Because of tonight’s big gridiron showdown, we decided to explore the two college towns being showcased: Clemson, South Carolina, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Filled with local attractions and the culinary flavors the South is known for, both cities have something special to offer for a weekend getaway. In the spirit of friendly competition, let’s put these cities head-to-head and see who can bring home the travel trophy.
Sporting their colors of orange and purple, Clemson University, founded in 1889, is the highlight of the area. When visiting campus, be sure to stop by the school’s Memorial Stadium, nicknamed “Death Valley,” where the university’s highly-ranked Clemson Tigers play football every fall. Nearby, the South Carolina Botanical Gardens feature 295 acres of gardens and natural landscapes that serve to educate on the region’s plant life. In the evenings, catch a show at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, hosting such performances as the Shanghai Opera Symphony Orchestra and Kinky Boots.
University of Alabama, founded in 1820, is the heart and soul of Tuscaloosa, with landmarks including several museums and the Foster Auditorium. Be sure to check out Goldie 1971, a giant fallen robot in the Woods Quad Sculpture Garden on campus. The city is a great place to visit year-round, with local parades celebrating every major holiday, and a variety of seasonal festivals including the Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival every spring.
Located at the confluence of the Seneca and Twelve Mile rivers in Clemson, the Twelve Mile Recreation Area features a children’s playground, swimming beach, boat ramp, and fishing area. At Lake Hartwell, the Clemson Marina offers boat rentals for you to get out and experience the lake. If you’re looking for hiking, nearby Sassafras Mountain has an elevation of 3,554 feet and its summit provides panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Tuscaloosa Riverwalk is a great place to unwind and stretch your legs, with parks, playgrounds and scenic walking and running paths scattered throughout. The city also offers a few opportunities to get out on the water, including Lake Tuscaloosa for fishing and boating and Lake Nicol for canoeing, swimming and bird watching. Finally, don’t miss Capitol Park, a great spot for history buffs and nature lovers alike, anchored by the ruins of Tuscaloosa’s former capitol building from when the city was briefly the Alabama state capitol.
Food & Drink
Start your morning off with a Southern-style breakfast at Clemson’s SunnySide Cafe, featuring such specialty menu items as fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits. Later, grab a drink and some hot wings while you soak up the school spirit at The Esso Club, known as one of the best sports bars in the country by Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazine. When dinnertime comes around, make a reservation for Rick Erwin’s Clemson, an elegant dining experience featuring fresh steaks, seafood and an extensive wine list.
You can’t visit Tuscaloosa without stopping at Dreamland Bar-B-Q, a legendary barbecue spot famous for its ribs and house-made BBQ sauce. Enjoy Southern flavors and riverfront dining at the River Restaurant, which sources much of its menu from local farms. Before you leave town, stop at Southern Living’s favorite Tuscaloosa breakfast spot, The Waysider, where you can try pancakes in the shape of the home team’s mascot as well as staples like steak and eggs and cheese grits.
Situated in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, Clemson has the perfect mix of small-town charm and outdoor beauty best experienced by a stay at the Holiday Inn Express Clemson – Univ Area. Located off Tiger Blvd., the property features everything you’ve come to know and love about Holiday Inn Express, including the EXPRESS Start™ breakfast. After your day of exploring the city, you can relax in the hotel’s heated indoor pool.
In Tuscaloosa, watch boats float by on the Black Warrior River right outside your doorstep at the Hotel Indigo Tuscaloosa Downtown. Perfect for nature and downtown explorations, take advantage of the hotel’s free bikes to get to know the neighborhood. When you get back, grab a drink and relax at The Lookout, the property’s rooftop bar and the only rooftop bar in the city.
Now that you’re familiar with these two college towns, go to our Instagram story (@IHGRewardsClub) today, January 7th, and vote for your favorite! Let’s see which of these Southern cities comes out on top in this travel championship.