Day Trip to Athens, GA

No longer a simple college town surrounded by farmland, Athens, known also as the “Classic City” brings visitors in their own right for the award-winning restaurants and lively music scene. Musical acts like R.E.M. and the B-52s as well as James Beard award winner Hugh Acheson proudly call Athens home, making it a perfect place to explore for the day. This easy day trip from Atlanta also features craft breweries, boutiques and parklands.

Athens, GA 30601, USA
R.E.M. was one of the top musical acts to make it out of the small town of Athens, Georgia, and arguably out of the whole state. The band made the area famous, especially when they chose a specific photo for the back cover of their 1983 album “Murmur.” This railroad trestle was built as a part of the Georgia Railroad line and has been threatened to be torn down numerous times. But you’ll find students and urban explorers out here any day of the week checking it out and even climbing on it, which I don’t recommend. The trestle is located in the North Oconee River Greenway behind Mama’s Boy restaurant, so after a big brunch, explore the trestle and surrounding parklands.
269 N Hull St, Athens, GA 30601, USA
Trappeze Pub, named after the Trappist monks who make the most delicious beer, is not your average college town bar. It’s no secret that the beer menu is twice as long as the food menu. On any night of the week, you’ll find selections from all over the world, as well as small batches of specialty brews from nearby Terrapin Brewing Company. While they put an emphasis on the hard-to-find draft and bottle selections, the food is not what you might expect. You won’t find jalepeño poppers or potato skins here, but rather high-quality gourmet dishes. Cheese plates, Asian pork tacos and pecan crusted trout all make appearances. Whatever you order, make sure to try the Belgian fries with roasted garlic aioli, which tastes just like what you might find on the streets of Brussels.
197 Oak St, Athens, GA 30601, USA
When you’re a broke college student in the town of Athens, Georgia, there are few occasions when you can rationalize eating outside the dining hall. Splurges are reserved for special occasions, visits from family and days when you just want something delicious. Mama’s Boy Restaurant is ideal for all three. It’s a madhouse on weekends for brunch, so if you can I recommend going during the week. You may still have to wait for a table, but once you get your food you won’t even remember life before Mama’s Boy. If your belly is up for the task, order the Georgia Peach French Toast, pictured above, and an order of biscuits and gravy. Sure, the restaurant has lighter options, like a tofu stir fry and low calorie breakfast, but I say “go big or go home” or else it’s back to the dining hall for you. Mama’s Boy serves coffee from local roaster Jittery Joe’s to keep you moving throughout the day. The diner backs up onto the North Oconee River Greenway, so you can walk off your carbs.
815 W Broad St B, Athens, GA 30601, USA
If you’re looking for a New York-style breakfast in the college town of Athens, look no further than Ideal Bagel Co., set inside a former toy store. On any given morning, you’ll see students and townies lingering over their morning bagel and cup of strong Counter Culture coffee. Choose your variety of bagel with all the fixings like shmear, lox and capers or pick one of the signature bagels with toppings like pastrami, eggs and cheese. For lunch, grab one of their deli sandwiches on bread from their own bakery. Ideal Bagel is open from 7 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday, 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday and closed on Sunday.
200 W Washington St, Madison, GA 30650, USA
In downtown Madison, a historic town in Georgia, you’ll find tons of antique shops, a number of coffee shops and restaurants, and—best of all—the Madison Tea Room. My boyfriend knows how much I love tea and we had sometimes tried to get reservations there before, but it never panned out. Finally, two weekends ago he surprised with a reservation. When we first arrived, she escorted us to the back room, where I got to try on tons of beautiful vintage hats. When we sat down, we were brought black currant tea and a tiered stand. Some of the best treats were the mini quiche, a Wellington beef and horseradish sandwich, the scones served with lemon curd and strawberry jam, the brownies, and—my favorites—the profiteroles. The owner, Kathi Russell, talked with all the guests, making everyone feel at home. Her beautiful assortment of different teacups and dishes is elegant and makes for hours of admiration.
90 Carlton St, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Attached to the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, the Georgia Museum of Art was founded in 1948. It became the state’s official art museum in 1982 and has been a pillar in the local arts community ever since. The permanent collection features works of American, European and Asian art. There’s a gallery of just Italian Renaissance and another of folk artists like Georgian Howard Finster. They often feature student works as well. Best of all, it’s free to visit.
295 E Dougherty St, Athens, GA 30601, USA
Named for its history as an iron foundry, The Foundry is a part of The Graduate Hotel. The small music venue has a balcony section, making for a unique experience with great acoustics. During its tenure as a performing space, The Foundry has hosted acts like Nappy Roots and Blind Boys of Alabama. The range of musical acts and genres as well as the reasonably priced cover charges make it a favorite among students and townies. The full bar and restaurant is another feature that has made The Foundry a Classic City staple. Their menu includes shared plates and full entrees, craft beer, wine and cocktails.
217 Hiawassee Ave, Athens, GA 30601, USA
Prior to a glowing write-up in a major travel publication, you might drive past the white building with peeling paint. But what you’d miss is White Tiger Gourmet, a 100-year old neighborhood grocery store turned casual eatery. An area native and Culinary Institute of America graduate opened White Tiger in 2007. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the menu features barbecue sandwiches smoked on site, organic salads, vegetarian sandwiches and Southern style biscuits. Seating is a simple affair, either inside in one of the few tables or outside at a wooden picnic table. There aren’t waiters to speak of but your food is brought out and when you’re done you leave the basket and compost or recycle the rest.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks