What does Jeff Daniels, a tree that owns itself, the band R.E.M., and the world’s only double-barreled cannon have in common? They can all trace their origins to Athens, Georgia, a small college town located 61 miles northeast of Atlanta. Home to the University of Georgia, Athens is a must-visit for anyone who loves diverse dining options, quaint Victorian-era architecture, a thriving nightlife, and a world-renowned music scene, all within walking distance. It’s little wonder that Forbes listed it one of “America’s Prettiest Towns “in 2013.
Being a college town, you can find many inexpensive ways to spend your day. There’s no shortage of museums and art galleries including the Georgia Museum of Art, which has free admission. If you like gardens, Athens has bragging rights for America’s first garden club and is home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (313 acres of a green thumb’s dream) – also free admission. Foodies should be sure to check out the Terrapin Beer Company or the Southern Brewing Company and find out why Athens has been listed in Fortune Magazine’s “America’s 10 New Best Craft Beer Cities” in 2016 (or check out one of the 70 plus bars packed within a square mile.) While the latter options aren’t free, they can be pretty close as many of them offer $1 beers. Finally, one would be remiss not to check out the music scene that R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic, and many more have launched from by checking out one (or more) of the many music venues the city has to offer, including the Georgia Theatre which offers a rooftop bar.
Athens is situated on the northern end of Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, which winds south along the Highway 441 Heritage Corridor and passes by many communities including Madison, Milledgeville, and Macon (to name a few) that are lush with antebellum architecture and a feeling of being transported into the scenery of “Gone With The Wind.” If feeling like Scarlett isn’t your thing, head north to the Chattahoochee National Forest and check out the Blue Ridge Mountains where you can fish, canoe, whitewater raft, and hike to your heart’s desire.
Aside from Athens’ downtown area (north of the University of Georgia’s campus), which has many hotel options, there are a few different neighborhoods with their own feel that are worth checking into. Boulevard is less than a mile to the northwest of downtown and is known for it’s rustic, warehouse exteriors. If you prefer tree-lined streets with a more suburb feel, stay in Cobbham, just south of Boulevard. Those with a more sophisticated palate and a love of 1920s-era architecture should look around Five Points, located southwest of campus.
Getting into Athens can be done either through Athens-Ben Epps Airport or more likely, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Shuttles can bring you from there or if you prefer to drive yourself there’s many rental car options to choose from. To get around in the city, Athens boasts a high walkability score and prides itself in being one of the more bike-friendly cities in the South, so if you don’t mind physical activity and humidity (depending on the time of year) then these self powered transportation options will get you to where you need to go. Otherwise, there’s the bus system (Athens Transit) where $1.75 will get you anywhere in the city.
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