How to Have a Perfect Day in Athens, Texas

No, not Athens, Greece, or even Athens, Georgia, but rather Athens, Texas!

The city of Athens is one of the small towns in Texas with a rich black-eyed pea heritage – so much so that it is known as the Black-eyed Pea Capital of the World. And if you like burgers, put this city on your list of things to do in Texas, because Athens is also the home of the burger! The world’s first burgers are said to have been made in a small cafe in downtown Athens by a man known as Uncle Fletcher Davis. in the late 1880s. It was then introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair, and the rest is history.

Athens is located about an hour and a half southeast of Dallas and right in the middle of Canton and Corsica. Although it is a small city, Athens offers great adventures for everyone. It is also a welcoming and friendly city. I observed this first hand when I asked a shop owner what she thought of the city. His smile was huge and contagious! I love talking to locals when I visit small towns like this because they will tell you where to find the best food, where the best shops are, etc.

Athens is one of those places that locals can’t get enough of and that I bet you will fall in love with. It’s the kind of place I like to visit repeatedly to experience everything a Texan loves. Here’s why I think Athens is a lovely city to spend the day in.

Things To Do In Athens

Athens is a place to explore and relax, then repeat. The one-day tour is perfect for mom, dad, kids, and grandparents, as there are different things to do to please everyone. And if seeing blooming colors is on your list, then Athens is your East Texas city to see beautiful spring flowers in April/May and fabulous fall foliage in November.

More great views at the East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society

Photo credit: Visit Athens, Texas

East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society

The Arboretum is home to several native and exotic plants, beautiful flower gardens, a rugged walking path, 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 you hike the trail and watch for all kinds of birds along the way.

Plus, you’ll step back in time as you visit a farmhouse museum filled with original furniture and memorabilia, as well as a milking barn and a replica one-room schoolhouse, to name a few- one. The East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society is well worth spending the day relaxing, exploring, and taking in the scenery.

Pro Tip: Pets are welcome and water bowls are available.

The shops of the Place du Palais de Justice

With boutiques named Kathy’s Boutique, Jana’s Boutique and Barbara’s Corner, it’s a ladies’ paradise in the square. But, hey, men who aren’t interested can always kick off the chatter and feast at Treehouse Cupcakes and Frozen Treats down the street. Sounds good to me.

Don’t overlook the quaint shops on the side streets of Courthouse Square, either. Some of the best shopping is on the side streets. When I was having lunch in Athens, my waitress recommended I stop at Atticus and Co. Modern Goods, located on East Larkin Street. The owner was very friendly and welcoming, and her shop was full of modern men’s and women’s items and lots of outdoor stuff. May I suggest going all out and buying a cup of peanut butter s’mores? It can be located on the counter at checkout – if not, just ask. And, yes, it’s huge and shareable!

Texas Freshwater Fishing Center

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is a big deal and attracts many visitors to Athens. I was told the fishery alone was worth the drive to Athens. It has an educational center that shows the underwater fauna, as well as a hatchery, a laboratory and an aquarium. It is also a great place for bird watching and nature walks. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is located on the north shore of Lake Athens. Take the grandkids and expect to have a great time doing all of the above.

Lake Athens Texas

Athens lake

Photo credit: Visit Athens, Texas

Athens Lake Marina and RV Park

Calling all anglers! Lake Athens is your fishing destination for largemouth bass, white bass, crappie and pumpkinseed. It is best known for largemouth bass weighing between 3 and 8 pounds. It’s dinner over there! At Lake Athens Marina & RV Park, you can spend the day, a weekend, or a full week in the comfort of your RV or cabin on the water. You can fish all day, then start again the next day.

Tara Vineyard and Winery in Athens, Texas.

Tara Vineyard and Wine Estate

Photo credit: Kim Croissant

Tara Vineyard and Wine Estate

Just 9 miles west of town on Hwy 175 you will find Tara Vineyard & Winery. It may seem like you’re in a land of nowhere upon entering, but it’s there, and the wine, food and ambiance are superb. It was my favorite place when I visited my mother and wanted some me time. They also have overnight accommodations at their bed and breakfast inn on the property.

Athens Farmer’s Market

Another local favorite. If you’re in the area on a Saturday between May and October, put this local farmers market on your bucket list. The market offers seasonal produce from local farmers as well as artisan baked goods and handicrafts. It is located at 212 N. Palestine Street and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Keep up to date with the latest Athens Farmers Market news on Facebook.

The Pineywoods Fall Trail in Texas.

The Pineywoods Fall Trail

Photo credit: Visit Athens, Texas

Pineywoods Fall Trail

The fall foliage scene begins late in the year here in Texas. If you’re in this area from mid-to-late November, there’s a scenic foliage route worth noting, especially if you like warm fall 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 route map on Visit Palestine.

Pro Tip: It’s best to call ahead for foliage updates. Call the City of Athens at (903) 675-5131 or Visit Palestine at (800) 659-3484.

New York Texas Zipline Adventure in Athens, Texas.

The author and his zipline partner at New York Texas Zipline Adventure

Photo credit: Kim Croissant

Zipline Adventures in New York Texas

Whenever I talk about zipline adventures from New York to Texas, I do. It’s about a 20 minute drive east on Hwy 175 to the small town of LaRue. We have been there twice and both times everyone has been very friendly. The first time we were there my grandson and I closed the six line course. I told him that when we got back we would do the nine-line course…and we did. It’s definitely worth compressing the other three lines. There’s this handmade ladder from a tree that takes you up to the last zipline, where you end up passing over a pond. Prepare to climb steep rocky hills to each zipline. It is difficult but doable.

Cedar Creek Reservoir

I get teary eyed when I talk about Cedar Creek Lake. This is where we’ve had a lakeside family home for 50 years – yes, that long. Our lakeside home became my parents’ retirement home and then it belonged to my mother for the last 5 years. A year ago she sold the place and now lives near me. So our time at Cedar Creek is over and I will always remember the good times we had.

Oh, but there’s so much to do here on this man-made lake – camping, boating, marinas, fishing, water sports of all kinds, picnicking, swimming. Cedar Creek Reservoir is located near Athens off State Highway 31 – not near where our lake house was, but again Cedar Creek Lake is huge.

Best restaurants in Athens

Good food and people make Athens a great place to spend a perfect day. An all-American place to eat – burgers and shakes, tacos and nachos, coffee and cupcakes, you’ll find a mishmash menu to please everyone in this adorable town.

Callaway Cafe and Bistro

Well, if you’re going to a city known for creating the first burger, why not go to a place that offers the best, right? Callaway’s Coffee & Bistro is one of Athens’ hometown cafes that serves delicious burgers with huge crinkle fries on the side. A local told me they had won the best burger contest for 3 years (maybe more) in a row. Enough said.

Athens Boathouse Bar & Grill

Located at Lake Athens Marina, this is a place where you can bar with nothing but a bathing suit. For Southern-inspired dishes and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, Athens Boathouse Bar & Grill is your lunch and dinner spot and features a full bar.

Cherry laurel

Perhaps a light lunch of a salad and soup of the day, a loaded baked potato or a grilled chicken wrap at The Cherry Laurel will leave room for a delicious dessert. or an entire cake to share from their bakery.

Pro tips

You probably guessed that asking a local 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. While doing so, don’t be surprised if they talk badly to you! Oh, and if you dare, ask someone who’s been around a while about black-eyed peas. And don’t get anyone started on the burger story – you might have been here for a while!

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