Distance: 50 miles, one-hour drive
The metro Atlanta area is full of people who go to Athens on an extremely regular basis during the fall. There are also quite a few folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in Athens unless their team was playing Between the Hedges on Saturday, and they promise you they’ll be gone before Sunday.
College football allegiances aside (who am I kidding; college football is part of our souls here in the south), there is never a bad time for a trip to Athens. From winter bar hopping to North Campus in full spring bloom to the gloriously crowd-free downtown summers, Athens offers more than barking college kids and adults who still think they’re in college.
Might I recommend starting your day off at Jittery Joe’s? Located across from North Campus and the famous Arch, Jittery Joe’s Coffee is where entire generations of UGA students studied and learned to appreciate the wonders of coffee. Really weird factoid: at once time, Jittery Joe’s was the official coffee of Antarctica (no idea why).
From there, head three miles south of campus to the State Botanical Gardens: a 313-acre preserve with nature trails, birding areas, expansive gardens, a soaring tropical conservatory, gift shop and cafe. If you’re more of an indoor person, the Georgia Museum of Art has been recently renovated and expanded, with a permanent collection of over 9,000 works and host of top traveling exhibits.
Ready for lunch? Because if you’re not hungry all the way down to your toes, then it’s not time to visit Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods. Some say Weaver D’s became famous after REM named their Grammy-nominated album after its slogan, “Automatic for the People,” but hordes of UGA alumni and Athenians have always known it was THE place to get homemade mac & cheese, sweet potato soufflé, steak smothered in gravy, and peach cobbler. Weaver D’s is only open for lunch, so don’t put this one off.
You’re going to be hurting after lunch, so take a stroll through downtown to visit the unique indie shops and two of the city’s most interesting residents: the double-barreled cannon and the Tree That Owns Itself.
Originally built as a Civil War experimental weapon, the double-barreled cannon never saw battle, and with good reason: it was impossible to fire both barrels simultaneously, causing the cannon to unpredictably whip the second shot to parts unknown. It stands proudly in front of city hall, still pointing northward. Just in case.
The aptly named Tree That Owns Itself is technically The Son of the Tree That Owns Itself. Upon his death, Colonel William Jackson – who had such fond childhood memories of playing underneath the mighty white oak – deeded the property on which the tree stood to the oak, in hopes that it would stand forever. The original tree fell in 1942, but a new tree was grown from one of its acorns in the same location.
Okay, now that your collards have settled, time to make like a college kid and drink. Rather than feel ancient in a college bar, head to one of Athens’ many breweries and try the local flavor. Well-known Terrapin has become less grassroots and more polished over the years and its on-them take of their Hopsecutioner IPA – the Chopsecutioner – is served at the Atlanta Braves stadium. Newby Southern Brewing is an uber-local option: they actually grow their wheat on-site. And if you want to have a baby…in a bar… check out Creature Comforts: they’ve set up a delightful summer play area on their patio to entertain the under-21 set while mom and dad get their Tropicalia on.
For more ideas on how to create the perfect day in Athens, head to VisitAthensGa.com – the convention and visitor’s bureau site hosts a killer trip planner widget, sure to help you make memories in the Classic City.