Visit Athens, home of the original hamburger! Tucked amid rolling hills southeast of Dallas, Athens is an enchanting destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts. From fishing and birding to scuba diving and zip lining, Athens offers one-of-a-kind experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
Divers can investigate dozens of wrecks submerged in Athens Scuba Park’s warm spring-fed lake with an average visibility of 35 feet that can reach 70 feet. Novice and expert divers alike enjoy swimming in and around more than 30 wrecks that include actor Clint Eastwood’s Film Crew’s triple-decker houseboat, a Lockhead C140 Jet Star Plane, a DART bus and more. Join in the fun during a scheduled treasure hunt or night dive at Athens Scuba Park.
Grab a handful of pellet food from the coin-operated dispensers at the TexasFreshwater Fisheries Center, toss it to dozens of blue and channel catfish and watch as they swiftly appear at the Farm Pond exhibit. Several of the blue catfish weigh up to 30 pounds so feedings can make for a slightly wet experience. You won’t want to miss the daily dive show presentation led by a scuba diver as he hand-feeds fish in the 26,000 gallon aquarium. The two-way communication allows the audience to ask questions of the diver during the show for an interactive experience. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center boasts 300,000 gallons of aquatic fun to explore including fishing, tram tours, an alligator exhibit and an interpretive wetland trail. The 1.2 acre lake is stocked with fish year-round. No fishing license is required and all bait and tackle are furnished. Enjoy a bird and nature walk offered the second Saturday of every month. Next door is Lake Athens, perfect for water sports and known for its largemouth bass.
Walk along a tree covered path at the East Texas Arboretum and make your wayalong winding, spring-fed streams connected by a 115-foot suspension bridge. Explore two miles of nature trails, see honeybees at work, and take a step back in time at the Wofford House museum, c. 1850, with period furnishings, memorabilia and a seasonal garden. Each spring, the gardens explode with breathtaking color and picturesque displays. The monumental Henderson County Veterans Memorial Wall and Plaza honors more than 9,000 military veterans from Henderson County from the Civil War to present.
There’s something happening nearly every weekend at the Henderson County Regional Fair Park Complex. The complex sits on 68 acres and consists of a 4,500 person capacity coliseum which hosts rodeos, horse shows, livestock shows and more throughout the year. Be entertained by a live theater performance at the Henderson County Performing Arts Center or attend a concert at the Texas Gospel Music Hall. Or browse chic boutiques, art galleries, historical landmarks, the Henderson County Historical Museum and eateries downtown. Enjoy a complimentary work out at the Cain Center when you stay overnight in an Athens hotel. You can also play a round of disc golf or tennis at the beautiful, 85-acre Cain Park. Up for an adventure? Enjoy sky-high thrills at NY-TX Zipline Adventures.
Vendors bring their fresh produce, including gourmet heirloom vegetables and melons, baked breads and other locally made foods and crafts to the Athens Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning May through October during market season. In June and July, area farms teem with pick-your-own blueberries. Enjoy a sip of Texas wine at Tara Vineyard and Winery. The tasting room and wine shop are open daily during regular hours. Guided winery tours are offered at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Top-tap your way to the 84th annual Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion on the Courthouse Square the last Saturday in May. Festivities begin with an open jam session Friday evening, before the main event. On Saturday, relax under a canopy of oak trees on the courthouse lawn while listening to fiddlers of young and old compete for the title of Grand Champion. After the contest, two-step until midnight at the famous country and western street dance.
Athens will celebrate its claim of being the birthplace of the first hamburger in September at the Uncle Fletch Hamburger Festival that will take place on the Courthouse Square. Fun activities take place throughout the day including a hamburger cook-off contest to decide who can cook the best burger. “Uncle” Fletcher Davis concocted a new sandwich, using slices of home-baked bread instead of a bun that was served at an Athens lunch counter during the turn of the century. Residents funded Davis’s trip to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where he introduced his creation to the public. Even the Texas legislature and McDonald’s have recognized Athens as the home of the original hamburger.
Each autumn in Athens, the picturesque landscape transforms to vibrant colors as leaves begin to turn throughout the East Texas woodlands. The Scenic Fall Foliage Driving Trail is a 55-mile, self-guided driving trail through Henderson County for visitors to take to view the fall foliage of East Texas, which also includes several points of interest. Autumn color is expected mid to late November but it is recommended to call ahead.
Athens’ drive-through Christmas Park, Christmas Park Land of Lights, opens for the holiday season mid-November through early January and features more than four million lights in addition to wood cutouts, lighted scenes, tunnels and arches spread over one mile. Bring the entire family to downtown Athens the first Saturday in December for the annual Holiday on the Square and the lighted Christmas Parade.
Begin your stay at the City of Athens Department of Tourism, located at 201 W. Corsicana Street in the Athens Partnership Center. Here you can pick up information on things to do and see, accommodations, restaurants, shopping, coupons and an area map. Our office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday or you can visit us online at www.AthensTX.org.