A day in Athens, the Classic City

For us, a day in Athens, Georgia, is a journey back in time to when we first met as students. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Spending a day in Athens, Georgia, is like stepping back in time to when we met as University of Georgia undergrads and fell in love. But there’s so much more to enjoy in Athens these days. The city is booming with boutique stores and trendy restaurants. It also features amazing museums and gardens. There’s something for everyone in Athens.

My husband Bob and I spent our time exploring downtown, eating lunch, and going to two of the major things available in Athens–a visit to the Georgia Museum of Art and to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Downtown Athens

The first block of College Street off Broad Street has been made into a pedestrian walkway and outdoor eating area. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

The downtown Athens area we hung out in during the early 70s was small. Choices for shopping and eating were few. I remember two little places that served a meat and three vegetables that we frequented often. One was just across Broad Street near the arches. The other was on a side street and always freaked me out a bit. The place actually had furniture screwed upside down on the ceiling and was just bizarre. Ah, the good ole days.

The area has students and business workers enjoying lunch in the sunshine. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Downtown Athens today is booming. Multiple restaurants and coffee shops can be found there. The emphasis is on trendy atmospheres and gourmet menus. At least during COVID, the first block off Broad Street on College Avenue has become a pedestrian area with added outdoor seating available. We did notice several restaurants that were closed completely. We visited on a Thursday and downtown was busy with limited parking.

White Tiger Gourmet is located a couple of miles north of the downtown area and the food is delicious. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

We chose to try a new restaurant outside of downtown Athens to get away from the traffic. The White Tiger Gourmet is located just north of town and has a faithful contingent of diners. We met one lady, a former UGA student, who drives over from Marietta four times a year to eat there. The food was delicious, the picnic area pleasant, and the noise at a minimum. I recommend the pimento cheese appetizer and the barbecue.

The Georgia Museum of Art

The Georgia Museum of Art is located on the University of Georgia’s east campus. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

The Georgia Museum of Art is an impressive building located on the east side of the University of Georgia campus. Free parking is available under the building. Go through the breezeway from the parking area and one of the entrances into the museum is on your left.

During COVID, the museum is open Thursday-Sunday only. Advanced free tickets are available online and are required to control the number of people inside at any time. The gift store is also open but allows only a few people in at a time.

The museum opened in 1948 with a collection of 100 American paintings in the basement of the old library. Since then, the museum has been relocated to its present location and has been significantly enlarged. The building has 79,000 square feet inside, and the permanent collection has grown to number almost 17,000 pieces. Today, the museum has five permanent exhibits: African Highlights, American Highlights, Asian Highlights, Decorative Arts Highlights, and European Highlights.

The museum also hosts traveling and on-loan exhibits as well. Currently, two special exhibits can be seen. The first is the art of Emma Amos, an Atlanta painter known for her use of color and mixed medias, and is on display until April 25, 2021.

The second special exhibit is Extra Ordinary: Magic, Mystery and Imagination in American Realism and is on display until June 13, 2021.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is part of the University of Georgia. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is part of the University of Georgia and is only a few miles from the Georgia Museum of Art. The garden “creates and nurtures an environment for learning, inspiration and engagement through horticulture, conservation, science based programs and lasting partnerships.” The welcome center, gift shop, conservatory, and gardens cover 313 acres of land.

When you enter through the welcome center, you’ll go through the two-story conservatory which is beautifully laid out with tropical plants and flowers. At the moment, the orchids are in bloom.

Various gardens are on display to tour, such as the herb/physic garden located just outside the conservatory; the heritage garden which displays heirloom and antique shrubs and flowers; the three-tiered flower garden; the shade and native flora gardens; and the children’s garden. We were there as the early spring flowers were just beginning to bloom. Now is a good time to plan your own trip.

The State Botanical Garden has no admission charge and free parking is provided. However, COVID restrictions are in place and require masks inside the buildings and social distancing throughout. The children’s garden is not open at this time because of COVID. Check the website for hours before going. They can change due to COVID restrictions.

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