Athens is probably most well known as the home of Ohio University. Just about an hour and a half southeast of downtown, this city has way more to offer than just the 151st best college in the United States. It’s a creative enclave with a close-knit community, full of culture and beautiful scenery. Also, delicious food and an atmosphere you just can’t get here in town. Honestly, it was hard for me to narrow things down to just one day. You could easily spend a long weekend exploring in town and nearby Nelsonville. And while you definitely don’t need to wear tie dye to fit in, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
17 1/2 W Washington St
You’re starting your day off with a local favorite. Donkey Coffee has traditional coffeeshop fare, and a well prepared staff. They also offer soy and almond milk, and a good sized selection of vegan treats. All of the coffee is fair-trade, and you can help yourself to unlimited refills on your cup o’ joe. If you’ve already caffeinated for the day, the menu is full of different smoothie options, and there are lots of cozy places to sit and talk about how awesome the rest of your day is going to be.
8 N Court St
Just around the corner from your last stop, Fluff is a must visit for breakfast all day. Order the ricotta pancakes and I promise you wont be disappointed. Service here is prompt and the general vibe is chill and casual. There are cloud murals adorning the walls and their house-made desserts have cleverly unique names. Also? Mimosas 🙌.
4 W Stimson Ave
If you’re hanging around in Athens County, you know its has a reputation for being environmentally friendly. Lots of cool places use recycled products, and hiking/biking adventures are accessible and encouraged. So while you might not be in the market for a new set of wheels, you should still check out this cycle shop. You might be asking “Why?” And I’ll tell you. To rent a bike, of course. The staff here is super knowledgeable and they’re happy to provide you with trail maps of the best places in the area. Bikes are available to rent starting at just $10/hour, or $40/24 hours. They’ll provide the lock and helmet, you provide the horsepower.
8000 Dairy Lane
Not just a place for displaying quilts, though there’s plenty of those to check out as well. The Dairy Barn has a rotating selection of works from local artists on view, and a gift shop stocked with inspired finds. In addition to visual art, they host a multitude of events from spoken word poetry, to their October pumpkin festival, to summer camps for kids and teens.
9 N Shafer St
Homemade Italian food, with a modern twist. The lunch you’ll have here is more of an experience than just the food. The menu changes daily so I can’t really make a recommendation for you, but that’s half the fun. The owner and chef are one in the same, and knowing that it’s a labor of love makes the meal authentic. Do check the hours before popping in, they’re closed on Sundays, and lunch service ends at 2pm during the week.
2 W State St
Time to do a little shopping! Artifacts Gallery is cute, quirky, and eclectic. Think locally owned Urban Outfitters. You can pick up a new dress for yourself, or an introspective coffee mug as a gift. Mostly women’s clothing, but some stuff for men and children, too. Another plus is their selection of sterling silver jewelry, so rather than just picking up a kitsch-y bauble, you can take home a piece that you’ll have for years to come.
13530 Eddy Rd
According to their website, the name Putnam & Speedwell signifies the balance and harmony between nature and community. The natural beauty of the store’s setting and the community you find when stopping in for a visit. They carry a range of antiques and vintage collectibles, but you’ll find their selection of dinnerware to be the real showstopper. If that sounds boring to you (I mean, collectible Victorian shaving mugs aren’t for everyone) have no fear, they always have new items and their selection of vintage children’s books is just the right kind of nostalgia.
11661 State Park Rd
Forget hiking (though they boast 2600 acres and more than 20 different trails), if you head here in the warmer months, you can rent a boat or hit the beach for some swimming. The beach is open from sunrise to sunset, and there are changing areas and a restroom, it’s definitely bare-bones, but more than adequate. As far as boating goes, it’s really up to you how involved you want to be, they have everything from paddle boats to pontoon boats, so choose your own adventure!
371 1/2 Richland Ave
So, reservations aren’t required, but it’s definitely worth it to call ahead. They’re only open from 5p-8:30p so you don’t want to show up and not be able to enjoy their creative menu. Plus, you can eat outside, on a bridge, over the river. While the menu is predominantly vegetarian, it’s not exclusively so. The menu is certainly eclectic, with curry dishes, greek staples, and tacos, but each dish is flavorful and it’s nice to not feel pigeonholed into one sort of restaurant when you’re dining with a group. Important to note that it’s BYOB, if that’s your cup of…wine.
25 Campbell St
Before you plug “Jackie O’s, Athens” into your Google Maps, be aware that there are two locations in town, the pub, which also serves as a full service restaurant, and this location which is a taproom, though there is a food truck for those late night snacks. The plus to checking out this location is the “experimental brews.” You can try out the latest creations which may not be available anywhere else. Though I recommend getting a flight because most all of their beers are great. I’m partial to the Razz Wheat, but you can’t go wrong with a Mystic Mama. Before you hit the road, with your designated driver, check out the vintage arcade table in the back. The high score on Centipede is unreal.
If you decide you’d like to stay in the area longer, there’s no shortage of fun things to do. You could even spend the night in a legit castle, like Chelsea mentioned HERE. The Athens County Visitor’s Center has some great resources, like the Brewed on the Bikeway tour and Asylum Walking tour. If you take a day trip to Athens, we’d love to see your pics! Tag us on instagram @ #navigatecolumbus.