There are few college towns better than Wisconsin’s capital city. Even if the Rebels aren’t covering the 35-point spread for their Sept. 1 opener, the atmosphere inside Camp Randall Stadium could be worth sticking around for into the legendary Fifth Quarter—when Badger fans sing and dance as the UW band plays “On, Wisconsin.” But for those UNLV faithful hoping to get a head start on their Thursday night away from Vegas, the famous State Street and its many bars and restaurants is close by.
Where to Stay: The Edgewater Hotel. This downtown spot is the only hotel located on Lake Mendota. It sits near the University of Wisconsin, as well as the state capitol, and State Street shopping district. If you’re staying Sunday night the 3rd annual Boat Parade kicks off with fireworks at 9:15 p.m. The price tag of $150-$200 a night might be a bit steep for college students, but the amenities and view are tough to beat. 666 Wisconsin Avenue, Madison, WI, 608-256-9071, TheEdgewater.com.
Where to Eat: The Old Fashioned. You are in Wisconsin after all, so beers, brats, and cheese are your staples. This eatery only dates back to 2005 but has the feel of grandma’s kitchen with fish frys on Fridays, prime rib on Saturdays and chicken dinners on Sundays. Reviewers rave over the deep friend cheese curds with tiger dipping sauce, and it’s hard to go wrong with the namesake burger as well. 23 N. Pinckney St., Madison, WI, 608-310-4545, TheOldFashioned.com.
Where to Drink: Kollege Klub. It’s the place football players go after the games, so you know there’s gonna be plenty of girls and Greeks there as well. The recently renovated venue offers everything a typical sports bar would and also $2 “Mug Nights.” 529 North Lake Street, Madison, WI, 608-257-3611, Facebook.com/KollegeKlub.
This town might have the cute moniker of The Biggest Little City in the World and be a day trip away from one of the world’s greatest lakes in Tahoe, but to most UNLV fans—Reno is simply a dirty word. The city’s gaming scene is a cross between old-school Vegas and the swankier Strip properties. But make no mistake, UNLV fans coming up for the Oct. 8 afternoon tilt are coming for one reason: the Fremont Cannon. The trophy—a replica 19th century Howitzer cannon, honoring American explorer John C. Fremont—has been given away annually since 1970. The problem for the Rebels is Nevada has won the trophy the last six meetings and holds a 21-15 all-time advantage.
Where to Stay: Peppermill Resort Casino. The big brother to the Strip’s vintage lounge also started out as a lounge when Nat Carasali and Bill Paganetti opened a coffee shop in Reno in 1971. Since those humble beginnings Peppermill Casinos, Inc. has grown to be the largest privately owned gaming company in Nevada with six casinos, including the AAA Four Diamond-rated Peppermill. A $400 million Tuscan-themed expansion has brought a 17-story hotel tower, spa and salon, three new restaurants and a nightclub to the venerable property. 2707 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV, 1-866-821-9996, PeppermillReno.com.
Where to Eat: Bertha Miranda’s. This Mexican restaurant that specializes in recipes from northern Mexico has been a favorite among locals for 20 years. The 1980s ambiance of the joint can be charming, while “The Hat” is downright delicious. It’s a large flour tostada filled with choice of meat, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, Monterrey Jack, and all the fixings. Weekends offer up seafood specials as well. 336 Mill Street, Reno, NV, 775-786-9697, BerthaMirandas.com.
Where to Drink: Great Basin Brewing Company. Nevada’s oldest brewery doesn’t mess around. In 2010 alone Great Basin took home a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Wild Lemon Wheat and a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup for its Belgian Whoop-Ass Witbier. A constantly changing rotation of 10-14 assorted beers are always on tap. 5525 S. Virginia Sreet, Reno, NV, 775-284-7711, GreatBasinBrewingCo.com.
Fort Worth, Texas
The town that started out as an Army outpost overlooking the Trinity River often lies in the shadows of its next-door neighbor Dallas—well, at least as much as the 16th most populous city in the U.S. can lie in the shadows. But Cowtown’s clean art deco downtown and vibrant Sundance Square presents legitimate competition to all that Big D offers. Texas Christian University resides less than five miles from downtown and TCU fans have not only been treated to the Horned Frogs success on the gridiron the last few years, but have watched the university’s profile flourish as well. Football wins have paid off on and off the field and have allowed for a $100 million renovation to Amon G. Carter Stadium. UNLV fans might not have much to celebrate when they travel to The Lone Star state for their season finale on Dec. 3, but they will get one last look at what the best football team in the Mountain West Conference looks like before it departs for the Big East.
Where to Stay: Stockyards Hotel. This Texas-themed hotel located in Fort Worth’s National Historic Stockyards District offers modern luxuries combined with Old West décor. The Stockyards has been welcoming guest since 1907 and has suites named after significant figures like Geronimo, Butch Cassidy and Davy Crockett. It is located just down the street from the Cowtown Coliseum, which hosts Saturday night rodeos and the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. 109 E. Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth, TX, 817-625-6427, StockYardsHotel.com.
Where to Eat: Riscky’s Barbeque. Polish immigrant Joe Riscky came to Fort Worth in 1911 and opened Riscky’s Grocery & Market in 1927. Riscky began offering BBQ lunches to the cattlemen that worked nearby in the stockyards and his family hasn’t quit serving “quality meats” ever since. There are six locations in the area, and Riscky’s also sell meats, sauces and rubs online. 140 E. Exchange Ave. Historic Stockyards, Fort Worth, TX, 817-626-7777, Risckys.com.
Where to Drink: Billy Bob’s Texas. The old cattle barn that was built in the 1900s, complete with sloped floors for easy cleaning, opened in 1981 as “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk” with 127,000 square feet. A who’s who of famous country artists like Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings have played the joint, while Hank Williams Jr. holds the one-day record of bottled beers sold at 16,000. The venue which offers live bull riding next door to its dance floor has appeared in countless TV series and movies such as Dallas, Walker, Texas Ranger, Over the Top and Necessary Roughness. 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, TX, 817-624-7117, BillyBobsTexas.com.