By: Tiffany Jaquins | Photography: Brenna Beech
August rolls around each year, and thousands of students journey back to Athens from all across the country, eager to experience everything this little city has to offer. For almost every student, the year begins with an inaugural trip to Mama’s Boy and other Athens classics. The food, shopping, classes and warm summer nights spent at Terrapin are all in anticipation of spending yet another Saturday between the hedges. The year closes with a pattern almost identical to that of the start, and as finals come and go, so do the students.
Yet as the students return to wherever they call home, the professors stay. The Classic City is their home. They appreciate the Athens benchmarks: spending time on North Campus and enjoying crisp fall afternoons getting lunch at Cali N Tito’s. These places have not become classics without reason, but think about the last time you saw your coffee-obsessed professors hanging out at Walker’s Pub. It probably has not happened.
One aspect of Athens that often goes unrecognized is its abundance of green spaces. Annie Wendel, a Spanish professor at UGA, has a favorite spot on campus that most students know and love: the Founder’s Memorial Garden. “Tucked right off of Lumpkin Street, the serenity and beauty of the gardens is captivating,” Wendel says.”It is a huge part of UGA history.”
Wendel first visited the garden about ten years ago during her time as a graduate student at UGA. “I used to take a nap on a bench or read outside on warm days,” Wendel says. “I’ve seen it in every season of the year – with the pond frozen over in winter and with an ever-evolving arrangement of gorgeous plants. It changes throughout each year, but in some ways stays the same.” Like many other UGA students, Wendel and her husband spent their first date in the garden and later got engaged there.
The Founder’s Memorial Garden is a staple of the university, however Wendel also shared other locations within Athens where she likes to spend a free afternoon. “I love nature, plants and animals. Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail at Memorial Park is a close second [to the Founder’s Memorial Garden],” Wendel says.
Other off-the-radar places Wendel recommends are the Sandy Creek Nature Center and the Broad River Outpost. The Sandy Creek Nature Center is a 225-acre haven of woodlands and wetlands with more than four miles of trails. There is an Education and Visitor Center with live reptiles, amphibians, aquariums and natural history exhibits for visitors of the green space. The Broad River Outpost is a kayak and canoe rental service operating on the Broad River from mid-March to October. The river is mainly free-flowing but has some small rapids, perfect for beginners or children. There is also a campground available for boaters with a $1 donation.
Kim Landrum, lecturer at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, talks about how her family enjoys running at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, located off South Milledge Avenue. “It’s the most technical trail,” Landrum says. “If you are a trail runner, or if you just want a more challenging hike, it would be the best place to go.”
Landrum shares that outside Athens, “Watkinsville has become a fun, little destination point. Its downtown is pretty quaint with local shops and restaurants.”
One of her favorite restaurants in the area is Chops & Hops, a place with a diverse menu and an art gallery on the second floor of its downtown Watkinsville location. “It’s great; they’ve got a big beer selection with beers on tap, craft beers and stuff like that,” Landrum says. “They’ve got a great burger too.”
Although Landrum and her family have moved outside the central Athens area, they still visit different places easily accessible to students. “We do frequent the Athens Farmers Market on the weekends at Bishop Park,” Landrum says. “They have breakfast items that you can get, organic produce, soaps and all sorts of things to buy. You can make a morning out of it.”
5&10 and The National are two classic Athens restaurants that Landrum and her family enjoy, but Landrum shares that they also seek out hidden gems within the spectrum of classic Athens outings.
“We try to seek out certain things,” Landrum says. “Big City Bread has the best burger and these flourless chocolate stars. You kind of figure out where these little nooks and crannies are and these little hidden treasures – there’s a lot of that to be had in Athens.”
One of Athens’ leading strengths is becoming a home to a diverse student body for a majority of the year. Yet it is more than a temporary home base for four short years. To many of the University of Georgia staff members, four years is nothing but a hint of their time here. Their insight is unique in a way that cannot be imitated because of its permanence. This city has a voice and a feel that can be artsy, preppy, simple, opulent, consistently versatile, and most famously, classic.