So what makes a great road trip for a Syracuse Orange football fan? Syracuse tailgating expert TexanMark gives us his rankings of the five road trips this year.
- Weather (will I freeze my ass off for the date scheduled?)
- Ease and cost of travel, lodging (varied choices and reasonable costs)
- Parking ease and tailgate atmosphere (gameday cash lots that have tailgating)
- Desirability of rival (excitement of a win over them)
- "Winnability” of game (Chance of a win this season)
- Stadium amenities and atmosphere (On-campus is a huge plus)
If you can only go to one away game this year, what’s your top road trip pick?
Boy, this year has a bunch of great games with highly rated teams. NC State brings up the rear “power”-wise and they will likely be a borderline Top 25 team. If Dino Babers’s players can upset at least one team (I’m confident it happens) on the road this fall we should have a great chance to bowl. (Ed. note: Which one? St. Petersburg? Birmingham? Let’s find out!)
These trips can be expensive and time consuming. This year we have no road games where we’ll be the favorite. Let that sink in. So adjust your expectations. I still want a memorable trip, but the key is to work in other activities around the game. A few things I look at: I don't want to spend $300 a night for a $70 basic motel room, and I want numerous and reasonable flights. Plus I don't want to freeze (Louisville is most likely going to be cold this year).
I rated items that I think are important to most ‘Cuse fans. Travel ease and cost is the big "X Factor" here as everyone has a different city origination and price-point. FSU did poorly here, but if you live in Atlanta or Orlando it might be the no. 1 trip for you. I looked at it primarily from an air travel perspective. Finally, I didn't rate cost of football tickets. For me, the Miami trip is my top trip this fall (but barely). However, LSU is the most popular trip among SU fans due to the unique chance to play at LSU.
Putting seven items into my top-secret “gonculator” we get this:
* Assuming LSU’s a night game (still going to be humid as hell)
According to the numbers, Miami edged out LSU as the top road trip this fall.
Quick aside from John:
I’ve been talking about the LSU trip for years, and as a Syracuse football fan, I’ve learned that you should always road trip with another goal in mind beyond an Orange win. Chances are many Orange fans have been to the Miami area, while New Orleans (and Baton Rouge) could be a more unique vacation locale. I’ve personally never been to Louisiana, so my wife and my college roommates are making a long weekend out of it in NOLA and then Baton Rouge.
Still, if you go another route here, you can’t necessarily go wrong from an atmosphere perspective. Four of the five (Miami excluded) are quality gameday atmospheres. Four of the five (Tallahassee excluded) are quality cities. So maybe that narrows it down to the Wolfpack, Cardinals or LSU for you. And considering the fact that you can see the former two again in 2019, this seems like a no-brainer.
But onto Mark’s explanation for his choice:
1. Miami: Saturday, October 21
Miami wins with a caveat. Sometimes my “gonculator” fails and this season it did. Let’s be serious. LSU is the best trip but let me sell you Miami. Flying is pretty easy. Look at both Miami (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). You can acquire pretty cheap, non-stop flights from NYC and even CNY. You can make it a mini vacation and stay a few days on the beach or head to the Florida Keys. Don’t forget your Aunt Mabel in Boca wants you to see her. The weather should be good. Hurricanes are a factor, but the game is near the end of the season. Motels are moderately expensive to insanely expensive depending on location.
The game is at Hard Rock Stadium (north of Miami) and the home of the Dolphins. Fortunately, Hard Rock Stadium has huge overhang (shades) to keep the sun off of you and NFL-level amenities. I don’t expect a sellout, so you should be able to move around if you find yourself seated near some jerk “U” fans. Parking is easy due to being at an NFL stadium. Expect several Orange tailgates there, and a few thousand Orange fans at the game. Finally, if you are going to be driving around Florida, there are lots of toll roads. I recommend you either get your own transportable SUNPASS or opt for the one in your rental car. The toll roads in Florida are all electronic now; no more Thruway-style paper cards and cash option booths.
2. LSU: Saturday, September 23
This is a once-in-a-lifetime game for ‘Cuse fans. If you can make this game… do it! I can’t (::sigh::) so Tiger Stadium remains on my bucket list. My guess is we represent pretty well and have over 2,000 fans. I expect it to be a night kickoff (LSU requests night games, especially for September). If it is during the day, it will be insanely HOT! Nighttime will be warm and sticky. Flights aren’t as easy as flying to Florida, but it isn’t that bad. If you fly into New Orleans (MSY) you have lots of flights at reasonable rates. Baton Rouge (BTR) is much pricier but it might be your best choice if you want to stay close to the stadium.
Motels in Baton Rouge are pricey if you can find one. I know a lot of Syracuse fans are flying into New Orleans and staying in the French Quarter or nearby Garden District. The folks over at Syracusefan are actually chartering a bus from there to Baton Rouge. The bus is close to selling out and I expect a waiting list. What makes this trip great: SEC-style tailgating with crazy home fans, great food, French Quarter and a unique opponent. If you are driving in, I suggest you do your homework. You will have to walk a distance. If you have someone in your car with mobility issues, contact the school for a special parking permit.
3. NC State: Saturday, September 30
NC State, Louisville and Florida State all tied for third, but if I have to “split hairs” the Wolfpack takes third as it should be an easy trip. Raleigh is kinda “blah,” but if you are coming in for a three-day weekend, you should have enough things to keep you entertained. The game is drivable for many Cuse fans so that might make this trip a must-do.
Two ideas, if you really love football: Miami is playing at Duke nearby on Friday night (a “two-fer”). If you stay longer a trip to ,the Outer Banks could give you one last shot at summer. I expect a few thousand Orange fans at the game. My personal observation is this time of year in N.C. is primetime for tropical storms. I’ve sat through horrible storms at Wake Forest and ECU games before in September. Raleigh-Durham has a large airport (RDU) west of town and also has a large amount of hotel rooms. This keeps pricing reasonable, especially if you look in the suburbs. The stadium will be full for ‘Cuse and the stadium is decent but lacks a wow factor.
IMHO: Wolfpack fans have a chip on their shoulder but are not confrontational, but more passive-aggressive. Gameday cash parking is pretty easy but get there early for best choices. Look along Westchase Boulevard and Blue Ridge Road for several cash lot options. Syracuse tailgating will be plentiful and many Syracuse fans will be heading to the Backyard Bistro for a huge tailgate (it is owned by former CNY residents). SU will likely send out an announcement to buy a tailgate food pass. Additionally, ala carte options will be available outside the restaurant. If you arrive super early, the Backyard Bistro will sell you a parking spot too.
4. Louisville: Saturday, November 18
Louisville is a really fun trip, but the date of the game downgrades the trip. It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so that will stop many from going. I only expect about 400-500 Syracuse fans at the game. Weather will be a crapshoot (average highs in mid-50s). Louisville has a large regional fan base and a ton of lodging, so that keeps the price of hotels on football weekends cheaper than expected. Armory Square-like fun and accommodations are available downtown in the 4th Street Live area.
If you have an extra day or two, Louisville offers bourbon tours and many unique museums (Ed. note, because of course I have booze thoughts: Visit Bulleit, go to Haymarket Whiskey Bar). The food scene is excellent despite being the fast food and casual concept restaurant capital of the USA. Parking can be a chore to find something close, but you have a great fallback position at the KY Expo Center (parking is $8 ($20 for RVs). Look at parking at the lots near Gate 4. The Louisville Airport (SDF) is large enough, though flights are fairly expensive. If you don’t book soon, it may be worth driving.
5. Florida State: Saturday, November 4
This says something about Syracuse’s schedule this year. A game at FSU brings up the rear. They technically tied for third with Louisville and NC State, but the “winnability” of the game put them last. Tallahassee is a classic, smaller, Deep South metro area. Lots of Spanish Moss hanging from Live Oaks, but not a ton of entertainment options. For fun I suggest a trip to the Gulf Coast. Look around Panama City and Apalachicola for nearby beaches. Flying into Tallahassee (TLH) is difficult and expensive, and I know some fans instead fly into ATL, JAX, MCO and TPA and drive in for the game.
If you look at nearby cities about an hour out, you can find more reasonable lodging. Tally is usually very pricey on football weekends, and FSU is going to be tough this year. I expect about 500 Orange fans at the game, while ‘Noles fans consider this one of their worst home games. That makes secodary ticket prices potentially reasonable. Weather should be awesome (high in the mid 70’s), though parking requires planning if you want to be close. I expect most SU fans to park at the Tucker Civic Center (Basketball Arena) about a mile away. Parking is reasonable there and a shuttle (for a fee) is available. The walk is flat and goes through lots of student housing.