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Labor Day weekend may bring the unofficial end of summer, but it also means the official start of college football season. College football is one of my all time favorite things, so in honor of the start of the season, I asked some fellow bloggers about the best college towns in the U.S. From dancing to “Shout” in Eugene or “sailgating” in Seattle to screaming “Husker Power” in Lincoln or chanting “Roll Tide” in Tuscaloosa, college football is bursting with age old traditions, devoted fans, and plenty of school spirit. Whether or not you’re usually a football fan, these college towns and traditions are worth experiencing.
Here are some of the best college towns in the U.S.
By Carly from Papers and Airplanes (that’s me!)
Let’s kick off the list with Eugene, Oregon — the home of my alma mater, the University of Oregon. Eugene is a town in the Willamette Valley about 100 miles from Portland. It’s full of outdoor activities, breweries, and plenty of U of O spirit.
When in Eugene, some of the best things to do are explore the university and experience game day. The University of Oregon was founded in 1876. The campus is filled with trees, lined with old brick buildings, and dotted with statues and modern structures. Some points of interest on campus include Deady Hall, the oldest building on campus, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Fans of the classic comedy Animal House will particularly enjoy wandering the campus, which was filmed at U of O.
On Saturdays during the fall, Eugene gets the party going for game day. Duck fans fill the town (and the bars) to prepare for the day’s game at Autzen Stadium. Autzen Stadium is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the country, and fanfair abounds — the crowd spends the game cheering, chanting, and yelling “O,” plus there’s a dedicated break to singing and dancing to “Shout” between the third and fourth quarters (a nod to Animal House). It’s the best place to watch a college football game!
There’s plenty to do in Eugene outside UO as well. There are several beautiful outdoor areas perfect for hiking or relaxing, such as Hendricks Park, Skinner’s Butte, and Spencer Butte. The downtown area is filled with shops, bars, and restaurants, and a variety of events, like the legendary Saturday Market and a monthly Art Walk. Plus, fans of beer and wine will be kept busy — the area is home to lots of breweries (like Ninkasi Brewing) and wineries (like King Estate).
Whether you’re a fan of college football, outdoor activities, or beer tasting, there’s plenty to enjoy in Eugene. Go Ducks!
By Erika from Erika’s Travelventures
The small town of Laramie, Wyoming is home to the University of Wyoming, the only four-year university in the entire state of Wyoming and home of the Wyoming Cowboys.
Laramie is situated in a valley, surrounded by mountain ranges, and is 45 minutes away by car from the next large town, Cheyenne. Historically, Laramie was a frontier town built along the Union Railroad in the 1800s. Buildings that look like they are from the wild west are still prevalent in the historic downtown area.
Laramie is an appealing college town in a small community that is overflowing with pride for their Cowboys. Being the only four-year university in Wyoming, college football fans from around the entire state flock to Laramie during football games to cheer on the team.
Things to do in Laramie include going up to the mountains for hiking or camping. A small ski area is only 30 minutes away, where many locals and college students spend much of their winter. There are also several local shops, bars and restaurants in historic downtown Laramie which are always packed on weekend nights.
By Tatiana from Family Road Trip Guru
Stanford, California is one of the best college towns from a traveler’s perspective. First of all, it is immensely beautiful. Second of all, there is so much to do and see and most of the attractions on the Stanford University campus are free of charge. In addition to its famous architecture and fountains, Stanford offers two free art museums (including a huge indoor and outdoor Rodin sculptures collection) a cacti botanical garden, a wooden sculpture garden, a meditation labyrinth, a world class concert venue (Bing Concert Hall) as well as Memorial Church, which is one of the most gorgeous churches inside and out that I have ever seen in the U.S.
If you are a sports fan, there is good news for you too. Stanford hosts a wide variety of college sporting events that rival professional sports competitions: football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, and many more.
You can find lots of things to do in Stanford whether you are interested in art, music, history, architecture, horticulture or sports. And the best part is that the weather in Stanford is excellent most of the year. It may rain sometimes in winter, but about nine months of the year you will have sunny and warm weather perfect for exploration.
By Dani from Diapers in Paradise
Seattle, Washington might be best known for coffee, grunge rock, and a thriving tech scene, but it is also a pretty big sports town. When we’re not cheering on our pro teams, Seattle roots on the hometown University of Washington Huskies.
Besides its 17 conference championships and seven Rose Bowl victories, UW is known for producing great quarterbacks, with the second most QB starts in NFL history. UW is also credited as being the birthplace of the fan move called The Wave, and holds the record for the loudest college football game on record. This is definitely a college football town!
The university itself is one of the oldest on the west coast, and is known as a top research facility in medicine and science. It also has exemplary computer science and engineering programs. It is consistently ranked as being among the best universities in the world.
The UW is located right within the city of Seattle, with the U District taking up much of the northern portion of the city. This area is a destination for a range of international foods and shopping.
If you wander beyond the U District to explore more of Seattle, you can enjoy world-class entertainment and landmarks. Be sure to check out the Chihuly Glass Museum, the MoPop, a constant stream of festivals at the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market and the pier, and of course the Space Needle. For something a little more offbeat, head to the Fremont neighborhood to find the Troll – a giant troll statue hiding under a bridge.
By SJ from The Prosperous Blonde
Game day in Huskerville is a very BIG deal! We take our Cornhusker Football very seriously in the great state of Nebraska! And on game day, there is no better place to be than Lincoln, NE, home of the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
We’ve got a legendary history, world-class tailgating and a rockin’ stadium! We’ve got the best fans in the world and our Memorial Stadium is sold out every home game! We’ve sold out every home game since 1962 and our stadium holds 90,000 people, so you know we are die-hard fans here in the heartland!
Downtown Lincoln is the place to be on game day Saturday. If you didn’t bring your own tailgating supplies, no need to worry. There are blocks of bars and restaurants that all open by 8:00 am on game day and would love to have you stop in.
No matter if you’re 10 or 100, you’ll have a fabulous time screaming “HUSKER POWER” at the top of your lungs as the Huskers hit the turf from their famed tunnel walk. You’ll get goosebumps as you the music blares and the guys run out onto the field. It’s something to see.
We have awesome stadium snacks, too. The best things on the menu are all local so you know they’re good. You must try the Runza sandwich, Valentino’s pizza and Big Red Fairbury hot dogs. Yummo!
Visit Lincoln on football Saturday and you won’t be disappointed by the food, the game day atmosphere or the Huskers. GO BIG RED!
State College, Pennsylvania
By Karen of Wanderlusting K
It’s hard not to be biased when it comes to your own college town! One of the best college towns in the US has to be State College, Pennsylvania. This is the home of Penn State University. State College is a town right in the geographical center of Pennsylvania. (It’s said that Pennsylvania misinterpreted the law regarding equal access and assumed the university had to be in the very center of Pennsylvania.)
The town is quite cute with some Victorian architecture, many cafes, some bars, and quite a few independent coffee shops and shops. It’s easy to spend a relaxing weekend in State College eating out, browsing the shops, and wandering around the beautiful green campus (which has many brick buildings). I especially love the arboretum, which does events throughout the year. The Halloween event is always fun to attend!
As you might expect, you’ll see lots of lion pride here for Penn State’s football team, however it’s generally best to visit State College not during a football weekend as the town becomes swamped with alumni during this time! From Penn State, you can easily hike in the surrounding mountains, including the nearby Mount Nittany, which provides stunning views of State College.
By Kaisa of Glam Granola Travel
Every college town is unique in its own way—each its own special snowflake, inspiring powerful loyalty in those who call it home. Boulder, CO, is no exception. Boulder has all the trappings of the quintessential college town: breweries aplenty, quirky coffee shops, entertaining activities, and of course, a university presence in the form of University of Colorado.
Founded a few months before Colorado became a state in 1876, CU Boulder is the first campus of the University of Colorado system. Campus has an absolutely prime location on Colorado’s Front Range; if it was any farther West, it’d be in the Rocky Mountains. While I am hideously biased, being a Boulder resident and all, I think this gives Boulder a particularly stunning edge to your average college town. You are literally always in view of one of the world’s most majestic mountain ranges.
Outdoor activities, from hiking to rock climbing to biking, are everywhere you look in Boulder. It’s an easy drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, several world-class ski towns, and the big city lights (and affordable international airport) of Denver.
There is plenty to do within Boulder itself, too. The most popular nearby hike is Chautauqua Park, with fabulous views of the Front Range and Boulder’s famous Flatirons (rock formations overlooking town, which have the distinct appearance of irons/arrowheads). A stroll around Pearl Street is also necessary. It’s a long pedestrian drag full of local shops, breweries, and Colorado/CU Boulder swag. If you really want to get into the college town spirit, CU Boulder games are possibly the most entertaining college football games ever. Why? Ralphie! Ralphie is the real live bison mascot who runs a lap before bowl games, alongside highly trained (and highly athletic) student “Ralphie Runners!”
Boulder is a college town, but folks from all walks of life are drawn to this free spirited, academic Colorado spot. It’s a fun, beautiful, and very special place to spend some time—whether it’s four years, or four days!
By Nancy of Checking It Off the List
History of Tuscaloosa
The naming of Tuscaloosa dates to the early 1800s when the Black Warrior River attracted Native American tribes to West Alabama. In honor of a great chief who had an encounter with Hernando DeSoto, the settlers named this area Tuscaloosa from the Choctaw words “tushka” and “lusa” meaning warrior and black. Tuscaloosa was the capital of Alabama until 1846, when it was then moved to Montgomery.
More recent news of Tuscaloosa
In more recent history, Tuscaloosa is known for the tornado in April 2011 that came through in on a late Wednesday afternoon. It was one of the big tornadoes of 2011. It left a path of destruction approximately 80 miles long, killing 64, including six University of Alabama students.
Best things to do (especially on game day)
-Visit the Paul W. “Bear” Bryant Museum – This museum showcases memorabilia from the history of the football at the University of Alabama. Open 7 days a week.
-Visit the Ferguson Student Center for souvenirs
-Drive through campus
-Walk of Champions – Fans gather around the “Walk of Champions” 2 hours, 15 minutes before game time to see the team make their way into the stadium. The walk showcases player’s names from all championship teams along with statues of all head coaches winning National Championships.
-Tailgate! – No visit to any Southeastern Conference football game wouldn’t be complete without a true tailgate.
-The Elephant Stomp – Starts at Gorgas Library with the Million Dollar Band along with Big Al and the cheerleaders approximately 1-hour before kickoff. Follow them into the stadium!
-Visit the Quad – tailgating, food trucks and more entertainment
Where to eat
-City Café in Northport – Great for southern comfort food
-Waysider – The perfect location to enjoy a traditional southern breakfast while looking at Alabama football memorabilia. Prior to the first game of the season, you’ll find them counting down the days until kickoff.
-Baumhower’s Victory Grill – Baumhower’s is where everyone goes after the game for the post-game radio show. They also host the Nick Saban, Hey Coach radio show, on Thursday nights.
-Gallette’s or The Houndstooth – Great place to visit before or after any home game.
-Making your way into Bryant-Denny stadium on game day, get used to chanting “Roll Tide!”