With many different areas to explore, the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia has something for everyone. Starting at the tropical conservatory, you will head out to the formal garden, international garden, native garden, and our favorite food garden. There are new favorites to explore no matter the type of garden you love. If you’re up for a walk, bring your hiking shoes to explore the intersecting five miles of nature trails. Associated with the University of Georgia, this ever-changing experience is a lovely place to visit over and over again. 

If you’ve never considered adding a garden to your field trip list, I highly recommend it especially if you have any budding gardeners in your family. My kids love to get ideas and scheme what they need to plant. Often, the food garden inspires them to try something new; even if they don’t plan anything, at least they have seen how their food grows.

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Fountain in the Formal Gardens of the Athens Botanical Garden
Fountain in the Formal Gardens of the Athens Botanical Garden


The southern part of Athens, Georgia


The garden is open every day but Monday from 8 to 5. The visitor center hours are shorter, so make sure you check online.

⏳How much time do I need?

For just the botanical garden, two to three hours is enough. If you have kids, plan to spend an extra hour (or two!) at the playground because it’s just that amazing. Hikers should allow another hour at least for walking the perimeter trail around the garden in the forest. Usually, my kids run out of interest before we run out of places to explore. However, for some visitors, the State Botanical Garden could be an all day experience. 

Inspecting the Cacao Tree in the Tropical Conservatory
Inspecting the Cacao Tree in the Tropical Conservatory


This garden is free, but donations are requested at the entrance of the garden inside. Take time to check out some of their live plant sales and the large visitor store – great for stocking up on gifts. As this garden is free, you don’t need your reciprocity to cover the ticket. But if this inspires more gardens, check out the downtown Atlanta Botanical Garden and grab a membership to explore other gardens around the country.


With several large parking areas, make note of which lot you park in. There are stairs to take you down to the level of the garden and an elevator if needed.


The botanical gardens are best if you leave your food in the car for after your visit. There is a cafe inside the main building, but I have never seen it open during visits in the week.  However, with all this walking outside, don’t hesitate to bring your water bottle. If you’re in the playground, fill your water up at the water refill station near the playground bathroom. While I didn’t see signs forbidding food in the children’s area, there aren’t specific tables for eating to encourage it. If needed, put a quick bar in your purse for the littles; I doubt anyone would say anything. Make sure you clean up though to keep it spotless!


The temperature during your trip will vary. While the cultivated part of the garden is mostly uncovered, the conservatory is muggy. The miles available to hike around the perimeter are shaded and venture near the river in some areas. In the kids’ garden, most is uncovered with sunburn and heat potential so don’t forget your little one’s sunhat. However, the large play structure is in the large shaded trees and cool. This is a great place to burn energy on a hot day, but don’t forget to also pack your bug spray or wipes if you’re heading out into the forest.


There is a small bathroom building in the children’s garden as well as a large one inside the building. 

Wooden Playground in the Children's Garden
Wooden Playground and Net Area in the Childrens Garden

Don’t Miss the Children’s Garden!

It’s new and you might have missed it! “The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the Athens Botanical Garden” is just another way to say “most magical play place under the trees”. This amazingly designed kid playground area gets my award for best playground in Athens – sorry World of Wonder. While this garden at the University of Georgia in Athens is amazing in itself, you could easily come just to the children’s garden and have an excellent experience. 

Built only in the last several years, this kid area is fantastic. Learn about the different areas of Georgia with the huge floor map. Investigate what plants you could plant in your yard and even check out the see-through root viewer. Slide down the slides. Stomp in some sand. And spend hours under the tree canopy in the giant wooden play structure complete with nets and climbing. Built perfectly into the natural landscape, the kids might just want to jump between stumps or make a fort instead. My family has been known to skip the garden and just hang out at the playground for hours. It’s the best.


  • There have been many recent upgrades to the Botanical Garden including an art gallery which was closed for the hours we were there last; call for the hours it is open and make a RSVP. As this is a more recent addition, we haven’t gotten to visit it yet.
  • Look online for information about summer camps, homeschool groups, and tours.
  • There is a lengthy booklet available to add lots of learning for the children’s area (ask in the visitor center).
  • Check the schedule to see when you can take home your garden-grown plants to add to your home.
  • The educator link online has extras to supplement your visit and to read before you come.


Welcome to Georgia – check out all the amazing places this state has to offer you and your family. If you are visiting Athens for the day, check out some other amazing free places to compete your day visit.

International Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia
International Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Just because it’s free, don’t overlook this garden trip. Visiting botanical gardens is one of our favorite vacation stops. Now that you’ve visited this one in Athens, which one is your favorite that we should add to our list?

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