CLEMSON - It's been nearly 12 years since Clemson last played in Athens, Ga. - a pretty proud day when the Tigers came thiiiiis close to toppling No. 8 Georgia.
The Bulldogs won 31-28, and ended up 13-1 and No. 3 in the country. (Conversely, Clemson couldn't sustain momentum. After winning its next three, the Tigers finished 7-6.)
Anyway, so it's probably been a while since you recall what to do, where to go, who to see, and such. For this third-year college football writer in the South, I've unfortunately (and unwittingly) dodged a few opportunities to visit Athens, long-regarded one of the finest campuses in the country, so I can't wait 'til Saturday.
(For the curious, I don't know of any Clemson writers staying overnight. No reasonably-priced hotels are anywhere close to Athens to justify not simply driving the 70 miles home Saturday. All the Georgia writers did the wee-hours drive back last year, anyhow.)
I have summoned my good buddy and my former Ledger-Enquirer colleague David Mitchell (Georgia '10), to offer a few tidbits on the fun side of his alma mater, should you plan on making the visit to Athens, Ga. I don't have addresses here; busy week, people. Since you're reading this blog, I trust you know how to use a GPS or Google Maps ... or phone a friend!
Since David wrote this so cleanly, here's what he had to say, verbatim:
-Georgia Theatre on Clayton and Lumpkin: Great place to watch the game.they put the game up on the big screen inside and have a rooftop bar. Also included in the "sightseeing" category. This is where bands like REM, B52s, Zac Brown Band, etc. got their start.
-Magnolia's on Broad Street: close to the tailgating action, biggest one downtown w/ two floors and a lot of flat screens
-The Globe: I've never actually been here, but I've been told it's solid. Big beer/drink selection and right in the middle of downtown action.
Others: Lots of local craft breweries worth checking out if you're in town before Saturday-Terrapin Brewing Company, Creature Comforts Brewery and Copper Creek bar (serves about four home brews at a time)
-Last Resort Grill is a must and Mama's Boy (breakfast) is another good one. Weaver D's is a real small, but iconic local hub. Real good soul food.
-Herschel's Famous 34 is a restaurant owned by Herschel Walker. Food is solid, plus it's got the famous namesake.
-North Campus is the hub. It's separated into a family-friendly section and a student area. The student area will be jam-packed all day and is something the younger crowd should definitely experience.
-Myers Quad is kind of the No. 2 spot for people who don't feel like battling the crowd to claim a spot on North Campus. Equally exciting.
-Mentioned the Georgia Theatre ... iconic local venue that fits in w/ Athens' reputation as a music hub
-The Arch ... they can't miss this. It's pretty much the gateway from downtown to North Campus. It's on Broad Street.
-The Chapel and the Chapel (Victory) Bell on North Campus
-Most of these things are on North Campus, which is the original campus of the college. Lots of old historical buildings and landmarks there.
-The Dawg Walk ... even for opposing fans, it's a pretty cool thing to see
While we're here, I threw out a request for more recommendations on Twitter, and was greeted with a few of the options David didn't already cover.
Shopping: The bookstore/live radio on Tate Plaza ... Junkman's Daughter's Brother
Restaurants: Cali N Tito's ... Big City Bread ... Heirloom Cafe ... Five and Ten ... Mayflower (breakfast) ... The Grit ... The Varsity ... Lumpkin Cafe
Bars: Royal Peasant ... Trappeze Pub ... Walker's Coffee & Pub ... Allgood Lounge ... Gresham's Disco Lounge
For what it's worth, I've heard from a number of Georgia alums (not just David) that the home fans can be, er, pretty proud of their home and home team. No idea how the treatment compares to Clemson or anywhere else, but be mindful - and careful - what you do and say. Make sure the trash talk's all in good humor, I'd advise.