Athens is a pretty cool town and if you live anywhere between Charlotte and Savannah, it's probably worth a game day trip, even if you can't find a ticket. There are a great number of bars and restaurants for a college town, and although tailgating is mostly blocked there, North campus by the business school is beautiful. The campus as a whole is nowhere near as walkable as Clemson, but the walk from downtown to the stadium is about the same.
Based on my experience in Athens, here are some of the places you may want to check out. Definitely add your own top spots in the comments below.
Little Italy Pizzeria: I've got some really great memories from this place. Italian immigrants opened up the place years ago and have it decorated with NYC images that make it feel like you've stumbled into a hole in the wall joint in New York City. They make some of the best pizza and have ridiculously cheap prices (cheap beer too). I believe this is owned by the same family that owns the Clemson Peppinos.
Pauley's: This is my favorite spot in Athens. They've got crepes (fancy wraps) with buffalo chicken (my favorite), nutella, you name it. Of course, it's also a (pretty fratty) full bar with all the beer, wine, cider, and liquor you could want.
Boar's Head: Boar's Head is a straight up dive bar for post game celebration, but they have a few games like shuffleboard to give you a little more to do than scream over the music while trying to have a conversation.
Depending on which way you're coming from, parking may be hard, but if you get there early enough, finding a free spot in the Ramsey lot is doable. It looks like it is E05 on this map. Be careful though. UGA has a ridiculous amount of parking garages. After one game a friend and I wondered through a parking garage and started to worry that our car was stolen, only to realize it was in another deck that we spotted in the distance. Imagine the scenic Atlanta skyline, but all parking decks instead of skyscrapers.
The parking situation and rules and regulations vary among colleges. Be prepared to either arrive very early in the morning or park pretty far away. Parking near the stadium is almost exclusively by pass only. My favorite spot -- which I can't believe I'm divulging -- is along Milledge Avenue, which leads south out of Athens toward the Macon Highway. Several businesses and churches there will let you park for a reasonable fee ($10-20), it's less than two miles from the stadium, and you'll pass through a lot of good tailgating on the way, including my personal favorite spot on the lawn of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. Further information can be found at the University's game day website.
The university does have some rules about tailgating, the most important of which for visitors are no booze on the sidewalks or in the streets, no setting up your tailgate before 7 a.m., and if you park on the sidewalk, your car may be gone when you get back to it. There are some extra rules about tailgating on historic North Campus (the area between Broad Street, Lumpkin Street, Baldwin Street, and Jackson Street). A lot of this has to do with really bad behavior occurring there over the past few years, which generated a lot of really bad publicity. But set up on this part of campus is not allowed until 5 hours before kickoff, there are no kegs, grills or other portable cooking equipment allowed, and generators, televisions, and amplified music are also forbidden. Frankly, if it's not your thing I'd recommend at least walking through this historic patch on your way to other rowdier environs.
The Bar Scene
The Athens bar scene is centered in downtown, north of the famed Arch on Broad Street. Just follow the crowds, walk in the crosswalks, and don't yell at the cops. There are at least a dozen good bars to hit, and I won't even try to name them all. I will say that you can't go wrong with Trappeze on Hull Street, which features over 200 beers, a knowledgeable bar staff and surprisingly sophisticated bar food. Or Flanagan's, an Irish bar that's nothing fancy but is a fun place on a game weekend. You also can't go wrong with The Globe on Lumpkin, which serves 80-plus beers and 40-plus scotches, along with traditional "pub grub" like fish and chips, burgers, etc. They'll all be packed, but as long as you're patient and go with the flow you'll have a helluva time.
While not in downtown and not a bar in the strictest sense, brewery geeks will also enjoy a trip out to the Terrapin Beer Company on Newton Bridge Road. Terrapin is consistently voted among the top craft breweries in the country, and they give a great tour.
Athens is of course famous for its music scene, and there will be dozens of up-and-coming bands playing all over town over the first game weekend of the year. If you want to see national touring acts your best bets are the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre. Thursday August 28th brings Parliament Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins to the Theater (which also has a great rooftop bar), while the 40 Watt over on Washington will feature five acts on Friday night and country stars Outshyne and Jon Langston on Saturday after the game.
Admittedly, shopping may not be a huge part of your weekend college football plans. But if you get a chance, be sure to stop by Wuxtry Records on East Clayton St. The eclectic little shop is most famous as the place where former shop employee Peter Buck used to talk music with customer and fellow UGA student Michael Stipe. They formed a pretty good band. Right down the street is the Junkman's Daughter's Brother, a well-known independent store which, sadly, is set to close at the end of August, or thereabouts after almost thirty years. If you're in need of a neon Buddha, a tie with a hidden flask, or a set of salt and pepper shakers in the shape of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson's characters from Pulp Fiction, they can likely take care of you. You could also hit up Onward Reserve, a little more dignified store which carries many brands popular with college students and preppy alums alike.
When it comes to eats, patrons aren't just limited to standard college bar food.
For fine dining, you might try either Five and Ten (on Milledge) or The National (on Hancock), both owned by celebrity chef and Top Chef TV show judge Hugh Acheson. You'll need a reservation, and even then your odds of getting in may not be great. But if you do, you'll end up telling all your friends about it.
For more pedestrian fare, I am a fan of Transmetropolitan on Clayton Street, a funky little pizza/pasta place like you'll find in most college towns. There's also DePalma's on Broad Street, a cozy Italian place where I highly recommend the goat cheese and spiced walnut ravioli (and the meatball and onion braided breadsticks).
Another favorite is the Blind Pig Tavern on Baldwin Street, a bar and grill which serves as the host of Dawg Sports' own annual Sacrificial Goat Roast get-together. They feature over a dozen different burgers (rated recently by Garden & Gun Magazine as among the 50 best burgers in the South), as well as other standard bar fare like wings, cheese fries and fried pickles. They also have a decent beer selection, 11 beers on tap and 50-plus in the bottle.
There's no better breakfast in town than The Mayflower, a greasy diner on Broad right across from the famous Arch on North Campus. If you're staying in town Saturday night hit up the Sunday brunch at nearby Porterhouse Grill, featuring a full Southern breakfast, omelette and carving station for under $15 per person.
A weekend of tailgating and hanging out in Athens: It's not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it's probably one of the best.
Athens is a wacky place. Things aren't organized quite right as the city planner seemed to really drop the ball there, but man is it a fun town. Go, have fun, be safe, and represent Clemson well.