Away Weekends are Just as Good as Game Day in this College Town
For SEC diehards, traveling for football is a sport of its own. From Oxford to Knoxville, fans hit the road with window flags waving and school spirit screaming from their bumper stickers. But one stop in Athens, Georgia, and you’ll realize immediately that a day of tailgating just isn’t enough in this town.
When the team is away, the Classic City’s sea of red shirts gives way to warm, small-town streets brimming with hidden gems. Restaurants, both award-winning and local-crowd-inducing, serve regional specialties with perfection (and at a price point that would make big city folks do a backflip). Around every corner, legendary music landmarks from the likes of R.E.M. and The B-52s draw you to stages where today’s hopefuls are giving it all they’ve got. And, with a bar-per-capita density that rivals any major city, getting your hands on a cocktail is almost too easy.
Weekends like this give you the breathing room to mingle with students and locals alike while drinking craft brew or sharing a slice of cake (one that’s so good it’s worth the trip on its own, by the way). Instead of arguing with rivals about the game, these weekends open things up to much more constructive debates–should we grab breakfast at Mama’s Boy or brunch at home.made?
Even if you’ve been for a game, it’s time to add Athens back to your list for a weekend any time of year. Here are a few spots you’ll want to check out along the way.
Catch a show at the Georgia Theatre
If the walls of this iconic venue could talk, they’d share the rise of R.E.M. from the very beginning or tell you of the crowds that came to see The Police, The Ramones, B.B. King…you name it, back in the day. Reborn from a labor of love after a devastating fire in 2009, the interior of the Georgia Theatre has been modernized and expanded since its doors first opened in 1978. But this intimate space is still the heartbeat of the infamous Athens music scene. If a show isn’t going on while you’re in town, be sure to head to the rooftop bar for one of the city’s best views.
Grab a biscuit at Mama’s Boy
Yes, you can expect a line, but one bite into breakfast and you’ll understand why any Athens local is always willing to wait at Mama's Boy. After many a year waiting for the best biscuits around, a second location came on the scene in 2017 to help the crowds get to slathering on their raspberry preserves quicker than ever before.
Get lost in the stacks at Wuxtry Records
A combination of rare vinyl, classic records, and current talent blend in this landmark music shop. Many musicians who would go on to define the Athens music scene, like Peter Buck of R.E.M, have worked among the rows at Wuxtry Records over the years. Down the road from the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club, it’s in the heart of the action.
Have a slice of cake from Last Resort Grill
For locals and frequent visitors alike, Last Resort Grill is anything but a last resort. In fact, it’s one of those restaurants that you’ll use any excuse to go to. Students with parents visiting? A must for dinner. Brunch before leaving town? Absolutely. A birthday celebration? Well that’s a no brainer. One of the restaurant’s claims to fame is its assortment of layered cakes and cheesecakes prominently on display as you walk in. These homemade cakes by Cecilia Villaveces Cakes and Tammy Cleveland are so legendary that it’s commonplace to order a second slice to go. There are just too many flavors to try in one sitting.
Have a sip at Creature Comforts
If you don’t associate Snow Tire Co. with a tall glass of hops, you haven’t been to Creature Comforts. A tire company garage turned taproom, this local hangout is the best spot to sip some of the most in-demand beers in the South. With brews that salute the town (Athena Berliner Weisse) and the arts scene (Tropicalia IPA), Creature Comforts feeds off of the college town’s culture and creative energy.
Grab supper at home.made
Looking for a place where pepper jelly, pickled deviled eggs, and meat and two plates feel right at home? It’s down Baxter Street. Chef Mimi Maumus has crafted a menu at home.made that plays homage to her New Orleans roots while offering modern twists to supper mainstays. If you don’t leave with some of her homemade cheese straws in tow, we’re not sure where you went wrong.
Rock out at 40 Watt
An integral part of the story for many regional artists, 40 Watt Club has been a launching pad for the Athens sound for decades. In the seventies and eighties, it helped launch American punk rock and new wave. Today, it’s dedicated to rising local artists, and there's always something quality to hear.
Taste Hugh Acheson’s menu in action
Celebrate race day during Twilight
You know spring has sprung in the Classic City when you start to see bike shorts downtown for Twilight. The annual April cycling event brings athletes from all over the nation and world to Athens for a competitive event with a block party-like watching scene for locals and visitors alike.
Taste what keeps the kids going at Jittery Joe’s
As instrumental in achieving all A’s as going to class, this on- and off-campus coffee shop will keep you wired with a side of laid back, small town charm. Jittery Joe's Coffee got its start thanks to its original location next to the famous 40 Watt Club where it would keep people wired all day and night.
Spend the afternoon at the Georgia Museum of Art
Academia and exhibitions collide at the official art museum of the state of Georgia. A cultural hub, this 79,000-square-foot space houses more than 10,000 objects in a permanent collection nested on the University of Georgia’s east campus. With 20 to 25 temporary exhibitions a year, be sure to check out what might be rotating through before your free visit.
Fill your plate at Weaver D’s
After a night out on the town, refuel with fried chicken and cornbread at Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods. The inspiration for R.E.M.’s Automatic for The People, the neon green-painted, cinder block joint may not look like grandma’s place, but the food sure tastes like it’s straight from her kitchen.
Beat the summer heat at AthFest
AthFest shines a spotlight on local and regional talent while supporting music and arts education each summer. The annual, three-day event spans more than a dozen music venues throughout the downtown area and takes over the street with free outdoor stages.
Cozy up for a movie at Ciné
This arthouse cinema on the edge of downtown shows classics and conversation starters in an intimate, two-screen space. You’ll find a mix of students and film buffs in this nonprofit theater run by the Athens Film Arts Institute. Whether it’s a themed lineup, like their Hear Film Series for Mental Health Awareness Month, a costume-optional event, like their Hogwarts Happy Hour Mixer & Costume Contest, or a film festival, like their annual Athens Jewish Film Festival, Ciné's calendar is always worth checking out.
Bring a blanket to north campus
Grab some snacks and a frisbee. It’s time to relive your college years. On the University of Georgia’s north campus, historic buildings dating back to the early 1800's surround a lush lawn that begs for a blanket and a good book. Busy college kids on their way to class may buzz around you, but even their nervous, term-paper energy can’t beat the serene feeling of this space. Be sure to stop by the school’s famous arch on your way into campus.