I’m a girl who loves proponent travel more than anything. I spend my days dreaming of all the sites I want to see…
I love to travel. I love to see new places. I love to explore, and take in the uniqueness of places, that have their own personality. Athens, Georgia: whether you are just passing through, spending an amazing 4 months (or 4 years), or settling down- it is one of the most unique and memorable cities that exist.
In the sweltering Georgia heat, no place is as cool as Athens. This hip college town is home to the University of Georgia, Pulitzer Prize winning authors and famous rock musicians. I fell in love while exploring the downtown area, where Victorian buildings are filled with an eclectic combination of independent coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques. Named “Live Music Central,” Athens’ busy music venues are known around the world. Check out The 40 Watt Club, where The B-52s and R.E.M got their start.
Athens’ prominent role in the state of Georgia can be attributed primarily to the University of Georgia, for which Athens was originally established. The Georgia legislature decided in 1785 to fund a state-supported university, the first such in the United States. The university trustees named the place Athens, after the center of learning in ancient Greece. The man who drafted the university’s charter, Abraham Baldwin, was selected as its first president. However, no actual steps were taken to bring the idea to fruition for sixteen years. The town was incorporated in 1806, and rechartered in 1872.
At first, the land for its growth came from lots sold by the university, which thereby generated money for campus buildings. The first building on the campus was named for Benjamin Franklin and is now known as Old College.
Athens was lucky enough not to suffer any major attacks during the Civil War, but as the war went on, the Cook and Brother Armory supplied the Confederacy with a cannon and rifles. The famous double-barreled cannon stands today on the grounds of city hall. Athens textile industries produced Confederate uniforms, many put together by the Ladies Aid Society. Enrollment at the university declined until in 1863, it closed altogether. Campus buildings were used to house soldiers and refugees. UGA didn’t open its doors again until 1866.
The Athens area grew throughout the 20th century. The University of Georgia became integrated in 1961. By 1980 the population of Athens, and its suburbs was almost 63,000. During the 1996 Olympics, Athens hosted women’s soccer, rhythmic gymnastics, and volleyball competitions.
Other places to visit include The Georgia Museum of Art, which houses nine galleries. The University of Georgia Performing Arts Center complements the Classic Center. The 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia serves as headquarters for the Garden Club of Georgia, and offers nature trails, gardens, a conservatory, and a chapel. On campus, the Georgia Museum of Natural History has collections in archaeology, as well as biological and earth sciences.
Many antebellum houses still survive. The Church-Waddel-Brumby House Museum, built in the Federalist style, is thought to be the oldest remaining building in Athens. The mansion of Ross Crane, who built the university’s 1832 Greek Revival Chapel, is just west of the downtown area. Also on the west side of town, Robert Taylor built the Taylor-Grady House, a Greek Revival house with thirteen columns, one for each of the original colonies. This was the boyhood home of “New South” spokesman Henry W. Grady. A man by the name of John Addison Cobb, a wealthy plantation owner who moved to Athens in 1824, developed Cobham, Athens’ first suburb, in 1834.
The Georgia Theater is part of the Downtown Athens National Register Historic District and also the Downtown Local Historic District, which was designated in 2006. It was built as the Elite Theater in 1935 on the “foundation” of the original YMCA, which had been constructed on that site in 1889. The upper part of that YMCA building was demolished in 1920 and it then served over the years as the Majestic Hotel, Masonic Temple, Dorsey Furniture Company, and Burnstein Brothers Furniture Company until the Elite Theater was built. It is unclear how much of the original YMCA building was incorporated into the Elite Theater. After a devastating fire in 2009, The Georgia Theatre was rebuilt and reopened in August 2011, reclaiming its place as a keystone of the Athens music scene.
The Things that Made Me Love Athens:
Honestly, food in Athens deserves its own article. But I’ll give it a go. Awesome food! Incredible diversity. Although, some places are expensive, they’re worth it. I found every ethnic possibility, delicious farm to table and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Athens is home to several breweries, mircopubs, and even bike tours to local farms. My favorite local restaurants include Little Italy (the best and only place you can order single slices of pizza), Clocked (Retro style diner with killer cherry cokes), Last Resort Grill, Mama’s Boy, Cali & Titos and DE Palmas.
History. The amount of history to be explored all over Georgia is incredible. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to Savannah on the coast there are many places to visit including, the very first insane asylum, civil war sites, cemetery’s, abandoned plantations, Indian mounds, and ghost towns. Georgia is surely full of great historical stories.
Whoa, how many bars? There are how many bands playing tonight? UGA took the #1 spot in Princeton Reviews’ Party School rankings for a reason. The nightlife. Oh, did I mention that cover charges are non-existent and even fancy beers rarely top $3. Some of the most popular and recognized establishments are: The Globe, Georgia Theatre, Bourbon Street, Walkers, Sister Louisa’s Church, and Max Canada.
Music. Athens is known for a few small bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Neutral Milk Hotel and the B-52s. But what is surprising is simply the amount of local talent and the volume. Every night of the week there are tons of small bands and individuals playing for free at the 100 or so bars in the two square mile radius that makes up downtown. Check out the 40 Watt Club.
I’m not really a sports kind of gal, so getting along in Athens, not knowing whom the Bulldogs are earned me some laughs. One thing I learned about Athens is, the locals are insanely into football. Everywhere you go and everything you hear is about football. You know your town has a problem with sports when the football stadium holds more people than the town’s population. GO DAWGS!
Athens, even hosts one of the coolest downtown criterium bike races in the country. Twilight is a professional race with monster prizes, a wonderful accompanying festival and an awesome downtown atmosphere.
Athens, Georgia is a great place to spend a weekend, or even a week partying with friends, or maybe an intimate getaway for you and your loved one. The job market isn’t that great, unless you’re a bartender or professor at UGA. To experience Athens, as a local is a completely different venture in itself. When the students leave for break, Athens turns into an entirely different town.