Yes, college football is the best. Fight us.
If you’re anything like us, you have a passion for college football. Prep and pro have their place, but college is No. 1 in our hearts. And appropriately, that means we have a bucket list of places we want to go: our own ultimate college football road trip.
And since this is the Southern Weekend, these trips are all in the South. Yes, there are great spots to catch a game outside the South, but in the South, college football is king. The atmosphere and pageantry can’t be beat. And best of all, for most of us, these towns are within easy driving distance. Road trip!
Here are our picks for 13 college towns and gamedays that should be on your bucket list.
Alabama | Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Arguably the biggest winner in all of college football historically and boasting a rare streak of dominance at present, you pretty much have to include Alabama on any fan’s bucket list. Check out all the houndstooth you’ll see on your visit, bask in the history of all of the national championships and award winners, and pay a visit to a local institution like Rama Jama’s, and it will be hard to resist coming away from it bathed in a college football state of mind.
Auburn | Auburn, Ala.
The on-campus stadium at Auburn provides an intimate experience. As intimate in the way that 90,000 crazed fans crammed into Jordan-Hare Stadium can be, anyway. Regardless, you’ll have the opportunity to stroll through campus, check out Toomer’s Corner, and maybe even see the rolling of the trees while you’re there. Incredible restaurants like the Hound are at your fingertips. And once again, don’t be late: you want to see their golden eagle (War Eagle!) circle the field.
Clemson | Clemson, S.C.
This is the renaissance of Clemson football right now, so it’s a perfect time to visit. Their pre-game and post-game traditions are a sight to behold, so this is one of those games you don’t want to be late for. And more importantly, the town is a great college town with a ton to recommend it. Have you visited the venerable Esso Club yet?
Florida State | Tallahassee, Fla.
Full-throated war cries from the fan base are a sound to behold, and you’ll get to behold them over and over again if you choose to make the trip to Tallahassee. This is another game you don’t want to be late for, as the planting of the spear at midfield is one of the greatest traditions in all of college sports. And Tally has plenty to recommend too, from pizza slices as big as your head to one of the coolest (and fastest growing) local craft beer scenes in the country.
Georgia | Athens, Ga.
Posit to someone that they should name a southern college town, and Athens will likely come up in conversation quickly. Its music scene is well known and venerated (as it should be), but it’s also a great foodie town. And the football has its own traditions, not the least of which are Uga and the hedges … and of course the winning. (Photo from Jamie Bertram)
Georgia Tech | Atlanta, Ga.
Pregame traditions are fun. Georgia Tech boasts the “Ramblin’ Wreck,” a 1930 Ford Model A that drives out onto the field and gets everyone in the stadium fired up before the game. The traditions and crowds are great, and a visit here means a visit to Atlanta, which means you won’t lack for things to do or see (including the College Football Hall of Fame). Seriously, a trip to Atlanta on a cool fall Saturday to take in college football and the city at large … it’s pretty much ideal.
Louisville | Louisville, Ken.
Like Georgia Tech, some of the draw here is a visit to the town itself. Louisville is a vibrant town with great history and a million cool things to do. But even if you take that out of the equation, the gameday experience is a blast. Our friends at Derby City Weekend have the lowdown on everything you need to know if making the trip.
LSU | Baton Rouge, La.
It’s becoming a trend all over the country, but LSU is one of the first universities to have a beer named for its football program. That should tell you all you need to know about the tailgating atmosphere in Baton Rouge. Oh yeah, and there’s always the live tiger mascot, too. Turn up for a night game against a name opponent and you’ll feel an electricity in the air that’s more than a little unnerving … but a complete blast to experience nonetheless. Check out Louisiana Weekend for travel tips.
Ole Miss | Oxford, Miss.
People talk of “The Grove” in reverential tones, and with good reason, as this is a truly unique tailgating experience that must be seen firsthand to truly understand. I mean, you won’t see people in their Sunday best at just ANY football game. And let’s be honest here: there’s a whole lot to like about Oxford beyond the football and tailgating … like City Grocery, perchance? This is one of the South’s true gems.
Mississippi State | Starkville, Miss.
The polar opposite of everything Ole Miss wants to be (and proud of it), the folks in Starkville embrace their aggie roots and aren’t afraid to get noisy and dirty. The ringing of the cowbells is a bizarre tradition in many respects (noisemakers are prohibited at most college football games), but it works here, and it works well. It’s energetic. And there are plenty of institutions around town to check out too.
South Carolina | Columbia, S.C.
Speaking of energy, the fans in Columbia pride themselves on bringing their A-game week in and week out, and they are definitely one of those fan bases that have a well-deserved reputation for showing up weekly, no matter the record. As for Columbia itself, our friends at Palmetto Weekend have got it covered (though we’ll mention we’re partial to the No Name Deli).
Tennessee | Knoxville, Tenn.
This is about as BIG as college football gets. The massive Neyland Stadium – complete with huge (often record) crowds – offers a visual statement on the importance of football in the South. That statement is clear: this is a thing that matters to a whole heck of a lot of people. Of course, the team has its own winning tradition as well, and don’t sleep on Knoxville as a travel destination itself. And if you have an in, you can even participate in “sailgating” with the Vol Navy.
Virginia Tech | Blacksburg, Va.
“Enter Sandman” is one of those traditions wherein your mileage may vary. You may find it the coolest thing in the history of mankind, or you may struggle to understand what this old rock song has to do with anything. Either way, it’s worth checking out, so be on time if you’re going to a game in Blacksburg. Then prepare yourself for a defensive slugfest, a rowdy crowd, and a war on special teams.
David Gladow is no stranger to taking the college football road trip — he even wrote a book about it.
But at The Southern Weekend, we know reasonable minds can differ. Talk to us on Facebook if you want to sound off on this list.