Athens features more than college hang outs and townie hot spots; there are plenty of places to see and things to do for children, too. Here are some highlights and hidden gems for a variety of interests, from physical activity to mental stimulation.
Go Play Outside
Athens-Clarke County has more than a dozen playgrounds, each with its unique set of slides and surroundings. If you’re looking for open fields instead of swings, check out the open areas around the extensive playground at Southeast Clarke Park (325 Whit Davis Road). If you’re looking for a smaller neighborhood playground, check out Reese and Pope Park (375 Reese St.) or Boulevard Woods (298 Barber St.). Note that parks close a few hours each week for regular maintenance, so check out accgov.com/playgrounds for schedules and the full list of locations. For a more comprehensive list of parks, see page 16.
If you want to head into the woods, find trails and a naturescape play area at Sandy Creek Nature Center (205 Old Commerce Road and also accessible via the Greenway). There’s also the Birchmore Trail at Memorial Park (293 Gran Ellen Drive), and Ben Burton Park (615 Mitchell Bridge Road) has walking routes along the river.
Beyond county parks, there are also extensive trails at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (2450 S. Milledge Ave.) that will take you along the North Oconee River and through restored wetlands and native grasses. And along with the specimen gardens, don’t miss the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden—a must-visit for any kids in town. UGA’s Oconee Forest Park (110 Lake Herrick Drive), adjacent to the intramural fields, offers a trail system around Lake Herrick. You can even bring your fishing poles.
Speed It Up
Lake Herrick also allows non-motorized boating, so it’s a good spot to try out a canoe or kayak with the kids. Sandy Creek Park’s Lake Chapman (400 Bob Holman Road) is also an option for putting in your own watercraft or renting one from the county (weather and staff permitting). Note that admission to the park is $2/person for ages 4–64. Ben Burton Park also offers a spot to launch your canoe or kayak.
If the kids want to take out the bikes or scooters, you have options. For gently rolling paved trails through much of downtown Athens, check out the Greenway’s network. You can connect from Sandy Creek Nature Center to Dudley Park, the Firefly Trail and South Campus (accgov.com/greenway). If you haven’t explored the most recently installed section of the Firefly Trail through downtown Winterville, it’s worth the ride. Or take your bikes off-road at Walker Park (200 Trail Creek St.), which has several trails maintained by the local chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (sorbaathens.org). You can also find paved trails at Bishop Park (705 Sunset Drive), Southeast Clarke Park (the opposite side from the playground, at 4440 Lexington Road) and Memorial Park.
Learn Around Us
Check out the latest art exhibits at the Lyndon House Arts Center (211 Hoyt St.) throughout the year; check accgov.com/lyndonhouse for details on classes and events. The Georgia Museum of Art (90 Carlton St.) is also a prime place for getting creative, whether it’s viewing the latest exhibits or watching the water work its way through the patio garden; visit georgiamuseum.org for upcoming kid-friendly events.
In addition to trails at Sandy Creek Nature Center, kids can now learn inside and out. The naturescape play area gives kids a space to investigate while they play, and inside they can explore STEM topics such as electricity, food, planets and pollinators. It makes for a cool option on a hot afternoon. For more natural wonders, visit the animals at Memorial Park’s Bear Hollow Zoo (and visit the ducks at the nearby pond—but please don’t bring bread!).
The libraries in the Athens Regional Library System rotate storytime events that are both in-person and virtual. Visit athenslibrary.org for updates, or drop in to the Athens-Clarke County Library (2025 Baxter St.) to just experience the space and the helpful children’s librarians.
To help give kids a glimpse of Athens history, drop by the Historic Athens Welcome Center (280 E. Dougherty St.) or the Ware-Lyndon House adjacent to the Lyndon House Arts Center. Both are open for self-guided tours during business hours, and the Welcome Center also offers kid-friendly scavenger hunts and online tours of other notable buildings on its Facebook page.