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The Short Version: Athens, Georgia is a college town known for its artistic atmosphere. About 70 miles north of Atlanta, Athens is the perfect place to plan an inventive date or romantic getaway. You can revel in the locally inspired dishes as you enjoy each other’s company at a popular restaurant. The downtown scene also satisfies daters who enjoy bar-hopping or clubbing late into the night. If you’re looking for deep conversation, you can appreciate art at a museum or spend a quiet day in nature. No matter what your perfect date looks like, Athens can make it happen.
Nuzzled in the northeast reaches of Georgia, Athens sets the scene for many inventive dates. Athens is unmistakably Southern. Visitors can enjoy the hospitality the region is famous for while dining out, exploring nature, and attending contemporary and cultural events.
The city’s thriving music scene has produced many successful bands, including R.E.M., Drive-By Truckers, and Widespread Panic. Daters can see a favorite band at a festival or discover new talent at the clubs or bars. Plus, many restaurants serve locally sourced cuisine featuring Southern classics as well as diverse ethnic fare.
Aimee Cheek, PR Coordinator for Athens, beautifully described the feeling you get when you arrive in Athens: “One of the best descriptions of Athens is that it’s really inspiring and authentic, but also unpretentious. There is a vibe in the city that brings out this creative side that you didn’t even know you had and makes you want to be part of it.”
When you visit Athens, you might just catch yourself waxing poetic over a sculpture or serenading your date with a mash-up of R.E.M.’s greatest hits.
The Georgia town boasts many restaurants, musical performances, and other date activities. Athens has all the entertainment of a big city packed into a charming college town.
Athens’ downtown district has a creative, electric energy. It’s a hub of activity for young singles and couples. During the day, you can take your special someone to the art gallery and museum to appreciate the culture of the region. While you’re walking about town, you can swing by and take a selfie with the iconic Bulldog Statues, a public art display, scattered all over Athens.
The Georgia Museum of Art is a must-visit for any art lover. Aimee called it a wallet-friendly date activity because the museum doesn’t charge for admission. “It’s an incredible resource for seasoned art lovers or those who are new to it,” Aimee said. “The museum has over 10,000 permanent pieces as well as up to 25 traveling exhibits each year.” The museum’s Third Thursdays events offers new visual art on every third Thursday of the month. This event could make for a special evening with a significant other. The museum also hosts guided meditation sessions every Friday morning if you want to find your center with a partner.
The State Botanical Gardens has five miles of walking trails and dozens of beautiful gardens to enjoy on a date. “There’s an international garden, an indigenous garden, flowers, and just all different types of gardens,” Aimee said.” You can learn about gardening too. It could be fun and romantic as well.” The Gardens frequently host events, including concerts, lectures, and romantic Full Moon Hikes. Moonlight and flowers will surely have your date swooning all over this popular Athens attraction.
When it comes to food, Athens does not disappoint. USA Today even designated Athens as one of the South’s most underrated food cities. Athens has a unique foodie culture that showcases traditional Southern eats with a contemporary twist. “Any cuisine you are looking for, we have,” Aimee said. “Not only do we have it; we have it in an unusual way.”
If you’re looking for a low-pressure venue for a first date, you can always find a classy yet casual brunch place in Athens. The Pine is particularly popular among young people. The atmosphere is modern, and the food is rich with Southern flavors. The restaurant hosts an indulgent Terrapin and Taco Tuesday you won’t want to miss.
Heirloom Café and Fresh Market tempts daters with farm-to-table meals and friendly service. Its seasonal menu has a local flare, featuring house chicken mull soup, pulled pork Báhn mi, and a grass-fed burger. Be sure to try some of their artisan cocktails while you’re there too.
“We have local celebrity chefs too. Peter Dale is from Athens,” Aimee told us. “He has an Ecuadorian-themed specialty chocolate shop called Condor Chocolates, which is one of my personal favorites.” Stocked with elevated chocolates, this is the place to woo your honey with something sweet. It’s a bean-to-bar establishment, meaning the chocolate-making process is done in one place: Athens. I also hear they make a cup of coffee that can change your life.
Additionally, James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson, who appeared on “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo, chose to establish his flagship restaurant in Athens. Five and Ten is located in the historic neighborhood of Five Points and is known for its contemporary Southern cooking and weekly burger nights.
“Several of his former chefs have opened up other restaurants in Athens,” Aimee said, “so it creates an amazing, positive camaraderie in which they can support one another and each excel in their own cuisines.”
Music is an undeniable part of Athens’ culture and daily life. “Music is one of the things Athens is most known for,” Aimee said.” Bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, and The B-52’s got their start here. So many bands have started out in our backyard.”
During AthFest, one of Athens’ largest festivals, more than 100 bands play over a four-day period. The downtown event lasts from morning until the wee hours of the night. Three outdoor stages are free for anyone who enjoys listening to live music, and more live shows take place in 14 local venues in town.
AthFest also features KidsFest, an artists market, where vendors serve food and drink. AthFest is an annual fundraiser which supports local music and arts education for kids in the area so you can feel good about rockin’ out. After all, it’s for a good cause.
“There’s still a very vibrant music scene,” Aime said. “You can go to a show that has 30 people, and then a year later that same band will sell out shows in a huge venue. It’s cool because you get to discover bands and artists early on.”
Outdoorsy couples will find a lot to do in Athens. You can get away from the bustling city and head to Sandy Creek Park to enjoy the great outdoors. Couples can kayak, canoe, and paddle board the day away, and then enjoy a picnic by Lake Chapman. Taking a leisurely stroll, hand in hand, down the wooded trail is a romantic way to cap off your trip.
Couples can also spend a day browsing specialty shops in the downtown area. Whether you enjoying sampling artisan pickles or adding to your personal library at an indie bookseller, these boutique and vintage shops can help you pick out an affordable souvenir to remind you of your visit.
Next time you’re planning a romantic getaway, look no further than Athens, Georgia — it has a little bit of everything.