August 30–November 29
70 miles from Atlanta
What it is: When prospective students tour UGA’s campus, they are paraded past Sanford Stadium and told, “This is the largest classroom on campus; other schools come here and we teach them how to play football.” But for many, Georgia football is more akin to religion than education. They flock to Athens in dresses and blazers, and start to tailgate at dawn. By kickoff, 92,746 people make a sea of red and black, collectively chanting, woofing, and cheering for the Dawgs. The experience can verge on spiritual, what with the camaraderie, the passion, and the whiskey. georgiadogs.com
Why I go: “Going back to campus and walking through and stopping by the tailgates brings back all the memories of when I graduated from the University of Georgia some forty-eight years ago. That’s how long I’ve been a season ticket holder. It’s a special weekend.” —U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Insider tips: Get to Sanford Stadium about two hours early so you can see the Dawg Walk, when the team gets off the buses and walks past the student center into the stadium. Fans in Bulldogs jerseys line both sides of the street to cheer on the players. Be in your seat five minutes before kickoff so that you can hear the lone bugler—perched in the upper deck of the south stands—play the opening notes of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” “The whole stadium goes quiet,” Isakson says.
Where to stay and eat: Face it: You can’t spend a game night in Athens unless you book years in advance, and postgame crowds are so thick you’ll wait hours for a table. For a first-timer, drive over for a day game. Afterward, walk to the edge of town for a beer and burger at Trappeze Pub or a pizza slice at Ted’s Most Best. Then stroll back to your car, after the worst of the gridlock.
This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.