GETTING THERE: US Airways offers connecting service from Dulles or Reagan National to Athens, with restricted, round-trip fares beginning at $259. Or fly from the Washington area to Atlanta (fares from $183), a little more than an hour's drive away.
WHERE TO STAY: The eight-room Magnolia Terrace Guest House (277 Hill St., 706-548-3860, www.bbonline.com/ga/magnoliaterrace) is a 93-year-old Colonial revival house set in a leafy neighborhood. The pleasant porch could still use some cleaning, but the inside is lovely -- and it's an easy walk to the 40 Watt Club and other venues. Double rooms from $95 weekdays, $110 weekends.
Broad Street has a number of hotels, including the Holiday Inn Athens (197 E. Broad St., 888-465-4329, www.hi-athens.com/inn/index.html), near downtown. Rooms feel newer than the building's somewhat dated facade. Doubles from about $75.
WHERE TO EAT: The Grit (199 Prince Ave., 706-543-6592) is an Athens classic, a vegetarian restaurant that employs lots of musicians -- in a building owned by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, no less. Entrees from $4 to $7. For a more upscale meal with a music pedigree, seek out the Last Resort Grill (174-184 W. Clayton St., 706-549-0810), which opened as a music venue in 1966 and hosted Jimmy Buffett, Doc Watson and others. Now it's a fine-dining spot with a Southern flair (try the crab cake and fried green tomatoes appetizers). Dinner entrees are $8 to $27.
MUSIC: With some exceptions, the music scene in Athens lives west of Lumpkin Street downtown, with West Washington Street at the center of things. For music listings, see Flagpole (www.flagpole.com), a free weekly with a good visitors guide. Covers and tickets usually run $3 to $12, though big touring acts at the 40 Watt Club and Georgia Theatre can cost $20 or more. Venues include:
* The 40 Watt Club (285 W. Washington St., 706-549-7871, www.40watt.com) has a reputation for bringing in the biggest local and touring indie rockers, as well as other acts on the way up. Good atmosphere: Christmas tree lights strung from the ceiling and appropriately ratty furniture in the corners.
* The Georgia Theatre (215 N. Lumpkin St., 706-549-9918, www.georgiatheatre.com) is Athens's other big venue with a balconied building that brings in country singers, jam bands and an increasing number of edgier shows.
* The Caledonia Lounge (256 W. Clayton St., 706-549-5577, www.caledonialounge.com) is best known as an indie rock venue. Find this smallish room by walking through the parking lot at the corner of West Clayton and Pulaski streets.
* Flicker Theatre and Bar (263 W. Washington St., 706-546-0039, www.flickerbar.com) has a curtain dividing it into an intimate 75-person music venue (40 for seated shows) and a bar with atmospheric lighting. Shows tend to be mellow and start earlier (usually about 8:30 p.m.) than other venues.
* Tasty World (312 E. Broad St., 706-543-0797, www.tastyworld.net), a two-level club on the main strip running past the University of Georgia campus, is a bit outside Athens's main music area. It's a cool building with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. The first floor regularly hosts a wide-ranging selection of live music, the second has bands less frequently.
INFO: Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-653- 0603, www.visitathensga.com.
-- Ben Brazil