Things to do in Athens, Ohio

25 Fun Things to Do in Athens, Ohio

Welcome to Athens, Ohio, a charming town with a lot more to offer than you might expect. Located in the Appalachian foothills, this small but energetic community is a hidden gem for both locals and visitors. 

Let’s look at a variety of activities and attractions that make Athens an exciting and memorable destination. From outdoor adventures in Hocking Hills to exploring the history of Ohio University, Athens has something for everyone. 

So, whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or just passing through, here’s your guide to the best things to do in Athens, Ohio.

Location of Athens, Ohio. Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Location of Athens, Ohio

Things to do in Athens, Ohio


Whether you’re interested in history, the arts, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat in a scenic setting, a visit to Ohio University’s campus can be a rewarding and memorable experience.

Photo courtesy of Matthis Volquardsen

Campus Beauty: 

Ohio University’s campus is renowned for its beauty. The campus has greenery, historic architecture, and winding brick pathways. Visitors can explore the campus’s charming nooks and crannies, taking in the stunning landscapes that change with the seasons. It’s an excellent destination for nature and photography enthusiasts.

Historical Significance: 

The university was founded in 1804, making it one of the oldest public institutions of higher learning in the United States. The campus is filled with history, and visitors can appreciate its historical significance by touring iconic landmarks such as Cutler Hall, which dates back to the 19th century.

Cultural Attractions: 

The Kennedy Museum of Art, located on campus, features a diverse collection of art, including works from Africa, Asia, and indigenous peoples, as well as contemporary pieces. 

The university often hosts cultural events, concerts, and performances that are open to the public, providing a chance to engage with the local arts scene.

Academic Exploration: 

Ohio University’s Alden Library is a valuable resource for academics and researchers, but it’s also open to the public. Visitors can explore the library’s collections, periodical archives, and study areas.

Athletic Events: 

If you’re a sports enthusiast, attending a Bobcats game is an exciting experience. The campus has excellent sports facilities where you can catch exciting NCAA Division I games in football, basketball, and other sports.


Athens Skate Park: 

If you’re looking for some urban excitement in Athens, the Athens Skate Park is the place to be. Skaters, BMX riders, and scooter enthusiasts can test their skills on ramps, bowls, and rails. It’s a hub for the local skate community and a great spot to watch some impressive tricks or join in on the action.

Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Zachary Debottis

Wayne National Forest: 

Wayne National Forest provides a peaceful escape for anyone seeking the beauty of the great outdoors. With over 240,000 acres of pristine woodlands, it offers opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. 

The forest has numerous trails, making it a perfect spot for exploring nature. If you’re into off-roading, you can even go ATV or horseback riding in designated areas. 

For a dose of history, visit the Iron Furnace, a remnant of the region’s industrial past. 

Hocking Hills State Park: 

Hocking Hills is a must visit location for nature lovers. If you need help putting together a weekend getaway to this amazing location, check out our Hocking Hills Itinerary! 

Hocking Hills State Park features several must-see attractions:

Conkles Hollow:

This gorge boasts towering cliffs and a serene, shaded trail that’s perfect for a hot summer day.

Old Man’s Cave: 

With its amazing waterfalls and unique rock formations, this is the most popular spot in the park.

Cedar Falls: 

Named for its towering hemlocks, this waterfall is a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Ash Cave: 

The largest recess cave in the state offers a short, easy hike with a stunning waterfall backdrop. 

Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park. Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park

State Parks: 

Athens is blessed with many state parks that showcase the beauty of the region. Whether you’re into hiking, fishing, or simply enjoying a picnic, these parks offer a range of outdoor activities to suit your interests. 

Don’t forget to check the season-specific events, like maple syrup-making in March or fall foliage tours in October, to make the most of your visit.

Strouds Run State Park: 

If you’re looking for a serene lake escape, Strouds Run State Park is your destination. The 161-acre Dow Lake provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and picnicking. The park’s trails are perfect for hiking and birdwatching. 

Burr Oak State Park: 

Burr Oak State Park is a quiet place centered around Burr Oak Lake. Whether you’re into boating, fishing, or hiking the park’s trails, this is a great place to unwind. 

With a beach area and multiple picnic spots, it’s a great place for a family outing. 

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local wildlife – you might just spot a bald eagle soaring overhead.

Lake Logan State Park: 

Lake Logan State Park is a pretty destination with its namesake lake as the centerpiece. It’s perfect for fishing, kayaking, and swimming during the summer. There’s a 6-mile trail around the lake for hiking, and the park’s wooded areas are great for birdwatching and wildlife observation.

Lake Hope State Park: 

Within Zaleski State Forest, Lake Hope offers the ideal setting for a peaceful getaway. The lake provides opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing, while the surrounding forest is filled with hiking trails. 

The park also has a charming 19th-century iron furnace and a reconstructed log chapel.

Hocking Valley Scenic Railway: 

Take a step back in time and experience the charm of a previous time by hopping on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. This heritage railway offers a scenic journey through the Hocking Valley. With various themed excursions and seasonal events, it’s a great way to explore the region’s history and natural beauty.

Hockhocking Adena Bikeway:

Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely ride, the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is a fantastic choice. This 21-mile trail winds through Athens and the surrounding area, offering scenic views of the Hocking River and easy access to parks, historic sites, and local attractions. Bring your bike or rent one in town for a fun day of exploration.

Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Maksim Goncharenok

Rock Climbing: 

Whether you have extensive experience in rock climbing, or are a first timer, you can have fun indoor rock climbing at Blockhouse Bouldering or Outdoor Pursuits Climbing Facility. Outdoor Pursuits also offers adventure trips, clinics, and equipment rentals.

Hocking River: 

The meandering Hocking River is a great spot for paddlers and nature enthusiasts. Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the river at your own pace. It’s a peaceful way to connect with the natural beauty of Athens, with opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the serene surroundings.


Local Breweries:

Athens is home to a active craft beer scene. Check out these options to sip on some local brews.

Little Fish Brewing Company:

Little Fish Brewing Company is known for its farm-to-table approach to brewing. They use locally sourced ingredients to craft unique, small-batch beers. The laid-back outdoor seating area is perfect for relaxing with friends and enjoying a cold one.

Devil’s Kettle Brewing: 

Devil’s Kettle is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts. They offer a rotating selection of innovative and traditional beers in a cozy taproom. It’s a great place to try new flavors and support the local craft beer community.

Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Dutch Creek Winery: 

For a taste of Ohio’s winemaking heritage, visit Dutch Creek Winery. Situated in a charming rural setting, this winery offers a selection of handcrafted wines made from Ohio-grown grapes. You can savor their wines in a relaxed and picturesque setting, often accompanied by live music and events.

Pleasant Hill Vineyards: 

For a taste of local flavor, head to Pleasant Hill Vineyards. This family-owned winery offers a relaxing atmosphere where you can sample their wines, take a tour of the vineyard, and enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect spot to unwind with a glass of wine.


O’Betty’s Red Hot: 

If you’re a fan of hot dogs, O’Betty’s Red Hot is the place to be. Not only do they serve delicious gourmet hot dogs with creative toppings, but the restaurant also houses a quirky Hot Dog Museum. Explore the history of this beloved food while indulging in unique, mouthwatering hot dog creations.

Photo courtesy of Caleb Oquendo
Athens Farmers Market: 

For a taste of local flavors and goods, don’t miss the Athens Farmers Market. Held year-round, this market offers a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, handmade crafts, and more. It’s an excellent place to support local farmers and artisans.

Donkey Coffee: 

Donkey Coffee is a beloved local coffee shop that serves exceptional coffee and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. It’s not just a place to grab your morning caffeine fix; it’s also a hub for local art, music, and community events. The cozy interior and outdoor seating make it a perfect spot to relax with a book or chat with friends.

Bagel Street Deli: 

Bagel Street Deli is a favorite among locals and students alike. They offer a selection of delicious bagel sandwiches and soups. It’s a go-to spot for a quick, satisfying meal.


Southeast Ohio History Center: 

The Southeast Ohio History Center is a treasure trove of regional history. Housed in a historic former post office building, it offers a fascinating journey through the history of Southeast Ohio. It’s a great place to gain insight into the rich and diverse history of Athens and its surroundings.

Athens Lunatic Asylum: 

Formerly known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, The Ridges is a captivating historical site with a rich, sometimes chilling, past. While the asylum itself is no longer operational, its history is deeply intertwined with the community. 

Visitors can explore the beautifully eerie old asylum buildings and learn about its history, including its innovative treatments and the legend of the “Lady in Gray.” 

Athens County Historical Society & Museum: 

For a comprehensive exploration of Athens County’s history, a visit to the Athens County Historical Society & Museum is in order. The museum houses a wide array of artifacts, documents, and displays that showcase the county’s history from its early settlements to the present day. 


Ohio Brew Week: 

Ohio Brew Week is a beer lover’s dream come true. This annual event showcases the best of Ohio’s craft beer scene and fosters a sense of community. Held in Athens, it features a week-long celebration of local breweries and craft beers from across the state. Visitors can sample a diverse range of brews, attend beer tastings, and enjoy live music and food from local vendors. It’s a lively and vibrant event that offers a unique opportunity to experience the thriving craft beer culture of Ohio.

Things to do in Athens, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Elevate

Athens Community Arts & Music Festival: 

The Athens Community Arts & Music Festival is a vibrant celebration of creativity and culture. Held in downtown Athens, this annual event features a wide array of local and regional artists, musicians, and performers. You can explore art exhibits, enjoy live music, participate in interactive workshops, and savor delectable food from local vendors. The festival creates a dynamic and inclusive atmosphere that reflects the artistic spirit of the community.

Kennedy Museum of Art: 

The Kennedy Museum of Art, located on the grounds of The Ridges, features a collection of art from various cultures and time periods. 

The museum often hosts exhibitions that focus on different aspects of art, including contemporary, historical, and regional works. It’s an excellent place to immerse yourself in the world of art and culture while exploring the unique historical setting.

Dairy Barn Arts Center: 

The Dairy Barn Arts Center is a hub for the arts in Athens. This converted dairy barn hosts a range of exhibitions, workshops, and events, making it a dynamic center for creativity. The center often features contemporary art and craft exhibitions, such as Quilt National.

Quilt National: 

Athens is renowned for being the home of Quilt National, a prestigious international exhibition of contemporary art quilts. Held at the Dairy Barn Arts Center every two years, Quilt National features stunning and innovative works of art that challenge traditional notions of quilting. 


Upcycle Ohio Thrift Store: 

Upcycle Ohio Thrift Store is a hidden gem for thrift shoppers in Athens. This store is a treasure trove of secondhand items, from clothing and accessories to furniture and home decor. Whether you’re on the hunt for vintage fashion, unique knick-knacks, or sustainable bargains, Upcycle Ohio is the place to explore. It’s not only a budget-friendly shopping destination but also an eco-conscious choice for those looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

Uptown Athens: 

Uptown Athens is the vibrant heart of the city’s shopping scene. Here, you’ll find a mix of boutique stores, art galleries, and specialty shops nestled along the charming brick streets. It’s a perfect place to stroll, explore, and discover unique finds.

Bleeding Heart Boutique: 

For fashion-forward shoppers with a passion for sustainability, Bleeding Heart Boutique is a must-visit. This boutique focuses on ethically made and eco-friendly fashion, offering a carefully curated selection of clothing, accessories, and lifestyle products.

You can shop for stylish and eco-conscious pieces while supporting a business committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Whether you’re into vintage fashion or contemporary trends, Bleeding Heart Boutique provides a shopping experience with a conscience.


Ohio University Inn: 

If you’re looking for a comfortable and convenient place to stay in Athens, the Ohio University Inn is an excellent choice. Situated near the Ohio University campus, this hotel offers modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and a welcoming atmosphere. Whether you’re visiting for a university event, exploring the town, or attending a conference, the Ohio University Inn provides a place with on-site dining options and proximity to local attractions.