10 great places for a parade of football: Bowl games

You've watched your alma mater put up a fight on the field all season, and now the bragging rights come down to one game. But which bowl games are worth the trek? ESPN/ABC analyst Craig James shares his list of top bowl locales.

Rose Bowl presented by CitiPasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl is rooted in history, and pigskin aficionados come from far and wide. "Tradition, great games, scenery, excitement," James says. "I love being in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day. The weather is awesome, and Game Day is a special event." The game follows the world-famous Tournament of Roses parade. Date: Jan. 1. Opponents: Penn State vs. USC. tournamentofroses.com/rosebowlgame

FedEx Orange BowlMiami It's easy to get caught up in la vida loca in Miami with its endless bars and nightclubs. "I was reminded how beautiful Miami is after announcing a game there this season — even more so in January, when you're surrounded by sun, water, beaches and people with free spirits," James says. "Dining in South Beach is off-the-charts good. It's a city with the entire package: scenery, food and atmosphere." Date: Jan. 1. This year's opponents: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech. (Miami also hosts the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 8, when Florida takes on Oklahoma to determine which team is No. 1.) orangebowl.com

Pioneer Las Vegas BowlLas Vegas Sin City's Vegas Bowl is for fans who like to work hard in the stands, then play hard after the game. "The city has a consistent energy," James says. "Not to be confused with a town full of tailgating crazies all painted up, but at game time, there is a full stadium with a nice atmosphere." It goes almost without saying entertainment options after the game are endless. Date: Dec. 20. Opponents: Arizona vs. Brigham Young. lvbowl.com

AT&T Cotton BowlDallas Out-of-towners and locals alike flock to the urban-chic West End for museums and nightlife. "Big D now has Victory Park near downtown for social events," James says. "Check out the Ghost Bar lounge on top of the W Hotel. Great views inside and out." Date: Jan. 2. Opponents: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech. attcottonbowl.com

Pacific Life Holiday BowlSan Diego One of James' favorite cities, San Diego, hosts the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl each December. Among major draws: nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter and visiting a world-class zoo in the daytime. "Lunch in La Jolla is the best," he says. "The Holiday Bowl is always packed with fans and usually one of the better games of the season." Date: Dec. 30. Opponents: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon. (On Dec. 23, San Diego hosts the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, pitting Boise State against TCU.) holidaybowl.com

Champs Sports BowlOrlando Orlando boasts theme parks galore, including Walt Disney World and Sea World, so parents and kids can have fun in the sun together. "The city brings out the kid in you," James says. Plus, "it's an easy place to get to." Date: Dec. 27. Opponents: Florida State vs. Wisconsin. (Orlando also hosts the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, featuring Georgia vs. Michigan State.) fcsports.com

Tostitos Fiesta BowlGlendale, Ariz. "It's obvious why so many people winter in this area," James says. "It's a green oasis in the middle of the desert. The Fiesta Bowl committee knows how to put on a first-class event." The area is renowned for spas and meditation resorts, so try to sneak in some time to ease those game-day nerves. Date: Jan. 5. Opponents: Ohio State vs. Texas. (Tempe hosts the Insight Bowl on Dec. 31; Kansas plays Minnesota.) fiestabowl.org

Gaylord Hotels Music City BowlNashville Grab your cowboy hat and head to Nashville, country music capital of the world. "I did a regular-season game there this fall and was pleasantly surprised after the game with the nightlife scene," James says. "You can walk the streets of downtown and go door-to-door, and each restaurant and bar has live music." Also, don't miss the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Date: Dec. 31. Opponents: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt. musiccitybowl.com

Valero Alamo BowlSan Antonio "There's nothing more historical in football-rich Texas than the Alamo," James says. "Ride in a boat along the river, with the Christmas lights hanging in the trees. It's fiesta time." Date: Dec. 29. Opponents: Missouri vs. Northwestern. valeroalamobowl.com

Sheraton Hawaii BowlHonolulu For the ultimate bowl-game vacation, head to Hawaii. "I've announced two of these games, and it's almost silly to put in for a paycheck for working," James says. "Shopping, the beaches, you name it. It's Hawaii!" Date: Dec. 24. Opponents: Hawaii vs. Notre Dame. sheratonhawaiibowl.com