State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Athens is the proud home of Georgia’s official botanical garden, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. The Garden is one of Athens’ most-visited attractions and is a must-see on any trip. The 313-acre preserve has plenty of nature trails and has been designated an important birding area by the Georgia Audubon Society. There are many themed gardens that provide beauty, serenity and inspiration at any time of year. You’ll find art installations out in the gardens as well as inside the soaring, three-story tropical conservatory. Special events at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia include the Sunflower Music Series during the summer months, other live music performances, and nature rambles and workshops. The Garden is a popular attraction with all ages, thanks to the new Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, which provides lots of interactive experiences. The Garden even has an on-site café and gift shop with clever, local items for sale.
10 Things to do at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens
1. Start at the tropical Conservatory and Visitor Center
Get acclimated to the Garden campus at the Visitor Center. Pick up a map, get tips from the Master Gardener at the Information Desk, and even grab a Children’s Activity Guide for the little ones in your group. The Conservatory is home to a variety of tropical plants, including orchids (TIP: check out Orchid Days in February!) You’ll also find art on display, the café, and a well-stocked gift shop of items for nature-lovers.
2. Stroll through the themed gardens
Did you know? The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is made up of several different types of gardens! The Heritage Garden is a collection of plants that have been important to our region of the country. You’ll find examples of cash crops, fruits and vegetables. There are also lovely blooms in the spring from azaleas dogwoods. The International Garden explores how plants were discovered and cultivated in different times and places, including the Middle Ages, Age of Exploration and by Native Americans. There is also the Shade Garden, the Native Flora Garden, the Flower Garden and the Herb and Physic Garden
3. Tour the NEW Porcelain & Decorative Arts Museum
Opened in March 2021, the newest attraction at the Garden has eight different gallery spaces blending conservation, botanicals, art, beauty and curiosity. Adjacent to the building is the Discovery and Inspiration Garden where visitors can connect to the living botanical collection that is represented on so much of the porcelain pieces in the museum.
4. Experience Athens’ best birding spot
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia was designated an “Important Birding Area” by the Georgia Audubon Society, so there are plenty of species of birds to look for while at the Garden. Pick up an identification card at the Visitor Center Front Desk, to show you which birds call our area home. The Garden also has a Hummingbird Trail, with 21 markers that show where hummingbirds like to hang out. The trail is open from May 1 through early October.
4. Head out on a nature trail
The garden has over five miles of nature trails, much of which follow along the Middle Oconee River. You’ll see a wide range of native plants, trees and wildlife. Look for elderberry, red maple and sycamore trees, wildflowers, deer, turkey, owls, and even otters. The seven trails range in length and difficulty.
5. Have a blast at the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden opened in 2019 and was designed to be a hands-on environment for learning and for fun. Children can explore how roots look under the ground, climb up a spider web, discover a new vegetable, dig for dinosaur bones, and investigate the hidden world of worms. Pick up an activity guide at the Visitor Center!
6. Visit the Garden Club of Georgia Headquarters
Athens is the birthplace of America’s first Garden Club! It is also the home of the Garden Club of Georgia headquarters, which is on the grounds of the State Botanical Garden.
7. Walk by the Day Chapel
This lovely and intimate chapel was built into the side of a natural slope heading towards the Middle Oconee River. Surrounded by trees and built of cypress, the Day Chapel is both stunning and inspirational. The Day Chapel, like other buildings on the grounds, is available for rental.
8. Grab some refreshment
The café has light fare such as sandwiches, snacks, and drinks.
10. Exit through the gift shop!
Merchandise in the gift shop includes botanical-themed art from local artists, hand-made soaps, wax candles and honey (made from bees kept on the Garden grounds!), plus a wide range of gardening and nature books. There are also lots of children’s items, and a great selection of plants cultivated by garden staff.