Life in the Classic City
Voted multiple times as the number one college town in America, Athens, Georgia at its core is a vibrant and friendly southern city. Though built around the university, Athens is not defined by UGA and offers a world-famous music scene, progressive culinary tastes, contemporary art and a diverse nightlife. Both the University and its host community have benefited from the active involvement of people who care deeply about this place and from a quality of life that students, visitors and year-round residents relish. With its southern charm and eclectic style, Athens, GA is not only a great place to live; it’s a place we love to call home.
Athens is home to a thriving music community, with multiple bands claiming the Classic City as a hometown (including REM, The B-52s, The Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic, and others). With venues ranging from intimate coffee shops, restaurants, and bars (Hendershot’s, The Foundry, etc.) to general admission stages (Georgia Theater, The 40 Watt, The Classic Center), local artists supply a steady dose of live shows ranging from DJ-hosted dance parties, bluegrass jams, rock concerts, contra and swing dances, and just about anything in between. Non-native bands and artists also make their way to the stages of Athens regularly. 2014 alone brought the likes of Yonder Mountain String Band, Gov’t Mule, The Dave Rawlings Machine, Jason Isbell, Broken Bells, Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Shovels & Rope, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the Futurebirds, Neko Case, Pentatonix, The xx, and many more.
Athens food, especially its local food, is downright incredible. From white tablecloth to hole in the wall restaurants and pubs Athens can accommodate any palette for any budget. Craving a type of food? Athens has it all. If you’re feeling Cuban or Mexican food, check out Cali N Tito’s or Taqueria del Sol. Italian? Transmetropolitan and La Dolce Vita are excellent. It’s the South, so you know we do BBQ right with popular choices like White Tiger Gourmet and Pulaski Heights. If meat isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Most Athens restaurants have a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan friendly options, and veggie-centric restaurants like The Grit make dining even easier. If you’re looking for something more locally grown, Athens has multiple farmer’s markets, including one every Saturday morning in Bishop Park where you can have a great time taking in the local culture with food, music and gifts all while grabbing some locally grown groceries. Restaurants such as Heirloom even do farm-to-table, giving patrons a more local, fresh taste. Athens is also home to higher-end dining establishments such as The National. If you’re into the craft beer scene, Athens is home to two outstanding breweries. Terrapin, makers of the famous Hopsecutioner IPA, is distributed across the Southeast while up-and-comer Creature Comforts is currently only available locally. Plant Biology students can often be seen taking a brewery tour as a great way to kick off the weekend, relax and enjoy some sunshine.
Things to Do
With over 80 critically acclaimed bars and 60 restaurants in downtown Athens, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot you don’t enjoy. With no cover charges, regular beer specials and live music, bars like Trapeze, Globe or Little King’s Shuffle Club (a department favorite) are great spots to relax and enjoying the bustling nightlife. More daytime hangouts like Walker’s Coffee and Pub or Jittery Joes provide a nice alternative to the office and are great spots to grab a seat and do some work.
If you’re looking to get a little more sun and fresh air, Georgia is home to beautiful landscapes and vistas. In the south, beaches and coastline are dotted with numerous islands such as Cumberland and Sapelo as well as the famed Okefenokee Swamp. Closer to Athens, Northern Georgia includes the origin of the Appalachian Trail and many pristine state parks and national forests, which offer opportunities for camping, hiking, river rafting and kayaking while large lakes provide great boating, windsurfing and swimming. Athens itself has many opportunities to enjoy and explore nature right in your backyard. Our amphitheater/garden immediately next to the Plant Sciences Building is a favorite spot for an outdoor lunch, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2 miles from campus, is a magnificent mixture of formal gardens and long hiking trails through dense forests and along streams of the Oconee River. We have a greenway system that will be rapidly expanding as part of the Rails to Trails program in the next few years. We also have over 10 miles of trails connected through Sandy Creek Park and the greenway system. With multiple rivers, state parks, and swimming holes within 50 miles of Athens, there is plenty to be done within an hour’s drive from campus.
If you’re looking for more adventure you can check out Bear Hollow Zoo or the Georgia Museum of Art on south campus. You can catch a movie at the independent cinema and bar Cine. Athens even has a roller derby team! Arguably Athens is best known as a college football town, and any excuse to don the Red and Black to root for the Dawgs is welcomed throughout the city. UGA also plays host to one of the nation’s top women’s gymnastics and swimming teams. So if you’re into college sports come down and root for one of the best athletic schools in the nation.
A small town with big town amenities, Athens is a bike-friendly town that is surprisingly dense as everything radiates from the University and downtown. The Classic City boasts the fourth most-used transit system in the county (adjusted per capita) as city buses routinely run to and from campus and downtown from all parts of Athens. Campus buses also provide transportation across UGA. If you’re looking to go farther, Athens has a regional airport and is in close proximity to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world. Affordable shuttle services are available to and from the Atlanta airport, making it convenient to fly anywhere you need to go for conferences or leisure.
Most students find that the department stipend allows for a relatively high standard of living in the city. Apartments and townhouses with a more suburban feel can be found on the East and Westsides of town. Many graduate students and faculty like the quiet neighborhood feel of “Normaltown,” which is a comfortable biking distance from both campus and downtown. Apartments located in the “Five-Points” area have access to restaurants, bars and amenities, all while being within walking distance of UGA campus. A one-bedroom apartment in Athens can be found for about $600/month, well within the budget of a graduate student stipend. Many students economize further by choosing to live in larger apartments or houses with roommates, cutting costs dramatically. Athens, with only 100,000 people, is a small town, but it can have a big city feel. Local shops and small businesses in the center of town are supplemented by chain stores and restaurants on the west side, creating one of the South’s most unique atmospheres.
True to our name, Athens nurtures an eclectic culture of art, music, food, and higher learning. Whether you’re a prospective student, new friend or stout local, we encourage you to explore this great city and all it has to offer!