Infused with both college and small town vibes and boasting a celebrated live music scene — which produced the likes of R.E.M., the B-52’s, and Widespread Panic — Athens, Georgia is a good-times trifecta. About a 100-minute drive from Atlanta, the city is anchored by the lush circa-1785 University of Georgia campus. It’s where you can groove to resident and touring bands, nosh at awesome eateries, enjoy boutiques and coffee shops, take brewery tours, and amble around campus. You don’t have to pretend you’re back in college while in Athens, but it’s not frowned upon.
Activities: Music is at the heart of Athens, so check the schedule at venues such as the Georgia Theatre, the beloved 40 Watt Club, and The Foundry — a former blacksmith shop that currently serves as a music venue, restaurant, and bar. For more arts, take in a first run, classic, or foreign film at the art house theater Ciné. The attractive downtown entertainment district features streets lined with vintage brick buildings and more than 60 retailers, eateries, and bars. Be sure to explore the neighborhoods to view stately Georgian mansions and Victorian architecture; the picturesque, historic UGA campus is the perfect place to start for long walks.
Eat: Get fresh, creative local farm-to-table fare at The Branded Butcher, where pan-seared duck breast — served with farro, radish, hakurei turnip, greens, and marmalade — will be the perfect follow-up to charcuterie. There’s also a hearty wine list with vintage offerings and a great whiskey selection. Alternatively, French haute cuisine can be had at Etienne Brasserie, where classic dishes such as coq au vin and salade niçoise are served alongside daily specials.
Drink: Breweries abound, so when you get your fill of bar hopping downtown, plan to tour the local craft beer purveyors. We love Terrapin Beer Company, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, and the Southern Brewing Company.
Museums: On the UGA campus, The Georgia Museum of Art is the official art museum of the state (free). The collection includes American paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, European art, and Asian works. To tour one or all of the city’s house museums, visit the Athens Welcome Center at the Church-Waddel-Brumby House for a brochure, tickets, and other information.
Stay: Stay at the casual-chic Graduate Athens hotel, a boutique property featuring the aforementioned Foundry and an aptly named onsite coffee bar, Iron Works Coffee. Additional amenities include the spa, fitness center, outdoor pool, and complimentary shuttle service. The hotel’s pet-friendly rooms and suites range from $119 to $159.
Getting There: Fly into the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia and drive one hour and 40 minutes to Athens.