Best Places to Live

Athens, GA

Population: 128,584
Photo: Troy Aubrey

Roam if you want to, roam around the world ... then roam right on down south to Athens, GA – if you really love music and want the pace of a smaller town.

Yes, we just semi-quoted one of The B-52s biggest hits, as the band is among many internationally known artists to hail from this relatively small college town of approximately 115,000 people. Other established musicians to come out of the Athens scene are R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Danger Mouse and Matthew Sweet, as well as more recent attention-getters Drive-By Truckers and of Montreal.

Besides an impressive resume of producing big-name artists, Athens also claims two of America's 40 Best Music Venues, according to Paste Magazine – the 40 Watt Club and The Melting Point, plus one of Rolling Stone's Best Record Stores in the USA, Wuxtry Records. In 2010, Athens was short a mere nine votes from overtaking Austin, TX – a city almost 10 times its population – for a "Best Local Music Scene in the U.S." Budget Travel reader poll.

And speaking of local music, Athens' current rising stars shine each year at AthFest, a five-day event held each June showcasing the best in Athens-based music, arts and film. The festival also includes KidsFest, featuring performances and activities geared specifically toward the city's youngest residents. 

Artists with Athens, GA ties: R.E.M., The B-52s, Widespread Panic, Danger Mouse, Drive-By Truckers, The Woggles, of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel

Noted venues: 40 Watt Club, The Melting Point, Georgia Theatre

Cool record store: Wuxtry Records

Fun fact: The B-52s' biggest hit, "Love Shack," was the first music track used by Apple CEO Steve Jobs when announcing and publicly demonstrating the capabilities of iTunes in 2001.

Click here to see more photos of Athens, GA and read more about its music and arts, great places to eat and other fun things to do.