Georgia Bulldogs: Things to Do on Gameday in Athens

by Dustin Schutte

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Steeped in history and tradition, Athens is considered one of the top college towns in the country. It’s southern charm, one-of-a-kind music scene and impressive restaurant selection makes this one of the SEC’s special cities. On a Saturday in the fall, it’s a destination for every Georgia fan.

The Dawgs are the main attraction on those autumn weekends, but there’s enough to do in Athens to turn a Saturday afternoon football game into day-long experience.

We spoke with Wes Blankenship, Jake Reuse, and Palmer Thombs from Dawgs HQ for some insight on the perfect gameday experience in Athens. Young or old, life-long fan or bandwagoner, there’s plenty to keep college football fans occupied on a gameday in Athens.

Arriving Early?

Swing by the “Tree that Owns Itself”

  • Location: Intersection of Dearing and Finley streets (Edge of downtown Athens)
  • Parking: Classic City Parking (297 W. Broad St.)

Why not start your Athens visit with this unique stop? Head down to the corner of Dearing and Finley streets to see the “Tree that Owns Itself.” Confused? That’s to be expected.

Per the city’s website, “A legend first printed in the local newspaper on August 12, 1890, Colonel William H. Jackson’s will deeded the tree possession of itself and all the land within eight feet of its trunk.”

When you’re done, you can grab a quick bite to eat at Ideal Bagel Co. or Saucehouse Barbecue.

Enjoy a concert at the Georgia Theatre or 40 Watt

  • Locations: 215 N. Lumpkin St. (Georgia Theatre)/ 285 W. Washington St. (40 Watt)
  • Parking: W. Washington St. Parking Deck (Georgia Theatre)/ 297 W. Broad St. (40 Watt)

We’ll talk about these iconic music venues in a little more detail soon. Both music joints have become synonymous with Athens over the years.

“The Georgia Theatre rooftop bar is a pillar of downtown even if there isn’t a concert that night. And you can’t go wrong with the Waffle House right next door.”

Wes Blankenship, Dawgs HQ

So, if you plan on arriving a few days before kickoff — or sticking around after Saturday — enjoy a live concert at one of these historic halls.

Take a “hike” on the Athens Beer Trail

Beer lovers, this is something just for you! It’s unlikely that you’d be able to hit all six of the breweries in Athens on gameday, but if you’ve got a few spare hours, be sure to hit up these spots:

Brewery and LocationHoursGo-To Beer
Akademia Brewing

150 Crane Dr.
Monday – Friday: 11 AM – 10 PM
Saturday: 10 AM – 11:30 PM
Sunday: 10 AM – 10 PM
Hoprodisiac + IQ IPA
Athentic Brewing Company

108 Park Ave.
Monday + Wednesday: 5 – 9 PM
Tuesday: Closed
Thursday: 5 – 10 PM
Friday: 2 – 11 PM
Saturday: 12 – 11 PM
Sunday: 1 – 7 PM
So Extra
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

271 W. Hancock Ave.
Monday – Thursday: 5 – 10 PM
Friday: 3 – 10 PM
Saturday: 12 – 10 PM
Sunday: 1 – 6 PM
Normaltown Brewing Company

149 Oneta St.
Monday – Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: 3 – 9 PM
Friday & Saturday: 1 – 9 PM
Sunday: 1 – 5 PM
Summon the Fog
Southern Brewing Company

231 Collins Industrial Blvd.
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Friday: 5 – 10 PM
Saturday: 2 -10 PM
Sunday: 2 – 7 PM
Terrapin Beer Co.

265 Newton Bridge Rd.
Monday – Friday: 3 – 8 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 12 – 8 PM

Visit Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum

  • Location: 1 Selig Circle
  • Parking: Carlton Street parking deck (125 Smith St.)
  • Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Step into some of the greatest moments in Georgia’s athletic history at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum. This might be the most important stop for life-long Bulldog supporters … and it’s pretty cool for opposing fans, too.

Highlights of this stop in Athens include the Heisman trophies won by Frank Sinkwich and Herschel Walker, as well as the 1980 national championship trophy. Other memorabilia, touch-screen displays and video highlights fill this red-and-black museum.

The dogs are always barking in this sports museum, making it a perfect destination for every UGA fan.

For A Saturday Gameday Experience in Athens…

“Find the Dawgs” Across Athens

  • Location: All over Athens (That’s part of the fun!)

Snapping a photo with either Uga X or Hairy Dawg (or both!) is on every Georgia fan’s bucket list. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee you’ll leave Sanford Stadium with that particular picture in your library.

Don’t worry, Dawg lovers, there’s an alternative. Thanks to the “We Let the Dawgs Out” program that launched in 2001 by the Athens-Oconee Junior Woman’s Club, there are three dozen larger-than-life bulldog statues located around Athens. Basically, it’s a college football-theme Easter egg hunt in the heart of SEC country.

Local artists painted these canine carvings, giving each its own unique look. Because each of these four-foot-tall bulldog statues has its special flair, everyone picks a favorite.

Unless you’re incredibly adventuresome, you’re probably not going to locate all 37 across Athens on gameday. That just gives you another reason to return to town, though.

While you’re searching for these Dawgs around town, don’t be afraid to stop into some of the local restaurants, bars and shops.

“Downtown is the place to be on gameday. No matter where you stop, you can’t really make a bad choice.”

Palmer Thombs, Dawgs HQ

(Pro tip: If you want a shortcut in locating all the remaining bulldog statues, has them mapped out for you!)

Snag Some Beers at 40 Watt

  • Location: 285 W. Washington St.
  • Parking: Classic City Parking (297 W. Broad St.)
  • Hours: Varies depending on show days (but best times are after 7pm)

For those 21 and older hitting up Athens, stopping by 40 Watt is a must-do, especially for music lovers. It made Thrillist’s list of America’s 7 Best Small Rock Venues in the 2010s and is one of the town’s most iconic venues.

40 Watt has played home to R.E.M. B-52s, Sonic Youth, Pylon and others. Plus, college football and music are as intertwined as beer and hot wings. You can’t pass up this opportunity.

“40 Watt has become almost as legendary as the Georgia Theatre.”

Athens native

Grab a few adult beverages on a Georgia gameday and soak in some of the best vibes in town.

Stop by Herty Field, Original Home of Georgia Football

  • Location: 304 Herty Dr.
  • Parking: North Campus Parking Deck (330 S. Jackson St.)

College football historians will love this stop on the “to-do” tour in Athens. Herty Field is the site of the first official football game played on the University of Georgia’s campus, which occurred in 1892. The result was a 50-0 victory for UGA over Mercer. Talk about a program-building win, right?

The space is named after Charles Holmes Herty, a chemist, who formed Georgia’s first football team. It served as the school’s football and baseball fields until 1911. Since then, it’s been transformed into a parking lot and is now a public plaza.

Your journey to Herty Field comes with a trivia question, too. Any idea what animal served as the first mascot for the University of Georgia’s football team in 1892? A goat — and no, that’s not a reference to Vince Dooley or Herschel Walker.

“If you hit Herty Field, you might run into some tailgating, too. Georgia fans are welcoming — it’s not uncommon for someone to offer you something to eat or a cold beer.”

Palmer Thombs, Dawgs HQ

Experience a Game From the Georgia Theatre

  • Location: 215 N. Lumpkin St.
  • Hours: Wednesday-Thursday 3 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday-Saturday 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Parking: W. Washington St. Parking Deck (behind theatre)

Not to sound overly simplistic, but obviously the biggest attraction in Athens is Sanford Stadium. Not everyone is going to be able to snag a ticket for those Saturday afternoon games, though. So, what’s the best alternative? Hit up the Georgia Theatre.

While this venue is primarily known for its concerts, it also projects UGA football games on the big screen. It creates a tremendous atmosphere for Bulldog fans unable to find a seat “Between the Hedges.”

Complete with a rooftop bar, the Georgia Theatre is o ne of the top venues in Athens. Taking in a game from this spot is a great backup option to seeing the Dawgs up close.

“The rooftop is one of the coolest places in downtown.”

Palmer Thombs, Dawgs HQ

Be aware, though, that you must be 21 in order to watch the game at the Georgia Theatre. The website also states that it will do its best “to show most games throughout the season,” but advises fans to frequently check the schedule for any conflicts.

Arrive Early for the “Dawg Walk” and “Battle Hymn”

  • Location (Dawg Walk): Tate Center parking lot (East side of Sanford Stadium)
  • When to Arrive (Dawg Walk): 2 hours 15 minutes prior to kickoff

If you’re going to enjoy the full Georgia gameday experience, arriving in Athens early is an absolute must. So, don’t hit the snooze button on your alarm clock on those fall Saturdays. You want to ensure you’re able to witness two unique traditions at UGA.

First, hit the Tate Center parking lot at least two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff for the “Dawg Walk.” Players and coaches head into Sanford Stadium through Gate 1 through massive red-and-black fan tunnel.

This tradition — started by Mark Richt in 2001 — is a great one for young UGA fans, who get an opportunity to see some of their football favorites up close.

  • Location (Battle Hymn): Sanford Stadium (Southwest corner of the stadium)
  • When to Arrive (Battle Hymn): Minutes before kickoff

After you’re done high-fiving your favorite Bulldogs, be sure to head through the gates at least a few minutes before kickoff to see one lucky member of the Redcoat band play the beginning notes of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Everyone inside the stadium focuses their attention on the lone trumpeter in the southwest corner of the stadium, who then blasts those introductory notes. Hitting a perfect tune is almost as nerve-wracking as a game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards out.

Ring the Chapel Bell After a Win

  • Location: 109 Herty Dr.
  • When to Arrive: Immediately after the game

If you’re hoping to participate in another longstanding tradition at Georgia, you should hope for a Bulldogs win. If they’re on the right side of the scoreboard after 60 minutes, start heading over to the UGA Chapel so you get your chance to ring the Chapel Bell.

This tradition dates back to 1894, when Georgia defeated Auburn 10-8 in Atlanta on Nov. 24. If you’re lucky to get your chance to ring it, you become part of more than 125 years of UGA history.

Be prepared to wait, though. While the Chapel Bell is less than a mile from Sanford Stadium, some have waited hours before finally getting their turn to send the victory signal across Athens. If it’s a primetime game, you could be in for a very late night.

Worth it, though.