Hey Wildcats! It’s almost time to road trip to Athens GA for the big SEC match up against the Dawgs. From the vibrant live music scene to local cuisine, there is much fun to be had on a football weekend in Athens. Visit Athens has put together this Football Fan’s Road Trip Guide to Athens to make the most of your time in the Classic City.
Plus, there are plenty of hotels for a good night’s sleep before your day of football festivities. Use the Visit the SEC Passport, and our tips below to get the lowdown on can’t miss spots around Athens to make the most of your time in the Classic City.
Things to do in Athens before a football game
Athens Georgia is a great college town with plenty of attractions and activities to see and do all weekend long, not just on game day. Arrive on Friday in time to visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 313 acres along the Middle Oconee River with many themed gardens, wooded nature trails, a stunning tropical conservatory, the Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, and a fun and interactive Children’s Garden to keep the kids busy and entertained. Athens is also home to the state’s official museum, the Georgia Museum of Art.
Friday (or Sunday morning) is also a great time to stroll through UGA’s Historic North Campus, birthplace of public higher education in America. Modeled after Yale University, North Campus sits just across Broad Street from vibrant downtown Athens and is a walk back in time over 200 years to the oldest buildings in Athens. Be sure to check out Herty Field—these days it’s a beautiful setting for a fountain, but back in the 19th century it’s where the football team played their earliest games. Hard to imagine against the backdrop of SEC Football today! For anyone interested in other UGA football history, the UGA Special Collections Libraries offers free guided football-themed tours on Fridays before UGA home games. The Special Collections lawn is also where SEC Nation sets up when broadcasting from Athens.
Want more ideas of things to do in Athens? Use the Visit the SEC Passport to navigate to 10 top spots in Athens, earning points along the way to redeem for prizes! Tip: the SEC Passport is good in every SEC City, so make it part of your football weekend plans whether you are home or away!
Explore the cool vibe of Downtown Athens
While visiting Athens don’t miss the vibrant downtown scene. Walk down Broad Street, then head to Clayton Street to see more Athens charm including vintage record and clothing stores, boutiques and other shopping spots.
Plus, the streets of downtown are booming with musical talent at various venues. A visit to Athens is not complete without taking in a live show. Athens is known for its renowned music history and bands such as R.E.M., the B-52s and Widespread Panic. The music scene in Athens is constantly growing and changing, spotlighting new talent and featuring well-known performers at the venues. Head over to the Georgia Theatre, The Foundry or 40-Watt Club to see a live music performance. Take a look at the concert calendar to see who’s performing during your visit!
For those interested in learning more about the Athens music scene, there is always the guided Music History Walking tour. Visit www.athenswelcomecenter.com, for more information about the guided tour or to download the self-guided tour.
Where to eat in Athens
Downtown Athens is home to dozens of restaurants, including burger spot Clocked, wood-fired pizza at Ted’s Most Best, upscale Mediterranean at Osteria Athena or southern fare at The Place. Hot Tip: each of these last two restaurants have dining rooms overlooking historic North Campus. Or, head over to Milledge Avenue, also known as “Greek Row”— due to the various sorority and fraternity houses that are planted on the street — for dinner or even brunch at Five and Ten. This restaurant is owned by James Beard award-winning chef, Hugh Acheson. For something a little more laid-back, Mama’s Boy is a great spot for breakfast or lunch. For those interested in vegetarian and vegan options The National, White Tiger Gourmet, or Last Resort Grill are also great choices. Those sweet cravings are put at ease with a visit to Condor Chocolates to indulge in Ecuadorian chocolates or coffee. Another cool sweet spot is the Lil’ Ice Cream Dude’s Cool World, which offers delicious ice cream, popsicles, milkshakes and more!
Get a Taste of the Award-winning Craft Beer Scene
Follow the Athens Beer Trail, and cool off with some craft beer from the award-winning beer scene. Creature Comforts Brewing Company may look familiar to any Marvel fan — their Tropicalia and Athena beer were both featured in the Avengers: Endgame film! Across town, Terrapin Beer Company has been named the official beer for the Atlanta Braves team. Their brews such as Hopsecutioner and White Chocolate Moo-Hoo are perfect to try. Stop by Southern Brewing Company, one of less than 50 breweries in the nation to preserve and cultivate a yeast strain that is used to brew the beer onsite. Akademia Brewing Company not only offers delicious food that pairs well with their beer, but also food made with their beer for a unique taste. Athentic brewery has a cozy, laid-back vibe, with fun beer collabs with groups around town. Last but not least, Normaltown Brewing Company is a small, cozy brewery in the Chase Street Warehouses with a selection of interesting brews. These breweries also offer tours, tastings and a chance to learn more about the craft beer-making process. On Thursdays and Fridays hop on the Athens Beer Trail Trolley Tour and get your Athens Beer Trail passport stamped along the way!
Where to stay, park and tailgate
If you are staying in downtown Athens or a close-in neighborhood like Five Points, you’re all set for the weekend—put on comfortable shoes and take an easy ½ to ¾ mile walk to Sanford Stadium in the center of campus. For those driving in, you’ll need some UGA Football parking and tailgating tips from the local experts at Visit Athens. The Intermural Field parking lots are one of the best spots for single-game parking needs. Located right off the Athens Bypass (Loop 10) at the East Campus Dr. Exit, there’s usually good availability of spots, plus shuttles to the stadium to sweeten the deal. Single-game parking in Downtown Athens is offered in the Downtown Athens parking decks and at The Classic Center. Individual game parking is available on a first-come-first-served basis.
On the big day, consider heading downtown to tailgate with fellow football fans. Popular spots include UGA Myers quad (where College Gameday broadcasts from when in Athens) and North Campus—home to Herty Field, the original UGA football field during the 1800s and early 1900s. In Athens, a tailgate is not complete without some BBQ from Saucehouse BBQ or Pulaski Heights. These local restaurants offer takeout platters that are sure to make for great game day fuel.
Athens hotels book up early, particularly for SEC games. There are also charming Bnbs, chic boutique hotels, and short term rental options.
Get more out of Athens with the Visit the SEC Pass
Visit Athens and all the other college towns from around the SEC have come together to create an exciting new experience for all SEC fans. Why go directly to and from your tailgate to the stadium when there is so much more to discover? With the Visit the SEC Pass, you'll find 10 favorite spots around town. The Visit the SEC Passport is the perfect itinerary to know all the must-sees when you are traveling to other SEC towns. Check it out in any SEC town that you visit.
Sign up, earn points for visiting Visit the SEC Passport spots and collect fun swag!
Live music, shopping and dining are just the start of what Athens has to offer. To plan a visit, make hotel reservations, at visitathensga.com/hotels/. Athens is home to several charming boutique hotels that offer a one-of-a-kind vacation experience, including options with chic, contemporary décor, as well as rustic establishments that honor Athens’ rich history.
For more ideas and itineraries to make your football road trip to Athens an exceptional experience, please check out the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website, VisitAthensGA.com/football.