Home of the University of Georgia, the Georgia Museum of Art, the State Botanical Gardens, and historical events. It's also home to a vibrant art and music culture, great shopping, and lots of amazing and independent restaurants.
The Georgia Museum of Art regularly features rotating exhibitions of world, American, and Southern artists and has an extensive permanent collection. Paintings, sculpture, mixed media, pottery, textiles, and carvings all have their place in this museum. I'll be honest, the first time I visited this museum, I was blown away at how impressive it was.
One of the exhibits featured right now is the roadside artwork of John Baeder. He paints and photographs roadside diners, grills, and food carts. Coupled with the permanent Southern folk art on display at the museum, the exhibits makes for a fun and quirky taste of Americana in its truest form.
In addition to the Georgia Museum of Art are various art galleries including ATHICA: Athens Institute of Contemporary Art, Clayton Street Gallery, Lamar Dodd School of Art Galleries, Lyndon House Arts Center, and The Gallery @ Good Dirt. Contact info for these galleries and others can be found here.
In addition to its vibrant art culture, Athens is most well-known for its music scene.
Venues like 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre were the jumping off points for bands like R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic, Dreams So Real, Indigo Girls, Matthew Sweet, The Method Actors, Love Tractor, Pylon, Flat Duo Jets, The Primates, Modern Skirts, The Whigs, and Corey Smith (via Wikipedia).
Many more bands and singers had their start in Athens. The college atmosphere coupled with the nightlife opportunities create a perfect environment for musicians to get their start.
Every year, AthFest Music & Arts Festival invades downtown Athens, featuring music and art on outdoor stages and in select venues. This year, AthFest is June 20-24, 2012. Visit AthFest.com to see more about the festival and see the lineup schedule.
While you're visiting Athens, be sure to visit the small, non-profit zoo called Bear Hollow Zoo & Memorial Park. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged as it DOES cost money to take care of the bears, otters, owls, alligators, birds of prey, and other animals native to Georgia. This zoo, even though it's small, is one of my favorite places to visit. I love watching the otters play and the bears nuzzle around for pine cones and berries.
Last but not least, let us not forget about the AMAZING restaurants in Athens. There are a ton of wonderful and exciting restaurants in Athens, but some of my favorite restaurants in Athens include Last Resort Grill (American/ European food with FLAIR! Try the tiramisu), Transmetropolitan (Italian pizzas and pastas), Chango's Noodle House (yummy, casual, and urban. Great for people watching) , and Cali-n-Tito's (Authentic Latin American Cuisine served with a laid-back, at-the-beach feel, the BEST fish tacos in town). While you're there, also try locally roasted Jittery Joe's Coffee at any of the various locations around town. And while you're there, pick up a can of their blend called Whoop Ass, so every time you open it, you can open up a can of... well... you know. ;)
And for you craft beer connoisseurs out there, try Terrapin Beer Company featuring three different beers year round and many seasonal selections, collaborations, side projects, and special collections.
I hope you visit Athens soon and that you enjoy it. If you're going to be in the area, let me know!!! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.