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Downtown Athens boasts cool shopping and dining opportunities.

An Athens visit feels like coming home.

Downtown Athens boasts cool shopping and dining opportunities.
Downtown Athens boasts cool shopping and dining opportunities.

If you cried happy tears when the UGA Bulldogs clinched the 2022 National College Football Championship, know the lore surrounding walking beneath the university’s Arch or have sung along with the B-52s’ “Love Shack” lyrics while actually driving down Atlanta Highway, you have a connection to Athens. As a proud University of Georgia alumna, returning to Georgia’s Classic City never fails to stir my heart.

Stay in style at ATH | BNB where each of the 14 rooms is uniquely decorated with cozy furnishings.
Stay in style at ATH | BNB where each of the 14 rooms is uniquely decorated with cozy furnishings.

ATH | BNB, a luxury boutique inn of 14 individually decorated suites, is one of the most exciting recent additions to town. Opened in fall 2021, the 1918 Rushmore (formerly the home of a fraternity) on Milledge Avenue was lovingly restored by owners Candice and Cameron Treadway. Now it’s a charming home away- from-home for Athens visitors, located in the heart of Five Points and within easy walking distance to campus. Every room is outfitted with a Smeg fridge stocked with Topo Chico, plush Peacock Alley bed linens and Grown Alchemist bath products. After checking in via mobile app, I wandered the property and discovered a wine and charcuterie reception in the historic home’s parlor to kick off my visit in style.

Athens has long been known for its legendary music scene. Beyond the aforementioned B-52s, it’s also the city that launched acts such as Widespread Panic and R.E.M. These days, the food scene is nearly as exciting. There are low-key barbecue and burgers at White Tiger, pristine oysters and lobster rolls at Seabear and elevated Italian at ZZ & Simone’s.

Chef Hugh Acheson has helped
draw attention to the Athens culinary scene.

The highlight from my recent trip was a cozy dinner with a local best friend at Five & Ten, the brainchild of former “Top Chef” judge Hugh Acheson, who is the culinary equivalent of a rock star. We feasted on housemade pimento cheese topped with bacon marmalade, Caesar salad topped with toothsome croutons and crispy bacon lardons, pappardelle Bolognese with veal ragout and a rather extraordinary chocolate tart with crème fraîche ice cream.

UGA’s Sanford Stadium hold’s nearly 93,000 fans for football Saturdays.

It’s no wonder that Georgia’s most noteworthy college town has a burgeoning brewery culture. Old favorite Terrapin has been joined by newcomers such as Normaltown Brewing and Authentic Brewing Company, both opened in 2020. Though my tastes tend more toward wine, I have a soft spot in my heart for Creature Comforts, the star of Athens’ beer scene. A childhood friend and I met to catch up over a pint in the downtown taproom, built into a refurbished former automobile showroom and garage. Surrounded by of-age students, locals and a group of my friends in town for a reunion of sorts, I sipped on a frosty glass of Athena Paradiso, a refreshingly tart Berliner Weisse flavored with passionfruit and guava. It felt apropos to raise a glass.

The next day, I rounded out my Athens pilgrimage with a cup of coffee from my old standby, Jittery Joes, and spent some time wandering through the magnificent mature trees and historic academic buildings on campus. Like so many others who graduated from the United State’s oldest public university created by state charter and who will make a pilgrimage to watch the Dawgs play “between the hedges” this football season, it’s heartening to know that the city that will always feel a little bit like home keeps getting better and better.





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