Saturday, May 17, 2008

Duke: more fun than a lacrosse party

Best place to eat on campus:
I took in lunch at the great hall which had a huge variety of foods to chose from. There was a subway and an ice cream place, but I chose to go with the cafeteria style dining. I chose the salad bar (gotta keep my girlish figure) but there were sandwich and wraps being made and a whole slew of vegetarian options.

Best place to eat off campus:
There are lots of different restaurants along ninth street for dukies to chow down at just off of east campus. A good variety exists between pizza, chicken, gyros, and even a restaurant for fine dining if that is what you are looking for. I'd recommend just taking a walk down the street and seeing what jumps out at you, to me it was tacos, but to you it might be a sandwich. Seeing as they are all so close together it won't hurt to survey the block and grab what suits you best.

Best place to drink:
There are a couple of bars on ninth street and the one that I stumbled into was Charlie's and it could not have been better. Thursday is karaoke night and it brings an interesting mix of locals and duke students which I was told was rare around town. Not only did Charlie's have good jack and coke's and delicious cheeseburgers (comes with slaw on it and homemade chips with ranch) but everyone in there seemed like they just wanted to have fun. Everyone that got up there and tried their hand at a song was welcomed with cheers and left to applause (there was one exception for a guy who didn't know the words to lets get it on, but he deserved it). I would also suggest checking it out because of the guy who apparently brings his own guitar every week, doesn't plug it in and pretends he knows every song that comes in. In my opinion every good bar needs a little dose of crazy to keep the mood light.

Athletic venues:
The football stadium on campus greatly surprised me in the amount of people that it can seat due to the sunken in bowl seating. The stadium itself is a cool mixture of the classic old school bowl mixed with the horseshoe layout to create a really cool visual that can be taken in with ease from above the stadium.

I thought the baseball stadium was also a very interesting structure, all of the seats were behind the plate and were covered by a big slanting tin roof. I spent a lot of time sitting and trying to figure out where I had seen this type of setup before and then it hit me, camp productions and small outside concert venues. That's not to say that the ballpark isn't a nice place to be, it is just simply unique and homey, offering a unique place to catch a game.
If you hate duke or cameron indoor stop reading here. I wandered around the arena pulling and knocking on doors and eventually found a woman that offered to let me in. I talked to her in the entrance way for awhile and eventually got around to asking her if I could walk around and see the arena. Her response of, "go wherever you want, just don't scuff the floor." floored me and before i knew it i was sitting in the first row of the upper section looking over the court and taking it all in. I sat there for awhile and did the only thing I could think of, I called my dad. I tried to explain how cameron indoor felt like a church to me, with the light only coming in from the stained windows just above the three national championship banners making it seem like they are they only thing the architect wanted you to look at. I sat in complete silence thinking about the stories of crowds so loud the floor would wobble and make even dribbling hard. I thought about how much I dislike duke and hate dick vitale every time he mentions them while calling another game. I stared up at the names hanging from the rafters that read like a who's who of amazing college players who flopped in the pros (apologies to alana beard). Finally I walked down the stairs to the arena floor, walked to the middle and took it all in. As much as people can say they hate duke or coach k or even college basketball for that fact, i truly think that everyone should visit cameron indoor one time in there life even if its not to see a game. For me it was an amazing experience and please forgive me for waxing on about its greatness.

The duke campus was a very interesting place to visit. Parts of it are absolutely spectacular with great gothic architecture that make it fun to just walk around the buildings, while other parts have been built more recently and just don't bring much feeling let alone the same awe that the older sections provide. A part of the campus I thought was really interesting was a small wall by the divinity school that has all of the names of duke students that have died while serving and protecting their country. The aspect that I found amazing about it was that I could not find a single name that had been put there after the 1950's. Maybe the wall just hasn't been updated, but I felt like it was a landmark of how people of my grandfathers generation would go to school and then head to war and then come back and pick their lives back up.
On a lighter note I learned that for fraternities to have parties on campus they must not only rent kegs from the school itself, but also hire school sponsored bartenders. This rule lead to students seeking more off campus housing and having parties and leading to more complaints from neighbors and as the public saw a few years ago more police interaction with students.
One last thing, duke has a great student published daily newspaper that was being run even though I was there after graduation. I was really impressed with it, even though the comics section consisted of Dilbert and Doonesbury, so if you are on campus make sure you pick up a copy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

UNC: heel of a place to be

Best place to eat on campus:
There are a few options if you are looking to grab a bite to eat at chapel hill. If you want something from a chain type restaurant then look to go to Lenoir Mainstreet that has a chic-fil-a and a subway as well as other more well known establishments. I would recommend checking out the Top of Lenoir which is very nice and offers more homemade type dishes. They have pizzas and meats with veggies but they also offer a wide variety of desserts that I was told are made from scratch.

Best place to eat off campus:
I didn't venture very far off campus because there really is no need to go past Franklin St. when looking for good food. there are lots of options but Sutton's was recommended to me and it turned out to be a pretty cool place. It is set in a drug store that has a real pharmacist working there 6 days a week so you can grab a burger while waiting for your valtrex prescription to be filled. They have great milkshakes and make a pretty good hotdog (there you go dad) and both should be tried. I also really liked all of the pictures of UNC students and athletes that are all over the walls, my personal favorite is a young rasheed wallace making his own milkshake. Another carolina staple is Top of the Hill which offers a finer dining experience but also has an amazing view of franklin st and beyond.

Best place to drink:
As with the eating franklin st is your oyster for finding a place to swallow suds with students at chapel hill. Whether you choose to go to the library, the cave, tyler's restaurant and tap room or any of the two dozen bars in the surrounding areas you will find people, and if you don't like the ones you find there are plenty of other bars just a few steps away. I will focus on a bar that I have been to a couple of times and have really enjoyed, Four Corners Sports Bar. With lots of tv's, couch's, and beer pong tables this place is ideal for hanging out with friends and catching a game. They have good drink specials, live music, and an interactive trivia system that lets anyone in the bar compete against each other in a battle of wits.

Athletic venues:
Obviously unc is a basketball first campus and the dean smith cent is not only home to the well recognized basketball court, but also to practice, recreational, and weight facilities. It is a massive tribute to the man who did so much for the university.
Kenan memorial stadium is a great place to watch a football game in my opinion. Even though it can hold 60,000 people the stadium itself feels smaller and more personal. Even though it is home to one of my least favorite moments (damn you connor barth), in memory I still really enjoy being at Kenan.

The baseball stadium is undergoing renovations, but should be a great place to catch college baseball once it is complete.

UNC is what I envision when I think of what a college campus is supposed to be. It has historic elegance, but also has all of the modern amenities that students would need. I also really like that the main drag of bars and restaurants is right across the street making it so students don't have to worry about walking or driving drunk anyplace. Each time I have been there I have had a great time and wanted to go back.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wake Forest

Disclaimer: I visited Wake during a break time between the ending of finals and graduation so there weren't too many students around, but I did my best.

Best place to eat on campus:
The students I was able to talk to told me that that dining options at the Benson Student Union were the best. They have Pizza Hut, Shorty's, and various other types of food. I wasn't able to get in and sample the wares, but I feel confident recommending it since every student put it on their list.

Best place to eat off campus:
There are few places in the immediate area around the campus but there seemed to be enough places around that all appetites can be met. I saw an IHOP, a Chinese buffet, an Italian restaurant (all in the same strip mall!) and a good looking sandwich place that I tried to go to but was closed. I opted to try a place called Putter's for two reasons, A) it is across the street from the basketball arena and just down the road from the football stadium, and B) I had a 10% off my meal coupon. The food was OK but probably wouldn't have been worth it if I hadn't had my coupon. I would recommend branching out and trying to find someplace that I couldn't because chances are it will be better.

Best bars:
I had been told to visit three different bars by people in the wake forest area, the Burke Street Pub, 6Th and vine, and foothills. I couldn't find Burke street, 6Th and vine was closed by the time I went by at 11:30. So I am recommending foothills the bar to visit when visiting wake. They offer a wide variety of beers and even brew their own so you can drink the ale of the locals. The bar itself is very nice and comfortable, giving me a nice place to relax, have a drink, and watch basketball.

Athletic venues:
Lawrence Joel Coliseum (basketball) and BB & T field (football) are both located just off campus but close enough that anyone determined to could walk without needing to stop for too many breathers. The football stadium was undergoing a renovation while I was there, but from what I could see it is going to be a really nice, modern stadium that won't lose the small intimate atmosphere it now provides. I couldn't get into the basketball arena because they were setting up for a concert (3 dog night was there the next day, what a cruel twist of fate) but the outside looked nice, with ample parking.

My favorite stadium was Gene Hooks Stadium which is where the baseball team called home. I liked that it was tucked away on the campus and that it had trees lining the outfield fence. Walking around it I felt like I was in a baby Wrigley field, and then I looked it up online and found out that they will no longer be playing games there and will be moving to Ernie Shore Field starting 2009. So if you can go and check out this little stadium tucked up in a nook just above faculty dr. it really is a cool stadium.

Other activities:
Winston-Salem is home to the Warthogs which is a single A affiliate of the Chicago white sox so I would suggest trying to catch one of their games if your schedule works out. Plus they already play at Ernie Shore Field so you can catch a glimpse of the future home of the demon deacons baseball team. Aside from that I couldn't really find much to do in around town, there was a convention center, but they were hosting a boy scouts of america convention and I didn't want to end up on to catch a predator so I didn't poke my head in.

I know it seems like I am making wake out to see like it's no fun, but I am going to take responsibility and blame myself for just coming to visit at a bad time. As far as the campus itself goes, the place could not be nicer. I really liked the Polo residence halls that overlooked the soccer practice fields, they seemed to offer nice housing right on campus. I also really liked that there were plenty of places to grill on campus and lots of benches or tables to sit at and enjoy the outdoors.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thoughts from the road

I think now is as good a time as any to thank the guys over at ACCNation for all of their help with this project. If you aren't visiting the site because of their site, then please take a little and check out their site. You can hear their podcast where I talked about my trip and more importantly where they talked to John Feinstein after that. If I had any clue how to put portions of the podcast onto this site I would, but do yourself a favor a and check them out because they do a great job talking about all ACC sports.
Please keep the emails coming with suggestions about places I should visit or places I might have missed, I love getting them all. I am only one man, with one liver, so it is possible that I may not be able to hit every spot.
I also just wanted to address something that a octogenarian my father hangs out with brought up. I don't want people to think that I am just begging for a place to the stay, my point of this is to meet the people that make up the ACC. If you are going to be around when I am going to your town, but don't have extra space available, thats cool, but drop me a note anyway so we can grab a drink and I can really find out about the school. This trip is about seeing the schools and having a good time along the way.
Thanks for visiting,

Clemson: insert bad pun here

Best place to eat on campus:
As was the case with FSU the recommendation from students was that I go to the place that offers quick food and somewhat of a variety. At Clemson this place happens to be the Fernow St Cafe which has sandwiches, sushi, and pizza available quickly and at minimal cost. I am going to take things a different direction though and suggest '55 exchange. It is an ice cream joint located on the side of the Hendrix Student Union and reminded me a lot of the famous Penn State creamery. It may not be a whole meal, but you can never go wrong with great ice cream anytime of the year.

Best place to eat off campus:
If you are with a crowd of people and are all in the mood for something different I suggest that you go to Ancheaux's located right on College Ave. They offer great burgers as well as options for herbivores such as a grilled zucchini sandwich, but if you want to eat like a Tiger then order up a newborn baby sized handmade burrito. If you are dining dainty and want to try something from the Pacific, or if it's Tuesday and you want to have an all you can eat sushi eating contest with friends, then hit the Blue Heron. It is also on College Ave. and was first on the list of all the ladies I surveyed, so heads up fellas, and is reasonably priced so do yourself a favor and mosey over there.

Best places to stumble home from:
Tiger Town Tavern is a spacious bar that seems to have something for everyone (especially those who are fans of alliteration!) whether you like pool, air hockey, pinball, car racing arcade games, or just sitting at a bar drinking pitchers of beer ($5.75). The triple T has plenty of booths and stool seating and had lots of Clemson memorabilia aligning the walls. A place just off of College Ave. is a cool bar called Backstreets. It offers a more laid back type of environment with a great selection of beers both on tap and in bottles. The walls were covered in random stuff, kind of like a Fridays but not mass produced, you can tell someone collected the half red wings half devils hockey stick, or the stuffed squirrel. The back has a nice area for darts and they serve food until 11:30 at night. If you get the beer munchies I'd suggest a dozen chicken wings with Big Bear's Dank Hot Teriyaki sauce, a good amount of burn going down but tasty nonetheless.

Athletic events:
Memorial Stadium aka Death Valley was one of the places that I was most excited to see along this trip. I just think the whole tradition of rubbing Howard's Rock and then running down the hill is one of the coolest traditions in sports. It was actually my first stop on the campus and I reached my arms through the gates to take a better picture of the whole thing. The stadium itself is huge and just standing there looking at the very last row in the back corner gave me chills, it really is an amazing place. All the students I talked to said that getting tickets on game day was easy as long as you didn't wait until the last minute, but if you are a non-student you better know early which game you want to go to and you better order them way in advance.

I was less impressed with Doug Kingsmore Stadium, the place where the Tigers play baseball, but it was still a nice place to see. From the outside the stadium looked nice, but when I got in there and started poking around it just seemed like the stadium was a little worn in places. I did like all of the signs that said, "Next time I'll wear orange" that were prevalent all over, I'm a big fan of uniformity in sports crowds and I think Clemson does this as good as anyone.

Other activities:
This can best be summed up by my conversation with an older Clemsonian:
Me: Excuse me, aside from the things the college offers, what else is there to do in town?
Kind elderly Clemsonite: hmmm let me think (awkwardly long pause) fish!
Me: Oh, I saw the lakes, fishing is a big hobby for people around here?
Older tigress: yes, fish and walks, people walk here.
My point is that if you are going to visit Clemson you are going to the school, because there is not much else out there. It is a beautiful area and I went and looked at the lakes and they truly are beautiful but the college is pretty much the whole shebang. That being said though there is the Astro which is located on College Ave. and shows movies for $2.

Clemson has a beautiful campus with an amazing lawn in front that I saw many students using to play Frisbee, read, or teaching their dog to shake hands on. The campus was easy to navigate and enjoyable to walk around. The Hendrix Student Union is a great place with conference rooms and computers for students to use. On game day I think there are few places in the country that can rival the atmosphere that Death Valley provides.

Georgia Tech: engineering a unique experience

Best place to eat on campus:
GT offers lots of options for dining on campus. They have the normal chain places such as Pizza Hut or Einstein bagels and vending machines that all colleges have, but inside their student union there is a treat to be found. The restaurant Jackets is located in the middle of the student union and offers all of the foods that college kids love. They also offer team trivia on Thursday nights for anyone that wants to match their wits in movies, television, or music against the tri lams.

Best off campus restaurant:
Here is the obligatory mention of The Varsity, which is located right across the highway from GT. If you like your hot dogs, fries, onion rings, chicken sandwiches and cups of soda nice and greasy then the varsity is the place for you. It is something to see once, but I wouldn't make a habit out of sampling the menu. If you must though get the #1, it's two chili dogs, switch the fries to an onion rings, and make the drink a Varsity orange. My recommendation would be to hit Fellini's for some delicious pizza. They offer a wide variety of toppings to make any type of pie that you might desire. If you like lots of toppings do yourself a favor and try the Fellini's special it comes with all of the good toppings any pizza fan will love.

Best waterin holes:
If you are traveling from across the pond to watch your favorite team take on GT, but still want a taste of Europe, then make sure you go to O'Terrill's for corned beef or Atlanta's best fish and chips. O'Terrill's offers a nice change of pace to other bars and they even offer travel arrangements if the Irish mood strikes deep within you. Another great bar is Rocky Mountain Pizza. I was tempted to put this under the food category, but with $5 pitchers of high life and $2 bottles, I decided it needed to get the bar recognition it deserved. That doesn't mean they didn't have good pizza, strazata, and muffalata's though because all three were delicious. With a back patio, a wide assortment of video games, and lots of TVs this is a must see on any tech bar crawl.

Athletic venues:
I really like Bobby Dodd stadium because of it's interesting layout and the fact that it is right on campus. It offers incentive in itself to join a fraternity, seeing as they all get tickets to the game no matter what and other students get tickets based on GPA, and that it is just across the street from frat row. I was able to take in a baseball game while I was on campus and I had a good time. The stadium is small, but very nice and for five bucks I couldn't really think of anything better to do on a nice spring night then sit 5 rows back on the third baseline. The cheerleaders on the dugout between innings was a nice touch too.
I know that this isn't in regards to D-1 sports, but I had a problem with the GT intramural fields. They were made out of this synthetic material that looked painful to even touch, however their sand volleyball courts right next door were excellent and very inviting.

Other activities:
Atlanta can offer plenty of things to anyone that comes to the city. The new aquarium, world of coke, the cyclorama, or any of the professional sports teams are all activities that every person can enjoy while in the dirty south. However, if we are focusing on the campus itself then I would make a stop off at the Tech Rec center back at the student union. It has air hockey and other games that all kids like no matter how old they are. The student union is good to find in itself because in my opinion it has the best bathrooms on campus.

Georgia Tech is a tough place to review when it comes to specific bars or restaurants because the city of Atlanta has so much to offer and there are other colleges in the area. When visiting though take the time to enjoy the campus itself, it has lots of exposed brick buildings on tree lined streets and was a lot of fun to just walk around.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

FSU: capital-izing on fun

Best place to eat on campus:
With two setups on campus Mom and Pop's is a great place if you are in a hurry and need to grab a quick bite and keep moving, this is also the best place on campus to grab a good hot dog (there you go dad). Both of Mom and Pop's locations are open weekdays from 9 -5 to satisfy the student body all day long. My choice for best place to sit and eat on campus has got to be the Chili's on campus. I know it is a chain restaurant, but it's setting in the student union and the availability of two for one drinks all day make it tough to pass on.

Best place to eat off campus:
If sushi is what you crave on gameday then the Jasmine Cafe is the place for you. It is located very close to campus and offers student friendly prices. If you don't crave raw fish before or after tailgating then hit The Loop. So close to campus I considered putting it in the on campus section. They do all american food and specialty pizzas and do it right. More importantly it was always one of the first places every student I talked to mentioned so you know it is good, fast and inexpensive.

Best places to drink the night away:
No matter what bar you choose to imbibe at, most likely you will find yourself on or close to Tennessee St. located right across the street from campus. One exception to this rule is Potbelly's, which is located on College Ave, and offers a change for partygoers. With live music that often features talented, but undiscovered musicians it is the place to be if you are tired of hearing the same songs blasted over and over again at other places. Back on Tennessee St. there are plenty of great options such as Bullwinkles or my personal favorite Ken's. Ken's offers great drink prices and has free beer from 9 til the kegs run dry on Thursdays, coupled with all you can drink for the ladies. A very relaxed, friendly environment Ken's is the place to be if you want to drink cheap and in mass quantities. I learned a new way to drink beer quickly with their, "birthday drink", which is simply a full draft beer in a solo cup that has a hole burned in the side, simply slide your thumb over and it is the same as shotgunning from a can, very cool but also very messy. Ken's also has a tradition of offering students a chance once a semester to earn a mug on the wall by being in the bar from noon-2am. If you can do it you earn a cool numbered mug which entitles you to half off beers whenever you fill it.

Athletic venues:
I was struck by how great every stadium on campus was. From the softball stadium to the football field every venue echoes the campus trend of exposed brick that offers a clean, uniform, aesthetically pleasing experience. Doak Campbell stadium is not only home to Bobby Bowden field but also houses classrooms and other facilities. It is located right on campus so it is easy to get to and can seat over 84,000 so you know it can get loud. Students said that getting tickets can require waiting in line to enter a raffle but that not getting a ticket is normally not a problem. Students get in free to all athletic events and are well represented at almost all sporting events. Getting a ticket as a non student can be tough, but is possible if you plan your trip early or pick a game against a lesser opponent.
There softball stadium was intimate and was located right next to their equally pristine soccer field. The stadium the impressed me the most though was Dick Howser stadium home to Mike Martin field and the FSU baseball team. The stadium itself could rival or top most AAA teams can hold over 6,700 people and offers cheap tickets, ideal for a family looking for a weekend activity.

Other activities:
If you are looking to get off campus try going to St. Teresa beach to relax or get a tan while in the Tallahassee area. My choice for entertainment around FSU won't even require you to leave campus. Located in the student union Crenshaw Lanes is the on campus bowling alley. Offering reasonable prices and plenty of beer, this should be considered a must do for anyone visiting Florida State.

One of the best things I found on campus was a rock garden located by the geological studies building, I took some time to build a few structures and I thought it was a unique option for a place to kill time on a school's campus. Another thing that should be noted is that FSU isn't regularly listed among Playboy's top 10 party schools for no reason. The girls are beautiful and it seems like everyone is relaxed and wanting to have a good time.