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Gerard Gilberto | | August 27, 2014

College Football Ultimate Road Trip

Week 1 Road Trip

Labor Day not only marks summer’s end, but the dawning of a new college season and this Labor Day weekend, is taking you on college football’s ultimate road trip.

Your journey begins Aug. 28 in Columbia, South Carolina, and Week 1 ends in Louisville, Kentucky, on Labor Day.  You will be stopping by four of the best games of the season, but you’ll also explore more of what this beautiful country has to offer.

Grab a map, buckle up and let’s hit the road.

Columbia on a Thursday morning, but there is a different feel to this day. Today the hometown Gamecocks open their season against Texas A&M. But that game isn’t until prime time, so you have yourselves a chance to explore some of the best that Columbia has to offer. 

You have a long weekend ahead of you so start with a relaxing morning trip to the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. The zoo has more than 2,000 animals from around the world and their natural habitats make for a beautiful walk along the banks.

That long hike is going to have you feeling hungry by the middle of the day so dust off yourself and head into town for lunch. There’s a tailgate planned for a later part of the trip so head to Pawley’s Front Porch for some of the best burgers in the South.

After lunch you can take a walk through downtown Columbia before its time to don the garnet and black and head to Williams-Brice Stadium to watch South Carolina take on the Aggies.  After the game, you can get a get a feel for Columbia’s nightlife, especially if there’s a Gamecocks victory party! But let’s hear some live music and head over to the Tin Roof on Senate Street.

After a great night out in Columbia and a good night’s rest, you should take the day off from football and head toward the next town, Atlanta, where you’ll get to see Saturday’s game between West Virginia and Alabama in the Georgia Dome. 

Now you have practically a full day to make the three-hour drive from Columbia to Atlanta so be sure to stop and take a look at what lies between these two cities. But the ultimate college football fan cannot resist a great college town, making Athens, Georgia, the perfect place to spend the day on Friday.

Georgia begins its season the next day against Clemson but it won’t take very much time in Athens to see that this is a town that breathes Bulldog football. This is a fun town that likes to celebrate on football weekends, so take a walk up and down Washington Street and just see where the party takes you.

A good night out in Athens will put a smile anyone’s face but get yourself prepared for a day of big-city living in Atlanta. You have arrived to the capital of the state of Georgia, but in the shadows of the Georgia Dome and the historic CNN Center on Aug. 23 when the College Football Hall of Fame opens its doors for the grand opening, Atlanta also will be anointed the college football capital of the world. So what better place would there be to watch an SEC-Big 12 classic?

After the game there are some Labor Day events that you could enjoy while seeing some of Atlanta’s landmarks. You could explore your inner geek and participate in Dragon Con, Atlanta’s largest science-fiction convention. Saturday also is the Georgia Aquarium’s Dragon Con Night, when participants of the convention get to experience the aquarium during special nighttime hours.

But no Labor Day celebration is complete without fireworks. Just up the road in Stone Mountain Park is the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision -- a fireworks, laser and lights show -- at 9 p.m.

After your night out in Atlanta, you’ll spend your Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Volunteers' opening matchup with Utah State. Today might have been the day you’ve really been waiting for because you can get to do some tailgating. 

The earlier you head to Neyland Stadium, the better chance you’ll have to find a place on Cumberland Avenue or by The McClung Tower and Circle Park to find a grassy area for your vehicle, grill and cooler. Now, fair warning: The students, fans and locals will be boasting of the previous day’s Boomfest, a concert and fireworks display in Knoxville, so make sure you impress Vol Nation with the tales of your ultimate experience.

Just before the start of the game, be sure to catch a glimpse of the Vol Navy, a gathering of hundreds of boats on the Tennessee River having their own offshore tailgate as well as the Vol Walk, where the Pride of the Southland -- Tennessee's marching band -- leads loyal fans into the stadium.

The best postgame entertainment can be found on Market Square so treat yourself to a nice stroll around the town, but don’t get lost because your tour de college football is reaching its last stop the next day in Louisville.

On Sept. 1, the Miami Hurricanes travel to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for a tilt with the UofL. But once again, you find yourself in another town that has a few Labor Day events to offer. Sept. 1 will be the final day of Worldfest, an international festival with food, music, dance and culture from dozens of different countries.

After the game, Fourth Street Live will be a great place for you to resist the idea of winding down after a long action packed weekend filled with fun and football and with that, after nearly a dozen hours of driving and almost 700 miles traveled, your College Football Ultimate Road Trip has come to its conclusion -- for Week 1.

Next week, there are two different road trips from which to choose ...

• College football tickets

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