By: Tania Meek
From strolling the streets of uptown, to perusing local art galleries or unwinding at a countryside winery, Athens provides many ways to explore the things you love, with the ones you love. Whether with a significant other, a family member or even a bestie or furry friend, lovely memories can be made enjoying the area’s diverse offerings. Join me as we consider three overnight getaways that highlight a few of the many ways to discover all that the county has to offer.
Delight in the Arts
Regardless if you are an art aficionado or simply a casual admirer, exploring the options around the county affords you the opportunity to experience the wealth of creativity found in the region. Begin your journey, as my husband and I did, at the sophisticated Ohio University Inn near campus. Drop off your luggage, grab a coffee to-go at the onsite Starbucks then take pleasure in an afternoon of surveying nearby exhibits at the Kennedy Museum of Art and The Dairy Barn Art Center. These two locations are both within walking or driving distance of the Inn and are housed in buildings of the former Athens Asylum for the Insane and its accompanying farm, known today as “the Ridges”. The history and architecture of the properties alone are fascinating. Yet, when paired with the arts, they are captivating!
A personal favorite exhibit of mine is the photography collection by artist Christopher Payne, displayed at the Kennedy Museum of Art. These prints beautifully mirror the splendor and neglect of historical properties, much like the buildings housing our two galleries today. Women-centered displays are currently found in both museums, including Homesteading Women: Past, Present, Near and Far (Kennedy Museum of Art) and Women of Appalachia (The Dairy Barn Arts Center). Exhibitions rotate often, so be sure to check their websites for current offerings.
If time and weather permits, take a stroll outdoors around the Ridge’s sizeable acreage. Surrounding the two museums, the property is both scenic and filled with history . With foot trails that are both easy and moderate, there is an option available for most anyone. The Cemetery Nature Walk and the Ora Anderson Trail, both located near The Dairy Barn Art Center, are two of our preferred trails.
After a day of discovery, return to the Ohio University Inn for a flavorful dinner and dessert at Cutler’s, the in-house restaurant. With artwork from the University Archives adorning the walls, the theme of the day flows into the evening as well. The hotel’s art reference guide, available on their website, provides further details on the pieces found throughout the establishment. Coupled with a menu of elevated comfort foods and a newly remodeled American colonial-inspired interior, the stimulating and inspiring day comes to a restful, picture-perfect close.
Other neighboring alternatives include a taste of Thai cuisine at Purple Chopstix (also within walking distance of the Inn) and various University art exhibits located throughout campus.
Relax and UnWINEd
The countryside surrounding the picturesque town of Athens is ideal for unwinding. Grab that special someone, rent a local short term vacation home, and share treasured moments of slowing down and making memories together. Add in a dinner at a charming winery and you may find your cares slipping away.
During a recent staycation with a friend, we found ourselves doing exactly that. The choice of overnight lodgings for this particular getaway was The Cabin on Pleasant Hill. Nestled among the rolling farmlands and woods of Athens County and just a few minutes from town, the cabin is privately tucked out of site from all neighboring buildings. The two bedroom space accommodates up to four individuals and comes with one bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen and a living room with gas fireplace. The front porch and back deck are fitting spots to catch a glimpse of local wildlife or to take in a sunrise or sunset. In addition, the outdoor grill and fire pit are perfect for outdoor entertaining.
The cabin is an ideal landing spot for savoring drinks and dinner at the scenic Pleasant Hill Vineyards, situated less than two miles down the road. During the winter months, the warm and inviting interior of the winery caters to relaxed conversations over a table filled with appetizing soups, flatbreads and seasonal entrees. The warmer months draw you outdoors to several decks and patios, best for taking in the sweeping vineyard views.
Although these are only a sampling of the stays and wineries available around the county, the possibilities to sip and share are plenty. Other personal favorites are: dinner and dessert at Shade Winery, combined with a serene country stay at The Barn at Shamrock Farms; or pizza and honey wine at Dutch Creek Winery, alongside a unique overnight rest in their train car, The Caboose at Dutch Creek Retreat.
Discover Uptown Charm
Wandering the brick laid streets of downtown Athens is sure to shape fresh fond memories for those new to the area, but it can also elicit recollections of years gone by for former students or return visitors. So, whether it’s your first time or a journey your feet are all too familiar with, the charm of Athens remains the same. With the Campus and Armory Park flanking the two ends of Court Street and numerous businesses in between, there are countless ways to share moments with those you love.
Our own outing began with an overnight stay at the modern Athens Central Hotel, located within easy walking access to a wide variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife. We then took a stroll to Zoe’s Fine Dining for dinner. The restaurant’s inviting space, softened by easy jazz and candlelight, created an intimate setting for my husband and I to dine on a delicious meal of flat-iron steak, crab cakes, shrimp and duck sausage pasta, and crème brûlée. After returning to the European-inspired hotel and our spacious suite, we relaxed as we caught up on our favorite television show on the 65” 4K screen and took in the sights of Athens from the in-room floor to ceiling windows overlooking the area. The respite of a good night’s sleep and a morning’s soothing rain shower prepared us for the following day; one that included touring a selection of murals and a visit to an eclectic array of shops, such as Ohio is Home, Random House, Passion Works Studio and ROAR Records. Fueled by an afternoon pick-me-up from Donkey Coffee, our venture down Court Street led us to Broney’s Alumni Grill, where we closed out our day with an early dinner and champagne slushies.
If nightlife is more in line with your downtown style, there are numerous options available. Grab a pint at Jackie O’s Public House then see a live show at The Union next door. Or, catch a film at Athena Cinema and dine on Mediterranean fare at the nearby restaurant, Salaam.
No matter how you choose to spend your time in Athens, or whom you spend it with, you are sure to walk away with treasured memories. And in a world where time with those you love is neither guaranteed nor everlasting, what could be more valuable than that?