Culture defines college football moreso than any other sport in the United States. School pride and– more specifically– regional dedication sculpt the college football landscape. What are some of the most underrated, not talked about college towns in the nation?
Disclaimer before we dive in: I didn’t count big cities. Austin, Columbus, and New Orleans are incredible cities in their own right, but they won’t be found on this list. We’re looking into backroads America for some real treats.
Also note, this isn’t a top-four list of the best college towns. If your college town isn’t on here, that doesn’t mean it’s not excellent. What other cities should we add? Tell us why.
San Marcos, Texas
There’s not many more places in the country with as many natural amenities as San Marcos. Located roughly halfway between Austin and San Antonio, it’s easily accessible and a favorite vacation spot for regional residents.
The main feature of the city is undoubtedly the San Marcos River, spring-fed and crystal clear. It’s one of the most popular river tubing spots in Central Texas and is generally packed between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The best word to describe this hotspot is “alive.”
Texas State also offers a seriously overlooked tailgating scene, too. While attendance at Bobcat games falters, you can find thousands of students tailgating before and during the game.
It’s also packed with great food spots, one of the busiest outlet malls in the nation, and no shortage of things to do.
“Starkvegas” often falls victim to being the second-thought college town in Mississippi; the first, of course, being Oxford (Ole Miss). However, don’t tell the locals that– they have their own terrific college town.
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Starkville embodies southern charm and Mississippi State’s campus is truly elite. There’s lots of top-notch BBQ eateries and unique college bars in town.
However, because it falls in the SEC, Starkville is consistently buried underneath places like Athens, Ga., Baton Rouge, La., and Gainesville, Fla.
Maybe not the Athens you were thinking of? Buried in the hills of southeast Ohio and hometown of Joe Burrow, Athens is the party capital of Ohio. There’s more bobcats than people in the county and the schools’ namesake– Ohio University– represents that.
As a graduate of a fellow MAC school situated in a pretty underrated college town at that (Bowling Green), students flock from every school in the state to head down to the Midwest’s “OU” frequently. Bars first, party second is the Athens way, reverse of the typical order.
The city is also known for its festivals, notably High Fest, that draw hundreds of thousands out. Catch it on the right weekend and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more exciting place to be.
Columbia, South Carolina
The biggest city on this list is also the capital of South Carolina, so maybe I’m cheating a little bit here. But find yourself in the college district of town, and there’s few places with a better scene than Columbia.
The main stretch of bars and restaurants makes certain you feel like you’re in South Carolina, complete with dozens of rooftop bar options and palm trees galore. Columbia offers one of the best food assortments in the SEC and is a nice reprieve from Carolina BBQ (which is amazing in its own right and there are options for that).
The best feature of Columbia– specifically around the SC campus– is how well kept it is. If you were a prospective student, it’d be hard not to settle in.
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