Best Places to Experience American College Football
Leah Walker September 8, 2011

If college football in the United States is a religion, then surely it’s a cult in the South. For all the hoopla and pageantry involved, football is serious business. From the east coast to the west coast and the Midwest to the Deep South, rivalries rule and bragging rights are cherished. Families and friends become divided. Weekends are made or ruined by the numbers on a scoreboard. Things can get down-right nasty, and in the case of one University of Texas fan, near castration at the hands of a rival University of Oklahoma fan.

Texas Tech Fans TTU Red

For an outsider, all of this must look silly, seemingly normal people turning into absolute raving lunatics on Saturdays. Millions flock to various concrete stadiums around the country by planes, trains, cars, and RVs to see games played by 18-22 year olds. Coaches are lauded as heroes one week and burned in effigy the next. Fall revolves around a chosen team, and the other three seasons are spent in anticipation of the next football season.

Yes, I can see how this could be confusing. Even British actor, Stephen Fry, was dumbfounded when he attended his first football game.

Jones Stadium at NightTTU Red 

I must admit that I am a member of the Cult of College Football. It is an inherent part of who I am. At one time or another, both my father and husband were Texas high school football coaches. My father was asked to try out with the Dallas Cowboys, he took my mother to coaching school on their honeymoon, and I was born during two-a-days. It is engrained in my persona. Heck, I’ve even charmed my way into VIP status for ESPN’s College Gameday. I toured the Gameday bus, met Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Chris Fowler. I was on stage for pictures, and spoke with the guys after the show. It is one of my most memorable experiences. But then again, I’m a member of the Cult.

Keep in mind, not all college football game day atmospheres are created equally. While each one is unique and special in its own right, there are some that just personify the American college football experience. The college football regular season spans fifteen glorious weeks (not counting bowl season). I’ve revealed my picks for great places to experience an American college football game based on atmosphere, tradition, and tailgating. I’ve also included everything you need to know in order to make your weekend in College Town, USA truly memorable.

My picks are not ranked. Frankly, I didn’t want to piss everyone off. There are great places that I don’t name (this season), but like the unhappy coach/player/fan says, “There’s always next year.” Do you think your school is the quintessential place to experience an American college football game? Maybe I do as well.

Texas Tech Football TeamTTU Red

Stops in 2011 included: Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Colorado, Texas Tech, Red River Rivalry, TennesseeOregon, and Louisiana State University.

If you’re a travel and football lover like me, be sure to check out Jeremy at Budget Travel Adventures. He’s teamed up with Expedia for the 2012 College Football Travel Tour. Jeremy has an outstanding group of games, including some of the nation’s biggest rivalries, on his schedule. But I’m not telling you what they are. You’ll have to sign up for his newsletter to get the full scoop.

Craig, Mr. Stay Adventurous himself, is also is a huge college football fan. He’s in a group called the “Campus Crashers”. By vote, the group picks one game each college football season to attend. They’ve visited such places as South Carolina, Ole Miss, and last year’s stop, Texas A&M (booo). I know where the 2012 stop will be, but you’ll need to follow Craig if you want that information.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

22 Comments

  1. One of them HAS TO BE a stadium about 100 miles down the road from your house, love them or hate them those FIGHTING TEXAS AGGIES and all their crazy traditions have the most calloused of sports casters awed when they visit Kyle Field : ~ }

    1. I think my husband’s family (all Aggies except him) would agree with you on that. I’ve always had a grand time going to games in College Station. I guess you’ll just have to keep coming back each Friday during football season to see if A & M makes my list. I’m happy to have you. 🙂

  2. Fantastic series! How did you score a tour of Gameday?!?!?! I would LOVE to do that!! Reading this post got me even more excited about what I am doing. Glad to know someone else is just as passionate as I am!

    1. Gameday? Well, I’ll talk to a fence post.

      I was in Lubbock for the 2008 game with UT when they were #1 and Tech was #7 (I believe). Friday afternoon I went down to the set for the 5 pm Sportscenter live remote just to check it all out. That night a friend and I were having dinner when I saw two guys with College Gameday shirts on and struck up a conversation. It was Halloween and a crazy atmosphere. I invited them to our table and they gladly accepted. I made an off-handed statement about who do you have to know to get behind the scenes. They both laughed and told me I was sitting with the guy. One of the guys was in charge of it all.

      The two of them had been traveling together since Labor Day and welcomed talking to someone besides each other. I learned lots of stuff about how everything goes down. They were exhausted and needed to go to bed for an early call time. I was given a business card and instructions to text the number when I arrived to the set. Saturday morning they met us at the bus and escorted us back.

      I got to meet all the Gameday guys and Bobby Knight. Little did I know that this experience would only be the tip of the iceberg as far as excitement goes. The game was one of the best in college football history with the Harrell to Crabtree last-second pass for a touchdown. That day was one of the most amazing things I ever experienced.

      The guys were awesome and even invited us to Oklahoma when Tech played them for what would be a spot in the BCS National Championship game. Luckily I decided not to go; OU killed us. The main guy doesn’t work for Gameday anymore; he said it was just too hard on his wife and son.

      If you get a chance, go. It’s so neat.

      1. Oh I definitely remember that game! What an ending to that one! Maybe you could pass along the contact info in case I get a chance to meet up with Gameday! 🙂

        I am a little disappointed because I am pretty sure Gameday will be here in northern California Nov 12 when I am on the road for another game! Really disappointed in that because Oregon and Stanford will be an awesome game!

        1. The thing about College Gameday is that they’ve been around 25 years. If you don’t catch them this year, there’s certainly going to be next year. I wish I still had the business card; I can’t even remember the guy’s name now. When Gameday was going to be in Austin the year before last, I texted him to see if he would be there. He told me that he didn’t work for Gameday any more; he was missing his son growing up…too much life on the road. So, I threw the card away. 🙁

    1. A&M is a fantastic game day experience, and there’s nothing else like it. I’ve been to many games at Kyle Field and have always enjoyed myself. Next year, the SEC will get an opportunity to experience what Texas A&M is all about. Let’s just say I haven’t written about College Station…yet.

  3. Leah, you’re not going to like this one, but Kyle Field in College Station is an incredible place to watch a game! And I grew up in Notre Dame country… the traditions are awesome.

  4. Come on, Kristin. You married an Aggie, didn’t you? Well, I {cough} have to agree. College Station is a great place to watch a football game. I’ve seen many games there over the years. When I pick this series up in 2013, I would imagine that Aggieland will make it. {cough}

  5. Oh, I miss the Honey Badger…but I also miss all those great graduating seniors/juniors going in the NFL draft every year – (exception: one J. Jefferson. He can go rot you-know-where.) – but LSU has such depth of talent that there will always be another outstanding player to take their place.

  6. your breakdowns are fantastic and will be missed this season… And yes, this year the campus crashers head to a rival Big 12, I know shame on us…. but, hey one year we will head to TTU I am sure of it… especially, If it is as good as you say it is, how can we go wrong.

    Stay Adventurous, Craig

    1. Thank you, Craig. I’ll get back on the wagon next season, I promise. If you do head to Lubbock, I know you’ll enjoy it. Hopefully the team will be better than it has been in the recent past. I’ll guarantee you this, the ladies will be the best looking you’ve seen at any of your other stops. 😉

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