Catch a Game and Stay the Weekend at These College Football Cities
As we enter the heart of the college football season, there’s still time to check out everything some great American cities have to offer. We put together 15 of our favorite college destinations worth a weekend stay this fall.
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Eugene, Ore. – University of Oregon
The home of the Oregon Ducks happens to be situated in one of the greenest, lushest cities in the country. After going over the Frohnmayer Footbridge and through the woods to Autzen Stadium, you can take advantage of numerous hikes and an ever-present organic food scene. The Inn at the 5th is a perfect anchor – close enough to walk to the game, but far enough away from campus to offer a bit of respite from the madness.
Austin, Texas – University of Texas
Hook ‘em Horns! The state capitol is a vibrant mix of culture, food and, of course, live music that makes a weekend here a must. Stay at the AT&T Hotel & Conference Center right on campus or use the central location of the Hotel Van Zandt as a gateway to Rainey Street bars and everything else happening downtown. A visit to Austin isn’t complete without a walk down South Congress – shops, restaurants and people watching galore.
Columbus, Ohio – Ohio State University
It’s easy to see why Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Beyond the home of the Buckeyes, it’s also home to the German Village – one of the largest privately funded historic districts in the country. The area is home to plenty of European food and drink options to feel like a hop across the pond without leaving the states. There’s also the German Village Guest House in the neighborhood, which is an excellent place to set up shop for the weekend.
Louisville, Ky. – University of Louisville
What mixes better than bourbon and football? The “Urban Bourbon Trail” is at your doorstep with five major distilleries operating downtown. It’s an opportunity to spend a weekend drinking your way through the heritage and culture of a region. Among the several hotel options downtown, the 21c Museum offers plenty of art to peruse between libations and guests can even stay in a cyclone installation in the building.
Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida State University
When planning your visit, be sure to arrive the day before to enjoy the festivities in College Town that take over the blocks just south of campus. As game time approaches, you can discover the up-and-coming Gaines Street District, which stretches to Doak Campbell Stadium. On Sunday, take in some of Florida’s most important historical sites, including the fully restored Mission San Luis, a reconstructed 17th-century building that was home to early Floridian pioneers. The Hotel Duval is a modern choice right in the middle of the city.
Greenville/Clemson, S.C. – Clemson University
Last year’s national champions reside 40 minutes outside Greenville, so a weekend here consists of starting in Clemson for the game, then heading northeast to round out your stay. Before going to Greenville, check out the South Carolina Botanical Garden – a gorgeous center with free admission. Greenville’s Pettigru Historic District is a step back in time with 88 structures of various styles and influences offering a unique Sunday afternoon before leaving. The Pettigru Place Bed & Breakfast puts you in the center of the charm.
Chapel Hill, N.C. – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Don’t think of UNC as a basketball-only school. Their football program has had some success in recent years and is a great excuse to dive into this town full of southern charm and history. Book a stay at The Franklin, which puts you just off campus and in the heart of the action.
Minneapolis – University of Minnesota
Minneapolis is a city on the rise and a Golden Gopher game is a great reason to check out the bigger of the Twin Cities. Stay at the Hewing Hotel, just 15 minutes from the stadium and right at the north end of downtown (in the North Loop). Fall in Minnesota is a great time to enjoy fall foliage and decent weather before the rigors of winter set in. A Sunday stroll down River Parkway (and over the Stone Arch Bridge) is an excellent way to unwind after the prior day’s game.
Ann Arbor, Mich. – University of Michigan
“The Big House” is one of college football’s grandest institutions packing in almost 110,000 fans (and oftentimes more) each game. Ann Arbor is also big on art too. Graffiti Alley behind Liberty Street is perhaps its most famous attraction with all sorts of art covering what was once a big mural. There’s also the Michigan Theater, which shows plenty of independent film and the occasional live show too. The Bell Tower Hotel is a classic option situated just off campus.
Los Angeles – University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles
The City of Angels has two of the most famous college sports programs in the country. While both have had their ups and downs in football, the Rose Bowl (UCLA) and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (USC) offer two starkly different gameday weekend experiences: Explore LA’s booming downtown and Arts District after a Trojan game or take in posh downtown Pasadena, which is just a stone’s throw from the Rose Bowl. Just east of Pasadena is the San Gabriel Valley, whose thriving Chinese culture is home to plenty of authentic fare.
Madison, Wis. - University of Wisconsin
The home of the Badgers also happens to be an arts and culture hub with the free Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, multiple Frank Lloyd Wright homes and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens (also free). Of course, a trip to Wisconsin isn’t complete without trying some of the local cheeses too since you’re in the heart of American dairy country. The Mansion Hill Inn is a 30-minute walk from Camp Randall Stadium and offers a bit of a look into Madison’s historical past.
Boulder, Colo. – University of Colorado
Boulder is an idyllic outdoor lover’s paradise situated an hour’s drive from Rocky Mountain National Park. At 5,430 feet above sea level, Folsom Field is one of the highest stadiums in the country. The elevation makes it one of the most intimidating and breathtaking (literally) too. Pick up new hiking shoes at one of the gear shops on Pearl Street Mall, then head out on pristine hiking trails that are just minutes from the city. The Bradley Boulder Inn is a great B&B to set up shop in to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
Seattle – University of Washington
While the Emerald City shifts towards rainy season, the Huskies provide another football fix if the Seahawks aren’t in town or they’re on a bye week. Husky Stadium is in the aptly named “University District” and is a good neighborhood on its own to take in over an afternoon. To take on the rest of Seattle, start with the Kimpton Palladian Hotel just outside the heart of downtown. You’ll have a quick hop over to trendy Capitol Hill or to see the constant change on Queen Anne Hill.
Knoxville, Tenn. – University of Tennessee
After experiencing a raucous game day at Neyland Stadium, ease into the history and character of the city around it. Spend one night enjoying downtown (and a stop of one of the largest Scotch collections in the country at Jig & Reel), then drive an hour south the next day to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For city stays, try The Oliver Hotel – a local favorite.
Boise, Idaho – Boise State University
There’s plenty to see beyond the school’s blue “Smurf Turf.” Boise is a growing hotbed of culinary and drinking destinations with a veritable restaurant row on 8th Street and multiple breweries and wineries within driving distance. You can even take a guided food tour with Indulge Boise to make the most of your limited stay. The Modern Hotel features an excellent restaurant and is a great day starter with one of the city’s best brunches.