#3 - UCLA
If the Rose Bowl isn’t college football’s most storied venue, it’s got to be in the top five. Combine this with a lovely setting and a ‘just right’ road trip distance, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a mighty fine road trip.
You might ask, if you hate Los Angeles so much, how can you rate the UCLA trip so highly? Well, I DO hate LA in general, but I rather like Pasadena. It’s a rather pleasant little town with a discernible city center, an upscale main drag with ‘Route 66′ roots, and an incredibly famous football stadium surrounded by a golf course.
One of the things that makes this trip rate above USC is that fact that Pasadena is on the ‘top’ of LA, meaning that if you’re driving down from the Bay Area, you’ll run into a minimum of LA traffic in getting there. Not none, but certainly less. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same drive as USC, but with a less frustrating ending. Another aspect that rates it above USC is that fact that I don’t feel unsafe leaving my car unattended, or walking around alone at night, probably stumbling back drunk from a bar.
When you’re not at the game or your hotel, you’ll probably be spending most of your time on Colorado Avenue, which was, at one time, part of Route 66, although almost all of the 50’s nostalgia has been razed to make way for a Banana Republic, an Apple store, and a Hooters, among other shopping destinations. There’s also a Cheesecake Factory location here, which if you’re willing to wait for a table (they don’t take reservations), I highly recommend. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying that their Bacon Cheeseburger is the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten.
Post-game partying can definitely be found here, too (see the aforementioned Hooters — very tasty Buffalo wings), but it’s not quite the scene one would expect after a major football event; most of the UCLA fans will have already left, either headed back to Westwood or otherwise just trying to beat the traffic (it can take a long time to funnel 40,000 cars onto the city streets of Pasadena). Also, if the game is a night contest, be sure to get your grub on soon after the game — it can be hard to find food here late at night.
The Rose Bowl itself is a great venue, and I’m especially a fan of its classic bowl shape (hence the name), which means that even if you’re stuck way over in the corner or whatever, you are still afforded a decent view of the game. Why don’t they build more stadiums like this? I couldn’t say. I can say, however, that the Rose Bowl and Memorial Stadium are two of my favorites, in part because there simply isn’t a bad seat in the house. Come see why Sports Illustrated named it the #1 college sports venue in the country.
Sunny SoCal weather, 100,000 fans, and college football. That’s what I call a pretty sweet way to spend a Saturday.
Reasons to visit the Rose Bowl:
- It’s an absolute classic. A must see for the college football fan.
- Los Angeles is the perfect distance for a road trip.
- Nothing beats sticking it to the SoCal schools.
- No matter which band is playing, you get to hear the same fight song.
Reasons to shun the southern part of this state:
- You’re turned off by smog and tap water that tastes ‘interesting’.
- You hate driving in LA.
- Parking can be a mess. Two years ago, I parked on a golf course. Yes, on the grass, as in right near the fairway.
- There are other interesting things to do in LA, but Pasadena’s not near any of those. Yay, more driving!
Because it’s fairly close and cheap, I make this trip every other year. I’d love to make it twice this year, but that’s going to depend on whether our Bears can finally dethrone USC.