Great architecture is the hallmark of great cities, and in Athens, 70 miles east of Atlanta, it's all about the antebellum-era buildings and Victorian era homes. The city's 16 historic districts complement a vivacious downtown, a 300-acre State Botanical Garden and a pace of life well suited to retirement.
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The city is home to the University of Georgia and is legend for its music scene, which produced such big-name bands as R.E.M. and the B-52s. UGA's Performing and Visual Arts Complex is among the top fine arts facilities in the South. It includes the Hodgson School of Music; the Performing Arts Center, which has a 1,100-seat auditorium; the Lamar Dodd School of Art (studios, lecture halls, galleries, a media center and an eco-friendly "green roof"), and the Georgia Museum of Art with 9,000 square feet of exhibition space; and dance, theater and film programs. The arts calendar at the university is always packed. UGA's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute caters to adult students and offers a number of noncredit courses.
The tree-lined streets of downtown Athens are home to numerous venues, including the famous 40 Watt Club and Georgia Theatre, along with a full slate of restaurants, shops, services and more. Don't feel like paying for stuff? The city has a Really Really Free market, a giant free swap meet in a city park.
For active retirees, golf is big here, and the Athens Bicycling group welcomes riders of all ages and speeds. Also, the city is 60 miles south of Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Winters are mild and summers hot, with 49 inches of rain spread fairly evenly throughout the year.
For spectators, college sports are serious business here: The university's Bulldogs, with NCAA Division I teams in most sports, inspire epic tailgating and frenzied rivalries with Georgia Tech and Auburn University.