Athens has just welcomed back over 35,000 members of the Bulldog Nation as a new fall semester begins at the University of Georgia. Along with their return, traffic will increase, restaurants will become busier, and the Classic City will once again be restored to its title as vibrant and eclectic college town.
But the the start of the fall semester doesn't just mean new school supplies and overly-priced textbooks. Fall in Athens means something much more: the return of UGA football.
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IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON: We're just as excited as this guy.
A new season brings about much anticipation, high hopes, and plenty of that infamous Bulldawg spirit. With the annoitment of UGA X, the aniticipation over who will start as quarterback, and a potential Heisman winner, this season is one that won't disappoint.
Athens on gameday is a sight unlike any other. A sea of red and black descends upon campus and tailgating fans are a dime a dozen. Nearly 100,000 fans will fill the Classic City on days when the Dawgs play between the hedges of Sanford Stadium.
But those fans who venture beyond the storied hedges, will discover a unique blend of southern heritage and contemporary entertainment in Athens, Georgia. A football weekend in Athens involves much more than the action on the field. With a variety of affordable entertainment, and an eclectic mix of restaurants, specialty shops, galleries, and nightclubs, Athens is a town that transcends the college crowd.
Just like gameday, Athens itself is an experience. So in order to get the best bang for you buck, here's a definitive list of what you need to see and do on those Saturdays in Athens.
DOWNTOWN: Makin' their way downtown.
A fully restored, Victorian-era downtown sits just across Broad Street from the famed UGA Arch on North Campus. But don't let the heritage fool you, downtown Athens is home to a world-renowned nightlife, especially on game days, that fans must experience for themselves.
Start off your downtown journey with a visit one of the many delicious restaurants (my favorites include: NONA, Transmetropolitan, Pauley's Original Crepe Bar, and Trapeze Pub). For those who wish to celebrate a big win (or an unfortunate, hard loss) stop in at one of the nearly 80 local award winning bars, all in a single square mile.
MUSIC: Coach Mark Richt loves a good beat to dance to.
Named the Number One College Music scene in America by Rolling Stone, Athens' is the birthplace of REM and the B-52's. Hundreds of bands still call Athens home, performing in acclaimed venues such as the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre.
But Athens' musical hertigae involves more than rock and roll. UGA's Performing Arts Complex hosts top classical and contemporary artists with a full lineup every year. The Classic Center features Broadway and family-oriented productions as well as a country series and other headline entertainment. With every genre covered, Athens is one of the most diverse and affordable music scenes in the world.
FOOD: Don't let Uga go hungry.
I briefly mentioned food above in association with the many restaurants downtown, but Athens is home to a variety of restaurants wo ensure that no football fan will be underfed. The Classic City's food scene is booming and has not caught the attention of national media. Among the most recognized eateries are Top Chef Hugh Acheson's restaurant, Five and Ten, and The Last Resort Grill on Clayton St.
Brunch is a local specialty in Athens, with restaurants such as Mama's Boy, Heirloom Cafe, The Grit, and East-West Bistro serving up a delicious meal to start a day of tailgating. But for those with a more traditional "tailgating palette" such as pizza, burgers, and wings, look no further than Amici Italian Cafe, Little Italy, and Five Guys.
BREWERIES: These coaches sure could use a drink right about now.
Athens is quickly rising in ranks of the craft beer industry. Now home to three breweries: Terrapin Beer Co., Creature Comforts Brewing Co., and Southern Brewing Co., football fans will want to try the local beer.
There's even a new reason to kick back with a cold one to celebrate gameday. On July 1st, the Georgia legislature passed a bill which will effectively change how craft breweries across the state operate. Visitors to Georgia breweries can now take souvenir beer home with them, along with the price of their brewery tour. Previously, brewery tours were free and only souvenir glasses were sold, with a maximum amount of 32 oz. of beer allowed per taster.
Side note: If you do visit these breweries just remember, though you'll now get some souvenirs to take home with you, alcohol is not allowed in Sanford Stadium.
ATTRACTIONS: So many things to do, so little time.
The boys in the silver britches won't be the only attraction on gameday weekends. Athens is home to a variety of affordable and unqiue activities. For history buffs, check out the world's only Double-Barreled Cannon on the corner of College Ave. and Hancock Ave. As an unsual Civil War relic, it was a spectacular failure in testing but has met with success as a cherished landmark in Athens.
The state's official museuem, the Georgia Museum of Art, houses traveling exhibits in addition to the official state collection. The 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a perfect place to have a picnic, take a walk on miles of nature trails, or participate in an interesting lecture, class, or hike. Both of these locations are free to the public and accept donations.
COME CELEBRATE WHAT MAKES ATHENS GREAT: Especially when we win.
This fall, visitors can expect much more from Athens, Georgia than just a football game. With award-winning food, beer, and music, and a vibrant downtown scene, Athens is a location that may just require a second trip. Come for the football, but stay for everything else that Athens has to offer to the Bulldawg Nation.
For information on last-minute hotel availability, parking, tailgating, plus an event calendar and special deals, visit www.VisitAthensGA.com/football