It's a new year, and definitely one everyone has been looking forward to. While we know summer and fall will be amazing, there are still plenty of experiences and things to do in Athens, Georgia, right here and right now! For good luck (we're all about good fortune in 2021!) we've put together 7 reasons to visit Athens in 2021:
1. Outdoor Dining
The Athens food scene is one of our favorite local experiences, and in 2021 you can enjoy dining in a whole new way at many Athens restaurants. Outdoor, heated patios are the newest social scene and offer great fun along with the great food. Just a few highlights:
- The Last Resort (pictured in header, photo credit to the restaurant) converted its side parking lot into an amazing garden, complete with its own food truck and greenhouse seating options.
- The National has added outdoor seating, complete with heaters and lighting. Additionally, the restaurant has updated its dining room windows to open wide, creating a unique-to-Athens indoor-outdoor feel. These windows will be open at all times, so the restaurant recommends continuing to dress warmly for your visit. Don’t hesitate to request a blanket or a hot drink – The National has both!
- College Square, across from the UGA Arch, has been closed to traffic and opened to outdoor dining. Other downtown restaurants, like Trappeze, have expanded their outdoor seating.
- We've got a full roundup of Athens outdoor dining, below, including long-time favorites like Heirloom, Ted's Most Best, Five & Ten, and Cali n Tito's, along with more recent additions like El Barrio.
2. Explore Athens Neighborhoods
When you think of Athens, you may first think of Downtown, or the UGA Campus. On your next visit, venture just a few blocks from your usual haunts and check out some of the Athens neighborhoods to discover their distinct personalities.
- Head out Prince Avenue towards Boulevard for lovely, in-town homes and restored buildings housing everything from barbecue to coffee roasting to vegetarian to indoor climbing.
- A bit further along Prince will bring you to Normaltown, one of Athens' newest trendy areas, with cool coffee shops and craft cocktail purveyors and two new breweries, Athentic and Normaltown Brewing.
- Drive south through UGA's campus on Lumpkin St., past the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, the football practice facilities and Butts-Mehre and Spec Towns Track and you'll find yourself in Five Points. This Victorian-era neighborhood has been popular for a while, thanks to shops like Avid Bookshop and Condor Chocolates, but has had a recent burst of new restaurant openings, such as El Barrio and The Expat.
3. Even More Public Art
Athens has long had a creative energy thanks to its thriving artist community. You don't have to look far to see new perspectives, from mosaic art on the bottom of light poles, to artistic fire hydrants and bus stops, to larger-than-life murals. A favorite among Bulldog fans and kids remains the dozens of bulldog statues throughout town.
Public art is a community-wide commitment, and even more is in the works! The Athens Mural Alley project is expected to be installed mid-year/summer. Murals by local artists will reflect the theme "2021, Here and Now." They will be painted on panels and exhibited in a downtown alleyway to create a pedestrian-friendly landscape of art, community, and illumination from an otherwise discarded piece of downtown. We'll be sure to provide updates as they happen!
4. Outdoor Adventures
Have you taken a walk, run, or bike ride through Athens trails lately? Explored family-favorite spots like Bear Hollow, Sandy Creek Nature Center, or the Children's Garden? There's a whole other side to Athens, just waiting to be discovered. Athens residents have long cherished the award-winning parks system, and 2021 is just ripe for visitors to check them out for themselves.
5. Local Athens Products
Creative Athens is not just seen in galleries & public art, but is present throughout our community in the number of makers and entrepreneurs who have made Athens home. You'll love to window shop, or duck into true local shops, galleries and boutiques for authentic one-of-a-kind finds. Check out R. Wood Studio Ceramics for lovely table ware and home goods. Community has a collection of lovingly curated products from Athens makers, as well as the redesigned vintage and handmade clothing that gave them their start. Andree's Essentials sells health and beauty products made on-site, as does Condor Chocolates (yum!) Head over to our Athens Local Products page for more ideas.
6. Athens Craft Beer
The Athens Craft Beer scene just keeps getting better. Two new breweries opened in 2020 -- Athentic and Normaltown. They join established favorites like Terrapin and Creature Comforts, and rising stars Southern Brewing and Akademia. As of early 2021, all Athens craft breweries, with the exception of Terrapin, have tap rooms open and fun outdoor spaces for social distancing. Terrapin has online and phone ordering for curbside pickup, so you won't miss out on their brews and super-cool gift shop items while you're in town. Craft beer enthusiasts know that there's nothing like visiting a brewery in person-- you'll find seasonal and session brews that you can't get elsewhere, plus get to talk directly to the brewers, who are the friendliest bunch ever. So, map out your Athens beer trail plans, update your Uber or Lyft app, and head on over to Athens!
7. New Attractions at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia
In 2021, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will open three new areas. The Discovery and Inspiration Garden first greets visitors after they enter the new entrance to the Garden. As part of the Center for Art and Nature, it surrounds the new Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum. Narrow beds of plants at every eye level invite up-close viewing by children of all ages to explore and discover. The Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum at the Center for Art and Nature is a state-of-the-art facility integrating decorative art within a garden setting through quality, diversity and evolution of porcelain and other decorative pieces. With display galleries, classroom space, and innovative programming this new facility offers something interesting for art, garden and nature enthusiasts. The Porcelain and Decorative Art Museum will be open on a limited basis beginning in February, 2021. The State Botanical Garden is a unit of the University of Georgia and is open year round except on university holidays.
We hope we've inspired you to plan a getaway to Athens, Georgia, in 2021! These "lucky 7" ATHventures can be experienced any time of year, from cooler winter months to the heat of summer, and, most importantly, can be done safely in the earlier months of the year. We can't wait to host you in Athens! Get more inspiration from our Athens ATHventure page and our Athens Itineraries, and don't forget to Book an Athens Hotel.