Some of the best ways to explore Athens, Georgia don't even cost a dime. Here's an ultimate guide of FREE things to do in Athens, ranging from performances to outdoor adventures. Grab the family or a couple of friends to create memorable experiences together.
Historic University of Georgia Campus
UGA historic north campus is home to beautiful and historic buildings. Based on Yale University with beautiful gardens and stately trees, take a stroll through the nation's first state-chartered university. The entire campus is considered an arboretum, with beautiful magnolias, yews that date back to founder James Oglethorpe, huge gingkos,and mighty oaks, to name a few.
Architecture enthusiastics should check out the airy design of the College of Environment and Design, featuring huge windows and lots of open space, the Greco-Roman structure of the UGA Chapel (also home to the world's largest oil painting), and all the other beautifully designed buildings around UGA's North Campus.
Classic City Tours
Guided and self-guided tours are great ways to learn about Athens all at once. Stop by the Welcome Center, located in the 1820 Church-Waddel-Brumby House, to find the tour that works best for you. The Music History Tour showcases Athens own the B-52s, R.E.M., and Widespread Panic. Visitors also enjoy the History & Hauntings Tour, Civil War Heartland Leaders Trails, and the African American Heritage Tours, just to name a few. Be sure to check out the Museum Mile Tour, where you can experience all of Athens' four house museums, which chronicles different eras of Athens history through architecture (1820s-1850s).
One of a Kind Window Shopping
Athens does vintage best with its abundance of vintage shops, all located in walking distance of each other downtown or a short drive away. Local boutiques and other cool stores surround the streets of Athens, where you can find everything from hand-crafted housewares, luxury cosmetics, ultra-chic fashions, and custom musical gear. Grab a friend and explore, you'll never know what you'll find!
Architecture Around Town
Each of the neighborhoods around Athens have their own vibe, and reflect the people who live there. Head to Boulevard for funky mixed-use warehouses, contemporary art, and beautiful homes and gardens. Five-Points has a 1920's-era atmosphere with its charming shops and restaurants, sorority and fraternity homes, and pet-friendly patio and sidewalk spots. The tree-lined streets of Cobbham exhibit beautiful houses, churches, and schools along with picturesque spots to grab a coffee. That's just a few, so be sure to check out all of Athens' neighborhoods with this guide to the charming neighborhoods in Athens.
Athens is well known for its creative community and we have art to prove it. Murals, sculptures, statues, painted hydrants, and bulldogs span across Athens, making the town even more vivid. Most restaurants and stores decorate their walls with the work of local artists (many available for take home!), so keep your eyes peeled for the public art when wandering throughout Athens.
UGA Special Collections Libraries
Explore your inner genius and spend the afternoon at the UGA Special Collections Libraries. Politics, history, culture, you name it. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and The Hargett Rare Book & Manuscript Library are just a few of the collections that can be found here. Where else can you find artifacts dating back to the 15th century? Or listen to original interviews and manuscripts from the Civil Rights era? They also offer rotating exhibits and meet groups by appointment.
Georgia Museum of Art
Visit the state's official art museum, home to over 10,000 works of art. Georgia Museum of Art also features incredible temporary exhibits and many events, including Yoga in the Galleries, Morning Mindfulness, Tour at Two led by docents every Wednesday, and various family events. Not your typical art museum, Georgia Museum of Art makes art accessible for all.
Lyndon House Arts Center
Experience Athens' local history through Lyndon House Arts Center, a late-Greek revival house museum listed on the National Register, full of decorative arts and a modern art gallery. With a view that overlooks downtown, Lyndon House is a must-see during your Athens visit.
Athens loves a fun celebration, and there is always something going on. Love music? Don't miss Athfest and Popfest, feature hundreds of talented musicians for an unbelievably low cost. Want to celebrate craft beer? Athens Beer Week is perfect for you. Looking to learn and celebrate new and different cultures? UGA International Street Festival, Human Rights Festival, and Hot Corner Celebration and Soul Food Feast are for you. Want to experience one of the biggest bicycle races in the world? Make your calendar for Twilight! Other Athens favorites include Plantapalooza and of course, Wild Rumpus, one of the biggest and most outrageous Halloween festivals out there.
You've heard of The Georgia Theatre, but did you know that the Georgia Theatre Rooftop showcases free live music, along with low-cost snacks and beverages almost every night of the week? Spend your evening hopping from venue to venue to see some of Athens' newest bands or up-and-coming acts that are touring throughout the U.S. Other stops to hit: Caledonia Lounge, Live Wire Athens, 40 Watt Club, and The Foundry. For a minimal cover charge, you will not regret an unforgettable night out on the town.
In addition to an insanely talented football program, the University of Georgia is home to several other winning sports teams, including Equestrian, Golf, Soccer, Track & Field, Cross Country, Swim & Dive, Volleyball, Softball, and Tennis, all with free admission. Cheer on the Basketball, Baseball, and Gymnastics, with low admission costs. Not sure what's in season? Check our calendar to cheer on these amazing student athlete's year round and especially during their sport's season! Not into traditional sports? Athens also generates a crowd for Pickleball, Flyball, and the Classic City Rollergirls, all sure to wow and entertain!
Speaking of football, G-Day is the annual Spring football game in Sanford Stadium each April. Bring the whole family for a day of fun cheering on the Dawgs between the hedges, and don't forget to stop by the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum to see Larry Munson's trophy room, sneak a peak of the indoor practice field, and you may even catch a glimpse of a coach or two.
UGA comedy troupe On The Spot Improv performs at Live Wire. Check out the undiscovered talent that is sure to generate some laughs.
With a campus and town as historied as Athens, it is no wonder that stories circulate about the haunted buildings on UGA's North Campus, especially the Jackson Street Cemetery and Oconee Hill Cemetery. Oconee Hill Cemetery is nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding examples of Victorian cemeteries in the nation, you can explore genealogical histories and visit the final resting places of notable Georgians.
During Halloween season, sign up for the Haunted History Walking Tour. Grab a camera, a brave friend, and search for the friendly ghosts of Athens.
State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Explore the expansive nature trails, conservatory, and multiple types of gardens throughout the 313-acre preserve at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Join in on the fun with several events, including the Sunflower Concert Series and educative classes and lectures for everyone.
Founders Memorial Garden
Right on UGA's North Campus sits the quaint Founders Memorial Garden featuring a peaceful fountain and several benches. If you sit there long enough, you'll make new chipmunk friends, or even see a proposal unfold. The garden memorializes America's first Garden Club, founded in Athens in 1891.
Athens Farmers Market
Discover why Southern Living named the Athens Farmers Market one of "The South's Best Farmer's Markets." Enjoy live music and browse vast selections of produce, baked goods, jewelry and more, all created in here in Athens.
Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo
Home to native wildlife including black bears, bobcats, white-tail deer, owls, and more, Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo is a great way to explore nature on a beautiful day. "Deck the Hollow" Holiday Light Show and other fun events occur throughout the year.
World of Wonder Park
Release your inner child at World of Wonder Park, featuring a three-story slide tower, augmented reality gameplay experience, and a rope web climber. After all, parks don't have an age limit!
Trail Creek Park
Head to the 113-acre Trail Creek Park on a warm day for splash pads, mountain bike trails, playgrounds, and fields for soccer, rugby, and Frisbee.
Home to tens of thousands of college students, Athens has a fair share of affordable restaurants that are incredibly delicious. Clocked!, The Grill, Pulaski Heights BBQ, Little Italy, Ike & Jane, and Big City Bread serve delicious meals that will leave you happy and your wallet even happier.
This is just a few of what Athens has to offer so be sure to look at the full list of all Athens restaurants, to be sure you don't miss out.
For just $5 per person, you can choose from an entire wall of board games and spend quality time with friends at The Rook & Pawn. They also serve snacks, kid-friendly, and adult-friendly beverages, so you can play all day.
Want more ideas? Here are some other free things to do in Athens, Georgia.