One of the negative effects of conference realignment is that the Big 12 has lost some of its better partying destinations. Boulder was incredible, Northgate in College Station was like Campus Corner on steroids, and Columbia was a lot of fun until I was nearly crushed by a falling television outside of the Kappa Sig house.
(Note: I’ve never been to Lincoln, and I aim to keep it that way)
However, this new wave of realignment has some serious promise as far as this is concerned. The pundits, media executives and university presidents are looking largely at what each candidate can bring to the table monetarily. But as Jorah Mormont once said on Game of Thrones, “(The common people) don’t care what games the high lords play”. Most of us just want good football and a good road trip, so I’ve decided to rank the (serious) candidates based on how much fun a trip to each city of each would be.
7 – BYU
Most of the people I’ve talked to think Provo is a dry town. That is actually false! According to Salt Lake City Weekly, Provo has THREE bars! It also has a liquor store that stays open til 7 p.m. As far as drinking on game day is concerned, alcohol isn’t allowed at tailgates. There used to be a TGI Friday’s across from the stadium for those who liked to imbibe, but it’s permanently closed. If we ever welcome BYU into the conference, I’ll be staying at home and so should you.
6 – UConn
Connecticut is probably a bit too “yankee” for the Big 12. Cincy and WVU are up in that neck of the woods (kind of), but they easily have enough twang to fit in with Okie State and K-State fans. UConn would be a very odd cultural fit.
However, Aman Kidwai of UConn Blog was kind enough to let me know about Hartford (UConn’s stadium is not in Storrs), since my only experience with Connecticut involves taking an Amtrak from New York to Boston.
Hartford has some nice sports bars and restaurants, but if you make the 10-minute drive to West Hartford, about 20 minutes away from the football stadium, you’ll find a wide-ranging slate of options, from dives and Irish pubs all the way to trendy tapas spots and the club scene (I think... I’m old). If you are feeling frisky, the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casinos are 40-45 minutes away, where they have shows, concerts, and nightlife in addition to the table gaming and race book.
Another option is nearby Manchester to the East, where you will find just about every active chain restaurant in the Northeast (limited compared to what you’re used to, but still a formidable lot), a movie theater, shopping centers, and a mall, in case that’s more your speed. It’s like a mini-Houston. If the outdoors is more your jam, there’s a Cabela’s right next to the stadium and a host of camping, fishing, hiking options nearby.
Hartford seems like a decent place. There’s a lot of violent crime there, but I used to live in Atlanta, so whatever. It’s a pretty large city that is a bit more densely populated than most cities in our region. The same goes for the next option on our list.
5 – Cincinnati
As is the case with Hartford, I’ve never been to Cincinnati. With that in mind, I’ve turned to an old friend of mine who practices law up there to give me the scoop.
According to Scotty (that’s his name), Cincinnati has a lot of character, and neighborhood bars are a big thing as a result. He also said that the city has more alehouses than an Oklahoman would know what to do with, which is something that really intrigues me. He mentioned Over-the-Rhine (in Downtown) as a particularly good area for that. As far as college bars are concerned, UC’s neighborhood (Clifton) has two different bar districts. The Xavier kids apparently like to frequent Mt. Adams, which overlooks downtown and has a ton of bars that are packed nearly every night of the week. Catholic kids know how to party.
One other thing that he pointed out was that he was surprised at how many people up there loved pop country (like Luke Bryan or Florida-Georgia Line). That’ll knock a candidate down a notch. I guess there’s no escaping that crap.
4 – UCF
I’m a huge fan of Epcot, and my goal for some time now has been to “drink around the world”, meaning that I have a beer or drink in all 15 countries. I’ve still never succeeded because my dad doesn’t have the patience to stop in 15 different places to spend his money. I don’t blame him.
One thing about Florida – and I mean ALL of Florida – is that the people know how to have a good time. From Pensacola to Tallahassee to Jacksonville to Daytona to Orlando to Tampa to Ft. Myers to South Beach, people like to let loose. Women don’t like to wear clothes down there and men don’t call it a night after two beers. Lastly, it is a HIPSTER-FREE ZONE. Hipsters turn to stone at the sight of a Jimmy Buffet cover artist. That or they experience TSO (Total Snark Overload) and die.
3 – Houston
I like Houston a lot more than Dallas. The people are a lot more real (or a lot realer, I don’t know). I once overheard a Dallas kid in one of my classes at OU saying that he was “just gonna chill with some Smirnoff Ice and watch Dirk and the Mavs on TV” that night. That kind of statement might get you killed in Houston.
My friend from college, Drew Hemingway (who will contribute for C&C Machine), was nice enough to write a couple of paragraphs about the nightlife options in H-Town:
Since the oil boom of the early 2000’s, Houston has experienced a major growth spurt. As a result, Houston’s nightlife scene has exploded. From high-end nightclubs to low-key wine bars, Houston offers something for every taste. I would also be remiss in neglecting to mention the food scene of Houston, which was ranked as the 5th-best food city in the country by the Washington Post in December of 2015. Only in Houston can you eat a 5-star meal, line dance at a Texas honkytonk, and end the night with a smooth glass of wine, all within walking distance of each other.
If you are in Houston for the OU vs. UH game this year, treat yourself to a Texas-sized serving of Houston nightlife. It is sure to please and surprise you. Midtown offers a host of high-energy bars that cater to the post graduate crowd. The mass of bars makes bar hopping easy, and almost mandatory. Be sure to hit up The Dogwood (2403 Bagby St.) for a drink on their scenic rooftop. Follow that by walking down the street to Little Woodrow’s (2306 Brazos St.) for a beer on the patio. If the post graduate scene is not for you, get on the Light Rail and you will find yourself in Market Square - on the north side of Downtown - where the newest and hottest crop of bars, gastro pubs and restaurants has popped up in Houston. Here you will find the young professional crowd enjoying hip bars serving high-end cocktails. Be sure to visit OKRA – Charity Bar (924 Congress Ave.), which donates a portion of all sales to select charities in Houston or head to Bovine & Barley (416 Main St.) for a craft beer and hearty late night snack in a unique gastro pub setting. There’s something for everybody in Houston as far as nightlife is concerned.
Also, Houston rap.
2 – Colorado State
New Belgium Brewing is headquartered in Fort Collins, which automatically puts CSU high on the list. Additionally, certain laws in Colorado appeal to a lot of tourists. I’m not saying that Crimson & Cream Machine condones that sort of behavior, but the lead blogger does love the Grateful Dead and would probably look the other way. Also, the hippies are less wookish (look it up) than the ones down in Boulder.
Speaking of New Belgium, they are funding a pretty sweet addition to CSU’s football stadium.
1 – Memphis
Memphis is the winner by a landslide. Seriously, have you ever been to Beale Street? It’s like a slightly safer, less sticky version of Bourbon Street. Last time I was there some random girl just gave my friend a bag of mushrooms (for free!) and he ended up “trapped” in a porta potty at Silky O’Sullivan’s for about an hour. We thought he had wandered away, but nope!
The city is full of former sorority girls from Ole Miss, Tennessee and Arkansas, which is pretty neat. The barbecue is good, but don’t ever let anyone take you to Rendezvous. Seriously, just because it’s dry-rubbed barbecue doesn’t mean the meat has to be dry. Also, DO NOT try to swim in the river after a night of drinking. That’s how you end up missing the game the next day.