The Classic City

Get Off My Lawn –
Athens, Ga., home of, among other things, the only tree that owns itself.

Three hours west in Georgia lies the Classic City, better known as Athens, a city heralded as the quintessential college town. Although Athens is known for its University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, the city’s interesting venues attract many. There’s the world’s only double-barreled cannon, a Civil War relic. There’s the Georgia State Botanical Garden with more than 300 acres of forested trails and specialized gardens. Athens has a vibrant music scene, too, and is home to R.E.M., the B-52’s, Widespread Panic and Drive-By Truckers among other notable bands. Be sure to see the legendary 40-Watt Club, one of the most famous indie rock venues in the eastern United States.

Athens has a great restaurant scene too. Many of its restaurants have been featured in Southern Living. Check out NONA, (New Orleans N Athens,) on East Broad Street for some fine dining, Cajun and Creole style. Don’t miss the Sherry Crab Soup and have a glass of Terrapin Golden Ale from the local Terrapin Brewery.

A legendary and highly unique site is “The Tree That Owns Itself.” Just off West Broad you can make the bumpy drive up Finley Street, a steep street paved with bricks, to where it intersects with Dearing, and there you’ll see the tree that owns itself.

Some folks believe this tree is the most unusual property holder in the world. The tree pays no taxes (Imagine that!) and has its own protected lot. It stands on land originally owned by Colonel William H. Jackson, a University of Georgia professor. Legend maintains that Jackson, out of love for the great oak, deeded the tree and the land 8 feet on all sides to itself in the early 1800s.

Athens makes for a great walk-about town. The downtown area is rich with shops, bars, art galleries, restaurants and coffee houses. Across Broad Street near the Confederate monument you’ll see the University Arch. Tradition holds that students may not pass beneath the Arch until they have earned a diploma from the University of Georgia. For most graduates, visiting the Arch after commencement is a rite of passage. Don’t be surprised to see photographs being taken at the Arch year-round.

Walk past the Arch, whose three pillars stand for wisdom, justice and moderation, to the beautiful North Campus, a tree-rich classic campus scene. Walk far enough and you’ll come to Sanford Stadium, a beautiful stadium in the heart of the campus. The fifth largest on-campus stadium in the country, it holds 92,746. When you’re done walking, be sure to drive down Milledge Avenue to see its many beautiful homes and their classic architecture.

You’ll find the Classic City blends the old and new into an eclectic mix that makes for a great day trip, so great you will want to stay overnight. The city will accommodate you with an interesting range of hotels, all within walking distance of downtown.

If You Go …

• You can take three routes. The Highway 34 route is direct and approximately 157 miles. Another route, taking I-20, runs 187 miles. A route using I-85 in part runs 191 miles. All take about three hours and 10 minutes.

• “Take A Hip Trip To Athens.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

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