By Emily Haney
The great outdoors – there’s always so much buzz around the topic. It’s full of fresh air and green space. There are countless flowers, rays of sun and woodland creatures, especially the campus squirrels. In a way, being outside feels like uncharted territory because you’re never sure exactly what to expect, which can bring a certain thrill into the environment. It might storm or sleet. You could come across a location you’ve never been before or a place you see every day and fall in love with all over again. Each season brings a new element into this mix including new blossoms, summer breezes, changing leaves and snow flurries. As inviting as the outdoors can be throughout the year, it is not for everyone. For some of us, the outdoors is not our friend, and it does not mesh well with us. Some of us are wired a little differently, but there’s still some room for enjoyment in the outdoors there too. You just have to look at it from a different perspective. Maybe the outdoors is for you, and you’ve just been looking in the wrong places. If you want to get a foot out the door, here are some outdoor activities that you might not have thought about.
Festivals sprout up in Athens year-round, especially in the downtown area. From time to time, if you find yourself passing the downtown area you’ll be greeted with the image of crowded streets complete with vendors and live music. Each festival has something new to bring to the area. In the past there has been Slingshot and AthFest—both of which brought huge crowds to the streets. Recently, there was a Food Truck Festival where food trucks lined the streets and awaited members of the Athens area to stop by. If you want to travel outside of Athens, Bonnaroo is a four-day outdoor festival held during the summer in Manchester, Tennessee.
“It’s exciting to see all the different activities going on in the street with all the people you don’t normally get to see from the community,” says Grace Witten, a junior
childhood education major from Canton. “There’s an open air feel to it instead of being in an enclosed area. It’s a little more freeing.”
Festivals are a way to experience the sun without necessarily feeling like you can’t get away from it. It also gives you the chance to explore more of what Athens has to offer.
2. Flea Markets
A short drive from Athens will land you in Pendergrass, Georgia – the location of the Pendergrass flea market. If you pass the giant cow statue, then you’ve gone too far. This flea market has so many options that it can be a little overwhelming at first glance. The indoor section consists of several booths with various knick-knacks, and the outdoor section is comprised of a gardening section, a live animal section, pony rides, carnival games and countless other booths. While at Pendergrass you have the opportunity to experience a little bit of everything. There’s never a dull moment or a dull booth for that matter. Something new and surprising is always just around the corner.
If you’re looking for a flea market in the Athens area, there’s always the J & J Flea Market, which is located on 150 acres of land and is ever growing. J & J Flea Market, like Pendergrass, has its unique qualities, such as food vendors and live animals.
3. Take a Drive
Outside can be hot and muggy, especially here in Athens. Taking a drive can be a way to experience what the outdoors has to offer without actually being, well, outdoors.
“Driving is one way that I relax after a long week,” says Rebekah Holtzclaw, a junior English major from Jonesboro. “It gives me a chance to experience a different side of Athens and get lost in the scenery without feeling like I’m outside of my comfort zone.”
Going for a drive gives you the chance to see places that are outside of your normal walking distance or even comfort zone. Whether you’re looking for a specific place like the Iron Horse or simply trying to see something new, the scenery of Athens is not going to easily disappoint. If you’re tired of the scenery in the daytime, try a night drive. Certain places in Athens lack the city lights, and all that’s left is a sea of stars that stretches on for miles.
4. Outdoor Concert Venues
What better reason to get out into the heat than to see your favorite band perform? All across Georgia stand music venues not entirely surrounded by walls. From larger venues like Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood to quainter venues like the Georgia Theatre Rooftop in downtown Athens, there is somewhere to suit everyone’s unique taste.
“It definitely has a different atmosphere than inside venues,” says April Jin, a freshman human development and family sciences major from Augusta. “There’s something about the sun setting around the venue and the stars coming out.” Outdoor venues bring a new element to the concert experience through the use of visuals, aside from solely those of the stage.
5. Farmer’s Markets
With an assortment of locally grown fruit and handmade crafts, the Athens Farmer’s Market is the place to be on early Saturday mornings. This is a chance to continue experiencing new environments while also promoting local farmers and craftspeople in a sustainability movement. “When you go and see the strong connections the local farmers have the customers, it draws you into the community more,” says Emma Fullett, a freshman economics major from Dunwoody. “Buying food from the farmer’s market, you know where it comes from, so you know it’s authentic, whereas at the local stores you don’t get to see the person who grew your food.” This semester, every weekend, excluding game day weekends, a bus runs straight from campus to the Athens Farmer’s Market in an effort to provide more students with access. By venturing out to the farmer’s market, you’re not only spending time getting in touch with your local community but also the nature it comes from.
6. Travel Blogs
There are so many places to see that, let’s face it, we’re probably not going to be able to experience them all first-hand. By using a combination of travel blogs and real life, one can experience a little more of the world than is currently within reach. Blogs such as “The Blonde Abroad” or “Adventurous Kate” tell of the stories two people have acquired from the world. Blogs like these two allow people to experience other cultures, places and outdoor venues from the comfort of their living room or local coffee shop. There are also blogs about activities to do in Georgia. A blog called “Explore Georgia” talks about popular destinations all over Georgia to visit and activities to do while there. If you’re ever stuck on where to go or what’s out there in the world, travel blogs are a great source to get you started.
Regardless of where you plan to go and explore, there’s always something new and exciting to experience in Athens or even outside of Athens. The outdoors can be full of adventure and beauty if you’re looking in the right places. Taking just a little time to get out and about every now and then to experience this beauty can completely alter your outlook on life. So take a step into the great outdoors today. There’s something out there for everyone to enjoy.