Best of the Classic City: Athens, GA
Athens, GA has been my home for the past 4 years. It has brought me so many gifts and has allowed me to grow and expand into who I am today. It is WAY more than just a college town. Athens has incredible musicians, is a foodie paradise, is filled with history and art, and is called home by the most beautiful people.
As I end my time here in Athens, I want to share its beauty and, hopefully, it will gift you with even the slightest bit of joy it has given me.
Just a little bit of orientation…The University of Georgia campus is at the center. To the north of campus is Downtown. Downtown is a fun place to walk around during the day time and shop at all of the local stores (featured later). Downtown is also where a majority of the nightlife occurs. South of campus is Little Five Points, which is an array of coffee shops, local stores, and my favorite health food store, Earthfare. Normaltown is farther away from campus and downtown, basically behind downtown and all down Prince Avenue. This is a fun area to walk around- there are historic homes, local shops, fun coffee shops, and yummy food. Normaltown is where all of the locals in Athens live, so this is also another option of nightlife if the thought of being surrounded by undergrads makes your skin crawl (we’re not that bad, I promise!).
How to Get Around
It would be best to have access to a car. Parking is not horrible- parking is free in Little Five Points and is metered downtown and in Normaltown (except on weekends and late nights). Most businesses have free parking if you are using their services. Athens is also not afraid to tow so be weary, especially if you come in the Fall during football weekends.
For the Foodie…
The Grit – Vegan (I dare you to try it even if you aren’t a vegan) in Normaltown
Agua Linda – Cheap, yummy Mexican in Normaltown and another one off Timothy Road
Sr. Sol – Cheap, yummy Mexican with great deals on Margaritas
Cali n Tito’s – There are two but the one on Lumpkin is cash-only and BYOB. The other is on the East Side and has fun dance classes, indoor/outdoor vibe, and is filled with funky vibes.
Kelley’s Jamaican – Ton of food and cheap!
Frutta Bowl – Acai bowls, within walking distance of Downtown
The Place – higher end restaurant located in Downtown
Clocked – Burger place located Downtown. They have a peanut butter burger!
Ted’s Most Best – This place is always packed and for good reason. It is very family friendly and has a great outdoor space.
White Tiger – Burger place in Normaltown. It is kind of hard to find because it is in a neighborhood and looks like a house, which makes it even more fun!
Big City Bread – great brunch/lunch and dinner spot located in Normaltown
Little Italy – nothing better than a late-night slice of pizza
Maepole – Think Chipotle but health foods. Everything is local and fresh and oh so good!
Iron Factory – Higher end Korean BBQ!
For the coffee drinker…
Ike n Jane – Bring your own mug and get an amazing cup of coffee for $1. They also have incredible donuts and pastries. This is located in Normaltown. I usually head here after the farmers market!
1000 Faces – A local coffee roaster near downtown.
Hendershots – This is a local coffee shop that turns into a concert/bar scene at nights. This is near Normaltown.
Walkers Pub – Similar vibe to Hendershots, this is a coffee shop that turns into a bar at nights. This is located in the heart of downtown.
Independent Bakery – Located in Little 5 Points, grab a latte and a pastry. Or at least stroll by, because the smell is lovely.
Buvez – A local secret. It is tucked away in Normaltown.
For the Doer…
Georgia Theatre. Great artists are coming through this venue all the time- any day of the week.
UGA Football Game. This is always fun, even if you don’t have a ticket. If you are from out of town, tailgate on Myers Quad. Someone will invite you to join them and watch the game if you don’t get into the game. You can also just wait until right after kick-off and buy a ticket from someone selling them right outside the gate for cheap!
Sunrise/sunset at Iron Horse. Or a picnic in the middle of the day.
CAN’T FORGET YOGA! There are so many studios but I called Shakti my home. When you walk in, you will feel like you just came home, and can finally breathe all of the tension out.
Vintage shopping at Dynamite and Atomic in Downtown. Downtown is full of other good shops, like outfitters and boutiques.
Athens Farmers Market. Every Saturday at Bishop Park and every Wednesday at Creature Comforts. They have live music, local farmers, and other vendors. They have food trucks – HIGHLY recommend a biscuit from FarmCart. Apparently, they are opening a store soon, too. So be on the lookout!
Rook & Pawn. A board game cafe! You can get coffee, drinks, small appetizers, as well as check out one of their million board games.
Local hiking places: Sandy Creek Park and the Intramural Fields.
Athens has two local breweries to check out: Creature Comforts and Terrapin.
Active Climbing has rock climbing and is located behind Normaltown.
For the Night Owl…
Athens is a college town, so there is no shortage on nightlife.
For the oldies, head to Normaltown. There are a few bars there. If you want to go downtown, I would stay to the West of the Georgia Theatre, with the exception of Blue Sky.
For the life of the party, head to bars like Buddha, Cloud, or Sandbar.
For the end of the night, before you head home, be sure to stop by 9d’s or 100 Proof‘s rooftop.
If you aren’t sure what your vibe is, you can always just walk down Clayton Street and there will be many choices.
Athens is located in a prime location to several fun towns and serves as a home base, so you can do it all.
Mt. Yonah…Yonah Mountain is a mountain located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest about 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Athens. It is between the towns of Cleveland and Helen. It is a 2.3 mile trail that leads to the summit. This is a great hike any time of year. After you hike Yonah, you can check out Dahlonega or Blue Ridge– two charming towns with shopping and ice cream.
Helen, GA is also very unique known for its Bavarian architecture (about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Athens). If you want to “Shoot the ‘Hooch” (tube down the Chattahoochee River), this is the place to do it! It is only like $2 for a tube and the perfect summer activity.
Tallulah Gorge…Tallulah Gorge is a state park 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Athens. The park surrounds Tallulah Gorge, a 1,000-foot deep gorge formed by the Tallulah River, which runs along the floor of the gorge. There are plenty of hikes, and close by is Goats on the Roof which is exactly what it sounds like- a tourist shop with goats on its roof. This is also close to my favorite city to visit in late October…Clayton, GA. It’s about 30 minutes farther North and is an amazingly quaint town. I try to visit every year at least once, especially to see the colorful autumn leaves. Clayton is home to some of the best antique stores as well as the most yummy restaurant I have found in America (yes, I just said that!) called Cafe Rel. It is a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant connected to a gas station! Order a sub, because the bread is to die for.
Atlanta is only 1.5 hours away. Atlanta is huge but worth a day trip. I would recommend staying in Athens and visiting Atlanta to save some money! Check out my blog post on Atlanta here.
I could go on forever about this town, but this is a good start. While you are here, be sure to just soak up the positive energy and love.