Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” the Athens, Georgia? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Athens, Georgia?”
Downtown Athens rises, literally and figuratively, from the surrounding rural Georgia landscape much like the original Athens in Greece it’s named after. Centered on a hill bounded by two forks of the Oconee River, it’s home to the University of Georgia, where college football seems to take precedence over almost everything else. A vibrant independent alternative culture has also manifested itself here, most notably in the music scene, which took off in the 1970s and, in the 1980s, made Athens hipper than its big-city neighbor Atlanta. A bevy of consequential musical acts have sprung from Athens’ fertile ground including Pylon — whose late-1970s loft practice space inspired what would become the 40 Watt Club — Widespread Panic, Vic Chesnutt, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal and Danger Mouse. Oh yeah, and R.E.M. and the B-52s.
If you’re heading down the Atlanta Highway these days, you’ll encounter big box stores and ever-sprawling subdivisions, not the fabled “Love Shack” with its rusted tin roof. Still, it’s easy to find the new version of that old scene with its counterculture vibe and thrift-store chic garnished with a dewy Southern accent. Pick up a copy of Flagpole, the local alt-newsweekly, tune into WUOG 90.5 FM, UGA’s student-run radio station and use this guide to discover the best of bumping Athens.