Located in Southeast Ohio, in central Athens County, the quaint town of Athens sits along the Hocking River. Athens has been a vital hub of Athens County since the early 1800’s, when it was known as the halfway point between the two largest settlements in Ohio: Chillicothe and Marietta. Home to the first university of the Northwest Territory and the oldest public institution of higher learning in Ohio, Ohio University, Athens is often recognized as a “college town.” Although the vibrant Ohio University students give the town a youthful vibe, I found that Athens is more than just a “college town.” The thriving heart of Athens County offers visitors historical tours, charming Athens Block brick streets, local restaurants and shops and the sense of community spirit found throughout the town makes for a welcoming Ohio weekend getaway! Here is my weekend getaway guide showcasing where to stay, what to do, where to eat and drink, where to shop and where to explore the outdoors in Athens, Ohio!
Getting to Athens:
Weekend getaways are also the perfect short road trips! What better way to see all of Ohio’s natural beauty than to drive to your Ohio destination?! Getting to Athens from various Ohio cities is an easy drive from
*Columbus ~ 66 Miles *Cleveland ~ 217 Miles
*Cincinnati ~ 140 Miles *Toledo ~ 217 Miles
Cruising Athens’ brick streets
Where to Stay:
From chain hotels to cabins and bed and breakfasts, Athens has plenty of options for your weekend getaway! We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, conveniently located a few miles from Ohio University and Uptown Athens. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, fitness facilities, indoor pool, and an outdoor patio to relax after a long day of exploring Athens. Fairfield Inn & Suites room rates start at $129/night.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
Other popular accommodation options in the Athens area: Bodhi Tree Guesthouse & Studio, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Ohio University Inn & Conference Center, The Little B Inn (located in Nelsonville), The Hyde House and Primrose B & B (both located in Nelsonville).
What to do:
Athens provides plenty of things to do during your weekend getaway. From strolling the historic brick streets of Uptown Athens, exploring Ohio University’s campus or eating your way through Athens on the 30 Mile Meal, you might find that you need more than one weekend to accomplish your “must-see & do list” in Athens!
~Strolling the historic brick streets of Uptown Athens. Uptown Athens has been the heart of Athens County since the early 1800’s. A stroll along the charming Athens Block brick streets leads you to historic buildings which house local restaurants and unique shops.
Athens Block brick streets in Uptown Athens
~Exploring Ohio University’s beautiful campus. Ohio University is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Ohio and the first in the Northwest Territory. Classes began in 1808 since then, the historic university has grown from three students in its first year to more than 20,000 students per year attending the main campus. With its 210 buildings nestled upon 1,800 acres, take an hour or two to stroll along the historic buildings, College Green, Emeriti Park, The Class Gateways, The Ridges and search for the historical marker, the Sundial. *USA Today 10 Best just recognized Athens as the 2016 Best College Small Town in the United States!*
Ohio University Campus
~Eating your way through Athens on the 30 Mile Meal. The 30 Mile Meal campaign was launched in 2008 as a way to introduce visitors to the thriving local food scene in the region. Local participating restaurants source their fresh ingredients from local farmers and then provide fresh and delicious meals. With over 160 food partners within a 30-mile radius of Athens, eating your way along the 30 Mile Meal will have your taste buds wanting more! Read about my journey along the 30 Mile Meal for Tourism Ohio here.
~Tasting local ingredients at the Athens Farmers Market. Every Saturday morning (9A-12P, year-round) and Wednesday morning (9A-12P, April-December) local vendors display locally grown and locally made goods at the Athens Farmers Market (located in The Market on State Mall). With over 100 indoor and outdoor vendors, visitors can find fruits, vegetables, cheeses, honey, meats, eggs, baked goods, flowers, herbs and plants from local farmers and growers. Stroll the market, meet the local vendors, ask for recipes and cooking advice, and enjoy fresh samples during your visit to the farmers market.
Arts, Culture and History:
Arts & Culture: With the influence from community members and Ohio University, the importance of arts and culture in Athens can be found throughout the city and surrounding county! Here are a few places where you can enjoy arts and culture in Athens County.
~Athena Cinema. The College of fine Arts at Ohio University, through the Athens Center for Film and Video maintains the historic cinema (built in 1915) of Uptown Athens. The premiere art-house cinema showcases independent and international films.
The historic Athena Cinema
~Dairy Barn Arts Center. Built in 1914, the Dairy Barn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a 6,500 square-foot gallery!
~Ohio University Performing Arts Series and Ohio University’s School of Dance, Film and Theater and the School of Music offers visual and performing arts from both talented students and internationally acclaimed artists.
~Stuart’s Opera House. Built in 1879, the restored Stuart’s Opera House is one of Ohio’s last remaining fully operational opera houses. Located in Nelsonville, the opera house hosts more than 75 events each year. The opera house lobby serves as an art gallery, Gallery 1879 showcases artwork from local, regional and national artists in a variety of mediums.
~The Kennedy Museum of Art. Located on Ohio University’s campus, the Kennedy Museum of Art features significant collections of southwest Native American textiles and jewelry and a renowned contemporary print collection.
History: Athens County formed from part of Washington County in 1805. With over 200 years of history, the stories made from Athens’ past as a coal mining community and how this town pioneered education for all of Ohio, are preserved throughout Athens and its surrounding communities.
~Athens Historical Society and Museum. Located in Uptown Athens, the Athens Historical Society and Museum features a vast collection of local history and tells the historical stories of Athens and Athens County.
~Historical Marker Tour. With nine Ohio Historical Society Historical Markers commemorating specific sites and events which occurred in Athens County, history buffs will love to take a driving tour to visit each historical marker and view the beautiful Ohio surroundings.
Ohio Historical Marker
~Covered Bridge Tour. Covered bridge enthusiasts will enjoy touring Athens County’s back roads to find the historic covered bridges. The earliest bridge dates back to 1876 and all three bridges remain open to traffic!
~Indian Mounds. Between 1,000 B.C. and 200 A.D., Athens County was home to the Adena Indians. The Adena Indians where a hunter-gatherer tribe which predated the Hopewell Indians. When settlers arrived in the early 1800’s, at least thirty mounds where found in The Plains, an area just north of Athens. Visitors can view the unexcavated and largest mound, the Hartman Mound (at 40 feet high and 140 feet in diameter) and the Connett Mound.
Where to Eat:
Athens is referred to as a “Garden of Eatin’” with plenty of food options for every type of foodie! From local flavors, farm-to-table dining, ethnic foods, coffee shops, bakeries and so much more, I spent the weekend eating my way through Athens! With lots of great food choices, I would suggest trying them all! The best way I have found to try everything is by sharing. We stopped in nearly a dozen restaurants in two days (that’s a lot of eating in 48 hours!) and the only way that I still fit into my pants after the weekend is because my husband and I shared a variety of small plates at every place we visited! And if you don’t feel like sharing and want to eat everything in Athens, well just pack a pair of stretchy or loose pants to wear home after your weekend getaway! 🙂 Let the list of awesome foodie options commence…
~Bakeries and Coffee Shops (the best places to keep you caffeinated for exploring Athens!): Donkey Coffee and Espresso, Court Street Coffee, Village Bakery and Café, Fullbrooks Café (located in Nelsonville), Brenen’s Coffee Café, Crumbs Bakery, and Fluff Bakery
Baked Goods at Village Bakery
~Restaurants: Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina, Jackie O’s Brewery, Restaurant Salaam, Sol Restaurant, Zoe Fine Dining, Court Street Diner, Bagel Street Deli, Union Street Diner, Lui Lui Restaurant, OMG! Rotisserie, 9 Tables Restaurant, Gigi’s Restaurant, Larry’s Dawg House, Miller’s Chicken, O’Betty’s Red Hot!, and Avalanche Pizza.
Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina OMG! Rotisserie
*Full disclosure, I didn’t eat at all of the restaurants listed, but I sure as heck gave it my best shot! 🙂
Refreshing Libations and Nightlife:
With over thirty bars, local microbreweries, wineries and a distillery, refreshing libations and vibrant nightlife (great live music scene) are abound in Athens! There’s nothing better to wash down local foods than locally crafted beer and wines. Along with eating my way through Athens, I sampled numerous local craft beers and delicious Ohio wines that made me proud to be an Ohioan! Drink your favorite cocktail or beer and sample Ohio-made micro brews and wines, just remember to always drink responsibly and never drink and drive!
Drinks at Casa Nueva Cantina Pleasant Hill Vineyards
Where to Shop:
Whether you are looking for accessories, antiques and vintage finds, a unique gift, garden supplies, home décor or a new outfit, Athens has a wide selection of local shops to choose from:
~Garden Supplies: White’s Mill
Southeastern Ohio is known for its beautiful scenery and Appalachian landscapes. Athens County is no exception, with sixteen federal, state and local parks, outdoor enthusiasts are sure to feel the invigorating spirit of the great outdoors! Whether hiking, camping, cycling, kayaking or canoeing, or hugging the winding curves of the road on your motorcycle, getting back to nature and exploring Ohio’s natural beauty is easy to do in Athens County!
Enjoying the beauty of Athens
~Best Views: Radar Hill (highest point in Athens, trail can be picked up at The Ridges) and Bong Hill (ask an Ohio University student for directions)
~Cycling: Hockhocking Adena Bikeway
~Motorcycle Riding: Ohio’s Windy 9 (nine routes which make up nearly a thousand miles of twists and turns through Ohio’s back roads)
With lush landscapes, vibrant live music and art performances, historical tours and a great local food and bar scene, Athens will delight your senses, entice your taste buds and share its community spirit with you, luring you back to explore more of its Ohio charms.
Who doesn’t need a weekend getaway every once in a while? Go ahead, plan your Ohio weekend getaway to Athens, you deserve it! An Ohio weekend getaway is the perfect escape to drink, eat, explore and shop local!
Need more ideas for your weekend escape to Athens? Visit www.athensohio.com.
Do you live in Athens and have more suggestions? Please let me know in the comments below!
Where is your favorite Ohio weekend getaway? Comment below! Love this post? Please share it!
Thanks for reading!
A special thanks to Visit Athens Ohio and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. I was on assignment for Tourism Ohio and was an invited guest of Visit Athens Ohio and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. As always on Ohio Girl Travels, all opinions are my own!