The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Beyond the hedges: A perfect football weekend In Athens

273 days ago
Photo: University of Georgia

The following is one in a series of blogs prepared by the Convention & Visitors Bureaus of the 14 cities that are home to the universities of the Southeastern Conference. These blogs are presented to enhance fans' enjoyment of the rich history and culture of SEC cities across the 11-state footprint of the Conference.

Football fans that venture beyond the storied hedges of Sanford Stadium will discover a refreshing blend of southern comfort and contemporary entertainment in Athens, Georgia. More than just a rabid college sports town, Athens has grown into a cultural mecca known for its music scene, art galleries, restaurants and a thriving historic downtown.

All SEC fans know to get into town early on Friday to get the full fan experience, whether it's a home game or the start of a fantastic road trip. In Athens, fans should check out the displays and memorabilia from the greatest moments in Georgia men's and women's sports history at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. Then head to the UGA Special Collections Libraries Building for a free Football Friday Tour, at 3 PM each Friday before a home football game. This year's exhibit is 'Not Only for Ourselves: The Integration of UGA Athletics.'

Athens is known worldwide for its live music scene and there are always plenty of performances on game day weekends, spanning a variety of music styles from country to indie rock to hip hop. Plan ahead to get tickets to a show at one of the famous clubs in downtown Athens, or drop in to a local brewery that's hosting live music.

No SEC football weekend is complete without tailgating. The University of Georgia is the birthplace of higher education in America, and its historic North Campus is a picturesque spot, with buildings dating back to 1806. Adjoining the original quad on North Campus, Herty Field is the original football field from the 19th century. Today, fans can play a game of catch on the very ground where the first intercollegiate football game in Georgia was played, in 1892 (Georgia beat Mercer, 50-0.) The modern South Campus is also a favorite tailgate location.

Game day traditions run deep in Athens. After a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, UGA hopes to bring back the Dawg Walk, which happens 2 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff. Get to the Tate Student Center parking lot in plenty of time to help the Redcoat Band and cheerleaders welcome the players and coaches as they walk by on their way into the stadium. The Redcoats remain on center stage during pregame, when a trumpet soloist plays the first 14 notes of the Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation. All fans turn to point at the lone trumpet player in the southwest corner of the upper deck. After a Bulldog victory, the crowd returns to North Campus to ring the chapel bell-that's a joyful line to wait in to take a turn as the bell ringer!

Before leaving Athens, there's time on Sunday to sample some of the quieter side of campus. UGA is home to both the state's official art museum and botanical garden. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia not only has lovely gardens and a stunning tropical conservatory, but also over five miles of trails, an interactive Children's Garden, and a new Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum. The Georgia Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection as well as marquee traveling exhibitions on display. Best of all, there's no admission charge for these on-campus attractions.