Athens has quickly become my home over the past 4 years, with water playing a huge part in some of my favorite summer activities. As the summer begins to wind down and back to school shopping looms closer and closer on the horizon, why not spend some of these fleeting summer days near water? I have compiled a short list of some of my favorite summer activities to do in Athens, all of which can either be enjoyed with kids or in solitude (or with your dog).
1. The Birchmore Trail
The Birchmore Trail is a 1.5 mile trail through a mature hardwood ravine at Memorial Park in the heart of 5 Points. The trail meanders over small creeks and bridges. Make sure to keep your eyes open for wildlife hiding along the trail. The shaded trails and gurgling creeks are a great escape from the hot and hectic Georgia Summer!
Once you have completed the trail, cool down by walking a few laps around the lake at Memorial Park and feed the ducks, or go see some native Georgian wildlife at Bear Hollow Zoo. It’s incredible that this little bubble of nature is nestled in the middle of Athens, so be sure to help preserve the trail and waterways by picking up any litter you may see on the hike!
2. Ben Burton park
Another one of my outdoors Athens favorites is Ben Burton park. Located on Mitchell Bridge Road, the park offers a variety of activities perfect for the summer. You can take a leisurely walk beside the Middle Oconee River, go kayaking, or simply read a book in the shade of the hardwoods. However, my favorite activity out at Ben Burton is to climb the rock head that overlooks the river.
Listening to the river tumble over the rocks, or watching a Great Blue Heron hunt for fish and other vertebrates is a great way to unwind after a long day. Watching the sunset from this vantage point is always enjoyable, but remember, the park closes at sunset, so don’t linger too long once the sun has dipped below the horizon!
3. Watson Mill Bridge State Park
This state park is an easy 20 minute drive from downtown Athens, and boasts the longest covered bridge in the State of Georgia. The park is just over 1,100 acres, and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of hiking trails, biking trails, geocaching, horseback riding trails, and kayaking.
Watson Mill is the perfect mix of being close enough to Athens for a sporadic day trip, but also far enough outside of the city so you think you’ve escaped to somewhere new. Pack a picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon under one of the numerous picnic shelters that border this incredible river.
4. Trail Creek Splash Pad
Trail Creek Park is a 113-acre plot located just off of the Athens Perimeter at Peter Street. While the park is a perfect place to play Frisbee, read, or walk your dog, perhaps the Splash Pad is one of the coolest water related structures in the city. The park itself has no entry cost, but there is a $1 fee per child to play on the Splash Pad.
The Splash Pad is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 AM – 5:30 PM. However, if the Splash Pad isn’t your scene, the park is open daily from 8 AM – Sunset.
5. The State Botanical Gardens
The State Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite places in the entire city of Athens. The Gardens cover more than 300 acres and boasts over 5 miles of nature trails. Whether you want to walk along the Middle Oconee River, take a hike on the trails, or simply set up an Eno and enjoy a peaceful afternoon reading in the sun, the Botans are definitely the place for you.
The Gardens have a ton of different attractions to visit year round, such as the Horticulture Greenhouse, the Flower Garden, the Heritage Garden, the Tropical Conservatory, the Hummingbird Trail, and so many more! The different gardens and trails are open during different parts of the year, so be sure to check out the Garden’s website to see what attractions are currently available.
6. Go hangout at Sandy Creek Park
Sandy Creek Park is truly one of the most versatile places to visit in Athens. You can hangout on the beach, hike the various nature trails, or rent paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes to use in the lake. Bring your four-legged friend and enjoy numerous dog parks, or take them for a short hike
Athens has some pretty incredible places to go to during the summer, and water is a driving factor behind each and every one of them. Take some time out of your week and try to visit one of our awesome parks or pools, as firsthand experience with these places can help develop a newfound appreciation of water.