So what makes a great road trip for a Syracuse Orange football fan? Syracuse tailgating expert TexanMark gives us his rankings of the six road trips this year.
- Fun Stuff/Food in surrounding area
- 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 (game day 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)
- Uniqueness (That once in a generation trip location is a plus)*
*a new category added after comments about LSU in 2017
What’s your top road trip pick? Read what TexanMark has to say and compare it to your rankings.
This year isn’t as good as 2017 for road trips, but 2017 was one of the best I’ve seen in 25+ years. I would even rate it below 2018 (Clemson and ND/Yankee Stadium). However, this year offers a possibility of running the table. Compare that to just two years ago… isn’t it fun to be relevant again?
Still there are several nice road trips in 2019. Liberty starts off the fun. They might bring up the rear “power”-wise, but they are a controversial opponent to stir up the interest. We end the road slate at Louisville, in one of America’s most underrated cities. This year we have a couple road games where the Orange will be the favorite, and a couple others where they’ll be around a three-point underdog. I expect Dino Babers will get us a minimum of four (maybe five) road wins this year. I expect an eight- or nine-win regular season and a solid bowl game this year.
Putting that optimism aside, these trips can be expensive and time consuming. I want a memorable trip with a win, but the key is to work in other activities around the game if time allows too, in order to make the trip worth it. A few things I look at: I don’t want to spend $300 a night for a $70 basic motel room (sorry, FSU), and I want numerous and reasonable flights. Plus I don’t want to possibly freeze my butt off (sorry, Louisville).
Below, I’ve 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 (Tallahassee, Fla.) did poorly here, but if you live in the Florida/Georgia area, it should easily be the No. 1 trip for you -- versus for most, where we looked at it primarily from an air travel perspective. Finally, I didn’t rate cost of football tickets (believe it or not, Louisville charges the most whether you buy through SU or Louisville). For me, the Duke trip is my top trip this fall.
However, I expect Maryland will be the most popular trip among SU fans due to proximity of College Park, Md. to CNY, NYC and DMV-based transplants/alumni.
Putting eight items into my top-secret “gonculator” we get the results (lower is better):
According to the numbers, Duke edged out upstart Liberty as the top road trip this fall. Louisville pulled up the rear (mostly due to weather and travel).
Quick aside from John:
As Mark mentioned, this isn’t exactly a great road schedule from a trip perspective. Maryland’s meh, and no thanks on Liberty. That leaves the ACC locations, of which we’ve been to three of them several times before. I’m personally heading to NC State for the big Thursday night matchup, and that’s also my top road trip pick this year. It’s fairly easy to get to Raleigh, there’s plenty to do down there in the days leading up to and after the game, and the atmosphere around a primetime game should be pretty raucous. But if you can’t take the time off, I’d definitely sub in Duke instead for many of the same benefits (minus the primetime kickoff).
But onto Mark’s explanation for his choices:
1. Duke, Saturday, November 16, time TBD
Due to the horrible divisions and scheduling structure forced upon us by a 14-team league, this is the first time visiting Duke since joining the ACC. Duke rises to the top for several reasons: Travel ease, cost, winnability, uniqueness, stadium and campus. This should be a fun trip. Weather should be crisp but not cold. Traveling to the Raleigh/Durham area is straightforward. Frontier Airlines should have a non-stop to RDU (calendar only out to November 11 right now) out of SYR, and American has a major presence there. Charlotte is also a solid backup choice for air travel.
Many fans should be able to drive to Durham in under 6 hours. Tailgating scores high as they offer lots of free parking, and I expect to set up in the Chemistry Lot. Wallace Wade Stadium is small, but it was recently refurbished in 2017. There should be about 3,000 Orange fans attending this year.
The area near the RDU airport is an excellent place to stay, but you’ll need a car to get to Duke. Motels are generally cheaper on the weekends, as it’s a corporate area. If you want a more classic college experience you might try stay in Chapel Hill vs. Durham (UNC is on a bye that weekend). NC State is also hosting UL the same day. And in my opinion, the area around Raleigh and Durham lacks things to do though aside from eating and drinking. And hey, there is a Wegmans in nearby Raleigh if you need to see a real supermarket (yeah, looking at you Publix and Harris Teeter...).
2. Liberty, Saturday, August 31, 6PM
This road trip is my underrated pick. Sure, Liberty is not much better than UConn. Sure, you have the polarizing factor (for some fans) of the Falwells and head coach Hugh Freeze. However, it is a somewhat driveable game for CNYers (three-day weekend). Air travel is difficult as you either opt for D.C., Richmond or Roanoke and drive over. Surprisingly, two motels are within walking distance of the game. One (Extended Stay America) had availability as of July 10 and rooms for under $100. Parking is free near the stadium. The only exception is Doc’s Diner and some reserved lots. Otherwise, ‘Cuse fans will be thrilled to find free parking and walks of well under a half mile.
I checked with some Liberty fans and they said alcohol is technically prohibited, but drinking happens. Best advice is to use solo cups and koozies at your tailgate. Stay away from bottled beer. You won’t have an issue unless you act like a drunk fool. I plan to tailgate next to the Extended Stay America Motel in a grassy lot. The stadium is small but very nice. Sightlines will be excellent, though the game kicks at 6 p.m. so the first half might be hot. This will be the biggest game ever at Liberty, and Lynchburg is cooler than you think due to being close to the mountains. It’s also a foodie town. So expect to eat well. A trip to a nearby cavern or drive along the Skyline is a must, too. Overall, a super easy trip to plan and execute.
(Ed. Note: People can feel however they’d like, but not going to endorse giving any money or exposure to the Falwells on this end. TNIAAM would place this game dead-last.)
3. Florida State, Saturday, October 26, time TBD
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. The water temperatures should still be warm enough to swim off the sugar-white beaches (look around Panama City and Apalachicola for the best options nearby). 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 45-60 mins away), you can find more reasonable lodging. Tally is usually very pricey on football weekends (we are their homecoming opponent) for lodging. Panama City Beach is a great option to stay for lodging (if coming from ATL or points West). If you are coming up from Tampa or Orlando: I suggest staying outside of Tally in Podunk towns like Perry and Live Oak. If you want something different, try Cedar Key and if you are staying in Tallahassee, I suggest you wander to Collegetown and take in the Friday Night Block Party.
I expect about 1,000 Orange fans at the game. ‘Nole fans consider SU a middling opponent (we haven’t beaten them enough), but their season ticket sales are way down lately. That makes secondary ticket prices potentially reasonable and Doak Campbell should be on every college football fans’ “bucket list.” Weather should be awesome at that time of year (high in the mid/upper 70s), though parking requires planning if you want to be close. This is our best chance ever to beat FSU in Tallahassee. I expect most SU fans (including myself) to park at the Tucker Civic Center (Basketball Arena) about a mile away. Parking is reasonable there and a shuttle (for $5) is available. The walk is flat and goes through the Greek and student housing areas too, if you want to go that route.
4. NC State: Thursday, October 10, 8 p.m.
The game is drivable for many Syracuse fans, so that might make this trip a must-do. Air travel is easy, as mentioned in the Duke section. CNY fans should expect about a 10-11 hour drive, while non-stops from SYR to RDU are available on Frontier. Charlotte (CLT) is two hours away and offers more non-stops.
If you stay longer and take in Columbus Day weekend, a trip to the Outer Banks could give you one last shot at summer. I expect around 1,000 Orange fans at the game (due to Thursday kickoff). My personal observation is this time of year in N.C. is not entirely “out of the woods” for tropical storms. So keep that in mind. Raleigh has a large airport (RDU) west of town and also has a large number of hotel rooms. I expect rates will be higher on Thursday night than a typical weekend. The stadium will be mostly full for SU and the stadium is decent but lacks a “wow” factor.
IMHO: Wolfpack fans have a chip on their shoulder, though they’re not confrontational -- more passive-aggressive. Gameday cash parking is getting tougher but get there early for best choices. Traffic will suck on the freeways so be advised to seek out alternate routes or arrive before 5pm. Look along Blue Ridge Road and 4200 Hillsborough St. for several cash lot options. More ideas are here. Syracuse tailgating will be scattered, but many Syracuse fans will be heading to the Backyard Bistro for a huge tailgate (it is owned by former CNY residents). 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. See the Duke write-up for more ideas.
5. Maryland, Saturday, September 7, noon
I expect this road trip to be the most popular trip, as it’s closest to the most fans. Maryland’s campus is actually on the border of D.C and travel by air or train is actually somewhat easy, as there’s a Metro stop at the campus. Traveling by car is another story. D.C. is one of my least favorite cities to drive around, and motels are generally expensive. But if you plan to see the sights, I recommend locating one near a Metro Stop. There is so much to do in and around D.C., though.another idea is to stay out at Annapolis if you want to avoid those crowds. The beach towns of Delaware and Maryland are also an option.
The stadium is on campus, but suffers from a hideous extra deck expansion which helped bankrupt their program. I’d expect about 5,000 Syracuse fans. though parking and tailgating does require some planning. If you plan to tailgate, I highly recommend pre-paying a parking pass.
This game also carries a ton of significance for Syracuse, assuming a Liberty win as well. Beat the Terps and a 2-0 Orange team likely hosts Clemson for College Gameday in the biggest home game in over 20 years.
6. Louisville, November 23, time TBD
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 Syracuse fans at the game, plus weather will be a crapshoot (average highs in low/mid-50s). Louisville also has a discouraged fan base at the moment and attendance is down. There are a lot of businesses in the area, so there’s a ton of lodging, keeping the price of hotels on football weekends reasonable. Armory Square-like fun and accommodations are available downtown in and around the 4th Street Live area.
If you have an extra day or two, Louisville offers bourbon tours and many unique museums (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 $10, or $20 for RVs). Look at parking at the lots near Gate 4. If you want to fly there, the Louisville Airport (SDF) is large enough, though flights are fairly expense. It may be better to drive.
If I was the ACC football scheduler this game would be in early-October annually and it would become a much better road trip (our last trip to Louisville was also pretty late in the year).