No, not Athens, Greece, or Athens, Georgia, but rather, Athens, Texas! Athens is one of Texas’s small southern towns with a rich heritage in black-eyed peas, fiddle playing, and hamburgers! It's been said that the first hamburger was made in a small downtown cafe in Athens in the late 1880s and later introduced at the 1904 World Fair, and the rest is history.
Athens is located about an hour and a half east of Dallas, and though it's a small town, the city offers big adventures for everyone. Adorable Athens is also known for being a welcoming and friendly town. I observed firsthand when I asked a shop owner what her thoughts were on the town. Her grin was huge and contagious! I absolutely love talking to locals when visiting small towns, like Athens, because they will tell you where to get the best food (hamburgers), where the best shopping is, etc.
Athens is one of those places that the locals can't get enough of and that I bet you'll fall in love with. This is the kind of place I like to visit repeatedly to experience everything the locals love. Lucky me, my mom lives only 23 miles away. Keep reading why I think Athens is an adorable town to spend the day in.
Things To Do In Athens
Athens is a place to explore and relax, then repeat. Visiting for the day is perfect for Mom, Dad, the kids, and the grandparents, for there are various things to do to please everyone. And if seeing blooming colors is on your list, then Athens is your East Texas town to see beautiful spring flowers in April/May and fabulous fall foliage in November.
Visit East Texas Arboretum And Botanical Society
The Arboretum is home to several native and exotic plants, beautiful flowering gardens, a rugged walking trail, a children's garden, a dream garden, and much more. The best time to visit is in April and May when spring flowers are everywhere. Be sure to wear good walking shoes if walking the trail, and watch for all kinds of birds along the way. Also, you'll step back in time while touring a farmhouse museum filled with original furnishings and memorabilia, a milking barn, and a replica one-room schoolhouse, to name a few. The East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society is well worth spending the day relaxing, exploring, and viewing the scenery.
Pro Tip: Pets are welcome, and water bowls are out for them.
Shop The Boutiques On The Square
Men, scoot on over. With shops named Kathy's Boutique, Barbara's Boutique, and Jana's Boutique, I think it's a woman's haven on the square. But, hey, the men can always shoot the gab and have a treat at Treehouse Cupcakes and Frozen Treats down the street. Sounds good to me.
Also, don't overlook the quaint shops on side streets of the square. Some of the best shopping is found at places on side streets. When I was having lunch in Athens, my waitress recommended I stop in Atticus and Co. Modern Goods, located on East Larkin Street. The owner was so friendly and welcoming, and her shop was full of modern-day items for men and women and lots of outdoorsy things. May I suggest going all out and purchasing a S'mores Peanut Butter Cup (located on the counter at checkout). And, yes, it's huge and sharable!
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is a big deal and brings lots of visitors to Athens. I've been told the Fishery alone is worth the drive to Athens. It has an education center that shows underwater wildlife and a hatchery, laboratory, aquarium, and it's also a great place for bird watching and taking nature walks. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is located on the north shore of Lake Athens. Grab the grandkids and expect a good time doing all of the above.
Play At Lake Athens Marina And RV Park
Calling all anglers! Lake Athens is your fishing destination for largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, and sunfish, but best known for largemouth bass weighing anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds. That's supper right there! At Lake Athens Marina and RV Park, you can spend the day, a weekend, or a full week in the comfort of your RV or cabins on the water. You can fish all day, then do it again the next day.
Tara Vineyard And Winery
Just 9 miles out of town west on Hwy 175, you'll find Tara Vineyard and Winery. You may seem you're out in nowhere's land, but it's there, and the wine, food, and atmosphere are superb. This is my go-to place when visiting my mom, and I want a little time to myself. They also have overnight accommodations at their bed and breakfast inn on the property.
Athens Farmers Market
Another local favorite. If you're in the area between May and October, put this local farmers market on your must-see and must-do list on a Saturday. The market offers seasonal produce from local farmers as well as baked goods and handcrafted artisanal items. Located at 212 N. Palestine St. Open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Keep up with the latest news at Athens Farmers Market on Facebook.
Pineywoods Autumn Trail
The fall foliage scene starts late here in Texas. If you're in the area mid to late November, there's a foliage scenic driving route that's worth making a note of, especially if you love warm autumn colors. The trail is a 145-mile self-guided route from Athens to Palestine, Texas. Take some time with this, as there are places to stop along the way that might interest you. See the map of the route at Visit Palestine.
Pro Tip: It's best to call ahead for foliage updates. Call City of Athens at (903) 675-5131 or Visit Palestine at (800) 659-3484.
New York Texas Zipline
Whenever I get to mention the New York Texas Zipline, I do. We've been there twice, and both times everyone has been so friendly. The first time we were there, my grandson and I zipped the six-line course. I told him when we go back, we'll do the nine-line course … and we did. It is so worth zipping the other three lines. There's this cool handmade ladder from a tree that takes you up to the last zip line, where you end with zipping over a pond. Be prepared to walk up steep rocky hills to each zip line. It’s challenging but doable.
Best Restaurants In Athens
Good food and the people are what make Athens a great place to spend a perfect day. An All-American place to eat -- from hamburgers and shakes, tacos and nachos, coffee and cupcakes, you'll find a hodgepodge menu to satisfy everyone in this adorable town.
Callaway’s Coffee And Bistro
Well, if you're going to a town that's known for creating the first hamburger, why not check out a place that offers the best, right? Callaway’s Coffee and Bistro is one of Athen's hometown coffee shops that serve up delicious hamburgers with huge crinkle fries on the side. I was told by a local that they had won the best burger contest for 3 years (maybe more) in a row. Enough said.
Everybody's talking about the Railway Cafe. The girls at Atticus and Co. recommended I go here the next time I am in town. So, now, I have to go back. They raved over the delicious pizzas, but also another great place that serves awesome hamburgers. Take note -- the cafe is only open Monday to Friday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. That's it. I bet it's crowded … so get there early.
Athens Boathouse Bar And Grill
Located at the Lake Athens Marina is a place where you can belly up to the bar with nothing on but a swimsuit. For Southern-inspired foods and a friendly and casual atmosphere, the Athens Boathouse Bar and Grill is your place for lunch and dinner and offers a full bar.
The Cherry Laurel
Perhaps a light lunch that consists of a salad and soup of the day, loaded baked potato, or a grilled chicken wrap at The Cherry Laurel will leave room for a delicious dessert or a whole cake to share from their bakery.
You probably have guessed that asking a local about where to eat or shop in Athens is the thing to do. They think their food is the best, and you won't find nicer people anywhere else. When doing so, don't be surprised if they talk your ear off! Oh, and if you dare, ask someone that's been around a while about black-eyed peas. And don't get anyone started on the hamburger story -- you might be there a while!