Top Attractions for First-Timers

Athens has a fantastic mix of attractions to appeal to all interests. Here are some of the top spots first-time visitors won’t want to miss.

Downtown Athens

The heart and soul of Athens is its vibrant downtown area. Centered around the beautiful University of Georgia campus, downtown has a youthful energy and funky vibe. Stroll down Clayton Street to do some shopping, grab a bite from one of the many local eateries, or stop for a drink at a cozy cafe or lively bar. Don’t miss the iconic 40 Watt Club, a legendary music venue that has hosted acts like R.E.M. and the B-52s. At night, downtown really comes alive as students and locals hit the town. The downtown area is very walkable and full of Southern charm.

North Campus Tailgates

Athens is a huge college football town, and tailgating is an essential part of the experience on game days. Head to North Campus a few hours before kickoff to join in the revelry. Tents and RVs fill the open fields as the smell of barbecue wafts through the air. Fans play cornhole, toss footballs, and socialize over cold drinks in anticipation of the big game. Soak up the electric atmosphere as the UGA marching band plays and fans chant. Trying some classic Southern tailgate food like fried chicken, mac and cheese, and pecan pie is a must!

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

This 313-acre preserve features picturesque natural scenery with wooded trails, gardens, and a conservatory. It’s a beautiful spot to take a leisurely stroll among the flowers and plants, including some rare and endangered species. Don’t miss the International Garden that highlights ornamental plants from around the world. The Visitor Center has informational exhibits and a gift shop with local artisan wares. Picnic areas dotted throughout the garden are perfect for an al fresco lunch. The State Botanical Garden is a peaceful oasis just minutes from downtown.

Athens Farmers Market

One of the best ways to experience Athens is through its incredible food scene, and the Athens Farmers Market is a great place to discover fresh, local flavors. Open year-round on Saturdays, the market brings together vendors selling seasonal produce, artisanal goods, baked treats, and more. Try some sweet Georgia peaches, pick up a bouquet of wildflowers, or sample freshly made hummus. Many of the city’s best chefs shop here for ingredients. There’s often live local music adding to the festive atmosphere. Don’t miss the weekly market if you’re visiting on a weekend!

Historic Tours

History buffs will love exploring Athens’ many historic and cultural sites. The Athens Welcome Center offers a variety of guided walking tours covering different aspects of the city’s past. Highlights include the African American Heritage Trail, the Civil War Tour, and a Food Tour sampling dishes at long-standing local restaurants. You can also take a self-guided tour of the University of Georgia Campus, which features famous landmarks like the grand entrance arch. Understanding Athens’ complex history and heritage gives great insight into what shaped this charming Southern town.

Shopping and Galleries

Athens has a vibrant arts and shopping scene. Boutiques and galleries line the streets of downtown, many featuring works by local artisans. For upscale shops, head to the quaint Five Points neighborhood. Antique lovers should visit Hawthorne Avenue in Normaltown, with a stretch of shops specializing in rare finds. The city is also home to a thriving music scene. Pick up some vinyl records at Wuxtry Records, the iconic store where R.E.M. got their start. Bring home a piece of Athens’ art, style, and sound.

How to Get Around Athens

Athens has several transportation options for getting to the city’s top attractions and exploring different neighborhoods. Here’s an overview of how to navigate Athens:

Light Rail

Athens doesn’t have an extensive public transportation system, but the Athens Transit Multimodal Center does offer useful light rail connections. The rail can take you from downtown Athens east to the outskirts of town. Key stops include downtown Athens, UGA’s East Campus, and Athens Regional Medical Center. Fares are $1.50 per ride. Schedules vary, so check times before planning your day. The light rail is a handy option for reaching some key sites around Athens without a car.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxis and rideshares like Uber/Lyft are readily available downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. This is a convenient option if you don’t feel like driving yourself or just need a lift back to your hotel after a night out. Fares vary but are generally reasonable for traveling within the city limits. Taxis can be hailed on the street downtown or called ahead for pickup. Rideshares are summoned through their apps as usual. For a group, you may need to request an XL vehicle or take multiple rides.

Charter Buses

For ultimate convenience exploring Athens, consider booking a charter bus! Charter buses are great for large groups who want to stay together and customize their own itinerary. Let a professional driver handle navigating Athens while you relax and take in the sights. Charter buses can pick you up directly from your hotel or other location. You’ll have the freedom to create your own schedule without relying on public transportation or finding parking. Charter buses allow you to travel around Athens together in comfort with amenities like reclining seats, climate control, luggage storage, and even onboard entertainment. Contact Charter Bus Company Athens at 706-583-6718 for a quote on renting a charter bus for your perfect Athens visit!

Ready to Get Started?

We hope this insider’s guide gets you excited to plan your first visit to Athens! With its small-town charm, lively college spirit, historic attractions, and fantastic food scene, Athens has so much to offer. Use our tips to help you make the most of your time in this one-of-a-kind Southern destination. Charter Bus Company Athens is here to make getting around Athens easy and stress-free. Call us at 706-583-6718 anytime to learn more about renting a charter bus for your Athens group trip!