Fall and Football: Gameday at University of Georgia

“Dad, how does football work?”

I posed this question to my father in my late teens. I was a swimmer and a dancer, with little familiarity of team sports. But growing up in southern Georgia, I noticed that boys talked about little except football from August to February, and I didn’t want to be clueless. So my dad gave me the basics, and I shrugged, unsure of what made it so interesting.

Fast forward a few years. It all started with my aunt and uncle’s suite at University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, which I initially just liked for the family time and the amazing food. But somewhere along the way — I’m not even sure what moment triggered it — I went from chatting with my mom and aunts in the back of the suite over some delectable dessert to claiming a front-row spot, watching every minute of the game. It didn’t take much longer for me to learn the key players, a bit of strategy, and which teams I was supposed to hate. By the time I graduated from my tiny liberal arts college in north Georgia, too small to have its own football team, UGA was my team.

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From the 2013 UGA vs. LSU game, for which ESPN’s GameDay team came to town!

Now every fall we make at least one trip to a game. Football is now just as much a part of my love for fall as changing leaves, pumpkins, and cool weather. With at least a dozen visits to Athens in the books, a look at gameday in Athens was in order.

Sanford Stadium and University of Georgia Campus

IMG_6970University of Georgia dominates Athens, housing about 35,000 students. It’s also a walking history lesson, as UGA was the first state-chartered school in the nation, founded in 1785.

If you’re visiting, you’ve got to see “The Arch,” an iconic campus landmark that’s been standing for over 150 years and marks the entrance. The state botanical gardens are also housed at UGA, and they’re beautiful.

My favorite place on campus is, of course, Sanford Stadium. Holding more than 92,000 people, it ranks as the tenth-largest stadium in NCAA football, and eleventh in the nation. I’m obviously biased, but the hedges that surround the field lend it a charming, classy feel. Because of this, it’s common to hear people refer to games as “Between the Hedges.” And more importantly, it’s one loud, crazy place to be on fall Saturdays!

The Pre-Game Coffee Pick-Me-Up

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Two Story Coffeehouse at Five Points is probably my favorite coffee shop in Athens, and great place to charge up before a game. Another popular favorite is Jittery Joe’s, which has locations all over Athens.

The Post-Game Celebration Spot

If you were to ask for the most well-known bar in Athens, most people would say Trappeze. Good food, good beer, and a great atmosphere. In fact, it’s so popular that I haven’t been to many other places, even though there are (unsurprisingly – it’s a college town) tons of other options.

Another place that tends to be away from the downtown crowds is The Royal Peasant in Five Points. Or, if you like to avoid the craziness completely, which tends to be our style the farther we get from our college days, you can always stock up at Five Points Bottle Shop and have your own celebration. And you can’t go wrong with any of Athens’ breweries, particularly Terrapin and Creature Comforts.

Win or Lose: Always a Dawg

We always have fun visiting this quintessential college town no matter what happens at the game. I’ve celebrated a lot of wins there, and a few losses, too. And I remain a Bulldog fan, no matter what happens — even with the way our current season is looking. Go Dawgs!

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