So what makes a great road trip for a Syracuse Orange football fan? Syracuse tailgating expert TexanMark gives us his rankings of the
five six road trips this year.
- Fun Stuff/Food in surrounding area
- Weather (will I freeze my butt 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)
What’s your top road trip pick? Read what TexanMark has to say and compare it to your rankings.
The 2022 season was so close to a 2018 type season. The team had its’ chances but injuries mounted along with questionable calls to scuttle the 2nd half of the season. Syracuse did receive a solid bowl game (Pinstripe Bowl) at venerable Yankee Stadium. The weather wasn’t the issue this time but the turf was horrible around the infield. We’ll see if they can rectify that this year.
Moving on to 2023 Syracuse is presented with a midseason three game gauntlet which will go a long way in deciding how the season plays out. The road schedule is very unique that we play four (three old coastal teams) uncommon opponents. The only downside is the closest road trip is a moved home game (Yankee Stadium). This year offers several possibilities of winning games. Starting in mid-September a trip to West Lafayette, IN to play Purdue is offered. The last time we traveled there was 2004 and it set the stage for Coach P’s firing (0-51) with a huge loss on national TV. I expect we’ll be a small underdog but I feel confident of earning a victory. All away conference games but UNC and FSU should be toss up type games. We end the season in Atlanta (GTech) with a possible bowl game on the line. This year as it stands Cuse could be a favorite in one or two of these road games. However, I expect we’ll be 10-17 point dogs for UNC and FSU. I predict Dino will get us three road wins this year and I see 8 wins total.
Put that tempered 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). All six locations have pros and cons and Fun Stuff/Food was varied this year. For travel I look at: I don’t want to spend $700 a night for a $150 motel room (sorry NYC), and I want numerous and reasonable flights (ATL has numerous but not reasonable due to the date-Sat before Thanksgiving) or an easy drive for most of our fans (Is YS easy for CNYers?) Finally, I don’t want to possibly freeze my butt off (maybe NYC or even Atlanta if a cold front blows in).
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. Pitt (NYC) and FSU do poorly here, but if you live in NYC or North/Central Florida they should easily be the No. 1 trip for you. I looked at it primarily from an air travel perspective, motel costs and the PITA factor of getting to the game. Finally, I didn’t rate cost of football tickets. I expect UNC will be the most desired trip among SU fans as this is our first visit since an exciting 3OT win in 2003. Purdue will also be intriguing for many. Our NYC alumni and tristate T-shirt fans will like the Pitt game. I think most CNYers would prefer a football game at Metlife Stadium over Yankee Stadium.
Putting eight items into my top-secret “gonculator” we get the results (lower is better):
According to the numbers, UNC edged out VTech, GTech and Purdue. Pitt pulls up the rear for the late season date and being an expensive outing in a baseball stadium with virtually no tailgating possibilities. The top four all offer up solid road trips. FSU is intriguing if you stay at the beach and don’t mind driving some from your hotel.
Quick aside from Kevin:
I can see how UNC wins out in Mark’s methodology, but from a college football fan experience I don’t think you can pass up a night game at Lane Stadium. It’ll be a wild atmosphere and if it’s just about the experience of the game itself I think that’s the clear choice.
If you’re doing a trip with family or friends who aren’t die-hard college football fans, then UNC or Georgia Tech seem like very good options. I’d put Purdue behind those two but going to Big Ten road games (outside of Rutgers or Northwestern) provide a solid atmosphere. Florida State could be a brutal game to sit through, and personally I wouldn’t step foot in that state unless really necessary.
Yankee Stadium ranks low, but take the train (or bus) from Syracuse and it’s not a bad way to experience Syracuse football. There’s no need for more complaints about the game - the Orange are getting more money to play there instead of the Dome and all these facilities upgrades ain’t cheap, so it is what it is.
But onto Mark’s explanation for his choices:
1. UNC, Saturday, October 7th, TBA
This is actually an excellent trip for those living within 3-5 hours by car. This game generally received the highest marks across the board. This is actually a somewhat drivable trip for CNY’ers at 10-11 hours with limited stops over the Columbus Day weekend. Motels close to the stadium are basically sold out. A friend from the area told me that looking south, between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro for lodging, has advantages if available. The road from Pittsboro (Hwy 15-501) heading north will turn into S. Columbia St. and lead you into most prepaid parking areas south of the stadium. Note: there is some construction along that corridor.
I have always preferred staying by the RDU airport area for games against NCSt and Duke. The room rates are generally lower on weekends and the area is safe. For CNY’ers (a travel option) if you don’t plan to do any side-stuff or extensive tailgating you might look at staying near Chester, VA for Fri and Sat nights. Yes it is 2.5 hrs from the stadium but it will make your Friday and Sunday travel much easier. Nearby Raleigh (RDU) International offers numerous flights. Frontier Airlines offers limited nonstop flights from SYR-RDU on select dates. Southwest also has some flights with connections through BWI. The weather should be outstanding with day time game temps in low 70s. Just keep our fingers crossed no late season tropical system is moving up the coast. Durham/Chapel Hill does have some restaurants worth a look. If you want solid German food and beer try the Guglhupf Bakery, Café and Biergarten. Although a chain this place looks like a really interesting gastropub, Burger Bach. Of course many of you want to try NC style BBQ (several recommendations here). Golfers have numerous choices within an hour of UNC. The Triangle area has many attractions to keep you busy if you spend an extra day. If you have a few extra days a trip to Virginia Beach or The Outer Banks should be fun for end of the season beach time. The game is at Kenan Field in Chapel Hill. It was remodeled most recently in 2018 and has a capacity of 50,500. If you don’t plan on tailgating a stroll over to Franklin Street is where the action is. There is parking available one block north along E. Rosemary St on game day. Kenan Field has tailgating (not easy to set up close in though for visitors). If you are doing some tailgating your easiest bet will be to do something similar to what we do at Skytop. The city of Chapel Hill (Info from 2022) offers a park and ride (Tarheel Express) at the Friday Center Park and Ride Lot. Parking is free but the ride costs $5 rdtp per person for the shuttle. Through the parkmobile app, Syracuse fans can buy prepaid parking for about $12 through the app when the event becomes available. Note: you have to enter license plate info in so be sure it matches the car you arrive in. The lots say they only open 2 hours before kickoff and these sell out quickly. A UNC parking rep told me the open lots should be open earlier to set up tailgates. One last option is to look for lots and parking decks along Rosemary St. I figure Cuse will be an 8-10 point underdog for the game. I expect 45-50K at the game. I predict Cuse fans travel well and it wouldn’t surprise me to see 4000.
2. Virginia Tech, Thursday, October 26th, (ESPN) 7:30pm
Many Cuse fans wish this game was played annually. It isn’t actually a bad drive (9hrs) for CNYers as it is a straight shot down I-81. Some great Big East games were played with VTech before they left for the ACC. Blacksburg sits high on a ridge southwest of the Roanoke Valley. It is one of the coldest spots in Virginia. Despite that our game weather should be pretty good for tailgating but expect temps to fall into the 40s by kickoff. Snow in late October is rare but not unheard of. Many VTech fans drive in for games from NoVA and other points so close motels are in short supply and pricey on football weekends. Tip: search for motels near the Roanoke Airport or even a little further north along I-81 if coming from NY. Added in the calculus is prime leaf peeping along the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Trail. The area lacks big city attractions but there are things to do in Roanoke and Blacksburg. The nearby small city of Radford is a favorite stop for me. Book your motel now! For food and drink this small chain gets great ratings. It is under a mile walk to the stadium so for those not wanting to tailgate this might work for you. Another small chain that looked interesting was Bull and Bones.
Lane Stadium is impressive and they have the iconic “Enter Sandman” entrance. Tailgating is considered among the top in the ACC. Since this is a Thursday night game I expect many working fans drive in late for the game. Parking is doable but you should try to arrive early (like 3+ hours) for the best options. If money is no object you can park close for $80 reserved with the Lion’s Club. Otherwise, expect a decently long walk or shuttle from your parking lot but parking is much cheaper. Using the parkmobile app might be the easiest way to go. In 2021 I parked and had a medium sized tailgate at the Inn at Virginia Tech. It cost $20 but is nearly a mile walk through campus. I suggest calling the front desk and finding out if they still offer game day parking. Since this is a Thursday night game I suspect we’ll travel poorly due to a weeknight date. I’m predicting about 400 Cuse fans for this game.
3. Georgia Tech, November 18th, TBD
The game is drivable for many Southern based Cuse fans so that could make this trip a must-do. For CNY’ers a drive is not out of the question but you should stack it onto a mini vacation or visit to friends/relatives over Thanksgiving. Flights unfortunately into ATL will be higher than normal since this is the weekend before Thanksgiving. Atlanta is one of the country’s best cities for things to do but also one of the worst for traffic. A good resource for all the things to do in The ATL is here. A must stop is a visit to Atlanta’s take on the Varsity Restaurant. Of course Atlanta has numerous great restaurants. If you are staying near Buckhead this list will get you started. If you are staying over near Smyrna (near NW side), I recommend a visit to Siracusa’s Pizzeria. It isn’t fancy but it offers food familiar to Upstate NY’ers since some CNYers own it. Buckhead has a slew of good restaurants (high end chains and independent places). While in Georgia, golfers should have great opportunities to get in a late season round. ATL airport is south of downtown. Georgia Tech is just north of downtown. The 11 mile drive from the airport to GTech can take anywhere from 15 mins to an hour depending on the hour of the day. I recommend staying in Buckhead. On game day it should be about a 10-30 min drive to parking. Like UNC, parking is managed by Park Mobile. As of mid-July the football dates are not loaded yet. License plate number will be required, so choose carefully. I downgraded tailgating for GTech because for Cuse fans it appears we’ll mostly be pushed to park in garages. There is also parking available through ParkWhiz.
Georgia Tech is the oldest on campus (and weirdest) stadium in college football. It is an asymmetrical mess crammed into a way too small footprint. That said there are some nice sightlines for many seat locations. This could be a pivotal game of the season as Cuse might be looking for bowl eligibility with a win. It is really hard to predict how Cuse travels for this one. I expect about 3000 Cuse fans if the weather holds.
3. Purdue, Saturday, September 16th, (NBC) 7:30pm
Everyone who was a fan 20 or so years ago remembers that horrible performance at Purdue (51-0 opener loss on national TV). As I remember Syracuse had a last minute hole in their schedule and had to scramble to fill it with @Purdue. Fortunately last year helped exorcize the demons from the first meeting. Purdue is located in West Lafayette, IN. It isn’t the easiest place to get to. If you are flying I recommend either Indianapolis or Chicago and rent a car. If you are driving from CNY (11hrs or so) you will find motels in short supply near the stadium. They are completely sold out at the moment. An option if you don’t mind driving an hour or so after the game is to stay in Kokomo or Logansport. Game day parking appears fairly straight forward. As always the earlier you arrive to your lot the better. They play at Ross-Ade Stadium. It is historic, nearing 100 years old. Sightlines are very good but expect ongoing renovations this fall. I think we’ll travel well for a game outside our natural fan area and have at least 1000 fans.
The cities of Lafayette-West Lafayette offer many restaurant options. With the game being a primetime kickoff you might consider a round of golf before the game. Several outstanding courses are available. Random Tips: One of your suggested routes from Upstate NY to Indiana can take you through Bucyrus, OH. If you take this route I highly recommend stopping at Carle’s to pick up the best bratwurst ever for your tailgate. If you drive through Peru, IN “Pee-Roo” and like the Circus this will be a must stop.
5. Florida State, Saturday, October 14th, TBA
Tallahassee is a classic, smaller, Deep South metro area. Tally has lots of Spanish moss hanging from Live Oaks, but not a lot of in-town entertainment options. For fun I suggest a trip to the Gulf Coast. The water temperatures (approx. 80 degrees) will still be warm enough to swim off the sugar white beaches and the summer crowds will be gone. Look around Panama City , Apalachicola and Destin for nearby beaches. Flying into Tallahassee (TLH) is difficult and expensive, but I know some fans instead will fly into ATL, JAX, MCO, VPA and TPA and drive in for the game. Many northern fans will fly into Orlando or Tampa and do the touristy stuff and take a side trip to the game.
If you look at nearby cities (about 20-60 mins away), you can find more reasonable lodging but most of these towns are not quaint tourist destinations. Tally is usually pricey on football weekends for lodging. Panama City Beach and Destin are great options to stay for lodging (if driving from ATL or points West) if you are staying a few extra days. If you are traveling up from Tampa or Orlando: I suggest staying outside of Tally in Podunk towns like Monticello, Perry and Live Oak if you want to save some money. If you want something different and don’t mind a longer drive try Cedar Key. If you are staying in Tallahassee I suggest you wander to Collegetown and take in the Friday Night Block Party. Another close by option is Wakulla Springs State Park for swimming, “jungle” boat tours and a 1930s Spanish style lodge. I expect about 750-1000 Orange fans at the game (we never travel well there). Doak Campbell should be on every college football fans’ “bucket list”. Weather should be warm to hot (high in the low 80’s). The visitors section is on the sunny side and you definitely want to prepare for that reality. I slightly downgraded FSU for weather as it could be hot and also the specter of a hurricane is always an early fall season factor. Close in parking is only for the connected. If you arrive super early you can find a few cash lots pretty close (look east of the stadium). The better option for most SU fans (including myself) to park at the Tucker Civic Center (Basketball Arena) and adjacent lots/garages about a mile away. Parking is reasonable there ($10, click on the Ticketmaster link for the game to buy it prepaid) and a shuttle (for $5) is available. Indoor bathrooms are nearby too (Greenwise Supermarket and the Civic Center)! Visit the onsite FSU merchandise shop and ask to use the bathroom or just walk over to the Greenwise. The walk to the game is flat and goes through the Greek and student housing areas.
6. Pitt (Yankee Stadium): Saturday, November 11th, TBA
My Take: This game should have been played in Syracuse unless Pitt agreed to a neutral site game for one of their home games vs Cuse. Timing of the game isn’t great either. We just played at Yankee Stadium last December and the basketball team is going to Maui about a week later. I know a few fans that are going to Maui and saying no to NYC. I hope we show but I expect this game to have a small crowd for various reasons. For Tri-State fans this game probably rates highest but for most it is a very expensive proposition. Weather for the game has a decent chance of being fairly mild but temperatures are changeable that time of year. The leaves though should be at peak and a stroll through Central Park on a sunny fall day is an awesome experience.
You can fly into either Newark or JFK airports and get to midtown via several options (Train, Cab, Bus and Rideshare). LaGuardia is a little more involved. If you stay in midtown you can get to YS very easily via the MTA, subway or bus. I highly recommend doing this versus driving if you are staying overnight. Another option is to stay north in the Hudson Valley and take the MTA train in. Be sure to check the schedules for a Saturday and be cognizant of the game ending time. Unless you are well versed on where to park, I would just avoid trying to tailgate near the stadium. Yes, it can be done but local knowledge is paramount. You are usually better off to arrive a few hours early and visit one of the restaurants/bars around the stadium. I expect all the bars to be open for the game. I do recommend if you find one you like with seating, make that your spot. I went to the game versus Notre Dame a few years ago and the bars were so crowded a couple of us bought beers at a Bodega and drank outside a bar. Obviously, NYC has more entertainment and food options than any other city in the US. No need for me to give recommendations here.