It's college football season, so we're turning the spotlight on nine of the country's great college football towns. Interesting hotels, excellent dining (from donut trucks to steakhouses) and unique attractions allow travelers to make a well-rounded mini-vacation out of a trip to the big game.
Click through the next few pages for help planning your next vacation to one of America's best college football towns.
Stay: 21c Museum Hotel
One TripAdvisor traveler wrote that "the rooms are beautiful and inspiring" at 21c Museum Hotel, an ultra-modern boutique hotel in Louisville. Another reviewer said, "The mix of varying art exhibitions, permanent installations, gadgets (like the penguins) and the interior design are a constant feast for the eyes."
The factory tour here is highly recommended by TripAdvisor travelers. As one wrote, "You feel you are enveloped in the entire process of making a bat from start to finish." In the museum, baseball fans will love the opportunity to hold "model bats for Aaron, Ruth, etc."
"It doesn't look like much from the outside and can easily be missed," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler, "but do go in." This restaurant, located in the basement of a Louisville house, draws rave reviews from travelers for its simple but well-executed menu ("sandwiches and fries and several vegetarian options") and excellent beer selection.
Stay: Ivy Court Inn & Suites
"Clean, spacious and comfortable" rooms at a great price make this small hotel "just off the ND campus" a favorite of TripAdvisor travelers. "Reminds me of a boutique hotel in a bigger market," wrote one reviewer. Another recommends "rent[ing] one of their fat-tire bikes to see campus."
Studebakers were manufactured in South Bend for 114 years, and this museum has vehicles from all eras of the company's history. "You don't have to be a gearhead to love this museum," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler; another commented, "What a great museum! Lots of beautiful cars and lots of history."
This unassuming-looking restaurant in a strip mall consistently wows TripAdvisor reviewers. The owner personally takes orders, guiding customers through the menu and, in many cases, customizing meals to fit tastes and dietetic requirements. "What a treat to have the owner actually sit down with us and talk about what we liked to eat," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler.
Stay: The Bell Tower Hotel
"There is NO BETTER location while visiting the campus," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler who stayed at the Bell Tower Inn, which indeed is practically in the middle of the U of M campus. "The rooms are nicely decorated and very clean," wrote another reviewer. It's a bit of a walk from here to the stadium (about 30 minutes) but if you can manage it, it definitely beats sitting in game day traffic.
"The permanent collection includes Whistlers, Monets, Frankenthaler, Nelvelson, Bechmann, a marvelous Tiffany collection, as well as top-notch African, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian art," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler.
Eat: The Chop House
A meal at this top local steakhouse isn't cheap, but according to TripAdvisor travelers, "the large price tags are worth it." "Wonderful wine list, and the food was uniformly excellent," wrote one reviewer.
Stay: Inn at the 5th
"The rooms were spacious and very classy, the service was impeccable, and the overall feel of the place was very welcoming," wrote one TripAdvisor user who stayed at the Inn at the 5th. Another perk of this new hotel: it's "within 15 minutes walking distance to Autzen stadium."
TripAdvisor users agree that learning how to blow glass at Studio West is a "can't miss experience" in Eugene. "If you are looking for something to do that will make even the most disgruntled teenager and cranky adult have a good time, then this is the place to go!" said one TripAdvisor traveler.
Eat: Prince Puckler's
Don't leave town without tasting the homemade ice cream at Prince Puckler's, a Eugene institution. "Real ice cream served next to campus by college students. "You absolutely must try the Marionberry Sorbet," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler, since it's made from berries native to Oregon; others recommend the banana brownie and Oregon cherry flavors.
Stay: Georgia Gameday Center
"Where else can you get a UGA themed 3 bedroom "condo" in downtown Athens?" one TripAdvisor traveler asked. It's not five-star luxury, but for hardcore UGA fans, this might be a perfect fit.
"Even if you aren't into gardens, this is a great place to spend a few hours for a nice walk through the Georgia woodlands," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler. "The river walk is just gorgeous, particularly in the fall," another commented.
This isn't just a restaurant—it's a "landmark for area foodies." You may have to wait for a table, but TripAdvisor travelers say it's worth it. "The menu is refreshingly creative without delving into the realm of bizarre and showy," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler, who also noted that it "might be the best lunch value in town."
Stay: Waterfront Place Hotel
"The view of the river and WVU was fantastic," one TripAdvisor traveler wrote. "The staff was exceptional, professional, and very friendly," commented another.
Trails here are a great place to get some outdoor exercise on a beautiful fall day. "You can take a nice, easy, level walk, or turn it up a bit to some modest up-and-down walking on marked paths," wrote one TripAdvisor user.
Eat: New Day Bakery
TripAdvisor reviewers say this bakery is the best place in town for baked good, fresh bread, scones and truly amazing pizza. "On Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays their artisan pizzas are hard to beat," one TripAdvisor traveler wrote.
Stay: Yellowhammer Inn and Conference Center
This hotel may not be for everyone—one TripAdvisor traveler noted that there's "somewhat odd decor inside (think Gothic chandeliers and mounted animal heads)." But if you're up for a short drive, you'll be "surrounded by beautiful woodland."
No Crimson Tide fan should miss this museum dedicated to legendary coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant. According to one TripAdvisor traveler, it has "everything you ever wanted to know about University of Alabama Football."
Eat: Epiphany Café TripAdvisor travelers love Epiphany Café for "fine dining that is polished but not stuffy." "The entire meal was amazing, the staff was first class, and the quaint atmosphere was perfect," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler who dined at Epiphany Café.
Stay: AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
This "very nice place right next to the UT campus" is popular with TripAdvisor travelers, who often praise the staff for exceptional service. "One time the bell boy went above and beyond to give us a ride to downtown in order to beat the heat," wrote one reviewer.
Experienced rock-climbers and newbies alike will enjoy a day out with Rock-About Climbing Adventures. In the words of one TripAdvisor traveler, "Awesome day, awesome climbing, awesome awesome awesome!"
It's a food truck, not a sit-down restaurant, but Gourdough's draws rave reviews from TripAdvisor travelers. They serve up nothing but "huge, hot donuts with a myriad of fillings and toppings," and while there may be a line, one traveler says the place is "really worth the wait and is a must-try when coming to Austin."
Stay: The 5 Twelve
You can stay in a "neighborhood rather than on a busy thoroughfare" if you choose the 5 Twelve, a small hotel in Oxford. Many TripAdvisor travelers love the "easy walk to the quaint square," and the inn garners praise for its "excellent and helpful staff."
Do: Rowan Oak
We'll just quote one TripAdvisor review of Rowan Oak in its entirety here: "If you are a fan of William Faulkner be sure and stop. If you are not a fan of William Faulkner be sure and stop; you will be."
Eat: Bottletree Bakery
If you want a great breakfast in Oxford, visit Bottletree Bakery—just be sure to "avoid the crowd and get there early." TripAdvisor travelers especially love the bagels, cinnamon rolls and homemade granola.