Athens, Georgia, located about an hour to an hour and a half from the Metro Atlanta area, is known to be one of the more liberal and freethinking cities in all of the South, and is home to the University of Georgia and their beloved Georgia Bulldogs NCAA football team. The “Classic City,” as Athens is affectionately known, is famous for having a vibrant local music scene which has spawned major national acts such as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, the B-52s, and of Montréal. Athens is also known for its Downtown entertainment sector, which is chock-full of bars, clubs, shops and restaurants which cater to the college and hipster crowds.
When visiting Athens, step one is going to be figuring out where to lay your head, and the city has ample affordable and convenient lodging. If you want to have easy access to all that Downtown has to offer by foot, you might consider staying at the Hotel Indigo, the Foundry Park Inn and Spa, or the Best Western Athens. For UGA football enthusiasts, George Game Day Center Downtown is a great option catering specifically to the Bulldog set. If you are hitting Athens to check out the college or visit a student, look no further than the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, conveniently located right on campus.
When it comes to food, Athens really shines, particularly for a city of its reasonably small size. If you don’t eat meat, or even if you do but also enjoy vegetarian food, Athens happens to have one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in the country in The Grit. For down-home Southern cooking and Soul Food you might try Mama’s Boy or Weaver D’s (the restaurant who’s signage inspired R.E.M.’s classic Automatic For The People album). Higher-end restaurants include the Last Resort Grill, Five & Ten, and The National. For a great farm-to-table dining experience you might try Farm 255 which also converts to a fun outdoor live music venue after hours on weekends.
Athens is known for its renowned live music venues such as the famous 40 Watt, Georgia Theatre, and Classic Center, respectively. If you want to really experience the Athens nightlife it would be a good idea to catch a show at one of these venues, or on a smaller local live music purveyor such as the Caledonia Lounge or Flicker Theatre & Bar. In terms of college bars, favorites include Barcode, Walker’s Coffee and Pub, Cutters, Allgood, and Boar’s Head. Local hipster haunts include Max Canada, the Manhattan, and Little King’s Shuffle Club.
When it comes down to it, it is really quite remarkable all that Athens has to offer within the small radius of its Downtown sector. In a lot of ways, Athens offers the best of both worlds in terms of urban culture and sophistication mixed with small town Southern hospitality and charm. If you live in Atlanta, or anywhere nearby, the Classic City is a great choice for an easy, relaxing or rousing (depending on how you want to play it) day or weekend getaway.