Walking in Watkinsville

William Massey’s “Object of Wo(man)” along Main Street in Downtown Watkinsville

There is a lot to do on foot in Watkinsville. Park your car and explore public art, locally owned restaurants, and walking trails all within a 1-mile streak. Start at the Oconee County Welcome Center in Downtown Watkinsville, and pick up a map highlighting the area’s unique shops, historic sites, dining and parks.

 

Public Art

Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation Sculpture Garden

Known as the Artland of Georgia, the city of Watkinsville features two public art exhibitions in its downtown area. There are a total of 27 art sculptures and art panels as part of two exhibits: Public Art Watkinsville: A Pop-Up Sculpture Exhibit and Artscape Oconee: The Monuments of Artland. Many of the pieces are within walking distance of each other, and can be enjoyed while shopping and dining in the city. You can find a guide on this collaborative effort by the City of Watkinsville and the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) in the welcome center. Also, stroll through OCAF’s on-site sculpture garden, a tranquil garden featuring sculptures in a variety of mediums.

Locally Owned Restaurants

Photo by Gary Kufner.

Within a 5-minute walk from the Welcome Center, you can enjoy a dozen locally owned restaurants specializing in baked goods, BBQ, steak, burgers, Mediterranean dishes and more. There is an endless option of dishes from local favorites like Kiki’s Bakeshop, JB’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ, Chops & Hops, The Traveling Hobo, and Girasoles. Keep your adventures outside and enjoy these restaurants’ outside dining patios, or dine-in to experience the ambiance of the dining establishments, which occasionally feature live music.

Walking Trails

Harris Shoals Park. Photo by JR Charles.

Watkinsville Woods is only a short walk off of Main Street, with six acres of greenspace. The wooded walking paths continue reading . . .

This post was first published on blog.exploregeorgia.org.

Oconee ranks #1 best county in Georgia

 

Niche ranked Oconee County as the #1 best county to live in Georgia for the second consecutive year! The county leads communities like Forsyth County and Metro Atlanta communities Cobb and Fayette counties in the 2017 ranking. Rankings are based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities from U.S. Census, FBI, BLS, and CDC reports. Remarkably, Oconee County moved to #12 on Niche’s list of best counties to live in the United States from #24 on last year’s list.

Niche rigorously analyzes dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards, and profiles for every K-12 school, college, and neighborhood in the United States. View Niche’s list of best counties to live in Georgia, here, and Oconee County’s Niche profile, here.

 

“There are many many opportunities to get involved in the community. I have interacted with well over 50 local businesses, helped non-profits, and utilized the school’s abundance of options. If myself as a senior in Highschool can be this involved, imagine what you, as a prospective business owner/homeowner/parent, can do!” – Current Resident

 

A Weekend Guide to Perspectives, Georgia’s Premier Pottery Event

 

Georgia’s largest pottery showcase and sale is on the horizon! PERSPECTIVES: Georgia Pottery Invitational is a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event hosted by the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF). The 20-day event in Watkinsville features pottery exhibits, demonstrations and studio tours. From Aug. 25 to Sept. 13, 2017,artists and art lovers will experience a showcase of 6,000 handmade, functional pieces by 50 Georgia potters. Here’s a weekend guide to Georgia’s premier pottery event of the year. Continue reading . . .

This post was first published on blog.exploregeorgia.org.

3 places to grab souvenirs in Watkinsville

Whether you’re a domestic or international visitor, journeying to the small towns of Georgia and the South makes for authentic experiences you can’t find anywhere else in the world. In Oconee County, you won’t find souvenir shops filled with “I ♥ [insert city]” keepsakes at every corner as you would in the busy streets of Atlanta, New York City, or Los Angeles. Instead, you will travel scenic roads and explore historic downtowns to find unique gems to remind you of the one-of-a-kind experiences you had in rural Georgia. Here are three places to grab souvenirs in Watkinsville.

 

Happy Valley Pottery

Enjoy 15 minutes of scenic beauty from Downtown Watkinsville to purchase handmade art at Happy Valley Pottery. Local artists and owners of Chappelle Gallery and Happy Valley Pottery transformed an old chicken house into artists’ studios, where you can watch artists in their element creating glass art and pottery. After witnessing the creation of these local artists, you can purchase their art pieces used for both décor and functional purposes.

 

Empire South

 

Photo by Emily Faz. Model: Braden Bruce

 

Dress like the locals and show your love for Georgia with Peach State Pride shirts. The brand celebrates Georgia’s history and culture, and is headquartered right here in Watkinsville. You can find the shirts and other Southern-made items at Empire South located in Town Center in Downtown Watkinsville.

 

Oconee County Welcome Center

 

Share your travels with family and friends or remember your journey with postcards featuring historic sites like the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, the Eagle Tavern Museum, and the Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast. Visit these sites and stop by the Welcome Center located on Main Street to collect postcards to add to your postcard travel boards or journals highlighting your most memorable travel experiences in Oconee County, Georgia.

Oconee County: Then and Now

The historic community of Oconee County has undergone quite a few transformations while maintaining some of its historic beauty. Take a glimpse of what six historic sites in Oconee County looked like in the past:

 

 

Left photo courtesy of Oconee Historical Society on Facebook.

The Eagle Tavern Museum formerly served as a 16-room stagecoach stop for travelers in the mid-1800s. The building, which was built circa 1801, now serves as a house museum in its original Plain-style structure. The right picture shows the Eagle Tavern in the mid-1900s before the building’s restoration. Today, you can visit the Tavern and stand on its original flooring which is more than 200-years-old!

 

 

Left photo courtesy of Oconee Historical Society on Facebook.

The Oconee County Courthouse has always sat directly across from the Eagle Tavern in some form along Main Street in Downtown Watkinsville. The county has had four courthouses since its founding in 1875. The structure to the left was built in 1887; the current structure was built in 1939.

 

 

Left photo courtesy of Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast.

Also located along Main Street in Watkinsville is the Ashford Manor. The manor was the home of William and Louisa Booth Ashford and their family in the mid-1800s. However, the original home is no longer standing. The now standing Ashford Manor was built in 1893 by the couple’s son, A.W. Ashford. The picture to the left was taken in the 1920s. The Victorian-style manor now serves as a bed and breakfast surrounded by beautiful gardens.

 

 

The history of Downtown Watkinsville continues to live on along Main Street. Pictured to the left is the Ashford Store. Built before 1900, this building is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Watkinsville. The building now houses Orchard Street Boutique and neighbors MR Comic Shop and Main Street Barbershop.

 

 

To the left is Main Street in Bishop, GA circa 1918. Downtown Bishop is located along Highway 441, connecting Watkinsville and Madison. Once a post office, the building shown is now home to one of the many antique stores in Bishop, Tracks of Time Antiques.

 

 

To the left is Main Street in Bogart at the turn of the 20th century. The street runs parallel to the railroad, where a few structures in the shown area still stand today occupied by small businesses.

 

Be sure to visit these sites during your trip to Oconee County. For more information or assistance with planning your trip, contact us.

A Guide to Elder Mill Covered Bridge

 

 

Breathtaking only minimally describes the view of Watkinsville’s Elder Mill Covered Bridge. The bridge, which was built in 1897, was originally positioned between Watkinsville and Athens. It now sits boldly above Rose Creek just five miles from downtown Watkinsville off of Hwy 15 on Elder Mill Rd. A Georgia Antebellum Trail attraction, the bridge is popular among visitors and residents of Oconee County who often stop by to capture amazing pictures. Here are a few tips to consider before your visit:

Tip 1: Drive an average-sized vehicle. The bridge is restrictive to oversized vehicles.

Tip 2: Bring a camera. Visiting the Bridge is a must-capture moment and great for family photos.

Tip 3: Wear tennis shoes. Wear hiking-appropriate shoes to get a closer view of Rose Creek.

Tip 4: Prepare for BBQ. Watkinsville’s popular restaurant, Hot Thomas BBQ, is less than 5 minutes away.

Tip 5: Take in the moment. The calming sounds of Rose Creek and the isolated scenic view are unmatched.

 

Why Oconee County should be on your bucket list

While there are a million reasons to love and visit Oconee County-Watkinsville, I want to share the experiences you don’t get in too many counties. Oconee may be small, but it’s packed with a lot history and uniqueness. So sit back and let me tell you why you should be planning your trip to visit us . . . now!

Georgia’s Antebellum Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are only seven cities on the famous Georgia Antebellum Trail, and yes, one of those cities is our very own Watkinsville. You can plan 3- or 4-day trips from Athens to Macon and visit some of the most historic communities and landmarks in the state! When you stop in Watkinsville, enjoy the history of the Eagle Tavern Museum and Elder Mill Covered Bridge, and the many art galleries and exhibits featuring local and national artists.

 

Largest Pottery Show in Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They don’t call us the Artland of Georgia for nothing! In addition to our numerous art galleries and shops, we are home to Perspectives, one of the largest pottery shows in the southeast. Yes, that’s 12 states and lots of cities! The event has even been listed in the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events for the past two years. Stop by OCAF (Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation) in August and September to see the popular pottery showcase. With our talented local artists and beautiful exhibits and galleries, we make a huge scene in the South when it comes to art.

 

Elder Mill Covered Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I previously noted, we are also home to one of only 13 functional covered bridges left in Georgia. The Elder Mill Covered Bridge was built in 1897 and sits above the peaceful and beautiful Rose Creek. This bridge has been on many visitors’ bucket lists resulting in awesome pictures, so why isn’t it on yours?

Locally Grown Foods

 

 

 

 

 

“Homemade” is a rarity nowadays. Take a break from the norm and choose from our fresh and locally grown produce. Stop by Washington Farms to pick your own fresh berries and other seasonal items. Thomas Orchards is sure to please with its delicious homemade peach ice cream. Also, our Farmer’s Market won’t disappoint with its array of locally grown foods available downtown each Saturday from April to November.

I’m sure I’ve convinced you so here’s a link to where you should stay during your visit in Oconee, http://bit.ly/1WBl1iv. Stop by the welcome center and say hi!

 

 

Helpful Links

Georgia Antebellum Trail

Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF)

3 things to look forward to this spring in Oconee

There are only two weeks before it’s officially spring! With hints of warm weather this winter building our anticipation for sunny days and budding flowers, here are three things to look forward to this spring in Oconee County.

Locally-grown foods

 

 

Spring means strawberry season! Washington Farms will open for strawberry season in April. At the farm, pick your own strawberries and enjoy creamy, homemade strawberry ice cream from April to May. The U-Pick farm will also host Super Spring Saturdays April 22, April 29, May 6, and May 13. Bring your family to enjoy a petting zoo, wagon rides, and other fun activities on the farm.

 

Photo courtesy of onlineathens.com.

Hosted in Downtown Watkinsville, also visit the Oconee Farmers Market for Georgia grown items like green beans, nuts, free range eggs, grass-fed beef, berries, and more. The farmers market will host a soft opening April 1, and officially kickoff the season April 22. You can browse the market for a variety of produce each Saturday until November.

Art shows

Photo courtesy of Farmington Depot Gallery.

During the first weekend of April, witness the spontaneous creativity of local artists at theFarmington Depot Gallery. Once a train depot, the gallery will host its annual spring festival,Festifool, featuring an artist market, art cars, and raku demonstrations.

 

This spring, the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation will present its 22nd annual art exhibition,SOUTHWORKS. SOUTHWORKS is a premier art exhibit showcasing the talent and work of artists from across the country. Browse the galleries of OCAF between April 7 and May 5. A reception will be held April 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. to celebrate the opening of the show and the artists and pieces accepted into the juried exhibition.

New restaurant opening

 

Spring is also the season for the official and anticipated opening of Pour Restaurant & Bar. Located in Downtown Watkinsville next to the Eagle Tavern Museum, the upscale restaurant will offer beer, wine, and distilled spirits, as well as food, and will initially serve only dinner. Experience a new taste in Watkinsville-Oconee County with dinner indoors, or enjoy the spring weather and gourmet eats on the patio of Pour.

 

Take a trip to Oconee County this spring, and enjoy all the wonderful experiences in art, culinary, and outdoor fun the area has to offer. For more upcoming events, click here. For a full dining guide, click here.

Watkinsville’s 12 Days of Christmas: Winter Weather Eats

Watkinsville’s 12 Days of Christmas: Winter Weather Eats

Photo courtesy of Online Athens

The holidays are upon us and cold weather has officially set in, which means it’s the perfect time for winter treats, meals and beverages. Thankfully, in Watkinsville you don’t have to go very far to find delicious, perfectly wintery eats.

Kiki’s Bakeshop

What’s a holiday dinner without a warm, freshly baked dessert to finish off family meal? Luckily, Kiki’s Bakeshop has all the sweets you’ll need this winter. The local bakery is offering an exclusive holiday menu, featuring rum bundt cake, Christmas cookies and a yule log cake. All holiday orders need to be placed by 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, however Kiki’s will be offering holiday bread, scones and muffins as pickup items for those who miss the order deadline.

JB’s Smokin’ Pig

Photo courtesy of JB’s Smoking’ Pig

Whatever the time of year, barbecue is always a good choice for dinner. As the JB’s Smokin Pig is a new addition to downtown, this is the BBQ spot’s first holiday season in Watkinsville. Although the order period for holiday smoked hams and roasted turkeys has passed, the restaurant is celebrating it’s first Christmas by offering take-out meals until 2 p.m. on Dec. 24, posting on Facebook that, “Whether it’s sides, BBQ or both, we’d love to make your day less stressful.”

Krimson Kafe

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Although the Krimson Kafe’s official menu isn’t offering any holiday-specific options, the restaurant already caters perfectly to cold-weather dining. On a sub 40-degree day, almost nothing sounds better than a warm cup of homemade soup, or a “Wildabeast” sandwich, made with smoked turkey and gouda cheese.

Jittery Joe’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jittery Joe’s is short on food items, but on a cold winter morning coffee is almost always a must. Not only can the customers at the downtown Watkinsville location try new, special blends to fit their holiday cravings, but the coffee roaster’s online store is also offering a special holiday deal, including a 25 percent off sale on select items.

Around Town

Photo courtesy of Foodbidden.wordpress.com

Outside of downtown, there are tons of other places to eat your way into the holiday spirit. Located on the Oconee Connector, Gigi’s Cupcakes offers special holiday boxes, and even serves up a perfectly-Christmas red velvet cupcake. Lastly, those looking to eat out for the holidays but still get a home-cooked experience can head over to Rachel’s Southern Style Restaurant for delicious southern cooking and an ever-changing daily menu.

Watkinsville’s 12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Happenings

‘Tis the season for holiday lights, shopping and events! Get in the spirit in Watkinsville and celebrate the holiday season with events, sales, and holiday displays.

 

EVENTS

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Watkinsville’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting is a prime event for the season. On the first Friday in December, spectators gather along Main Street for holiday carols, hot chocolate, cookies, and the lighting of the holiday tree in Downtown Watkinsville.

The next day, December 3, the city and the Oconee Enterprise will host its annual Watkinsville Christmas Parade at 11 a.m. The parade travels throughout Downtown Watkinsville and features extravagant floats, bands, and local organizations.

Next up is Mingle with Kringle, a popular Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) tradition for children. The event will take place on December 10, and includes storytelling, photos with Kringle, arts and crafts, and a puppet show. This year’s event will also feature a theatrical performance by Doug Berkey.

What’s December without a holiday musical? Brightstone Productions will present Christmas at the Five and Dime at the Oconee County Civic Center December 15-18. The performance is set in the 1940s in a large department store.

 

DISPLAYS

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In addition to the the many events in town are also holiday displays. The rare and historic Elder Mill Covered Bridge, which sits above Rose Creek, will be decorated in colorful holiday lights throughout the season.

Also, the Eagle Tavern Museum, once a stagecoach stop, will be decorated in period-themed holiday décor and live greenery as visitors explore the life of travelers in the 1800s. The Eagle Tavern Museum will have a special opening after the Christmas Parade and a Holiday Open House in December.

The Oconee County Welcome Center is also a popular stop during the holidays with a grand window display of a Dickens Village.

 

SHOPPING

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Photo courtesy of Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF).

Happy Valley Pottery will host its Holiday Open House & Sale November 25-27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The holiday open house and sale will include art demonstrations in raku and glassblowing, and will feature pottery, paintings, jewelry, candles, and bath products for sale.

At the OCAF Holiday Market, shop for more unique gifts for friends and family. The three-day event will showcase and sell paintings, jewelry, sculptures, folk art, photography, clay, food, soaps, and more! The market will also feature OCAF’s Artists’ Shoppe, which will be available from December 2 – 23. The Artist Shoppe sells the handcrafted work of OCAF members.

Take on these events and more with a stay at the Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian-style manor built in the 1930s. For more on holiday shopping and happenings in Watkinsville, follow Watkinsville’s 12 Days of Christmas holiday series on Facebook.