The SEC is, unquestionably, the most formidable football conference in America. Tradition, pageantry and elite venues are the cornerstone of this proud conference. The 14 towns that play home to SEC schools will forever be linked to the university and football program that reside within their city limits.
Some of these towns are destinations even to the most jaded outsiders, while others don’t offer much at all outside of football. Having visited all 14 towns last fall while filming for an upcoming SEC documentary “Saturday Supremacy,” it was a true wonderlust to be able to bask in the charm of each setting.
1. Athens, Georgia
Aside from being the host to a never ending stream of beautiful women, Athens is also a diverse cultural haven that features upscale restaurants and beautiful, old-south mansions. Athens has a lot of class and sophistication and when it comes to college football, Athens is a bucket-list location. Athens is the jewels of the empire state of the south and Autumn Saturday’s are a slice of heaven.
2. Nashville, Tennessee
Though not closely linked with Vanderbilt football, Nashville is, at its core, one of the great cities in the U.S. It’s become the #1 bachelorette party destination in America and there is literally something for everyone, even a little SEC football if you can find time after the Grand Ole Opry is over.
3. Oxford, MS
The best college football tailgating in American takes place each week on college football Saturdays in “The Grove” on Ole Miss’ beautiful campus. Oxford has southern charm for days and boasts a crafty amount of elegance, especially for the state of Mississippi.
4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Known as one of the best towns in the U.S. to retire to, Fayetteville is set in the beautiful Ozark Mountains and features a perfect mix of sports, restaurants and cultural happenings. If you don’t mind hearing the phrase “Woo Pig Sooie” too often then Fayetteville is not a wonderful, if not vastly underrated, place to visit.
5. Columbia, Missouri
What Columbia lacks in southern flare, it makes up with one of the most beautiful college campuses in America as well as a progressive downtown featuring shops and restaurants of all kinds. Columbia’s nickname is “the quality city” and that describes it to a tee. Sports are a huge part of fabric of Columbia as the Mizzou Tigers as well as various pro teams are cheered for passionately throughout the year.
6. Knoxville, Tennessee
Nestled right at the beginning of the glorious smoky mountains, Knoxville is part laid-back mountain city and equal part crazed football haven. Neyland Stadium sits right on the edge of the Tennessee River creating a unique college football experience. The town itself provides unique visuals and experiences from hiking and wildlife to a decadent nightlife.
7. Auburn, Alabama
Auburn is a special place on where it be on a gameday in the fall or otherwise. It’s small, down-home charm is not mutually exclusive to college football. A visit to Toomer’s Corner will harken you back to simpler times (unless of course it’s after an Auburn win and you have a toilet paper phobia like millions of Americans).
8. Gainesville, Florida
Tropical weather, natural beauty and one of the craziest party schools in America are just a few of the many reasons to check out Gainesville. Half of the town’s 120,00 residents are University of Florida students and a visit to “The Swamp” would satisfy any college football fan. There are many famous watering holes within a stones throw of the stadium and the game day atmosphere is top-notch.
9. College Station, Texas
One of the top research institutions in the country, College Station is also one of the most educated cities in America. College Station is aptly named because the town is as linked with its school as any in the SEC. North of campus, you will see some solid nightlife and a visit to Kyle Field is one of the most pleasurable experiences you can have as a sports fan.
10. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The capital city of Louisiana features a tremendous mix of big-city attractions as well as one of the best college football venues in the country in Tiger Stadium (AKA Death Valley). Baton Rouge is within shouting distance of New Orleans and anyone that has been there on a Saturday night during football season will tell you that there is nowhere quite like it.
11. Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Recently voted one of America’s most livable cities, most of the town’s nightlife (and life in general) centers around the Alabama football program which is one of the greatest in college football history. Playboy Magazine called Tuscaloosa’s Houndstooth Sports Bar the #1 sports bar in the United States and you will not be disappointed making a weekend of it especially during the fall. It’s one of those towns that is just ok and was slightly disappointing once you leave campus.
12. Columbia, South Carolina
The capital city of South Carolina, Columbia has a lot to offer sports fans and otherwise. Tailgating space may be ample around Williams-Brice Stadium but a tad underwhelming due to location in the state fairgrounds. Museums, galleries, music venues and a national park may suit your fancy as well and the stadium itself is ALWAYS rocking on gameday.
13. Lexington, Kentucky
Known as the “horse capital of the world,” Lexington is home to southern hospitality and one of the nations most stable economic cities. The town is known more for basketball than it is for football, but if it’s good enough for Ashley Judd, then it’s good enough for us.
14. Starkville, Mississippi
Sarcastically known as “Starkvegas,” Starkville frequently gets a bad rap from SEC brethren. Truthfully, a stop at Petty’s BBQ may change your mind as well as a trip to Davis Wade Stadium where you will leave with cowbells ringing in your ears for days to come.