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Syracuse vs. Clemson travel guide from a local Orange fan

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Headed to South Carolina this weekend? We want to give you some tips.

North Carolina State v Clemson Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

My fiancée (now wife) accepted a job in the Charlotte area two years ago. Being engaged made for a very easy life choice: I was also moving to Charlotte. A couple months of job-hunting proved fruitless, so I looked a bit farther away from the city. That search took me all the way to Clemson, S.C.: the East Coast’s Capital of #disrespekt and butthurt. Seriously, the sports talk radio station here almost makes me long to hear Bud Poliquin on the radio… almost.

Sarcasm aside, the Orange has a game this Saturday in Clemson. So I reached out to John to offer my sort-of insider’s perspective of game day in Clemson for ‘Cuse fans, that won’t be smothered in purple and orange.

Getting to Clemson

Clemson is technically a city, but it’s really a small town. It has 13,000 permanent residents and a student enrollment of just over 22,500. It’s also in the middle of nowhere. The nearest actual city, Greenville, is 40 minutes away. It has the infrastructure of a small town. That means it’s not really built to handle the 100,000 plus people who show up for home games. That number includes the 81,000 game attendees and folks who come just to tailgate in town.

Even though it’s a 3:30 p.m. ET kick, you’re going to want to get up and get into town early. Arrive after 11 a.m. at your own risk. Generally speaking, if you’re driving in from Atlanta, or from the south off I-85, try to take Exit 14 (SC 187) to avoid the traffic in Anderson on your way in. If you’re coming from Charlotte, GSP Airport, or north off I-85, your best bet will be to use Exit 35 (SC 86), and take the back roads.

Regardless of where you’re coming in from that morning, bow down to our technology overlord Google, and download the Waze app. It will be your friend trying to get into town.

Parking

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, good luck! You think parking at SU is bad? Wait until Saturday. It’s the same problem as the roads getting into town; the campus and town were not built to handle the current volume of traffic and people that come to Clemson games. Another perk of arriving early is that you’re more likely to get decent parking. But be ready to pay. The cheapest university lot is $20; they are also the farthest away. And the price only goes up from there.

This is the university guide for parking. There are some non-university owned parking areas at local churches, or in peoples driveways/yards. The prices on these vary, depending on how close you are to the stadium. The Edgewood neighborhood is one area that has 6-8 lots like this. And there are a few others in town that are farther away. {Map for Edgewood neighborhood attached in the email}.

Hotels

If you don’t have a hotel already booked, you’re either going to pay a lot, or not be close-by. Again, that whole small town thing. A quick look on Hotels.com shows the cheapest hotel with rooms left in Clemson is going for $179/night. There are less expensive options, but they are going to be 20-plus miles away.

Tailgating

Tailgating is not only allowed, but pretty much expected. But make sure you bring plenty of beer with you, because you’re not getting any once you’re in the stadium. Your best bet for food supplies is going to be Publix. Sure it’s not Wegmans, but it’s a much higher quality option than Ingles, BiLo or Food Lion (Ed. note: Watch you language!). Plus, I hear there’s a guy who can hook you up with some crab legs for really cheap, if he’s in town...

Restaurants

Don’t want to go to all the trouble of preparing and cooking a tailgate, no worries! Like any decent college town, Clemson has plenty of food options for game day. There are many of the typical national chains, but I’m going to focus on the local shops.

My top recommendation for anyone coming to Clemson is Brioso Fresh Pasta. Italian might not be typical football game day food, but it’s the best place in town. Another local option is Groucho’s Deli. It’s a South Carolina chain. You can get hot or cold subs there, and it’s not likely to be quite as busy as Brioso. There are a couple of pizza shops downtown. The best of them is Peppino’s, but they’re all pretty decent for college-town pizza.

If you arrive early and are looking for breakfast, sorry, no Denny’s in town. But Sunnyside Café is a good option if you’re looking for a full assortment of breakfast options. Coffee shop options in downtown Clemson are All In Coffee Shop and Spill the Beans. Spill the Beans also has great milkshakes.

The next two aren’t walkable, but definitely worth a stop if you arrive Friday afternoon/evening or stick around Saturday evening. The Smokin’ Pig is a 20ish minute drive from campus. I’ve lived in various parts of the south for over five years now. The Smokin’ Pig is the best BBQ I’ve had. Don’t just take my word for it. It’s also College Gameday approved! The other place is Joe’s New York Pizza. This is still in Clemson, but about a 5-7 minute drive from campus. Before anyone starts grumbling about a place in the boonies of South Carolina calling themselves a New York pizzeria, give them a try. They’re very good.

Hooray Beer!

Don’t have tickets, or own a Sprinter van with a satellite dish attached to watch the game from the parking lot? Looking for a place to grab a few drinks post-game? Clemson has a few bars to choose from in downtown. The nicest by far is Palmetto’s Smokehouse and Oyster Bar. Good food, and a nice variety of selection from the bar, whether you’re looking for something on tap, or a little stronger. The other nicer bar in town is Backstreets Pub and Deli. Nicer is a relative term, since this is a college town, but it doesn’t have that sticky, grimy floor feel most college bars do.

If you’re looking to relive your college experience, then TD’s and Loose Change are for you. These both your more typical college bar. That furry guy in the back by the bathrooms? That’s Eight Ball. He’s not dangerous, so don’t be scared. But he may try to sell you some LSD.

Death Valley

The current forecast for Saturday is 74 and sunny. So leave those sweaters back in Syracuse and pack your shorts and a t-shirt or polo. Saturday is Military Appreciation Day, so Clemson and fans will be wearing purple. Having ceded the color to its rightful ACC owners, WEAR SOMETHING ORANGE! While we’re at it, can someone go tell the equipment staff to “accidentally” burn every other colored uniform except the orange ones?

Once in orange and at the stadium, you’ll notice a few things. The only chant they really have is spelling out C-L-E-M-S-O-N during the fight song. Bless their hearts; they’re the only letters they know! It’s actually similar to SU fans only ever chanting Let’s Go Orange on repeat. It may be simple, but it’s brutally effective in its repetitive monotony.

Their entrance, touching Howard’s Rock and running down a hill into the stadium, is cool. I don’t know that I’d call it the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. But I’ve been to Lane Stadium, and Clemson doesn’t hold a candle to Enter Sandman on a Thursday night in Blacksburg.

It will be loud. Credit where credit is due, Clemson fans make a lot of noise. I had to yell in my wife’s ear for her to hear me at the Louisville game, and she was standing next to me. Speaking of standing, they stand. The whole game. And no one tells you to sit down. They only sit during TV timeouts. Looking at you, old people at the Dome.

Fans

For whatever reason when we joined the ACC, we drew the ire of Clemson’s online fandom. Clemson fans in person are a grab bag. There are some who are just as obnoxious in person as some of the folks coming by TNIAAM/getting #madonline on Twitter. And that feeling will multiply when you get in the stadium. But there are just as many who will grab a beer out of their cooler, and hand you one as they welcome you to town if you’re parked next to them. Every fan base has “that guy.” The bigger the fan base, the more of “those guys” there are. Syracuse is no different. Our “guys” are over at the asylum. The majority you’ll meet are more likely to be of the hand you a beer variety.

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Any other “locals” care to weigh in? Share your thoughts below.