Aerial view of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Gene Phillips, ACVB
How to Celebrate Homecoming in These 4 Georgia Cities
Must-do activities and experiences for out-of-towners attending HBCU homecomings in Georgia
The Atlanta University Center Consortium brings large crowds to each school’s annual homecoming event in ATL’s historic West End community. But Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine are not the only Georgia HBCUs that know how to celebrate the annual return of alumni to their alma mater campuses.
And, as you already know, HBCU homecomings don’t have to be in a big city to be a place for big steppers (shouts out to all our people representing Greek organizations — all puns intended). But while the college years are all about “the culture,” it sometimes takes graduating, getting a bit of experience out there in the world, and coming back to see your people and classmates to appreciate the heritage, traditions and memories made in the places where we not only earn degrees but come of age.
Let’s keep it 101: It’s mandatory, of course, to attend everything you can that’s related to homecoming: the games, parties, afterparties, tailgates, fashion shows, stepshows, marching band battles and alllll the extras. But there’s plenty more to see and do in the beautiful Georgia cities and towns where our prestigious historically Black colleges and universities are located. From familiar hangouts to newer places that’ve popped up near your alma mater, here are can’t-miss spots for you to check out when you come back to GA for your Homecoming celebration.
The AUC/AUCC: Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College
October is up for alumni of the Atlanta University Center Consortium schools. Spelhouse Homecoming has become a massive event since Morehouse and Spelman began combining their homecoming festivities. Clark Atlanta University’s Homecoming Week parties are incredible, since quite a lot of CAU grads are in prominent positions in the entertainment industry, such as Interscope Records SVP Keinon Johnson (also founder of clothing brand Never Sold Dope), and influential deejays like DJ Drama or DJ Mars, who makes and sells custom BMX-style bicycles at his Made by Mars bicycle shop when he’s not spinning records for superstar recording acts/ATLiens like Keri Hilson, Usher, and Monica.
Save time for a Tuesday or Thursday tour of the Herndon Home Museum and get a dose of generational wealth motivation from the beautiful Beaux Arts Classical house designed by Adrienne and Alonzo Herndon, and built by Black construction talent. Then, bless the line at Slutty Vegan for CAU grad Pinky Cole’s famously saucy and meat-free burger, or pick up a three- or five-piece order of whole wings at Wings on Wheat, which is inspired by the gone-but-not-forgotten Stegall’s Food, located for decades across from Woodruff Library.
Cocktail enthusiasts should make a reservation at the intimate and sophisticated bar Parlor, located at the edge of the Atlanta University Center in West End, or visit NFL quarterback (and College Park native) Cam Newton’s Fellaship.ATL lounge in Castleberry Hill if you’re looking for a fancy cigar bar where ladies and gents sport their freshest fashionable drip. You’ll also want to check in for some of the best fried chicken in America — The Busy Bee Cafe in Vine City, between CAU and Morris Brown, won an “America’s Classics” James Beard Foundation award in 2022.
Since COVID put the pause on homecoming for the past two years, you may not have seen artist Fabian Williams’ amazing new mural on Morehouse’s campus, and perhaps you’re overdue to visit Black-owned Atlantucky Brewing for the first time. Located in the same complex as the historic Paschal’s Restaurant, this is where beloved Southern rap outfit Nappy Roots makes a variety of fresh, high-quality craft beers. And for more AUC-adjacent fun on Northside Drive, check out the Trap Music Museum, T.I.’s shrine to the biggest acts in the rap music subgenre, where you’ll find paintings of Migos (R.I.P. Takeoff), 21 Savage, Future, Gucci Mane and other Atlanta-based rap superstars.
Albany State University
If you graduated before 2004, or arrived later but didn’t get a chance to spend time at Flint RiverQuarium, we’ll assume you were studying. But it’s time to tap back in at this architectural marvel, which holds a 22-foot-deep, 175,000-gallon blue hole spring, and offers stunning visual encounters with a spectrum of South Georgia fish, reptiles and plants.
There’s more natural beauty to soak up during a casual stroll through the recently restored Radium Springs Gardens. It’s perfectly picturesque, with weeping willows lining the sidewalk and otherworldly clear waters around the courtyard.
Check in at the Albany Civil Rights Institute and catch up on history via artifacts, photos and interactive exhibits that give a glimpse of the civil rights movement and serve as a reminder of the ongoing fight for freedom and struggles endured and overcome by those who stood up for equality.
From there, it’s time for a beer at Pretoria Fields Brewing Taproom. Hit the gorgeous string-lit courtyard, surrounded by repurposed wood and brick, and enjoy a super-fresh flight or pint of year-round beers like the citrusy Shoalie West Coast IPA. They also regularly host great live music, including soul, funk, and R&B. And of course, it’s not a visit to Albany without pulling up at JC’s Wingz and Concession for an order of Lick Ur Top Lip wings, a shrimp rice bowl at TaterSaladz, or one of the delicious Moon Pie specialty pizzas at Harvest Moon.
Fort Valley State University
Black-owned food truck Tony & Tonya’s Barbecue & More, located a mile from campus on University Drive, has what students, parents and college football fans all crave: delicious smoked meats. Hit the husband-and-wife-owned food truck, parked at their family-owned lot, for combo plates of BBQ ribs and chicken, smoked whole wings, pulled pork sandwiches and all the appropriate sides like mac and cheese, baked beans, collard greens and the like.
You’ll definitely do well to stop by Lane Southern Orchards. There’s seasonal produce available at the market, not to mention bottles of peach wine, which make for great gifts or take-home souvenirs. Peachtree Café & Bakery will handle your hunger with breakfast dishes, including chicken and steak biscuits, or daily dinner specials like fried pecan-crusted catfish, chicken pot pies and more. Definitely don’t leave without a fried peach pie or cobbler.
And for a bit of quiet natural beauty, plan to visit Massee Lane Gardens, located at the American Camellia Society headquarters. You’ll see 1,000-plus camellia varieties, and can purchase plants between October and April every year. Make sure to stop in at the Scheibert Rose Garden, where you’ll see more than 150 types of roses, and peep the gorgeous koi fish at the Abendroth Japanese Garden.
And whether you brought the kids (future alumni) or not, Black-woman-owned K. Dennis Art Studio offers personalized classes and paint parties for creatives of all ages. That’s how we empower the possible and celebrate the Wildcats at the same time.
Savannah State University
No matter what you studied as a matriculating Tiger, any Savannah State grad is automatically a student of history, and coming back to SSU for homecoming means getting a new chance to explore Savannah’s deep-rooted stories of Black resilience. Catch up with walking tours that focus on African American origins, such as Footprints of Savannah, a 90-minute stroll that takes participants to significant places related to African Americans’ journey from the slave trade to modern times.
You can also get reconnected to the African American journey to freedom and the traditions of the coastal city’s Gullah-Geechee cultural traditions at Pin Point Heritage Museum, as well as The Beach Institute, Savannah’s first school for Blacks, and King-Tisdell Cottage, where you’ll find maps of Savannah’s historically Black communities dating back to the 19th century.
When hunger hits, hit Starland Yard for a variety of delicious and affordable eats from local food trucks, from tacos to Latin food and more. Of course, Savannah can get much fancier when it comes to food. Chef Mashama Bailey won the Outstanding Chef award (as in, you can say she’s the best chef in America right now), at the 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards, so here’s a tip: Don’t expect to just fall through hungry on a random night and get a table at her Savannah restaurant, The Grey. Homecoming is annual; plan ahead and make that reservation, and order any and everything on the menu — this is that once-a-year chance to ball out on Black culinary excellence. Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant offers just that, and you won’t want to leave town without enjoying amazing live entertainment from talented local musicians and vocalists.