Published October 08, 2010
So you want to take a college football road trip, but your significant other is not exactly into college football. That means you'll have to find some cool places where the game isn't the only game in town. Places with some night life that doesn't involve funnels, and some green spaces without yard lines painted on them.
With some help from AP Top 25 voters, the 12 best college football towns:
1) ATHENS, GA. The residents might not be in the best of moods these days, with their beloved Georgia Bulldogs slumping, but Athens is still the coolest town in the Southeastern Conference. Famous for its music scene, R.E.M. and the B-52s have Athens roots, Athens is bicyclist-friendly and home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.
From the panel: "Catch a quirky live band and then grab a drink at a place that's changed names three times since the last time you were there." Travis Haney, The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier.
2) AUSTIN, TEXAS. The home of Lance Armstrong and the struggling Longhorns, the capital of Texas is also the hippest place in the state. Located on the banks of the Colorado River, residents bill the town as "The Live Music Capital of the World." 6th Street is famous for its nightclubs. Want to avoid the 21-year-old crowd? 4th and 2nd streets are the cool yuppie hangouts.
3) EUGENE, ORE. Oregon officials dubbed their town "World's Greatest City for the Arts & Outdoors" a few years back, so there's plenty to do before and after watching Chip Kelly's Ducks lay 50 on some helpless opponent. It's got a hippie vibe and, like Austin and Athens, a cool music scene. And however green you are politically, you have to admit they keep the place looking great. Bonus points for the fact that "Animal House" was filmed in and around campus.
From the panel: "The 'Animal House' connection brings it all together." Bob Asmussen, The Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette.
4) ANN ARBOR, MICH. Wolverines fans like to think of themselves as being a bit more sophisticated than most college football fans — especially those from Columbus. A mural along Liberty Street features the painted heads of writers Woody Allen, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Hesse, Franz Kafka and Anais Nin. If you want high-end football (as long as Denard Robinson stays healthy) and high-end culture, Ann Arbor is for you.
5) BOULDER, COLO. Sort of like Eugene — hippies and all — with fewer trees, more mountains and a worse football team. It's been said Colorado football fans can be apathetic when it comes to the Buffaloes, but who can blame them with so much else to do. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there is no outdoor activity — hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking — that isn't easily accessible.
From the panel: "The mountains, Pearl Street, Ralphie (the buffalo mascot). Boulder makes you overlook the notion that the athletic experience may not be all that most of the time." Mike De Armond, The Kansas City Star.
6) CHAPEL HILL, N.C. NCAA issues have redefined the term Carolina Blue for the Tar Heels this season, but Chapel Hill is still worth a visit. Come hungry. Chapel Hill gets high marks from foodies because you can go straight from barbecue joints to farm-fried green tomatoes. Good music scene, too, especially if you have a taste for indie rock.
7) GAINESVILLE, FLA. The birth place of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Gainesville does Southern/Country Rock as well as any place in the country. And it's almost always cutoff jean shorts weather in Gator country.
8) MADISON, WIS. The state capital and a town that loves its beer and cheese, so you're always halfway to a party. Maybe some ice-fishing before the Badgers' game, too.
9) OXFORD, MISS. Home of the Ole Miss Rebels, the Courthouse Square, and William Faulkner.
From the panel: "The Grove is Just Outstanding. So outstanding that it makes the entire trip worthwhile without going anywhere else." — De Armond.
10) STATE COLLEGE, PA. It's called Happy Valley because it was not hit quite so hard during the Great Depression — and Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions win more than enough to keep the locals that way. Take a hike up Mount Nittany for the best view of campus.
From the panel: "The tree-covered mountains are gorgeous in the fall." Pete DiPrimio, The Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel.
11) CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. The home of founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Jefferson also founded the University of Virginia and was heavily involved in its design. His plantation manor, Monticello, is a few miles from where the Cavaliers play.
12) LAWRENCE, KAN. The home of the Jayhawks has enough coffeehouses to keep you warm when the winds pick up on the Plains.
From the panel: "The football needs to improve, but it's a great city. Perfect downtown. Beautiful campus." — Asmussen.