Welcome to Athens, and thank you for participating in this year’s Collegiate Challenge. This guide is intended to help you get a feel for our city so you can get the most out of your time here. We look forward to having you for this exciting event!
Visit the Habitat for Humanity International website to learn more about the Collegiate Challenge: HFHI Collegiate Challenge
Athens Area Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1988. We are dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide by constructing homes, rehabilitating homes, advocating for fair housing policies, and providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. Our volunteers have built more than 85 homes and renovated nearly 50 rental units for the community. The local organization includes two thrift stores. Restore West is located at 4125 Atlanta Hwy., Athens, GA 30606. Restore East is located at 532 Barber St. Athens, GA 30601. The main office shares the same address as Restore East.
With around 36,000 students, UGA is one of the most esteemed schools in the South. UGA was founded in 1785 as the first state-chartered public university in the United States. (Campus landmarks map, UGA Visitor’s Center)
Be sure to check out North Campus to see some of the oldest buildings in Athens and their beautiful neoclassic architecture. The Founders’ Memorial Garden is a hidden treat tucked away at the corner of Baldwin and Lumpkin. While you’re there, ring the Chapel bell and take a picture at the Arch, both icons of the university. Be careful though! Those who walk through the arch before they graduate are supposedly doomed to never graduate. You have been warned!
Take some pictures by Sanford Stadium, which holds over 92,000 loyal Georgia fans. If the weather is nice and you feel like spending time in the great outdoors, head over to Lake Herrick, UGA’s campus lake located on East Campus. There are walking trails all around the lake and a nice, grassy area right next to the lake for a picnic.
If you have a taste for the fine arts, UGA has you covered. The Georgia Museum of Art is free to the public. You can also enjoy live performances at UGA’s Performing Arts Center which brings some of the best symphonies and performers in the entire world to Athens.
First off, Flagpole is your friend. That’s our free weekly magazine, which you’ll find all over town and online. Look for their calendar of events, shows, etc., and for their free Guide to Athens in news racks. For maps, souvenirs, and further info on Athens, visit the Athens Welcome Center at the corner of Dougherty Street and North Avenue.
Some fun things to check out while you’re here are the Silent Disco on Saturday nights at the Trappeze Pub, bowling at Showtime, board games at the Rook and Pawn, the escape rooms at Escape the Space, visit critters at Bear Hollow Zoo (rescued animals who can’t be returned to the wild), and Trivia Night at the Blind Pig Tavern. If you’re feeling something more active, try Rush Athens, a trampoline park, kayaking with Big Dogs on the River, or hiking trails in Sandy Creek Park.
Directly adjacent to North Campus, the Classic City offers one of the best downtown atmospheres in the South. Not only is Athens consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in the U.S., it’s considered by many as the birthplace of alternative rock and new wave, spawning the B-52s, Pylon, R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, The Glands, artists from the Elephant 6 Recording Co, and more.
The theaters here showcase some of the best upcoming bands in the country as well as established acts from rock to hip-hop, country, and folk. So if watching live music is your thing, we have some of the best venues around.
The Georgia Theater is the biggest of all the venues and offers top rated artists and bands plus promising newcomers. You can also eat some delicious food on the Georgia Theater rooftop while you wait for one of the shows.
The 40 Watt Club has been an iconic venue for over 30 years and has hosted some of the best artists around the world, such as Sonic Youth, X, Nirvana, Patti Smith, Run-DMC, Jamey Johnson, My Morning Jacket, Snoop Dogg, John Mayer, Gnarls Barkley, and Iggy Pop to name only a few. You never know who’s gonna be playing here!
If you want to watch live bands while enjoy a cup of coffee or a nice cocktail, Hendershots now hosts a wide variety of musicians. Unfortunately, some of the town’s other venues for local acts and open mic have temporarily suspended shows during the pandemic.
If you want to see some stand-up comedy, theater, or dance, The Classic Center is your place!
If you’re looking for a more low-key, coffee shop experience, be sure and check out Walker’s Coffee and Pub or 1000 Faces. 1000 Faces is only open until around 6 p.m., but Walker’s stays open late and provides a classic Athens, rustic atmosphere.
Downtown is also known to have the most diverse food in the region, as well as some of the best shopping. Some great quirky shops to visit are Dynamite Clothing, Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, and Wuxtry Records.
For everyday needs there is a CVS located on Broad Street in Downtown that stays open until 10 PM (pharmacy closes at 8:00). And one block east of that is a mini-Target store that’s also open till 10.
An upscale residential neighborhood bordering on UGA’s athletic fields and Greek housing, Five Points is centered around the intersection of South Milledge Avenue, South Lumpkin Street, and Milledge Circle. Milledge Avenue is the “yellow brick road” of Athens and a great path to stick to if you’re looking to go on a walk. You’ll pass most of the UGA Greek Life houses and historic homes on the long, flat road. Plenty of restaurants, stores, and coffee shops make Five Points the perfect place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking to walk. Be sure to check out the oldest burger joint in Athens, ADD Drug, which doubles as a pharmacy. And if you’re into European football (aka “soccer”) and rugby, the Royal Peasant is your kinda place.
The Normaltown neighborhood is near the Habitat office and Restore East. If you’re a B52’s fan, you’ll recognize Normaltown and the now-defunct’s Allen’s Hamburgers from their song “Deadbeat Club” off the album Cosmic Thing. This is a fun part of town that is less crowded than downtown but still has all the culture. If you’re looking for a place that loves local art, great food, and hipsters with southern charm, then Normaltown is the place for you. If you’re a vegetarian, be sure to check out the award-winning restaurant The Grit.
*The Biscuit Basket is a gas station and convenience store with a notoriously small parking lot, but if you want authentic Southern “cat head” biscuits stuffed with everything from tenderloin to hot chicken or country ham, and plenty of homestyle sides to choose from, you can’t beat this place. (Pro tip: Ask for it “dipped” to have your filling dipped in gravy.)
Alps Road and Baxter Street (their intersection is known as Beechwood) on the west side of the UGA campus is where you want to go in Athens if you need a Kroger, CVS, or TJ Maxx, or are looking for familiar chain restaurants and “student dives.” For good southern food, check out The Farmcart, and Home.made. There is even a full service movie theater! There are also a lot of unique gyms if you’re looking to take a work out class while you’re here.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia on S. Milledge Street is an immense garden of 313 acres with a conservatory operated by the University of Georgia. The Heritage Garden includes many pass-along perennials from the Old South. The International Garden offers visitors the chance to be surrounded by nature and smell the roses. The Shade and Native Flora Gardens are at their peak in the spring when dogwoods, magnolias, and azaleas are bursting with color. The Alice H. Richard Children’s Garden is fun for all ages! Be sure to check this nice scenic area of Athens. Admission to the garden is free for all.
The Tree That Owns Itself
A unique local curiosity, the Tree That Owns Itself was willed an eight-foot radius of land around its base and is surrounded by a cobblestone street. The tree, a white oak, stands at the corner of Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens.
A 4,000-pound anchor in the middle of Broad Street was installed in 1990 to honor the Navy Supply Corps School in Normaltown (now a UGA health school campus). Supposed to anchor a destroyer, it couldn’t be used because of a crooked shaft.
The Double-Barrelled Cannon
The idea was that two cannon balls, connected by a chain, would shoot from the barrels and take down Union soldiers. It didn’t work (surprise), and the double-barrelled cannon now sits in front of City Hall — pointed north.
The Chapel Bell
The Chapel bell, along with the famous Arch, is one of the best known landmarks to students and alumni of UGA and all Georgia Bulldogs fans, although it can be difficult to find if you don’t know where it is. The Chapel itself was built in 1832 and served as a hospital during the Civil War. The bell is traditionally rung after UGA athletic victories, as well as the occasional wedding.
The R.E.M. Steeple
On April 5th, 1980, the band soon to be known as R.E.M. played their first gig at the tiny St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in downtown Athens. The church was later demolished, but local non-profit Nuçi’s Space raised money to save the steeple, which now serves as a pilgrimage site for R.E.M. fans visiting the town. The site is just a stone’s throw from the former location of the recently dismantled “Murmer trestle,” which appeared on the cover of R.E.M.’s first full-length album, and Weaver D’s, inspiration for the title of their 8th album Automatic for the People.
Atlanta is only about an hour and twenty minutes away by car, and has some great things to do like visiting the Georgia Aquarium, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the World of Coca-Cola, MLK House, the Ponce City Market, and Zoo Atlanta. There’s also Piedmont Park, Centennial Olympic Park, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Or you could go to Topgolf, or the Six Flags over Georgia amusement park.
The foothills of the Appalachian mountains lie just over an hour from downtown Athens. Check out Tallulah Gorge State Park and Raven Cliff Falls for short hikes. The North Georgia mountains boast many small towns with unique small businesses. If you’re in downtown Clayton, check out Wander North Georgia. Or, if you feel like visiting Bavaria in Georgia, there’s the wonderfully kitchy alpine village of Helen.
Athens boasts two roller skating rinks. Athens Skate Inn is close to Habitat ReStore West on the west side of town. Their $8/person Wednesday Retro Skate Night is a great deal, as is the $5/person Tuesday night deal at Fun Galaxy.
There’s mini putt putt and an Escape Room experience at Funopolis Family Fun Center in Commerce, GA, about a 30-minute drive from Athens.
St. Mary’s Hospital ER is at 1230 Baxter Street.
Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center is located at 1199 Prince Avenue.
The correct procedure to follow in the event of an emergency is as follows: