While a lot of 2020 may have been a Grinch, there are still plenty of festive ways to safely enjoy the season in Athens, including the return of ice skating and holiday markets plus some new holiday traditions like Light Up Athens. This season is the perfect opportunity to take time to take in the simple pleasures of twinkling lights, meaningful music, a cup of hot cocoa and locally made gifts.

The Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau has compiled these festive holiday events, activities, and things to do to celebrate the holidays:


Ice skating returns to Athens! The rink is outdoors at The Classic Center Pavilion through January 31 so skaters can return again and again. Plenty of new safety measures are being taken, making this outdoor activity both festive and comfortable. A limited number of tickets are available for each 75-minute session, cost $15 per person ($12 for groups of 10 or more) and should be purchased ahead of time online at www.ClassicCenter.com/AthensonIce. All the changes and what you need to know about ice skating in Athens in 2020 are detailed at www.VisitAthensGa.com/blog/.


Athens' amazing creative community is on full display at holiday open houses and artist markets.

  • An all-new Holiday Fair at Athentic Brewery celebrates Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28. 
  • The Athens Farmers Market Holiday Artist Market will be back on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28.
  • Another new option is the Beechwood Holiday Market, each Thursday through Sunday starting on Dec. 4, which promises fun for all ages including a Christmas tree farm, hay rides, fire pits to roast smores and a live ornament and craft station. There will also be a holiday village complete with seasonal food fare, shopping, holiday vendors and Santa’s post office.
  • The much-anticipated return of the Indie South Fair's Holiday Hooray outdoor market Dec. 12-13 will be back at its original location on Clayton Street in downtown Athens. Beyond finding thoughtful gifts, browsing through an outdoor holiday market is a great idea for spending time together with sisters, girlfriends, or a mother-daughter day out.


Even in 2020, there will be sounds of the season. Grammy-winner John Berry returns for the 24th year with his always-popular Christmas Songs and Stories concert, at The Classic Center Theatre on Dec. 16. Berry's rendition of "O Holy Night" is one of the most beloved of all time. He will also perform many of his most requested hit songs along with special childhood stories sprinkled in. The concert will follow safety protocols including socially-distant seating and mask requirements.


This year ushers in an all-new holiday tradition in downtown Athens. Light Up Athens, every Friday and Saturday evening in December, will be a show of twinkling lights, plus holiday music, character appearances, an Official Santa's Mailbox for children to drop off their wish lists and S"elfie" Spots for more fun. Event activities will take place Fridays and Saturdays in December from 6 – 9 p.m.   Lights will be illuminated each night in December.

For more holiday events and shows, check out the Visit Athens’ Holiday Events page every week to see what new events have been added https://www.visitathensga.com/events/holiday/.


Athens has many award-winning parks with recreational space like playgrounds, hiking trails, disc golf, and sports courts and fields. Families will enjoy heading to Sandy Creek Park, Sandy Creek Nature Center, Memorial Park, Ben Burton Park, or Southeast Clarke Park to take in plenty of fresh air and quality time. Athens is also home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a 313-acre preserve with lovely themed gardens, an interactive Children's Garden (free online reservation needed for this attraction) and five miles of trails.

Several indoor attractions are also open, with masks required and modified hours. The Georgia Museum of Art has gallery after gallery of entrancing exhibits, as does the Lyndon House Arts Center. Anyone interested in history, political science or multimedia will want to head to UGA Special Collections. Best of all, these attractions are free.


Right about now everyone is likely wondering how to share the holidays with friends and family, and do it safely. Rather than crowding everyone into one home, booking a hotel room or suite will provide more space for visiting friends and family to stay with their own household as well as to spread out. Athens is typically blessed with fairly mild weather in December, meaning families and friends can still gather together at a local park for outdoor activities and a picnic meal. This is the year to get creative and start some new traditions! Family and friend special Athens hotel rates are available at www.VisitAthensGA.com/holiday, along with local restaurants offering holiday meal kits.

The Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau offers comprehensive visitor information and holiday planning ideas at www.VisitAthensGA.com/holiday. More information on Athens, Georgia, is available at 706-357-4430 and tourinfo@visitathensga.com.