Day Trip: Athens, TN
Athens, Tenn., is a charming historic Tennessee town nestled between Knoxville and Chattanooga in the foothills of the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Established in 1822, Athens is home to Tennessee Wesleyan College, Mayfield Dairy Farms and the Eureka Trail, a 4.3–mile trail that follows the path of a former rail line. This historic town – which features more than 30 structures dating back to the early 1800s – has been revived in recent years thanks to investments in new boutiques, eateries and an arts scene that are bringing the community back to life.
Plan your authentic Tennessee weekend away and enjoy shopping, local food, history and outdoor fun in Athens, Tennessee! Visit the Main Street Athens website to learn more about upcoming events – and great places to eat and shop during your stay.
What to do in Athens, Tennessee:
Ride bikes, take a stroll, or go for a run on the Eureka Trail, a 4.3–mile hard-packed gravel trail (8.6 miles round trip) that follows the historic path of a rail line and connects the communities of Athens and Englewood. The primary access point is on Highway 307 in Athens, where there is ample parking and a designated horse trailer parking lot for equestrians.
Step back in time at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, a regional museum that showcases more than 7,000 remarkable artifacts dating from the 1700s to the 1940s. Permanent exhibits focus on Native American history; early settler life in the region; and black history in McMinn County, specifically focused on W. E. Nash, The Athens Academy, and J. L. Cook School. The museum recently added an exhibit about The Battle of Athens, which took place in August 1946 when returning World War II veterans, frustrated with the political voting system, surrounded the McMinn County Jail, fired on the Sheriff and his deputies, and by the next morning had taken over the county’s government.
Stop by The Gardens of Sunshine Hollow to enjoy 20 acres of gardens featuring daylilies, hostas, roses, Dahlias, Cannas and Iris – and purchase some plants for your own garden. While there, enjoy a pecan fruitcake or Woozy Cake at the Sunshine Hollow Bakery. The Englewood Farm Market at 126 County Rd 423 in Athens is also a great stop for seasonal produce and baked goods.
Looking for something unique to do with the family? Schedule a visit to the Loch Low-Minn Scuba Diving Resort, a scuba diving resort located on a 10-acre quarry lake in Athens. Their crystal clear waters are home to the ancient and extraordinary paddlefish, as well as other aquatic wildlife.
The Swift Museum at the McMinn County Airport in Athens features Swift aircraft from 1946 to today. Although production stopped in 1951, Swifts have continued to be modified and current editions have the speed and looks to be the envy of general aviation. From SN#1 to the military model, the T-35 Buckaroo, there is not a finer collection of Swifts on display in the world. A Swift is hanging in the Smithsonian for national viewing, but at the Swift Museum you can stand next to these historic aircraft and see into the cockpit.
The Swingin’ Midway Drive-In Theater in Athens offers double-features on one giant screen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the spring, summer and fall. The theater has a concession stand, restrooms and a giant playground. Gates open at 7 p.m. EST, and shows begin at dusk. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, right? Well then, be sure to plan a visit to the Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center when you are in Athens to enjoy an ice cream cone and shop in their gift shop. (Ice cream plant tours are not available at this time.)