The state of Georgia is lucky to have several towns that could well be described as college towns. From the big city sites of Georgia Tech and Georgia State University in Atlanta, to the smaller college towns of Statesboro, Carrollton and Rome, Georgia is blessed to have many institutes of higher learning with picturesque college environments. With some argument from other locals, the number one college town in Georgia is the city of Athens.
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Athens, Georgia , known officially as Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, sits in the northeastern part of the state. It is the home of the University of Georgia and you would probably be able to figure that out if you were dropped blindfolded on Main Street with no information given as to where you would be.
You may not be able to find a city in the world with more businesses carrying the name Bulldog. Athens is truly the home of the Georgia Bulldogs. There are 36 Bulldog statues located at various businesses throughout the city.
The campus of the University of Georgia is fronted by the main downtown section of the city. You can walk from the campus into the heart of downtown where you will find more bars and restaurants than you could ever visit in a week.
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To be truthful, there are students, visitors and alumni who have tried to visit every bar in one evening following a Bulldog football victory.
The campus itself is huge. The school has its own bus system to transport students from one side of the campus to the other. The streets of Athens are totally bike-friendly and you can go to school in Athens without ever having the need of a car.
One year when my son was a student at the university, he and several roommates shared a loft above one of the bars in downtown Athens. Talk about being within walking distance of everything! The only problem the guys had was remembering they were there to get an education, not just to enjoy the nightlife.
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Speaking of nightlife, Athens is a music town. You have probably heard of a little band named R.E.M. or perhaps you remember the B-52s, Widespread Panic and more recently the Drive-By Truckers. These bands and many others come from the city of Athens. You will want to take in a show at the Georgia Theater or the 40 Watt Club while visiting the city.
The non-profit music and arts festival known as Athfest is hosted each year in Athens. This year’s event will be June 24 – 28.
The food in the city of Athens is truly awesome. There are restaurants of every ethnic variety imaginable. You can find restaurants with farm to table fare and many vegetarian and vegan offerings. If you choose you may take a bike tour to local farms.
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Of course, a big draw to a true college town is its sports teams. Athens is the home of the Bulldogs of football, basketball, baseball, softball, track, tennis, golf and gymnastics. A Saturday afternoon in the fall when a football game is being played is simply something to behold.
Football, tailgating and the “Dawg Walk” where about 90,000 fans dressed in Red and Black march to the stadium are all a part of a Saturday Game Day. The stadium itself seats more fans than the population of the city of Athens.
Is there any other stadium that provides an air conditioned doghouse for its canine mascot? Georgia’s English Bulldog Uga has been the mascot since 1956. There is a mausoleum near gate 9 of the stadium where the current Uga’s predecessors who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge are now entombed.
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One slightly quirky site to visit is the “Tree That Owns Itself.” Legend has it that the tree and eight feet around it were deeded to itself in the 1800s.
Information concerning this event comes from an article in an 1890 edition of the Athens Weekly Banner and while there is no documentation to back up this story, the current tree, which grew from acorns from the original tree which fell in 1942, still stands protected in the right of way along Finley Street and is cared for by the municipal authorities.
Athens is a lovely city and has many reasons for a person to plan a visit. If the thought of a small southern town with a youthful feel sounds appealing, then Athens is the spot for you! And don’t forget, Athens is truly the best college town in the state of Georgia.