Athens, Georgia | iStock
You may think Athens is a town exclusively for college students, but there’s more to it than football and late-night study sessions. Discover fun playgrounds, nature trails and other kid-friendly things to do in Athens, GA.
Meet Opossums, black bears, bald eagles and more who have been rescued from the wild and are native to Georgia. Bear Hollow is a great, free place for kids to learn about Georgia’s native animals and see how they function in natural habitats. The reptile house is also open to visitors to see reptile and amphibian exhibits.
Kids can explore 225 acres of woodlands and wetlands that lead all the way to the North Oconee River. The Education and Visitor Center includes live reptiles, amphibians, marine and freshwater aquariums and interactive natural history exhibits for a day full of learning about Georgia’s native wildlife. It’s also free to visit.
Backpack Campus Tour
Let your kids bring their backpacks and pretend they’re college students. Tour North Campus, starting on Broad Street and walk around the famous arch (legend has it that only those who graduated from The University of Georgia may walk beneath the Arch). Ring the chapel bell next to beautiful Herty Field, the site of the first intercollegiate football game in the Deep South. Stop at the main library and the café attached to the library. Then, walk down to the Tate Student Center and University Bookstore for a snack and some Bulldog gear. Kids will marvel at the size of UGA’s football stadium, Sanford Stadium, and imagine the roars and cheers of the 90,000+ fans in the stadium on game days.
A must-stop for Dawg fans, learn more about the history and success of UGA sports and get a look at UGA football SEC Championship and Bowl Championship trophies. Located on Lumpkin Street near Five Points.
Watch Some Sports
UGA is more than just a football school. See the Dawgs play baseball at Foley Field and Basketball or Gymnastics at Stegman Coliseum (affectionately known as the Stegosaurus for its old-school 1960s design). Tennis and swimming are two other popular sports to experience on campus. Grab some Bulldogs gear and let your kids cheer on these talented college athletes.
This 3.5 mile paved path is great for walking and cycling with kids. Stop at Dudley Park and enjoy the trail along the Oconee River. The first section of the firefly trail just opened off East Broad Street with a pedestrian bridge over Wilkerson Street to Dudley Park.
Stop and Play
Just a few minutes from Downtown Athens is the World of Wonder Park/Playground. The big, new playground is a huge improvement from the wooden structure of the past. It is a Biba Activated Playground (augmented reality game play experience) and has a rock climbing wall, a two-story Dynamo Apollo Spinner and a rope web climber. The swing areas include standard swings, as well as generational swings, swings for individuals with mobility impairment and park bench swings for parents.
An Athens tradition for over 60 years, get $1 ice cream scoops, $2 sundaes, and watch the bustle of Five Points Athens pass by on the bench out front.
See a Show
Before your visit, grab the local independent magazine, The Flagpole, for a great list of shows happening downtown. The paper also includes other arts and community event information. Some of music’s greats started their careers in Athens (think R.E.M. and Zac Brown Band). Mom and dad can stop by The 40 Watt Club (ages 18 and older) or The Georgia Theatre and The Foundry periodically has all-ages shows.
Where to Eat:
Cheap, tasty food is king in Athens. College kids and visitors alike come back to Athens time and time again for the eats.
Cali N Tito’s: Cool playground area and authentic burritos.
The Grit: Not your run of the mill vegetarian place, meat-eaters and vegetarians alike love this place. Get a golden bowl (veggies, rice and tofu) or the super duper nachos. They also have brunch on the weekends. Our 5-year-old kid-tester devoured the huge serving of chocolate chip pancakes. This place can get crowded during peak times, so plan accordingly.
Ted’s Most Best: Huge salads and mouth-watering pizzas and pasta.
Clocked: If you want burgers and fries, onion rings and milkshakes, this is the spot!
Ideal Bagel Company and Athens Bagel Company: Two great bagel stops for every combination of creme cheese and fresh bagels you can imagine.
Taqueria La Parilla: This Mexican restaurant has three locations in Athens, with the original location in the Homewood Shopping Center near Normaltown.
Jittery Joe’s: Muffins, other pastries and coffee. 9 Athens locations.
Big City Bread Cafe: Delicious brunch and breakfast items.
The Grill: Old-school establishment with burgers and milkshakes. Make sure to order the feta and fries.
Agua Linda Taqueria: Hang with the locals at this Mexican food favorite.
Other Local Stops:
Treehouse Kid and Craft: This toy store has so many fun toys and crafts, or stop by for a craft workshop while you visit.
Scope out the cool, local thrift shops such as Dynamite Clothing.
Half Moon Outfitters: Fun kids clothing and outdoor equipment.
For mom and dad: Creature Comforts Brewery and Terrapin Beer Co.
J.Crew Mercantile: Find discounted J.Crew items in the heart of downtown.
Where to Stay:
Holiday Inn Athens-University Area: The location is good for parking the car and walking around downtown during your visit.
Hotel Indigo: This hotel is on the boutique/fancier grade, but great for a special weekend away.
The Graduate: The retro-feel makes staying at this hotel a fun pick and the pool is great for hot days. The Foundry is connected to the hotel, making seeing live shows easy.
– Laura Powell contributed to this article