Fun Places in Athens
Whether you enjoy listening to music, admiring various art forms, or being active by participating in recreational activities, Athens has something fun for you to do. From kayaking, to concerts, to the Georgia Museum of art, there is no short supply of ways to stay entertained. Some of the more popular places in Athens are highlighted below, but there are still many others outside of this list just waiting for you to experience them.
Athens' 'art and Soul
How appropriate that the city named for the goddess of reason, art, and literature radiates all those amazing features. From the beautiful hues of nature on the manicured lawns of the UGA campus and the blossoms springing to life in parks to the canvases showcased in art centers and the music heard wafting down the city streets, art in all forms abounds in Athens.
Choose from several venues for inspiring and entertaining musical, dramatic, and uproariously comedic performances: The Classic Center, UGA’s Performing Arts Center, The Morton Theatre, Athens Creative Theatre, and East Athens Educational Dance Center. For fans of cinema (not just Hollywood hits), Ciné presents a diverse mix of art house, foreign, documentary, and indie films that go much deeper than the B movies so often produced today.
People have been recreating the magnificence of the universe through sculptures, paintings, and architecture from the beginning of time, and Athens is no exception to that aesthetic tradition. Some of the world’s most talented artists as well as local talents who explore and inspire host exhibits in the Georgia Museum of Art on the UGA campus and in the Lyndon House Arts Center, which also inspires local artists to get involved in festivals, workshops, and classes.
Music is the art that speaks not only to Athenians, but also the world. The sweet melodies carry through the streets – strong base beats from clubs, soft acoustic sounds from street musicians, and magnificent crescendos seemingly issued from the tip of a conductor’s wand.
Home to an estimated 400 bands and solo musicians and clubs such as the 40 Watt Club and the Melting Point, both named Top 40 venues by Paste Magazine, Athens’ music scene exploded in the 1970s with such bands as the B-52s and R.E.M. and continued to nurture such musicians as: Widespread Panic, Matthew Sweet, Dreams So Real, The Method Actors, Love Tractor, Pylon, Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley), John Berry, Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power, Jucifer, Azure Ray, Olivia Tremor Control, The Woggles, The Fountains, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and Five Eight. Newer favorites include: Drive-By Truckers, The Whigs, Modern Skirts, Dead Confederate, the Packway Handle Band, Corey Smith, Dark Meat, Perpetual Groove, and Dubconscious.
Inspired by their homes, time, or lives spent in Athens, artists return to Athens, the city of their muse, to rest, live, or renew their talents. Filmmaker Jim Herbert – known for his early music videos for R.E.M., among other works, and who has had more one-man shows in film at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) than any other person is no exception. One of the South’s preeminent artists – painter, muralist, and folk musician Art Rosenbaum – lives in Athens and won a Grammy in 2008 for Best Historical Album. Authors who do or have lived in Athens include Pulitzer Prize-winners Deborah Blum and Edward Larson, as well as Judith Ortiz Cofer, Reginald McKnight, Terry Kay, Jim Kilgo, Coleman Barks, Ed Tant, and Philip Lee Williams.
Following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks, Athens is still the sacred temple for the arts.
Grass Roots Commitment
The backbone of any healthy arts community is its arts and music organizations. To get the “big picture” of what’s happening in Athens’ vibrant arts community, start by consulting the various calendars of local organizations and institutions:
- Athens Area Arts Council, www.athensarts.org
- Athens Banner-Herald, www.onlineathens.com
- Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitathensga.com
- Flagpole Magazine, www.flagpole.com
This list, while not all-inclusive, lists many of the non-profit organizations that drive Athens’ vibrant arts community.
Parks, Sports & Recreation
Nothing captures the Bulldog spirit like wolfing down a hot dog in Sanford Stadium on a crisp autumn day, surrounded by cheering fans in waves of red and black. And yet football is only the beginning when it comes to stretching the mind and body in Athens-Clarke County.
Children have ample opportunity to join in the fun with soccer, softball, and baseball programs all around Athens-Clark County.
Swimming pools are accessible at the YWCA, Bishop Park, East Athens Community Park, Memorial Park, Rocksprings Park, Southeast Clarke Park, and Thomas N. Lay Park.
For golf enthusiasts, Athens offers top-quality private and semi-private courses to challenge and thrill pros and amateurs alike. Nature lovers will be amazed at the hiking, fishing, and boating facilities that bring you face to face with the often-overlooked natural beauty of Athens. Sandy Creek Nature Center offers a myriad of outdoor activities, and Sandy Creek Park’s shoreline is a picturesque place for a romantic or family picnic.
Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services maintains more than 2,500 acres with diverse parks and facilities including five swimming pools, an arts center and museum, community centers, dance center, historic theatre, disc golf course, dog parks, a nature center, tennis center, a youth sports complex, a skate park, miles of greenway and trails, and a zoo.
Athens is also home to America’s first garden club, the 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia and one of the most extensive and diverse collections of specialty nurseries and gardens in the Southeast United States.
Spend an afternoon exploring the 80 acres of Bear Hollow Wildlife Zoo and Memorial Park. The child-friendly zoo nestled in a hardwood forest is home to bears, bobcats, and other native wildlife. Extensive playground equipment, picnic shelters, a lake, and walking trails are also part of the complex.
The 60-acre Oconee Forest Park has walking trails, a 1.2-mile mountain bike trail, and a 15-acre lake. Mature oak and hickory trees mingle with tulip poplars in the old-growth forest.
The Greenways and riverside parks provide opportunities to experience nature while linking parks, neighborhoods, points of interest, and activity centers. The North Oconee River Greenway is a 3.75-mile, 10-foot-wide, poured concrete trail that connects with Cook’s Greenway Trail at Sandy Creek Nature Center and follows the North Oconee River south toward downtown Athens and the University of Georgia.
Athens represents a rare combination of natural beauty and outdoor activities combined with a strong sense of ecological awareness and whole-hearted community commitment to the preservation of the environment.