia Square Mall on Atlanta Highway to shop major department stores and local specialty stores for clothing, shoes, home decor, and other merchandise you need or want.
Want to catch a glimpse of Athens’ legendary music scene? Spend an evening rockin’ out at the Georgia Theatre, famed for its live rock and roll music. At this popular local music venue, you can see bands play such as Futurebirds, Zac Crook, Buckcherry, and CDSM.
The Georgia Theatre is unique in that you can also visit their rooftop bar before or after a live musical event. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they serve food an hour before a show. (If there’s no show scheduled, the bar is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.)
The rooftop bar is open Wednesday through Saturday until midnight, with open time at 3 pm on Wednesday and Thursday and starting at noon on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you want to host a private event for up to 250 people, you can request a reservation for the rooftop bar in advance.
Looking to dig into the history of Athens, GA? Save time to visit the Taylor-Grady House, a designated National Historic Landmark.
Robert Taylor built this historic Greek Revival home as his summer home in 1844. Henry Grady was one of the residents in the Taylor-Grady House for the few years he attended college until 1868.
Take a tour of the museum to see its updated modern appeal. Tours are $3 per person whether you go on a self-guided tour or a guided tour.
When representatives aren’t giving tours, Taylor-Grady House is a popular local event venue. You can host weddings, special events, and corporate events with a reservation here.
Opened by African-American businessman Monroe Morton, the Morton Theatre is one of America’s first vaudeville theatres.
Since 1910, the theater has been a large player in Athens’ music history. Many musical greats such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington performed at Morton Theatre during the prime of their careers.
Besides live musical performances from notable bands and singers, you can also witness dance competitions, comedy numbers, film festivals, weddings, plays, and many more performances at the Morton Theatre.
Oconee Forest Park
Over a century old, Oconee Forest Park offers plenty for nature lovers to explore with over 850 miles of territory.
If you’re a bike enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the 1.2-mile mountain bike trail, starting at the park’s southernmost entrance. Or learn more about different types of trees with a hike along the Tree Trail. Each unique tree is labeled throughout the trail, teaching you all about the types of trees native to the area.
On your visit to Oconee Forest Park, you can also go wildlife watching to spot herpetofauna, birds, and other native mammals.
Bring Fido or Fifi along but remember that he or she must remain on a leash at all times. There’s only one designated off-leash area where dogs can roam freely without wearing leashes.
Lyndon House Arts Center
In the mood to add some creative flair to your Athens, GA, visit? Lyndon House Arts Center is a local performing arts & education venue featuring dance, theatre, and musical events.
Visit their exhibitions link on their official website to see their upcoming special art exhibits. Take a look at past exhibitions to see the type of art that’s usually featured at the Lyndon House Arts Center.
If you want to get creative, register for one of their educational art classes based on age. They’re available for children, teens, and adults.
Petition for an open studio membership to have a working space to turn your metalsmithing into fiber-based products and prints into formal photos.
If you’re an artist, watch for the center’s call for artists to have your work featured at the organization.
Athens Farmers Market
Interested in shopping local? Stop by Bishop Park on Saturdays from 8 am to 12 pm to browse the Athens Farmers Market. The local farmers’ market stays open from March through December annually.
Every Saturday, you can listen to local musicians perform. It’s an entertaining experience beyond just buying your produce.
If you have a SNAP card, you’ll get the amount you are charged on your card in the form of wood tokens to spend at the market. This means your SNAP benefits go doubly far at Athens Farmers Market.
Stop by the children’s booth for farm and nature-based activities to get the kids excited about visiting the farmer’s market.
Watch the local chefs at the farmers market pop-up kitchen begin to prepare their favorite meals at 10 am every Saturday.
Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall
For sports fans, Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall is one of the coolest places to see in Athens, GA. The sports complex sits on the University of Georgia campus, named after two famous coaches, Harry Mehre and Wallace Butts.
At Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, you can watch football games from the University of Georgia (UGA) Athletic Association or go on a tour during business hours throughout the week.
Team jerseys and other props decorate the hall in the foyer. Surrounding the historical displays are the coaches’ offices and administrative offices linked to the Athletic Association.
The Ware-Lyndon House is another historic home in our lineup of best things to do in Athens, Georgia. However, besides its Greek Revival roots, this 1840s home features an Italianate architectural influence.
Edward Ware was the original builder and owner of the house in 1850 before his death in 1883. He served as mayor of Athens for two terms during his lifetime.
The city government acquired the Ware-Lyndon House in 1939 to expand their government offices. It was the first building outside of City Hall owned by city officials.
With furnishings restored in 1960 and designated as a national landmark in 1988, Ware-Lyndon House is a great place to see artifacts and other historical representations of the city of Athens, GA.
Dahlonega Gold Museum
Dahlonega Gold Museum is located about an hour and a half away from the City Hall in Athens, Georgia inside the Lumpkin County Courthouse. One of the best day trips from Athens, GA, it’s worth the drive to visit the Gold Museum to witness the history of America’s first gold rush.
The museum originated in 1836 and is the heart of downtown Dahlonega. More than $6 million in gold was minted from 1838 to 1861 at a local United States Branch Mint.
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Today, you can get tours of the Dahlonega Gold Museum cheaply. Children ages 6 and under receive free admission. If you have larger groups wanting to tour at a time, you get $1.50 to $2 off per ticket depending on age.
Amicalola Falls State Park
Looking to escape the city? Part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Amicalola Falls State Park is one of the top points of interest in Athens, GA, for nature lovers. The park is located about 2 hours away from Downtown Athens.
The park’s name is derived from the Cherokee language, translating to “tumbling waters.” The park’s namesake, Amicalola Falls, measures 729 feet in height, making it the highest waterfall in Georgia.
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Take advantage of the Cozy Cabin Deal during the spring and summer and the Winter Lodge Special during the cold months to have a relaxing vacation at Amicalola Falls State Park. You can also check out the Spring Break Package between the beginning of March to the end of April.
Located on the University of Georgia campus, Sanford Stadium tops the list of what to see in Athens, GA, for football fans. During the football season, the 93,000-seat stadium fills with college students cheering on their beloved Georgia Bulldogs.
Thanks to its breathtaking architecture, Americans call Sanford Stadium one of the most beautiful on-campus stadiums. Of course, the stadium is at its most bustling during football games as the Georgia Bulldogs defend their territory against other college football teams.
Check the schedule and buy tickets for a game at the team’s official site.
The Tree That Owns Itself
The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree in the city of Athens that has a legendary back story. According to the legend, the tree owns itself and the land surrounding eight feet of where the tree stands.
In his last will, Colonel William H. Jackson demanded “freedom” for the tree. Since 1890, the tree, also known as the Jackson Oak, has “owned itself” in this historical place in the heart of Athens.
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The original oak tree fell during a wind storm in October 1942. It was replaced shortly afterward with a new tree, grown from one of the original’s acorns.