Want to get off your couch or out of your favorite Washington bar and see some college football live? We’ve got suggestions for four day trips to area football powerhouses and advice on everything from where to leave your car, the best places to stock up for tailgates, and how to drown your sorrows or celebrate your victories at the end of the day.
Where: The University of Virginia in Charlottesville
Why: The Cavaliers might not be ranked, but that doesn’t stop loyal UVA fans from having a great time. The university is a fun place to spend any weekend, and football is great excuse to go explore what Charlottesville has to offer. Plus, the recent renovation of an $86 million Scott Stadium isn’t a bad place to hang out, either.
Football schedule and tickets: virginiasports.com
Parking and public transportation: Click here
Best Place for pregame brunch: Bluegrass Grill and Bakery (313 Main Street; 434-295-9700) on the historic downtown mall offers gigantic omelets accompanied by flaky buttermilk biscuits and breakfast potatoes. The free refills of coffee will help you get through the excitement of game day and the wahoo cheers. Get there early—the organic breakfast spot tends to fill up early with locals.
Tailgating: Most of Charlottesville can be found tailgating in the Scott Stadium parking lots hours before the game. Often, people get there in the wee hours of the morning for an all-day extravaganza. Ham biscuits are a tailgating favorite. Strangers are welcome at most tailgates for food, conversation, and a cocktail. If you decide to have your own tailgate, head to Bellair Market (2401 Ivy Road; 434-971-6608), which supplies fans with sandwiches, chocolate-chip cookies, and tailgating sides.
Post-game drinks: If you’re still standing after the game, walk to “The Corner,” the slice of street full of bars and restaurants closest to campus. No directions necessary, just follow the crowds. A great place for post-game drinks is the Virginian, a cozy bar where college kids flock for drink specials. Make friends with the bartender and you’ll be sure to be taken care of for the night.
Post-game food: After making merry at the Virginian, walk down the block to the White Spot (1407 University Avenue; 434-295-9899), famous for its greasy and satisfying Gusburger, a hamburger with a fried egg on top.
Where: William & Mary in Williamsburg
Why: The Tribe is ranked fourth in the preseason Sports Network/Fathead.com poll. Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the second-oldest college in America, so there’s lots of history to explore.
Football schedule and tickets: www.tribeathletics.com
Parking and public transportation: General parking is available at William & Mary Hall for $10.
Best place for pregame brunch: Seasons Restaurant offers a variety of brunch options, including scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit salad.
Tailgating: Head to Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que for pulled-pork and barbecue-chicken sandwiches ($3.79) with such sides as hush puppies and sweet-potato sticks ($1.99 each). Tailgate-friendly quarts of barbecue ($15.99) and sides of coleslaw, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese ($6.99 each) are also available. Another great place to pick up tailgating food is the Cheese Shop for a variety of cheese, sandwiches, wine, and beer. The sandwiches received five stars from Frommer’s Travel Guide. Once you get your food, head over to the Zable Stadium parking lot to join in the revelry.
Post-game drinks: Be sure to hit Paul’s Deli on game day for happy hour from 4 to 9, and snack on cheese fries, chicken fingers, and pizza. Settle down in front of one of the ten plasma-screen TVs to watch other Friday- and Saturday-night football games. Another good option is Green Leafe, where there are more than 150 bottled beers and 64 on draft. It was named a top-ten bar by USA Today.
Post-game food: After a Friday night game, Blue Talon Bistro puts out a special roast cod with herb bread crumbs, herb butter, and spinach.
Where: James Madison University in Harrisonburg
Why: JMU is ranked 15th in the Sports Network/Fathead.com preseason poll.
Football schedule and tickets: Call 540-568-3853 or visit jmusports.com.
Parking and public transportation: Free, temporary parking passes are available for visitors through JMU Parking Services. The office is on the ground level of the Champions Drive Parking Deck, beside Bridgeforth Stadium. For more information: http://web.jmu.edu/parking/
Best place for pregame brunch: Head to Mr. J’s Bagels & Deli for a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich ($2.89). All of the breakfast options are less than $4, making this a game-day favorite for students.
Tailgating: Most non-student tailgaters are in the lot next to JMU’s baseball field. Tailgating food comes from a nearby Wal-mart, where people buy burgers, buns, hotdogs, and coleslaw. There’s also KFC and Hardee’s close to the lot.
Post-game drinks and food: After games, most people head to Dave’s Taverna for a steak-and-cheese sandwich. Students usually go for the Natural Light pitchers ($2), but there are other drink options for the post-grad drinkers.
Where: Virginia Tech in Blacksburg
Why: The Hokies are billed as the toughest place in college football for opponents to play by Rival.com. Get keyed up to join in on the Hokie tradition of jangling keys after a good play.
Football schedule and tickets: http://www.hokiesports.com/football/
Parking and public transportation: Public parking is $10 in designated lots; click here for more information. Satellite parking is available at Blacksburg High School and Middle School. Blacksburg Transit provides a shuttle service from the satellite lots to the stadium.
Best place for pregame brunch: The brunch at Gillie’s, which has lots of vegetarian food, includes a barbecue-tofu scramble, huevos rancheros, house-made biscuits, and whole-grain pancakes. Drinks include Numi organic tea and Honduras coffee. Breakfast is $2.50 to $8.50.
Tailgating: Alumni congregate in parking lots and fields around the stadium, while students go to commuter lots on the opposite side of campus. Look out for games of cornhole, a tailgating tradition, in which teams try to throw corn-filled beanbags into the hole on a raised platform.
Post-game drinks: At Sharkey’s, you can listen to live music, play pool, or watch sports on big-screen TVs. There are 12 beers on draft. The Virginia Tech Collegiate Times awarded Sharkey’s Best Bar, Best Place to Watch Sports, and Best Happy Hour.
Post-game food: Top of the Stairs (217 West College Ave, 540-953-2837) offers Hungry Hour (half-price barbecue sandwiches) from 4 to 9 and live music on Saturday nights.