With the Georgia Bulldogs playing host to ESPN’s College GameDay and a visiting crowd from LSU that is sure to turn out in droves, one might easily become overwhelmed in Athens, Ga. this weekend. In light of that, here is the official Bleacher Report guide for visiting the Classic City.
Where to Eat the Night Before
While Saturday may be the best day for a trip to Athens, arriving a day early is highly recommended. The town’s most obvious claim to fame is the University of Georgia, but the off-campus nightlife is unrivaled among college towns.
If you’re looking for a nice meal on Friday night, Last Resort is the place to go. Conveniently located near campus and in the heart of downtown (174 W Clayton Street), Last Resort boasts a variety of menu options ranging from small plates, soups and salads, to more substantial options like the Texas Pork Loin and a Firecracker Filet. Last Resort is an ideal setting for either a date night or a formal kickoff to a fantastic weekend.
If you want something a little more casual, Transmetropolitan is just down the street (145 E Clayton Street). The locals know this joint simply as “Transmet,” and it’s a classed-up alternative to the quintessential college-town pizzeria. Be sure to carb-load with a couple slices of deep dish.
While Athens' claim as the “birthplace of alternative rock” may be arbitrary, the quality of its music scene is undeniable. Home to such musical acts as the B-52s, Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic and R.E.M., this town knows how to throw a concert.
Whether you’re looking to pack into the tiny but historic 40 Watt nightclub (285 W Washington Street) or looking to enjoy the confines of the recently rebuilt Georgia Theatre (215 N Lumpkin Street), you’re guaranteed to find a show.
If you don’t know the band listed on the ticket, don’t shy away. As a sophomore in college I stumbled into the Georgia Theatre with a few roommates to check out some country singer that was supposed to be pretty good. We bought tickets for $10 and walked in, only to discover no more than 200 other folks in the venue. Zac Brown played for over three hours that night.
The Bar Scene
When folks talk about Athens, the first thing brought up is, typically, Georgia football. The second point of conversation, more often than not, is the bar scene. Conveniently (and perhaps dangerously) located just across the street from campus, downtown Athens is home to over 80 bars within just a few blocks.
Unlike college towns with just a few isolated bars, it's customary to bounce from place to place downtown. You’ll fit right in even if you have to try out a few places in the process. That being said, here are a few recommendations:
- Bourbon Street (333 E Broad Street): This is your stereotypical freshman bar (not that anyone underage drinks in Athens). If you’re looking for the full “college” experience, you might have to put this one on your list. The drinks are cheap, the music is loud and you’ll probably run into a former Georgia football player or two.
- Double Barrel (429 E Broad Street): Double Barrel is an up-and-comer in downtown Athens. This bar is relatively new, which means several perks, not the least of which is a somewhat serviceable restroom and floors that are not overly sticky. Guys may not appreciate these luxuries, but the ladies in the group certainly will. Additionally, the whiskey selection is vast and the bartenders are knowledgeable.
- Blue Sky (128 College Avenue): Blue Sky is home to a sprawling selection of craft beers and higher-end cocktails. Although addressed on College Avenue, there is stairway access to this upstairs bar from Broad Street and the location offers a great view of North Campus.
- Highwire Lounge (269 N Hull Street): Located on the western edge of downtown, this bar offers an escape from the crowds found further east. If you’re looking to enjoy some pleasant conversation as well as a Rye Manhattan, this is your spot.
- Allgood (256 E Clayton): Allgood offers a little bit of everything: Plenty of TVs to catch other games, a rooftop patio, three different full-service bars, etc. If you’re feeling brave, order a Grateful Dead to drink and hope for the best.
If you get hungry while you're out, be sure to grab a hot dog from the street vendors.
Tailgating on campus has grown increasingly tricky over the past decade or so. Be mindful that fans are no longer allowed to tailgate prior to 7 a.m. on Saturday, and that tailgating on North Campus is now restricted to the five hours immediately preceding kickoff.
That being said, there are still plenty of options. Myers Quad (the site of College GameDay) offers room to party and a chance to get on TV this weekend. And, beginning at 10:30 a.m., the beautiful North Campus area will begin to fill up.
If you’re looking to dodge the sun and avoid the heat, the hilly regions of Cedar Street offer sufficient space for tailgating and other recreation.
As you’ll see upon arrival, there is really no wrong place to tailgate as long as you are within the designated time restrictions.
Like any school, the University of Georgia has its fair share of in-game traditions. Here are a few to look out for:
- Battle Hymn Solo: Several moments before kickoff, one lone trumpeter plays an opening rendition of the “Battle Hymn.” The crowd is cold in silence as a montage of highlights narrated by the late Larry Munson plays on the big screen. Stand in silence and respect and yell, “Ooooh!” with the rest of the crowd when the video shows Herschel Walker running over Tennessee safety Bill Bates.
- Calling the Dawgs: If you’re fortunate enough to enroll at the University of Georgia, you’re education begins before you start classes. At your freshman (or transfer) orientation, you’re forced to learn a cheer and sing for your supper. Before being granted entrance into the dining hall, each group of orientation students learns to “Call the Dawgs.” Nobody eats until the volume of the chant is deemed sufficient. The education pays great dividends as Georgia fans Call the Dawgs on each and every kickoff. Fortunately, there is no wrong musical key for screaming “Gooooooooo Dawgs! Sic ‘em! Woof. Woof. Woof.”
- Fourth Quarter: Between the third and fourth quarters, the Georgia Redcoat Band plays a rendition of “Krypton Fanfare” as Georgia fans raise four fingers. As the song reaches its peak, Georgia fans waive their hands forward in unison. “Glory, Glory to Ole Georgia” follows immediately.
- Ringing the Chapel Bell: Of course the greatest Georgia tradition of all is the ringing of the chapel bell. Following a Georgia win, fans line up on North Campus behind the chapel and take turns ringing the bell. It is quite literally the sound of victory.
If You Don't Have a Ticket:
Tickets will be especially hard to come by this weekend. Fear not. Just because you don't have a ticket doesn't mean you're out of luck. Check out one of these venues to enjoy the game on a massive projection screen with hundreds of other fans. It's the next-best thing to being there.
- The Tate Student Center: Located just across Sanford Drive from the Stadium, the Tate Student Center is home to a number of small dining areas, study nooks and, most importantly, a viewing room. Stand on the bridge outside of the stadium to enjoy the opening kickoff, then wander inside the Tate Center to watch on television.
- The Georgia Theatre: On Saturdays, the Georgia Theatre airs Georgia football games. Stop by, have a drink and check out the game.
After the Game:
All of the previously discussed nightlife options are in play following the game. But, here are a few game-day specific options for a Saturday night in Athens:
- The Blind Pig Tavern (485 Baldwin Street): If you’re looking for solace in the form of a low-key burger joint that is close to campus, The Blind Pig has you covered. A favorite of Georgia fans of all generations, this spot is a short walk from the stadium. You’ll smell it when you get close...in a good way.
- Mellow Mushroom (320 E Clayton Street): This isn’t your average Mellow Mushroom. This location boasts massive projection screens and dozens of TVs. You may have to wait for a table, but the bar staff will keep you occupied while you recharge.