Everything About Athens, Georgia


Athens has a long and rich history dating back to the early 1800s when it was founded as the home of the University of Georgia. It was incorporated as a town in 1806 and named after Athens, Greece, due to the presence of the university being a center of learning.

Cotton farming fueled early growth in Athens, and it became an important market town in the Antebellum South. Many grand antebellum houses from this period still stand in several historic districts.

Athens was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, sparing it from destruction. The city continued expanding through the late 1800s and into the 20th century.

Major historic events in Athens include the chartering of the University of Georgia in 1785, the incorporation of Athens as a town in 1806, occupation by the Union Army during the Civil War in 1862, and the establishment of the Athens music scene in the 1980s led by bands like R.E.M. Historic sites include the Taylor-Grady House, Church-Waddel-Brumby House, and Lyndon House Arts Center.


Athens is located in northeastern Georgia approximately 70 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. It sits at the south end of the Appalachian Valley at an elevation of 767 feet.

The city has a total area of 118 square miles, of which 117 square miles is land and 1.2 square miles, or 0.97%, is water. Athens is situated along the Oconee River, which flows to the southeast of downtown before joining the Apalachee River.

Athens has a humid subtropical climate characterized by hot, humid summers and short, mild winters. The average annual temperature is 63°F, with average summer highs of 89°F and winter lows of 39°F.


Athens lies in the Piedmont geological region, an area between the Atlantic coastal plain and the Blue Ridge Mountains characterized by low rolling hills, wide valleys, and long ridges. The underlying bedrock is composed of igneous and metamorphic formations that are extremely old, dating back over 1 billion years.

Common rock types found in the Athens area include biotite gneiss, amphibolite gneiss, granite, and metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks. Marble, quartzite, and slate formations are also present. Rich clay deposits attracted brick-making industries to Athens in the 19th century.


Some of Athens main neighborhoods include:

  • Downtown – The vibrant city center and cultural heart of Athens with shops, restaurants, music venues, galleries, and historic architecture. Home of the University of Georgia.
  • Five Points – A popular retail and nightlife district just south of downtown centered along the convergence of Lumpkin and Milledge Streets.
  • Normaltown – A funky residential and commercial neighborhood known for bungalow houses, indie businesses, and music venues north of downtown.
  • Boulevard – Historic Victorian neighborhood near downtown with antebellum mansions and the Foundry Park Inn.
  • Cobbham – Affluent suburban residential area with larger homes and wooded landscapes.
  • Barber Street – Neighborhood adjacent to the UGA campus that mixes student housing and local shops and cafes.


Athens has a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and short, mild winters. The city averages 48 inches of precipitation per year, with late winter and early spring tending to be the wettest times.

Summers are very hot and humid, with average July highs of 89°F and lows around 70°F. The record high is 108°F. Winters tend to be short and mild, with average January highs of 53°F and lows of 32°F. Temperatures rarely drop below 15°F.

Severe storms are most common in the spring months when thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes and lightning are threats during the afternoon and evening hours. Ice storms can occur during the winter.


As of the 2020 census, Athens had a population of 126,913 people. The racial makeup of the city was 63.4% White, 23.5% Black or African American, 7.1% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 5.2% Asian, 1.8% reporting two or more races, and 1.3% Native American.

Over 65% of residents over the age of 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest rates in the country. This is attributable to the presence of the University of Georgia.

The median household income in Athens is $37,571 with 36% of residents living below the poverty line. Homeownership is low at 24%, due to the dominant population of students living off-campus.


Athens has a diverse economy anchored by the University of Georgia, with the college being the region’s largest employer. The university employs 14,000 people and injects several billion dollars annually into the local economy.

Major non-UGA employers include health services such as Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, K-12 schools, manufacturing, technology companies, retail, insurance, and construction. Tourism centered on UGA athletics and Athens’s vibrant music scene also provides jobs.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, located adjacent to the university campus, is a popular visitor attraction with natural woodland walking trails and educational exhibits. Over 300 small businesses operate in the city center and surrounding neighborhoods serving the large student population.


Athens has a thriving local music scene that has launched the careers of popular alternative rock bands like R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic, Of Montreal, and Drive-By Truckers. Live entertainment can be found nearly every night of the week at the many music venues located downtown such as the 40 Watt Club or Georgia Theatre.

The city hosts two major music festivals each year, AthFest and the Twilight Criterium, which celebrate alternative rock and cycling respectively by closing downtown city streets for live performances and events.

Other aspects of Athens culture reflect the university’s influence, from the vibrant college bar and restaurant scene to an emphasis on the arts, green community planning and preservation of historic architecture. Annual cultural events include art walks, film festivals and a popular holiday parade.

Colleges and universities

The University of Georgia (UGA) is the predominant institute of higher education in Athens and one of the top public research universities in the country. Established in 1785 as the first state-chartered university, UGA has over 40,000 students enrolled across 17 different colleges and schools granting undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

Athens Technical College offers associate degrees, certificates and career training programs in technical fields like health, business, design, construction and public safety. Professional programs support the region’s workforce needs and partnerships with UGA allow students to further their education.

Piedmont College operates a small private liberal arts college based in Demorest, GA with a satellite campus located in Athens. It offers over 30 undergraduate degree programs to approximately 2,000 students and has graduate programs in education and nursing.


As a fairly small city, Athens has a limited but focused media landscape centered around the University of Georgia.

Flagpole is Athens’ well-known free alternative weekly newspaper covering local arts, culture, food, and current events. UGA has an independent daily student newspaper called The Red & Black.

Local radio stations include student-run WUOG 90.5 FM, top 40 and pop WHIE 93.7 FM, adult R&B and classics WEAS FM 105.7, and public radio WUGA 91.7 FM associated with UGA. Two local television stations are Northeast Georgia TV (WNEG) and Cox Communications channel 15.

Popular podcasts have also originated from Athens’ music and arts scene such as Podcast Academy Award winner Disgraceland about musicians and Southern Fried True Crime documenting the South’s dark history. Local online publications provide in-depth coverage of the city as well.


Athens sits adjacent to the intersection of several major highways and interstates including east-west Interstate 20, north-south U.S. Highway 129 and U.S. Highway 441, which links to Interstate 85 to the South. These connect Athens to metro Atlanta, South Carolina, and North Georgia.

Within the city, roads follow typical grid patterns with Broad, Hancock, and Baxter Streets being major thoroughfares traversing east and west across Athens. Milledge Avenue is a primary north-south route connecting downtown to north Athens and UGA, ending near the Athens Perimeter highway loop, Highway 10. Other major roads include Atlanta Highway (US 78), Lexington Road, Oconee Street, Prince Avenue and Lumpkin Street near Five Points.

Major Landmarks

Some of Athens’ top landmarks include:

  • The University of Georgia – Historic flagship campus known for its Greek revival architecture, oak tree-lined grounds, gardens, and vibrant game-day culture during Bulldog football season.
  • State Botanical Garden of Georgia – Sprawling natural refuge adjacent to UGA with wooded trails, gardens, conservatory, event spaces and historic mill ruins. Popular outdoor spot close to downtown.
  • Double Barreled Cannon – Unusual civil war era cannon with two barrels designed by the University’s founder near UGA’s north campus. It was seized by Union troops during the war in 1862.
  • Georgia Theatre – Historic downtown theater that hosts live performances by major music artists in an ornate, vintage ballroom setting dating back to the 1930s. It has been rebuilt after fires.
  • Athens Welcome Center – Visitors center located in a historic antebellum home (Taylor-Grady House) downtown, built in 1844 using local brick masonry construction techniques. Both Union and Confederate generals stayed at the house during the Civil War.
  • Morton Theatre – Oldest continuously operating theatre in Georgia hosting concerts and events. The historic vaudeville venue and movie house first opened in 1910 and still features its original blue ceiling and painted murals.
  • The Arch – Iconic wrought iron gateway entrance built by UGA’s first graduating class in 1806 overlooking downtown from the university’s historic north campus. Modeled after architecture seen in Athens, Greece.
  • Hall of Heroes – University museum located in UGA’s Memorial Hall dedicated to alumni war veterans, those lost in combat, POWs and MIAs as well as housing the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
  • Fowler Drive – Part of UGA’s central campus closed to vehicles, reserved for pedestrian use, featuring historic buildings, large oak trees draped in Spanish moss and a view of the main library. Known colloquially as “The Jewel of UGA”.
  • Sanford Stadium / Between the Hedges – Home stadium for University of Georgia Bulldog football games, seats over 92,000, making it one of the largest college venues in the country. Also hosts UGA graduation ceremonies.

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  • Head south on Prince Ave toward E Broad St/US-78 Trunk/GA-10 Loop. Continue to follow Prince Ave past GA-10 Loop/US-78 Trunk/N Lumpkin St. Turn left onto Smith St, then take the 1st right onto Roywood Dr. Make a slight left onto Prometheus Cir, then turn right. Turn left onto Smokey Rd/Woodstone Dr, then turn right to stay on Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The destination, 130 Round Table Rd, will be on the right.
  • rom the start point, take a left turn onto Franklin St. Turn left onto Dearing St, then continue onto Plaza Dr. Turn right onto Forest Hills Rd, then continue onto Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The destination, 130 Round Table Rd, will be on the right.
  • Take a left onto E Broad St/US-78 Trunk/GA-10 Loop and continue as it turns slightly right and becomes Gaines School Rd. Turn left onto Lexington Hwy/GA-10 Loop/GA-335/US-129/US-78, then take the 1st right onto Old Hull Rd. Take the 2nd left onto Smokey Rd, then turn right to stay on Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The final destination, 130 Round Table Rd, is on the right.