Athens, no more than one and a half hours southeast of Columbus, offers a friendly, quirky vibe that will charm your butt off.
If you haven’t been to Athens yet, then you should put it on your schedule. It’s full of nice people, good food, and local pride. Trust me — before college, I thought I’d split from Ohio as soon as humanly possible. But even my stubborn self has come to love Athens dearly.
Even though Ohio University has a reputation as a “party school,” our school and our community are so much more than that. If you decide to visit the land that I love, this guide will come in handy.
Address: 4 W. State Street
The restaurant can get pretty busy during peak hours, but most people pass the wait time by sipping drinks and chomping on appetizers from the Bodega. Casa has live music in the evenings, which makes for a lively environment. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans, including vegan cheese and a daily vegan dessert option. My favorite dish? The vegan scrambler, which comes with a side of home fries.
Address: 24 W. Union St.
Sit down for a beer, tasty food, and live music at another local favorite. Enjoy the full menu at the Public House or a smaller menu at the Brewpub right next door. The Brewpub also offers a nice patio so you can soak up the nice weather. There are a few vegetarian and vegan options.
Bagel Street Deli
Address: 27 S. Court St.
For a sandwich stacked thick with yumminess, this is your place. Bagel Street has about a million options to satisfy whatever your taste buds are feeling. Veg-head? Meat-lover? Tofu train? They’ve got it all, and it comes on a bagel.
Address: 21 W. Washington St.
If you’re hungry for more ethnic cuisine, hit up this Athens favorite. It has an especially pleasant atmosphere during the evening. Can you say mood lighting?
Union Street Diner
Address: 70 W. Union St.
The diner is a favorite that’s literally open 24/7. From burgers to omelettes to fried Oreos, this place has all the comfort food you need.
Mountain Laurel Gifts
Address: 25 S. Court St.
This is a neat little boutique with everything from jewelry and other accessories to cute kitchenware. If you want to give someone a little gift or just treat yourself, you’ll want to stop by this shop.
Address: 42 N. Court St.
This is another place that sells cool accessories and baubles. I’ve personally had success getting gifts and adorable cards here. It’s hard not to get distracted by the walls and displays full of cute stuff.
The Other Place
Address: 43 S. Court St.
Browse the bunches of clothes and accessories here. I’ll find myself being drawn in on my way down Court Street for a quick browse, even if I’m not looking to buy anything. My favorite items right now are, of course, the dog-inspired Chala bags.
Address: 2 W. State St.
This little shop offers clothes, accessories, and gifts. There are plenty of funny t-shirts and darling dresses to go around. In addition to the dresses, I love the shelf full of trinket boxes.
The Dairy Barn
Address: 8000 Dairy Lane
See this arts center, which promotes area artists and aims to foster an appreciation for art. The Dairy Barn hosts event and exhibitions, and it has a gallery shop that’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gallery admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Children under 12 get in free.
The Great Outdoors
Stroud’s Run State Park
Address: 11661 State Park Rd.
Swim, canoe, and hike the day away. Stroud’s Run is just one example of the region’s natural treasures. It has more than 2,500 acres of gorgeous wilderness and plenty of photo-worthy scenery.
Address: Avon Place
This is a good place to hike that’s basically a stone’s throw away. It has a pond and a few short trails that vary in difficulty. Mountain bikers also like to ride through.
Address: Richland Avenue
Home to the infamous Athens Lunatic Asylum, the Ridges also has hiking trails to enjoy. One such trail is The Ridges Cemeteries Nature Walk that runs through cemeteries located on the grounds of the asylum. It may seem morbid, but it’s a fascinating place with a lot of history. Don’t miss Radar Hill at the top of the trail — you’ll get a stunning view of Athens.
Athens Farmers Market
Address: 1000 E. State St.
The farmers market takes place Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April through December. Pick up some fresh produce, specialty foods, and baked goods from local vendors.
Ohio Brew Week
Address: Court Street
Beer lover? You won’t want to miss this. Brew Week is nine days long and happens in July. You can shamelessly try some of the hundreds of beers brought to you by breweries from all over Ohio. Make sure you try the ones from Athens, like Jackie O’s, Little Fish, and Devil’s Kettle.
Ohio Pawpaw Festival
Address: Lake Snowden
This three-day event falls in September each year. What in tarnation is a pawpaw, you ask? Well, it’s a tropical fruit that grows in areas of the U.S. — if you happen to be interested in finding out more about the pawpaw and its history, check this out. You’ll find entertainment, art, and the myriad of ways people have incorporated pawpaws into different foods.
Boogie on the Bricks
Address: Court Street
This music and arts festival offers live music, food, beer and wine, art, and merchandise. It happens in June every year, so keep it in mind. It’s a fun event that brings the community out for a good time.
Athens is more than just a home to a “party school.” There’s a lot to love about Athens, from the food to the neighborly attitudes. It sits in a region of the state that is lush with natural wonders. The best part? You don’t have to venture too far to experience it.
Featured image via Athens County.