You don’t have to be present for game day to appreciate the ebullient ambience of a great football town. Here are four places that might make your family’s sports fan bucket list.
1. ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
It’s all about the maize and blue in a community where the University of Michigan Wolverines capture the town’s attention every fall. Fans at the “Big House,” as the 100,000-plus-seat stadium is called, will revel in the sweet smell of barbecue as grills get fired up before the game. Also check out the local farmers market, enjoy breakfast at Zingerman’s, a local fan favorite, and visit the botanical garden.
2. LOS ANGELES
The Coliseum, home to the University of Southern California Trojans, has twice hosted the Olympics and in remembrance, has integrated the lighting of the torch ritual into every home game. Before the start of the fourth quarter, the Trojan rider and the USC mascot, a majestic white horse named Traveler, ride onto the field, accompanied by the band’s rendition of the William Tell Overture. On the rider’s command, the torch is lit and play resumes.
3. COLUMBUS, OHIO
Along the shores of the Scioto River, Buckeye fever rises to red-hot as fans prepare for the annual rivalry with the Michigan Wolverines. For every home game, expect tailgate parties around The Horseshoe, as the stadium is known, and enthusiastic support for the Ohio State Marching Band Skull Session, a pregame music fest. While in town, visit the Columbus Zoo or explore the burgeoning art, culinary and fashion scene.
4. KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE
University of Tennessee Volunteer fans look forward to pregame “sail gating” before heading to the team’s Neyland Stadium on the banks of the Tennessee River. Landlubbing, Big Orange fans are known to enjoy a little Southern barbecue, before participating in the boisterous Vol Walk that snakes toward the stadium. Check out the city’s urban wilderness, a recreational area just 3 miles from downtown where 50 miles of hiking, biking and walking trails pair with the option to paddle a canoe or paddleboard on a quarry lake.