How to have fun when you’re under 21

Curated by Elizabeth Backo and Kate Fickell

Although Ohio University has been dubbed a No. 1 party school, there is still much to do before turning 21. Athens is filled with a variety of music and art groups along with fitness centers and beautiful bikeways. Although fest season and HallOUween may seem like the ultimate party at OU, seeing a movie at the Athena Cinema or attending a football game at Peden stadium can be just as much of a buzz.

Here’s a guide for how to have fun when you’re under 21:

Performing Arts:

1. Instrumental music, located in Memorial Auditorium and the Glidden Hall (which is at the top and bottom of Jeff Hill)

Free music is abundant on campus. The School of Music hosts different events throughout the year including OctubaFest, an event dedicated to tuba playing, and the annual Jazz Festival. In addition, there are several organizations for music majors and non-majors to participate in, including symphonies and orchestras. Events and information can be found on the School of Music’s website

2. Athena, located near The Chop Shop and The Shack on Court Street

The Athena Cinema is placed among the oldest movie theaters in the nation. It has three screens and an art deco-style interior. The theater also offers popcorn and concessions. The films include documentary, independent, classics, foreign and local. Every year, the Athena Cinema hosts multiple events including Ohio University student screenings, environmental panels and the Athens International Film + Video Festival. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with what’s happening.

3.Improv/Comedy, located at Front Room, Donkey Coffee and Baker Theatre

Black Sheep Improv, an improvisational group on campus, takes over Front Room on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and on Thursdays in Baker Theatre at 9 p.m. The Improv troupe spends its time making jokes and trying to get the audience to crack a few smiles. Comedy groups can also be found around campus and uptown, such as the Blue Pencil Comedy stand-up group that frequently performs at Donkey Coffee and Espresso. “I think anyway of making new friends is something I would be interested in haha! I know no one.” Bethel Park High School in Pittsburgh, PA.

4. Art Barn, located down the road behind the Summit Apartments at Coates Run

The Dairy Barn Arts Center promotes artists and provides the community access to fine arts and crafts from outside the region. The program calendar that you can check out here includes international juried exhibitions, festivals, touring exhibits, programs of regional interest, live performances and activities for all ages. They have volunteer work and Kroger community awards.

5. Choirs, performing in Memorial Auditorium on College Green

The Choral Union is a large, mixed chorus of students, faculty and townspeople. The ensemble unites annually with the Ohio University Symphony to perform outstanding major choral works. Click here to check out their page and other singing and instrumental groups. “I hope to find a job and join the choir. I don’t need alcohol or partying to have fun. Yeah, those can be fun to do but also remembering things sober are much better than not remembering.” Harrison Central High School in Cadiz, OH.

Fitness:

1. Bike Path, behind South Green

When the weather is warm and sunny, the bike path located behind South Green is a go-to place for bikers, runners, skaters and walkers. The path is relatively flat with a few twists and turns. Anyone can enjoy a view of the Hocking River or witness the blooming Japanese Cherry Blossoms in the spring. It also can be used to take a trip to Wal-Mart.

2. Ping, behind Clippinger near South Green and the golf course

The Ping Center is 168,000 square feet spanning three floors with a 36 foot, double-sided climbing wall, five basketball/volleyball courts, two multipurpose gymnasiums, a four-lane indoor running track, seven racquetball courts and two fitness areas. Ping Center also provides free weights, aerobics, fitness, combative sports, dance, and meeting rooms. Follow Ping on Twitter to keep up! “I just want to take in as much as possible and find what interests me. I want to get the experience that comes with finally moving out of your parents’ house and be on your own. I love spending time in the gym.” Monroe Central High School in Woodsfield, OH.

3. Sport Fields, multiple locations described below

Peden stadium, located near the Convocation Center, has a seating capacity of 24,000 and hosts Bobcat football. Students attend football games in the fall to cheer on the Bobcats as well as collect free gear and food. The Marching 110 also plays a halftime performance that leaves the audience bouncing with excitement. The Intramural Fields are located between East Green and the Hocking River and offer individual, dual and team sports for men, women and coed teams in a variety of seasonal league and tournament formats. “I’m committed to the women’s soccer team so for fun I plan on hanging out with my future teammates.” Buckeye Valley High School in Delaware, OH.

4. Bird Arena, located near the bottom of Baker Center

Bird Arena is another outlet for people who would rather slide then run. The indoor arena provides a 190-by-85 foot surface for skaters of all ages. Bird Arena has open skate hours which can be found online and might change for the 2016-17 academic year. Skate rental fees are $3.50. Additionally, the arena offers different programs such as synchronized skating, club hockey and even beginner classes that can be taken for academic credit. You can find this icy rink at the bottom of Baker Center.

Media:

1. The Post, room 325 in Baker Center

The Post is one of several media outlets on campus. After more than 100 years of publishing, The Post is becoming a weekly tabloid with a daily digital product. The organization covers a range of topics from blog posts about pet Instagrams to political controversy on campus. The Post has several staffs that work daily to produce its product, which includes culture, sports, news, copy editing, digital, social media, design, multimedia and photography.

2. Backdrop, office located in Baker Center in room 309 or can be contacted here

Backdrop is a magazine on campus that publishes four times throughout the academic year. The magazine focuses on long-form content ranging from the history of fashion at OU to an in depth look into police officers’ K-9 sidekicks. “I also got into OSU but I chose OU over it. I am really looking forward to being involved with certain magazines on campus, especially the one dedicated to music because although I don’t play an instrument, I love all genres of music and talking about them.” Hilliard Davidson High School in Hilliard, OH.

3. The Athens News, located between Red Brick and Cats Eye on Court Street

Known for its in-depth local news reporting, The Athens News features news, entertainment and an advertising section. With Ohio University making up an important segment of the Athens County population, The Athens News newspaper is able to effectively reach both the university and community markets, according to its website. The publication has written about everything from Number Fest to the construction of uptown bars.

6 Mood Foods at Union Street Diner

Tucked away off of Court Street and a tad off the beaten path lies a major key to the Athens food scene—Union Street Diner. Located at 70 West Union Street, Union Street Diner is a 24/7, all-day breakfast diner.

Union Street Diner, or USD, is your typical, small-town greasy spoon. If you want some quaint and cozy diner, USD is not for you. The wobbly tables and funky wall art are what make the diner near and dear to the hearts of Athens locals and OU students alike.

So, when you’re bored sitting in your dorm with your friends at 2 a.m., suggest going to USD. This will bring about your first trip to one of many Athens gems. And when you sit down in those green booths, you’ll ask yourself, “What do I order?”

Here are some choices depending on how your first year at OU has been treating you.

Missing home: It’s okay to miss home and miss mom and/or dad’s cooking. But you’ve taken the first step of getting out of your room to have fun with your friends. And USD has another solution for you.

Order: Homemade noodles over mashed potatoes, choice of vegetables, and dinner roll

Price = **Thursday lunch and dinner special for $6.99

You might be poor, but you always have money for USD.
I’m sure you can find $4.99 tucked away in your futon.

Balling on a budget: There might be some days when you feel like you need to sell your kidneys in order to pay for textbooks. That may be the case, but be sure to save a few bucks for USD.

Order: Grilled cheese—any of five cheeses (American, Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, or Pepper Jack) on your choice of bread and served with fries

Price = a whopping $4.99

You can't go wrong when ordering this meal. It's one of my favorites!
When you’re stressed out from the crazy college life, order a grilled chicken sandwich.

Stressed from playing college: You probably thought that high school was the most stressed out you’ve ever been with the ACT and SAT. College is stressful but so much more fun because you’re living on your own and learning how to adult. So just take some deep breaths and know that everyone is just as overwhelmed as you are.

Order: Grilled chicken sandwich on a corn-dusted Kaiser bun and served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and fries.

Price = $6.99

Starving: There’s always the stereotype that every college student eats Ramen but I have never had a bowl in my 22 years of being on this earth. I do know that you can only eat Nelson and Shively dining hall food for so long.

Order: South of the Border burger—Fresh ground sirloin seasoned with Kosher salt and black pepper, grilled onions, tomatoes, bell & banana peppers, smothered by garden salsa, and melted Pepper Jack cheese and served with fries

Price = $9.59

Happy to be alive: Adjusting to life in college isn’t always a smooth transition. But if you’re loving your classes and making tons of friends, go ahead and satisfy your taste buds.

Order: Three chocolate chip pancakes

Price = $5.89

Indecisive: “What do you want to eat?” “I don’t care. What do you want to eat?”

Order: Chicken tenders served with two sides and a dinner roll

Price = $8.99

Other popular USD dishes include: mac and cheese bites ($5.99), deep fried pickles (5.49), chili cheese fries ($6.18), cheesecake (price not listed), western omelet ($7.59)

 

They're $3.99 and you can choose from vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or cookies and cream.
I always have to give in and buy a USD milkshake.

PSA: Always order water because it’s the cheapest (free). If you’re feeling rich, go ahead and splurge on one of USD’s awesome homemade milkshakes!

If the pizza deliveryman knows you by name, I’d highly consider grabbing a group of friends and taking a walk to USD. The sooner you go, the better. You don’t want to have the next four years pass you by and be THAT person that says they’ve never been to USD. Seriously, don’t be that person. Oh, and don’t worry, they have free WiFi.

Declining house parties leave underage Bobcats out in cold

When 15-year-old Taylor Lykins stepped onto the campus of Ohio University for the first time in 2007, she was mesmerized by what she saw on the streets of Athens.

“It was house after house, party after party,” Lykins recalled. “Loud music and dancing completely took over the neighborhoods.”

Inforgraphic OU NightlifeEven though her sister, Emily, was only a freshman at the time of Taylor’s first visit, both girls said they were never short on things to do throughout Emily’s next four years.

“My boyfriend lived at a big party house,” Emily, a 2010 grad, said. “We always had some place to drink.”

Emily owned a fake ID but she found no reason to use it because her social life revolved around parties. Rather than barhop, she and her fellow Bobcats would spend the night jumping from one house to the next, red Solo cups in hand.

But by the time Taylor started her freshman year at OU in 2011, OU’s social scene had completely shifted.

“I went from not needing an ID when I was in high school to being a college student and all of a sudden needing an ID to do anything,” Taylor said.

Although Ohio University is known for its esteemed academic programs, rich history and quaint local flair, it is OU’s social scene that has grabbed national headlines throughout the past decade. OU graces Princeton Review’s Top Party Schools list year after year, and notorious party website BroBible recently published an entire article titled “10 Reasons Ohio University Is The Best Party School In the United States.” Both publications cite OU’s fest season, HallOUween, and homecoming traditions as the reasoning behind the university’s party school reputation — but make no mention of any house party culture.

Taylor Lykins isn’t the only student who has noticed Bobcats’ social evolution from house parties to bars: Many other Ohio University students claim house parties have all but disappeared from their social lives. Student-heavy streets like Congress and Palmer are still as chaotic as Taylor remembers, but rather than the neighborhoods overrun with Bobcats making their way from one party to another, the sidewalks are transformed into a maze of eager bar-goers heading Uptown for the night.

Unless house parties are thrown in conjunction with other events such as the fests or Welcome Weekend, OU’s nightlife now revolves almost entirely around the bar scene on Court Street.

Some students speculate that OU’s dying house party scene is a result of an ordinance passed by the Athens City Council in 2009 that makes it easier for police to shut down raging parties and prosecute disruptive students in attendance.

Before 2009, law required that police arrest and charge partiers with at least four separate violations before the party could even be labeled a nuisance. The ordinance passed five years ago requires only one violation and lets police arrest anyone who does not leave the party after it shuts down. The ordinance also deems landlords responsible for their guests’ uncontrollable behavior.

Arrested partiers face nuisance charges, which are minor misdemeanors that carry $150 fines for the first offense. If violators break the law a second time within 18 months, they face a fourth-degree misdemeanor that comes with a possible 30-day jail term and a $250 fine.

With the passing of the new ordinance, Athens City Council and the police departments have seen positive results. In the last two years alone, fest season arrests have gone down nearly 25 percent. In 2013, police arrested 156 students at house parties during High Fest, Mill Fest, Palmer Place and Palmer Fest — a significant decrease from 2012’s fest season that resulted in 353 arrests.

IMG_8398
Photo by Maria Fischer

With many Bobcats feeling uneasy about hosting house parties of their own, students began turning to fraternity houses to throw the “raging” parties in true Animal House style. However, even Ohio University’s frats have backed away from being the go-to sources for house parties: Pi Kappa Alpha became inactive in 2012 and lost its 12 N. College St. house after officials found drugs in a warranted raid. Sigma Pi followed suit, losing its notorious 8 N. College St. house in 2013, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon is expected to lose its 57 E. State St. house early next year after a surprise membership review left nearly half of its members suspended and forced to move out.

Without house parties — Greek or non-Greek — to fall back on, this current bar trend leaves underage Bobcats in a dilemma each weekend: head out to Court Street in hopes of finding something legal to do, or risk an arrest by sneaking into bars with a fake ID. While house parties are certainly not the most effective ways to keep younger students out of trouble, OU’s former house party scene at least offered underage Bobcats more options for nighttime fun on campus.

“Other than go out to eat, there’s not much for underage kids to do on Court Street at night,” Nicolette Lambos, a freshman, said. “Unlike New York or nearby big cities like Columbus, Athens doesn’t even have a legit club scene for 18-year-olds to go to instead of sneaking into bars.”

In an effort to offer students more nightlife options, Athens attempted to open a club but it quickly failed. A dance nightclub, Evolution, was located at 19 S. Court Street and lived a short life. The Mediterranean restaurant Habibi’s opened two years ago and now sits in Evolution’s space.

In late November of this year, another club opened in the basement of Red Brick under the alias Club Underground. Hopeful that this club will be more successful than the last, Red Brick allows students 18 and older to dance the night away every Wednesday through Saturday.

But Athens’ inconsistent, on-again off-again club scene leaves many students far from hopeful.

“I doubt it will take off,” Andrew Dolan, a junior, said.

So if nightclubs and house parties are seldom found, what is an underage Bobcat to do? Type in a quick Google search of “Athens Ohio nightlife” and a list of bar after bar pops up. But of the 30-plus bars that appear from the search, only one offers 18-and-up bar nights: Red Brick.

Lauren Kumper, a Red Brick employee, said owners allow students who are at least 18 to hang out upstairs at the bar every Wednesday and Thursday.

“There’s a $3 admission and anyone under 21 can’t drink but at least there’s dancing,” Kumper said. “Wednesday night is karaoke night so a lot of freshmen and sophomores come out to the bar and do a song.”

While Red Brick offers underage students a few nights of fun during the week, these young Bobcats find themselves with limited options on weekend nights. This leaves Athens Pyramids, the local hookah bar, as the only remaining legal alternative to the Court Street bars and club scene.

Majed Batawil, Athens Pyramids owner, said his establishment has always been 18 and up.

“We don’t serve alcohol so you don’t have to be 21 to come in,” Batawil said.

Batawil said his customers are divided equally between underage students and Bobcats who are over 21 but admitted his staff still has to check IDs after a string of high school students were caught trying to sneak in.

Emily Lykins made note of the change in the campus dynamic when she returned in October for OU’s homecoming.

“It felt like it was a completely different school. Red Brick used to be so popular they had shot girls walking around and now they couldn’t get 20 people in there on homecoming weekend. I walked down the street my boyfriend used to live on and saw almost no parties.”

Lykins’ observations leave current students wondering what OU will be like when they return a few years after they graduate. With an increase in nightlife options and a decrease in house party arrests, perhaps police will loosen their grip and OU will return to its nightlife “glory days”: a time when students felt like they had more options than just a night spent drinking at (or sneaking into) the bars of Court Street.

***

Maria Fischer is a journalism student at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, falling somewhere between a junior and a senior. She is a self-proclaimed coffee addict and lipstick enthusiast. After completing her capstone in online publication production, promotion & design, she hopes to write for an online magazine and turn her passions for blogging and social media into a career. Visit her blog for Ohio University’s student-run fashion magazine, Thread, at http://frommetrocardstomealplans.blogspot.com.

An open letter to my favorite day of the week

Ah, Sunday. We meet again. Halfheartedly welcoming your sleep-disrupting rays of sunshine, I’m reminded that today is the day to be productive. I’ll start (I mean, finish) studying for tomorrow’s exam. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll start the week off right and go to the gym.

Wait, whom am I kidding? I’m not going to the gym.

If I can even leave my apartment before noon, I consider it a great accomplishment. And if I do, it’s only because my roommates have dragged me to Bagel Street Deli to talk about the night before. Silently judging the dog walkers, runners and library-goers passing us, we walk home to begin a two-hour-long Netflix binge.

As you can tell, ambition runs high here in Athens, Ohio.

Aside from random 4 a.m. fires, Sunday mornings in this sleepy town are typically uneventful. Bits and pieces of the night before are strewn about the dark alleyways. Clothing, cell phones and drivers licenses decorate the bricks. All of those treasures belonging to Ohio University students are so easy to lose, but nearly impossible to get back. Oh, the irony.

I call those items treasures because of how valuable they are to the Athens charm. Court Street, the block running throughout downtown — or Uptown, I’ll never know — is the hub and center of all happenings.

To me, Court Street is a melting pot for infinite experiences and priceless stories. It is a special entity that only those who live here can understand. The functional road is used daily for a variety of activities and has a ton of history. Sunday morning crowds combined with the treasures are all distinct ingredients to the melting pot, which is probably why Athens is so cherished. Like a complex soup recipe passed down from a great-grandmother, it is truly one-of-a-kind.

***

On one particular Sunday morning I decided to fulfill my caffeine-deprivation at Whit’s Frozen Custard. I like to tell myself that I’m not the only one who, upon moving to Athens, was surprised to find that Whit’s serves more than just custard — although it is delicious! I recommend the “grasshopper,” which is custard of your choice served with dark chocolate flakes and mint syrup. For the hefty cost of $3.25, it’s hard to pass up.

Whit’s opens at 8 a.m. on Sundays, and when I got there around 11 I met Brett McGrath, one of the employees. He explained how the Sunday morning crowd consists of “the intellectuals, the early risers and the elderly.” Tables are usually covered with books, newspapers and coffee mugs by 10:30, and anyone who passes through Whit’s before then gets drinks on the go.

The business is a popular homework spot for students and go-to café for regular coffee drinkers. Even though Brett has only been at Whit’s for roughly eight months, he says he has seen just about everything.

“Every Sunday this person comes in here,” says Brett. “They always order something, so we can’t just turn them away, and they’re perfectly nice. But our bathroom gets ruined every time.”

The situation really isn’t that bad, but I’ll spare you the details. Nonetheless, the bizarre routine at Whit’s definitely contributes to the shop’s character.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a “wrong way on Union” sign behind the counter.

“Oh, that’s been around forever. We keep tally of how many cars drive the wrong way down Union…it’s a one-way street. This past summer session we counted 93.”

I ask Brett if he thinks that any of those 93 were students still recovering from the night before. Hangovers aren’t ideal for driving, after all.

Smirking, he says, “absolutely.”

***

The following Sunday introduced more interesting characters, one of which wasn’t human.

Walking past the BP gas station on Court Street, I met Ellie Mayers, a senior studying retail merchandising and fashion product development. She was ending her night out with friends by meeting a new one.

Squealing with excitement and mild exhaustion, Mayers says, “Hey there little guy!” The “little guy” is actually a praying mantis, and anything but little. She felt the need to approach the majestic creature, because who gets a chance to see a praying mantis that close?

Their interaction is ordinary compared to other things seen on Court Street at 2 a.m.

Since my arrival in Athens as a sophomore, I have watched occurrences that are equally funny as they are disturbing. It’s like a car accident; you don’t want to look, but you can’t pull your eyes away from what’s going on in front of you.

Drunken couples fighting and causing a break up that leads to the inevitable make up are my personal favorite. If I want popcorn to watch the show, Court Street has that too! Here’s looking at you, Crystal.

Visitors have a hard time understanding Athens’ late night (or early morning, to some) allure. They think that students use and abuse the nightlife that takes place on Court Street. I beg to differ, and so do the people whom I’ve spoken to; we love it.

***

“The third time’s the charm.” Typically I avoid overused phrases, but for Court Street I’ll make an exception. In Athens, anything goes.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, and I’m walking toward the intersection of Court Street and Washington Street. I’m biding time to attempt a decent run — yes, a run! Me, working out! There’s that ambition that I knew was inside of me. Much to my surprise, people are already out and about. Here is what I saw in the half hour I sat on the courthouse steps, with commentary.

  • Three people going to the gym. Those obnoxiously bright neon Nikes are hard to miss, girls.
  • Four “walk-of-shamers.” Hey, it’s college. No one is judging you … well maybe just a little.
  • Three churchgoers. Yes, these individuals were above the age of 40, and yes, I asked.
  • Five dog walkers. Petland must get a large percentage of their sales from Ohio University Bobcats. Studies prove dogs help relieve stress, especially for college students.

I have a lot of respect for these people. It is so easy for residents in Athens to get swept up in the college town stigma and get distracted from a routine lifestyle. To the students waking up early and making their Sundays constructive, I truly applaud you. To the non-students, I’m fascinated by you. College students tend to be blinded by the bubble they live in and not really absorb where they live. Athens is amazing, and so are the people who live here. Business owners have had their establishments for decades, passed down from generation to generation. The Union, which unfortunately was destroyed (but not permanently departed!) in the Nov.16 fire, was built in the early 1900s.

Sunday is the day to appreciate such details. The day to tell the tales that started on Court Street the night before. Perhaps it was even the week before. All in all, it doesn’t matter when something significant happened on Court Street, because the stories will forever linger in the bricks that adorn the road.

***

After my second nap of the day, I force myself to look at the time. 6 p.m. already? I shouldn’t be so stunned. I’ve embraced that Sundays signify the renewal of a week versus a regret from the weekend.

Three years later and five months away from graduating, I can proudly say that Sunday is my favorite day of the week — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

***

Jenna Finer is a senior at Ohio University majoring in Strategic Communications at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is a chai tea aficionado, self-proclaimed bookworm, Netflix enthusiast and dog lover. As an aspiring public relations professional, she plans to move to a big city after graduating to make her mark on the retail, cosmetic and lifestyle industries.