There’s nothing like a crisp fall Saturday morning in Athens, Ga., especially when the Georgia Bulldogs play at home.
Young and old fans alike are finding their tailgate spots, setting up, grilling some of the best food in the state, and celebrating one of the best things about living in the south, college football.
I love the goosebumps I get as I drive down Milledge Ave., turn left onto Baxter St. and pull in behind the BP gas station on the corner of Finley and Baxter. That is where my family and I have tailgated every game for the past ten years.
One of my favorite things about Athens, Ga. is how anywhere and everywhere is a place for someone to park. Fans engulf the city on Friday nights and don’t leave until Sunday.
There are tailgates and fans spanning from North Campus near downtown to Stegman Coliseum all the way to the intramural fields near loop 10, and just about everywhere in between those places.
I think that is one of the things that makes Athens so unique.
I’ve been to Clemson, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina, and those places seem to have specific locations for fans to tailgate. As for Athens, fans tailgate in the parking lot of dorm buildings, businesses, gas stations, wherever they can get their car in, and they set up shop.
By opening up the entire campus, it allows new and old fans to explore every nook and cranny.
As Georgia fans, we know this all too well because we have that friend who came up for the game, wants to see you, but is tailgating across town. Which causes people to walk all over the campus and see its beauty.
The game day smells are incredible as well. From smelling the Varsity hamburgers to people grilling out at their tailgates, fans don’t go hungry on game day. People cook all day long and if you’re hungry, make a friend, they’ll probably know someone who can feed you something that’ll hit the spot.
One spot that every college football fan needs to stop at is the Varsity to have a chili cheese dog and a frozen orange drink. The Varsity is a must-have when visiting for game day.
However, the culture of the Classic City isn’t just in the tailgating and food. Athens has so much to offer that takes the game day to a whole other level. From live music, food, drinks, and people, it’s a place that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it still feels like home.
One spot that every person who makes the trip to Athens needs to go is to one of the four main breweries. My personal favorite is Creature Comforts that is located in downtown Athens. It’s walking distance to most of the tailgates, and they always have delicious beers on tap.
Tropicália is their famous IPA and my personal favorite. However, I cannot forget about their delicious Athena, a sour beer, that is extremely refreshing on those hot game days early on in the season.
Creature Comforts has a wide selection of brews that most beer lovers would enjoy. There is also Terrapin, Southern Brewing Company, and Akademia Brewing Company in town as well. The other three are further away from the tailgating and madness, but always seem to be hosting game day watch parties for the folks who didn’t get tickets.
However, most fans grab a six-pack and hit the tailgates.
Another thing that everyone must experience in Athens is the chapel bell and the arch. After each win, people line up for hours to ring this bell that sits near the arch in North Campus.
There’s nothing like beating one of your rivals and hearing that bell ring all night long, and it will ring all night. It’s a game day tradition that is unique to Georgia and makes it special. The same goes for the arch. After I graduated and finally got to walk through the arch for the first time, it was such a satisfying feeling.
There’s a superstition that you cannot walk through the arch until you graduate. It’s a right of passage, and I waited until I graduated, and it gave me so much satisfaction that I can say I graduated from one of the best universities in the whole country. On Game Day it gives alumni coming back the chance to walk through it and relive the emotions that come with getting your degree from there. Fans also take a ton of pictures with the arch because of the tradition it holds.
It’s a staple piece of Athens and reminds you where you are.
However, one of the best traditions that come with a Georgia game day is the Dawg Walk, especially since Kirby Smart took over the program. It’s always been great, but with the recent success, the Dawg walk attendance seems to have tripled.
Fans start lining up hours before it starts to get the perfect spot so they can hear the Red Coat Band but also be able to slap hands with their favorite football players.
It’s calm until those buses pull up with the players hungry to get off them. Hairy Dawg and the cheerleaders walk the team in with the American flag and either the red or black ‘G’ flag leading the way, and that site gives you chills. Not to mention the Red Coat band is steadily playing ‘Glory, Glory’ while the team enters the stadium.
Kids get to slap hands with their idols, and it jacks up the players so much to see their fanbase come out and support them. It’s one of the best traditions in all of college football.
The final piece that anyone visiting Athens on a game day must-see is the fourth quarter tradition at a night game. For the last couple of years, fans hold up four fingers in one hand, and their cell phone flashlight in the other and it is one of the prettiest views in all of college football.
Georgia’s band plays “Krypton Fanfare,” and as the song reaches its peak, fans wave their phones and hands back and forth in unison with the beat. Immediately after the band plays that song, they go into ‘Glory, Glory’ again and then let the big screen show off one of the videos it plays.
From the time fans get to Athens to the time they leave, it’s an experience.
The Classic City has the best game-day atmosphere because it not only embodies a college town but a place where all can gather and be accepted because they’re all there, for one thing, to watch the Dawgs tee it up between the hedges and hopefully see them demolish an opponent.