On the surface, the city of Athens, Georgia is best known for being home to the University of Georgia – and everything that comes with your typical college town. If you dig a bit deeper though, there are so many great things to do in Athens, GA for kids to enjoy. Don’t skip the city because you’re traveling with kids and you can only picture football and bars. It’s a fantastic place to immersive your kids in educational opportunities, outdoor fun, art, culture and history. The best part? Most of these attractions have FREE admission for everyone.
Part of what makes the city of Athens so great is because they’re home to UGA. The university has achieved long-lasting partnerships with the community which benefits the area with amazing attractions. Many of the students love the city so much that they graduate and stay in the city and eventually open their own businesses. It’s clear that the university loves the local community and that’s exactly the reason why you should visit.
You’ll notice that many of the attractions listed below have free admission and offer educational programs for kids. Kids love these destinations and the hands-on exploration opportunities that they provide. A trip to Athens is a ton of fun, sneaks in a bit of learning and it’s definitely one of the best college towns to visit with kids.
7 Best Things To Do in Athens, GA With Kids
Athens is only 1 1/2 hours away from Atlanta and that makes it the perfect day trip if you live in the area or a quick drive if you’re coming in from the Atlanta Airport. The city is easy to navigate and most of the destinations are within a short driving distance. The downtown Athens area is walkable with access to easy paid parking options.
Our family planned a day trip, from Atlanta, with my kids – ages 1, 5 and 8. I highly recommend day trips for toddlers because it’s just enough for them to handle and they’re back in their own bed by the end of the night. By the end of our day trip, my kids were asking when they could go back (… anytime since it’s so close to Atlanta).
One of the biggest take aways we learned, from our weekend day trip, is how much you can get done in the mornings. The city is almost asleep in the mornings, which allows families to accomplish a lot without big crowds. In the late afternoon, Athens wakes up (maybe literally for the college kids) and pedestrian foot traffic increases substantially. Use the mornings as an opportunity explore with the kids – you’ll get a lot of sightseeing done.
The State Botanical Garden Of Georgia
Kids can spend hours at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and never get bored. They have an immersive children’s garden where kids can play, learn, crawl and touch. It’s a phenomenal area for active kids to enjoy being outside and it’s definitely not a standard playground. Kids can discover a fossil wall, a giant chestnut treehouse, walk across bridges and admire a vegetable garden.
The event calendar is filled with great activities for the kids to participate in. Whether it’s watching a performance in the garden or learning farm-to-table cooking skills, the kids are sure to find something they enjoy.
While you’re at the Botanical Garden, check out the trails in the main area. The garden symmetry, water fountains and color of the vegetation make it the perfect backdrop for family photo opportunities.
Lastly, grab a Children’s Garden Passport in the gift shop to adventure through the different areas at the Botanical Garden. Once the kids have completed the activities, they can turn in the work for an official passport stamp and button that signifies becoming an official “Garden Earth Explorer.” How fun is that?
Pro Tip: When you’re visiting the gardens, many of the activities are outside. The area is stroller-friendly, but difficult to navigate with a folding umbrella stroller. Bring a baby carrier or jogging stroller to navigate the gardens with young kids.
Admission is FREE at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Tracking Down UGA Bulldogs In Downtown Athens
Have you ever been on a photo scavenger hunt? It’s so much fun for kids! The idea is that you track down different photo locations and take a picture at every spot.
The downtown Athens area and UGA campus have bulldog statues scattered throughout. Each of the bulldog statues are 4 feet tall and have their own personality – not one of them looking exactly alike.
Track down all 37 bulldog statues in Athens and collect photos at each one. If you’re traveling in a larger group, make it game by dividing into teams to see which team can track down the most bulldog statue photos in a certain time period. The team with the most bulldog statue photos wins. I love this idea for older tween and teens visiting the city.
Bear Hollow Zoo
Nestled in a wooded area, Bear Hollow Zoo tops the list as one of our favorite things to do in Athens, GA with kids. The students of UGA help to maintain the animals that live at Bear Hollow and their habitats. It’s another great example of the university giving back to the community.
Guests can visit the little zoo to see Georgia’s native wildlife. The zoo is home to black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, owls, and many other species. The river otters and alligators are our personal favorite attractions. Student zookeepers are on-hand to answer questions and engage with visitors.
Pro Tip: Bear Hollow Zoo has paved pathways, making it easy for strollers. Bring a packed picnic lunch and enjoy the shaded outdoor area to beat the hot summer months.
Admission is FREE at Bear Hollow Zoo
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Athens
When you need to take a break from the fun, head to downtown Athens for one-of-a-kind dining. What I love most is that many Athens restaurants are within walking distance of each other. You can enjoy milkshakes with the kids at one and then enjoy dinner at a different spot.
If you’re looking for an amazing burger, you can’t miss Clocked! American Diner which specializes in unique burgers and fries. They also have a secret dipping sauce that’s similar to a ketchup mayo combo and an amazing truffle mayonnaise. Whether you order sweet potato fries, regular fries or tater tots – you’ve got to dip for the whole experience.
If you’re in the mood for a casual dining spot that’s great for the kids, head to Ted’s Most Best for wood-fired pizzas. It’s a walk-up to order pizza restaurant that also serves calzones, soups and sandwiches. Let the kids have an early dinner while you enjoy their happy hour from 3-6pm. It’s a win for everyone.
It doesn’t matter where you graduated from or what team you’re cheering for, you’ve got to check out the beautiful Sanford Stadium when you’re in town. College football season starts in late August and ends in early December, but you don’t need tickets to a game to appreciate the stadium.
Unexpectedly, admiring the awe of Sanford Stadium is one of favorite things to do in Athens with kids. Just seeing the sheer size of the empty stadium is enough to take your breath away. Gate 1 is open for photos and a great spot to look at all of the areas you’d see on a televised game.
Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium is surrounded by its famous hedges and you can even see the dog house for the university’s official school mascot, Uga. It’s such a great photo spot and a must do.
Pro Tip: Be careful where you park on campus at the University of Georgia. Some parking lots require parking permits, even on the weekends.
Visit The UGA Bookstore
While you’re visiting Sanford Stadium, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the UGA Bookstore. It’s a huge two-level bookstore that’s far more than textbooks. They sell a plethora of official UGA merchandise, from t-shirts to wine glasses. Browse for gifts and stock up on UGA gear if you’re a big fan. The store even sells customized gifts.
Sandy Creek Nature Center
Escape the hustle of every day busy and head to the Sandy Creek Nature Center to reconnect with the outdoors. This family-friendly attraction features an indoor educational center with live reptiles, amphibians, marine and freshwater aquariums and interactive natural history exhibits. Animal experts are on hand to answer questions and assist with up-close encounters.
Outside, there are 225 acres of protected wetlands to enjoy with over four miles of trails and an outdoor playscape area for kids. The walking trails are stroller-friendly and can be can be easily cut for shorter distances. Be on the lookout for turtles, fish, frogs, snakes and the great blue heron.
Pro Tip: Check out the Nature Center events calendar for special themed days of fun and kids camps
Admission is FREE at the Sandy Creek Nature Center
Whether you’re going for UGA game weekend and want to make the most of your time or you’re just planning a day trip, there’s so much to see and do in Athens, Georgia. It’s unbelievable how many things you can do without ever pulling out your wallet. That’s a rare travel find nowadays, but something that makes Athens a must-do city to visit with kids.
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