Progressive Athens, Georgia, lures new residents for lots of great reasons. The southern heritage of this town is incredibly charming; people are welcoming and friendly. Even though Athens is known for its small-town vibe, there’s no shortage of culture, cuisine, creativity, and open-minded residents.

You can enjoy the iconic music scene in any one of the city’s many venues; Athens is one of the birthplaces of alternative rock and new wave music. And you’ll be able to dine in world-class restaurants that offer everything from comfort food to innovative farm to table menus. With the renowned University of Georgia, a public research university, Athens provides an ideal home for you to focus on higher education.

You’ll also enjoy Athens’ affordable cost of living, which is lower than the US average. Georgia is one of the most tax-friendly states in the US, and one of the many reasons retirees are attracted to the city. In 2017, Athens was named the #1 ‘Best Place to Retire’ by Forbes magazine. Athenians of all ages go nuts for UGA football; when you get settled in Athens, get on board – wear your red and black and cheer for the Bulldogs.

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Living in Athens, GA: What to Know Before Moving to Athens

Athens, located 78 miles east of Atlanta, is praised for its small-town southern hospitality, convenient big-city amenities, and progressive mentality. Nearly 38,000 of the 127,000 residents of The Classic City attend UGA, so you’ll find a college-town atmosphere from early fall through late spring. And speaking of seasons, if you enjoy all four of them, Athens might provide the lifestyle you’re looking for. Although the summers can be hot and sticky, the winters are mild and the springs and falls are just about perfect, featuring lots of nature’s eye-candy with beautiful colors.

Pros and Cons of Living in Athens

If you’re considering a move to Athens, GA, think about the pros and cons before you relocate.

Pros:

  • Thriving culture and progressive mentality
  • Many parks and green spaces
  • Four seasons with especially beautiful springs and falls
  • Named the #1 ‘Best Place to Retire’ by Forbes Magazine in 2017
  • Music of all kinds in many venues
  • Great foodie scene and lots of options for places to eat out

Cons:

  • Hot and sticky summers
  • Hurricane and tornado threats
  • The downtown scene can get rowdy
  • A higher than average property crime rate
  • Competitive rental market
  • State income tax is higher than the US average

Tax Rates

  • Property Tax: Property taxes in Athens are just below average. Clarke County charges 1.023%, just a bit below the national average property tax of 1.08%.
  • Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate in Athens is 7.0%, a bit lower than the national average of 7.3%.
  • Income Tax: The income tax rate in Athens is 5.75%, a bit higher than the US average of 4.6%.

Housing Market

You’ll be able to find affordable housing in Athens; housing prices are lower than the national average. As of January 2020, the median home value was $199,507, which is below the US average of $231,200. The ownership market is hot; in 2019, values rose 8.5%, according to Zillow. Home values are forecast to go up another 4.3% in 2020. The best places to live in the Athens area are Boulevard, Cobbham, and Five Points.

Renters make up about 47.5% of the Athens-Clarke County population. You can expect to pay an average rent of $1,400 in Athens and $1,440 in the Athens metro area. The most affordable place to live is on the east side; however, it’s not considered a particularly safe area.

Cost of Living

Athens ranks nearly 13% below the national average for cost of living. The BestPlaces.net cost of living index ranks cities on an average of 100. Athens’ overall cost of living index is 87.2. To give you an idea of other costs, housing ranks 78, groceries are 96, health is 89, utilities are 102.5, transportation is 80, and miscellaneous (clothing, eating out, repairs, entertainment, and other services) are 96.

The average income of an Athens-Clarke County resident is $19,244. This number is partially skewed because of the large college population and ranks well below the national average of $28,555 a year. The median household income is $33,293; the US average is $53,482. According to epi.org, a family of four needs to earn $70,851 per year to live a moderate lifestyle in Athens.

Weather & Natural Disasters

If you enjoy four seasons and don’t mind hot, sticky summers, living in Athens might be for you. The wintertime is mild, and spring and fall are beautiful. The most pleasant months are May, September, and October when average temperatures hover around 70-85 degrees.

The hottest months are July and August, with average highs of 91 and lows of 70. The humidity can make these temperatures seem even hotter.

January and February are the coolest months. January highs average 54 and lows average 33. February is a bit warmer with average highs of 58 and lows averaging 36. About an inch of snow will fall in January, February, and March, totaling a skimpy three inches for the year. Athens gets rain every month of the year with January, February, and July usually getting over four inches each. The total average annual rainfall is 46 inches.

The natural disaster threats you need to be aware of include severe thunderstorms with high winds and hail, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and the rare blizzard. Check out the Athens-Clarke County Disaster Preparedness site to learn more about how to deal with threats and stay prepared.

Economy & Job Market

The unemployment rate in Athens is 3.8%, a fraction below the US average of 3.9%. BestPlaces.net reports the job market increased by 4.0% in 2019, and forecasts indicate that the job market will grow 49.4% over the next ten years. This figure is noticeably higher than the US average forecast of 33.5% for the same period. Although an Athens resident’s median income is $33,293, compared to the US average of $53,482, the job market is strong and growing. Keep in mind that the high student population skews the median income numbers.

The largest industries in Athens are Educational Services, which employs nearly 19,000 people; Health Care & Social Assistance employs nearly 11,000; and Retail Trade employs just over 10,000 people. The highest paying industries are Management of Companies & Enterprises; Utilities; and Mining, Quarrying, Oil & Gas Extraction. The top employers in Athens, according to livability.com, are UGA, Athens Regional Health System, Clarke County School District, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Athens-Clarke County Unified Government.

Need to find a job in Athens and not sure where to start? Visit the UGA HR site to find jobs at the university. You can find current job openings for the Athens-Clarke County government here. For other industries, check out ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and other online job boards for current employment opportunities in the area.

Traffic and Transportation

The Athens Transit System provides in-city public bus transportation. The Greyhound bus station offers affordable intrastate and long-distance travel. Since Athens is just 70 miles east of Atlanta, it’s easy to book domestic and international flights out of the Atlanta International Airport (ATL), a major world hub.

Broad Street, Lumpkin Street, Prince Avenue, Oconee Street, and North Avenue are major thoroughfares that radiate from Downtown. On the east side of the city, the major thoroughfares are College Station Road and Gaines School Road plus east-west running Business US 78 and State Route 10. SR 10 is a perimeter route. US Business 78 runs east-west through the center of the city then turns south of the city. US Route 29 connects Athens to Atlanta.

Since Athens is a small town, you won’t have to deal with excessive traffic, except during UGA games. The one bottleneck is in the Five Pointes neighborhood, which becomes gridlocked at commute times. On a scale of 100, 100 being the best walk score, Athens ranks 26 for walking and 34 for biking. With the limited infrastructure to support walking and biking, you’ll need a car to run errands and commute.

What to Do

If you’re considering a move to Athens, you’re probably wondering what there is to do in your free time. With a fairly mild climate, Athens has a lot of great things to offer year-round. If you like spending time outdoors, art, music, theater, craft beer, or discovering new eateries, you’ll always find things to do!

Athens is home to many parks; Bishop Park is a great place to bring the family to enjoy the pool and playground. If biking is your jam, Dudley Park connects two bike trails, the Firefly Trail and the North Oconee Greenway. The park is a great place to enjoy a picnic or read under the shade of a tree. Cyclists also enjoy the 7.25-mile Greenway, which connects the Pulaski Creek Trail and the Milledge Extension Trail.

Families love the Bear Hollow Zoo, and if you want to learn even more about wildlife, check out the Sandy Creek Nature Center. The State Botanical Garden is one of Athens’ greatest offerings where you can hike and enjoy all kinds of water sports on the Oconee River.

Athens is known for its thriving art scene, and music lovers especially appreciate all the options to see live shows. The biggest festival of the year, AthFest, is held each June when you can see and hear regional and local musicians showcase their talent. If you’re not into braving the summer heat, don’t worry, you’ll be able to find countless indoor venues. The Georgia Museum of Art, the official state art museum of Georgia, exhibits vibrant murals artists. Performing arts, symphony, and theatrical productions can be found at UGA and throughout the city.

Foodies love Athens. You’ll find the traditional comfort food fare like BBQ, burgers, and fried chicken, but the city has cuisines of all kinds. If you aren’t a carnivore, be sure to check out one of the South’s best vegetarian restaurants, The Grit.

Sports fans will love following the UGA Bulldogs, known to locals as the “Ugas,” football season is a big deal in Athens and brings out all kinds of fans. If you’re not a UGA fan, you’ll uncomfortably stand out from the crowd if you cheer for the opposing team!

Schools and Universities

Clarke County School District serves Athens students with fourteen elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools. The district isn’t highly rated. Greatshools.org rates Chase Street Elementary School the highest at 7/10. Timothy Elementary School and South Jackson Elementary School are both ranked 6/10. If you have younger children and are looking for higher-ranked schools, consider the Oconee County School District, located just south of Athens.

The University of Georgia was founded in 1785 and is the oldest and second-largest institution of higher education in Georgia. A public research university, over 36,000 students attend UGA each year. Athens Technical College is a public college that offers associate degrees. Augusta University has a medical partnership with UGA and the Augusta University College of Nursing has an Athens campus. Piedmont College also has an Athens campus.

Crime

Violent crime in the Athens metro area is about equal to the US average. BestPlaces.net ranks US violent crime at 22.7. In Athens, it’s a fraction lower at 22.1. The US average for property crime is 35.4. By comparison, Athen’s rate is higher-than-average at 47.5. Areas in the northeast corner of the city have the highest crime levels. The safest neighborhoods are Macon Hwy-Crystal Hills Dr, Camelot-Westgate Park, Green Acres, Whitehall, and S Lumpkin St-Greenwood Dr.

Utility Providers

Before you move to Athens, be sure to contact the following companies to set up your utilities.

  • Gas service: Georgia Natural Gas. Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Electric service: Georgia Power. Visit this site to set up service.
  • Water service: Athens-Clarke County Government. Visit this site to set up service.
  • Trash pick-up/recycling service: Athens-Clarke County Government. Visit this site to set up your service.
  • Internet/Cable service: You have a choice of which company to use for your internet and cable service in Athens. Compare options here.
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Best Neighborhoods in Athens, GA

Cobbham

The historic Cobbham neighborhood is only a third of a mile west of Downtown and south of Prince Avenue. The area is quiet and filled with tree-lined, shady streets.

More like a suburb than part of the city, Cobbham is known for its highly ranked elementary school, variety of churches, and charming homes. As of January 2020, only a few homes were on the market and ranged from a small cottage, a gorgeous Victorian, and a two-story contemporary. An area of historic preservation, many gardens and houses are adjoined to pasture land.

Once you walk into Cobbham’s main drag, you’ll find a variety of options for shopping and dining. Known as a “foodie haven,” restaurants open early and close late so you can enjoy a wake-up coffee or late hour night-cap. You’ll find many types of cuisines – everything from seafood to vegetarian to South American food. Locals love the independent Daily Groceries Co-op, a daily staple for shoppers for over 20 years.

  • Population – 2,055
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – Retail, restaurants, and bars
  • Schools – Chase Street Elementary, ranked 7/10; Clarke Middle, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Viva! Argentine Cuisine

Five Points

Five Points is a coveted historic neighborhood. Located between the UGA campus and the Broad River, this area centers around the intersection of S Milledge Ave and S Lumpkin Street. The strong sense of community and buzzing vibe attract young professionals, families, and students.

Five Points features a blend of traditional charm and 1920s retro flare. Many homes sit on large wooded lots and range from small two-bedrooms to large five-bedroom residences. You’ll find famous restaurants and shops along beautiful tree-lined streets. Some of the most well-known are Five and Ten, Five Points Bottle Shop, and Five Points Growlers. For Jamaican cuisine, visit Kelly’s Jamaican Foods. Andree’s Essential Soaps is a great place to shop for gifts.

Five Points residents enjoy being outdoors. You’ll find runners, dog walkers, and cyclists out and about as early as 5 am and as late as 10 pm. Five Points calms down and gets much quieter during the summer months when students have left. It’s safe and full of history, with a firehouse right in the middle of the neighborhood.

  • Population – 12,138
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – Retail, restaurants, bars, and UGA.
  • Schools – Barrow Elementary, ranked 5/10; Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Visit Elijana Cosmetics, a makeup store like no other

Boulevard

The Boulevard neighborhood is located north of Prince Ave, only about a third mile north of Downtown. Known for charming historic houses that range from craftsman cottages to mansions, Boulevard is a sought-after neighborhood with a hip vibe.

If you’re into art, the Boulevard neighborhood is a goldmine. It’s home to the ATHICA art gallery, which features exhibits from regional, national, and international artists. The gallery hosts panel discussions, artist presentations, video screenings, non-profit collaborations, and art activities for children. Georgia Theatre and The Classic Center provide live entertainment.

Be sure to sit down to a fine meal at White Tiger Gourmet or the Heirloom Café and Fresh Market. Creature Comforts Downtown Taproom, and Last Resort Grill are favorites with locals.

  • Population – 2,452
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, Social Security Administration, UGA
  • Schools – Chase Street Elementary School, ranked 7/10; Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Meet a friend for an espresso at Jittery Joe’s

Normaltown

Don’t be fooled by the name – Normaltown is anything but normal. Just a few minutes northwest of Downtown, the neighborhood’s borders include I-10 on the north, N Chase St on the east, Route 78 on the south, and Hawthorne Ave on the west.

This stylish, retro-hipster neighborhood was named after the State Normal School for teacher education. Between 1950 and 2010, the campus was used as a Navy Supply Corps School. Now it’s home to UGA’s Health Sciences and Medical School Campus. Another tidbit of interesting history is that Normaltown was the first area of Athens to get electricity in 1896.

Mostly a family-centered neighborhood, Normaltown features open-air restaurants that line the streets, and nearly every home has a front porch to relax on while people-watching. Allen’s is where R.E.M. and the B-52 got their start. Another great perk about Normaltown it that you can walk to all the fun amenities like Bishop Park, cafes, coffee shops, and pubs, as well as the famous Normal Hardware.

  • Population – 1,849
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – Athens Regional Medical Center, UGA, services sectors
  • Schools – Chase Street Elementary School, ranked 7/10; Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Relax over drinks at Old Pal

Downtown

Bordered by Dougherty St on the north, Foundry St on the east, Broad St and the UGA campus on the south, and Pulaski St on the west, Downtown is incredibly lively with bars, pubs, cafes, performance venues, a cinema, and various events like AthFest, Twilight Criterium, and other street festivals. Homes vary from quirky lofts and modern apartments to townhomes and historic cottages.

Downtown is the cultural center of Athens. It’s home to the famous 40 Watt Club, where many bands started careers that spearheaded them into fame. If you love eating out, you’ll find all kinds of options for a variety of cuisines, from 5-star restaurants to ethnic to chains. Locally owned boutiques provide one of a kind shopping, and vintage stores will please if you’re looking for a unique item to highlight in your new home.

  • Population – 6,692
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – UGA, restaurants, venues, bars, retail, and services sectors.
  • Schools – Elementary varies, Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Visit world-famous Wuxtry Records

Timothy Road

Timothy Road, about fifteen minutes southwest of Downtown, is suburban, more expensive than other neighborhoods, and a top area for retirees. The borders include W Broad St on the north, West Lake Dr on the east, Route 78 on the south, and Epps Bridge Pkwy on the west.

Away from the excitement of the Downtown area and student population, the Timothy Road vibe is peaceful and quiet. The safety rating is above average, and you can choose from a diverse range of housing options including single-family homes, townhomes, and some apartments. Most residents are well-educated and hold higher-paying jobs than residents of many other Athens neighborhoods.

You’ll have convenient shopping options on Timothy Road. Trader Joe’s, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Kohl’s, and a Walmart Supercenter are all located in the southwest corner of the neighborhood. Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and Cook Out are popular spots for a casual meal.

  • Population – unconfirmed
  • Home Price – Median home value $250,462
  • Rent Price – Median rent $1,118
  • Employers – Executive, management, professional, manufacturing, and service sectors
  • Schools – Timothy Road Elementary School, ranked 6/10; Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Sit down to a delicious meal at DePalma’s, a famous Italian eatery with world-class pizzas.

Chicopee-Dudley

The Chicopee-Dudley neighborhood is directly east of Downtown. The neighborhood straddles the north Oconee River between Third St and Oconee St and derives its name from two of the most important landmarks in the area: the Chicopee building, a former mill house that now serves as UGA offices, and Dudley Park, a trailhead for the North Oconee River Gateway.

Chicopee-Dudley, currently experiencing gentrification, is an urban mix of single-family homes, apartment buildings, public housing, churches, and commercial buildings. Longtime locals imbue the neighborhood with an established vibe but only 38% of residents own their homes. With UGA next door, Chicopee-Dudley is popular with students and faculty.

You’ll be able to find lots of convenient amenities, from cafes, coffee houses, and grocery stores to churches. A favorite of R.E.M. fans is Weaver D’s, still serving juicy fried chicken and comfort food.

  • Population – 4,572
  • Home Price – Median home value $199,507
  • Rent Price – Median rent $946
  • Employers – UGA, restaurants, venues, bars, retail and services sectors
  • Schools – Chase Street Elementary School, ranked 7/10; Clarke Middle School, ranked 4/10; and Clarke Central High School, ranked 4/10

Something to try: Brunch at Mama’s Boy


Quality Moving Services from Athens Movers

If you’re moving to Athens, you’ll need to find reliable moving services to help with your relocation. We’ve thoroughly vetted top-rated movers, so when you get our free quotes, you know they’re from the best licensed and insured moving companies in the business. Find the service you need right here:

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Lindsay Nichols

Lindsay Nichols is a freelance copywriter who found her home in Colorado after moving around the Midwest. She holds an... Read More