FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
Where to stay: Book a room at the eclectic Armstrong Hotel in the heart of Fort Collins’ historic downtown, Old Town. You’ll be within walking distance of the Colorado State campus, plus there’s an onsite subterranean jazz bar, complimentary cruiser bikes and a chocolate cafe. Take one of those cruisers for a spin to New Belgium Brewing Company, stepping off your fat tire for, you know, a Fat Tire. Also in close proximity: A bunch of other breweries. (That bike’s gonna come in handy—there are 20 craft breweries in town.) If you’re looking for something a bit homier (read: less hotel-y), Old Town’s Remington Flats—a “studio hotel”—offers apartment-like getaways with full kitchens and plenty of charm (and free local beer!).
What to eat: Fuel up for the day at Bindle Coffee, a micro-roastery in the cute-as-a-button Jessup Farm Artisan Village (and then poke your head into lifestyle boutique Knapsack around the corner). If you need something more substantial to get you going, head to The Waffle Lab, whose menu is laden with all manner of Liège waffles, from the savory (topped with thick-cut bacon and grilled jalapenos, for example) to the sweet (caramelized bananas and whiskey-caramel sauce). For dinner, make a reservation at the Farmhouse at Jessup Farm, a farm-to-table affair set in a 19th-century farmhouse with a chicken coop out back, or at the beautifully appointed and modestly named The Kitchen for a Colorado-raised steak and a blackberry bourbon sour. As for local suds, grab a pint at the funky Funkwerks, a brewery focused on saisons and sours.
While you’re here … You’re in Colorado, so you’d be remiss not to take advantage of all that fresh mountain air. Your best bet for hikes close to town are the trails around Horsetooth Reservoir—Horsetooth Falls offers a family-friendly 2.5-mile loop. If you’d like to get out on the water, opt for a half-day rafting trip on the Class-III Cache la Poudre River. And if you’re willing to venture farther afield, the stunning vistas at Rocky Mountain National Park are just a little over an hour’s drive away.
Where to stay: You can’t get much more centrally located than The Collegiate Hotel, a 40-room boutique hotel housed in a revamped women’s dormitory. Not to worry, though—there’s nothing “dorm” about this swank space, unless the dorm you lived in had a craft-cocktail bar, a wraparound porch, a rooftop patio, custom furnishings and complimentary turn-down service. At The Collegiate, you’re a five-minute walk to Toomer’s Corner—an Auburn institution that’s Ground Zero on game weekends—and a hop, skip and a jump to all of downtown’s hot spots.
What to eat: If pre-game burgers and beer are in order—and why wouldn’t they be?—you’ll want to hit up Niffer’s Place for a half-pound patty, a side of housemade baked beans and handcut chips. For something a bit more refined, snag a table at Acre, a restaurant that’s as gorgeous as it is progressive, for clever spins on Southern classics (fried catfish with lemon aioli and blue-crab salad; beef tenderloin basted in smoked brisket “drippins”). Looking for something in the middle? Where the kiddos can get a (somewhat fancy) burger, but mom and dad can get a prime filet rubbed with juniper-peppercorn? That’d be Amsterdam Cafe, which is open for lunch, brunch, dinner and beyond. Those looking for a Southern-tinged cocktail will be rewarded at The Hound, a temple to bacon and bourbon.
While you’re here … Are you outdoorsy? You’ll want to head out to Chewacla State Park, just four miles south of Auburn, for a spin on its IMBA-designated mountain biking trail. Artsy? Duck into the 40,000-square-foot Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, whose collection includes the likes of Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Romare Bearden and Georgia O’Keeffe. Golfer? Make a tee time at Grand National Golf Course, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (and rumored to be the single greatest site for golf the legendary architect had ever seen).
Where to stay: Most hotels in Arlington are of the chain-hotel variety: Hampton Inns, Sheratons, Hiltons and the like. If you’re willing to venture east to Dallas (a 25-ish-minute drive), you’ll find plenty of boutique options. A safe (and relatively close) bet is the Nylo Hotel, which has bohemian-chic rooms and a rooftop bar. Downtown you’ll find The Joule, an artful boutique hotel that screams “Big City!” and claims to be “exactly like nowhere else.” And if you’re feeling spendy, there’s always the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, which is so plush and delightful you might not ever make it to the big game.
What to eat: You’re kind of in another chain-variety situation when it comes to food in Arlington, with the exception of some superlative ethnic eateries (Istanbul Grill for Turkish-Mediterranean fare, Ba Le for pho) and a you’ll-think-you’re-in-NYC deli, Dino’s Subs, which looks like something straight out of The Sopranos. But, again, should you find yourself in Dallas, you can’t go wrong with a wood-fired pizza at Cane Rosso or pit-smoked brisket at Pecan Lodge. And while Frisco is a bit of haul, the Mediterranean spread waiting for you at Zaytinya, a recent Washington D.C. transplant, will make you forget all about the 45-minute trek north. (Word to the wise: Get anything with lamb. And come hungry.) Also: In-N-Out. At least twice.
While you’re here … You’ll want to go shopping, naturally. Our recommendation? Skip the Neiman Marcuses and the Nordstroms of the world and hit up a Dallas OG instead: Forty Five Ten. You’ll find three floors and 37,000 square feet of carefully curated luxury goods, from Céline bucket bags to Re/Done denim to Jonathan Adler lamps. (Non-shoppers can chill at the top-floor bar.) For a dose of culture, head on over to the Dallas Arts District to stroll the grounds at Klyde Warren Park and pop into the neighboring Dallas Museum of Art. And if the kiddos need to expend some energy, the Perot Museum of Science and Nature and the Dallas World Aquarium (sloths! manatees!) are both close by.
Where to stay: You’ll be less than a mile from the MSU campus at the historic Hotel Chester, a 1925 landmark that received a freshening-up of sorts care of a Gordon Ramsay reality show. Rooms are quaint and cozy, but the real draw here is the hotel’s beer garden, a tree-shaded, bistro-light-strung patio where you can grab a “Gordon Burger” or some fish and chips, and a Mississippi-made brew.
What to eat: You’ll find it hard to leave third-wave coffee bar 929, so be sure to work in some lingering-over-a-Counter-Culture-pourover time to your itinerary. Lunch is at The Little Dooey if you’re craving pulled pork or Mississippi farm-raised catfish, or at Oby’s if you’re into NOLA-style po’boys (or if you have “kiddeaux” in tow). Turn to chef Ty Thames’ trio of Starkville eateries for dinner and drinks inspo, whether it’s a cold-smoked pork chop finished with a truffled Mississippi honey demi-glaze at Restaurant Tyler, a duck burger at The Guestroom or a smoked-chicken pizza at Bin 612.
While you’re here … Spend some time wandering through Starkville’s Cotton District, a neighborhood between MSU and downtown Starkville. Created by architect/developer Dan Camp in 1969, it’s a “new urbanist” planned community that was doing “new urbanism” before the term was even coined. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Charleston or New Orleans (and you can duck into Commodore Bob’s for some pork-belly deviled eggs and a cocktail after all that rowhouse-gawking). Over on campus, be sure to check out the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library which pays homage to our 18th president. You may wonder, Didn’t Grant fight for the North? Yes. Was he from Mississippi? No. We suppose that’s all just a testament to MSU’s clout as a research university.
Where to stay: We suppose they’ll welcome a few Razorbacks to The Tiger Hotel, a 62-room boutique hotel positioned between Mizzou’s campus and Columbia’s downtown district. Built in 1928, the hotel was fully restored in 2011, saving historic chandeliers and polishing up terrazzo inlaid floors while thoroughly modernizing the swank guest suites.
What to eat: Alums (we’ve had a few of ‘em around these offices) know the place to go when in CoMo is Shakespeare’s Pizza, a pizza joint so well-loved, so nostalgic that it was rebuilt brick-for-brick, booth-for-booth in 2016 when the original location had to close in 2015. Once you’ve checked that off the list, make a reservation at Sycamore for flash-fried oysters and duck confit, or at Barred Owl Butcher & Table for flatiron steak with charred scallion aioli. Save some room for a scoop of chocolate cake batter ice cream at Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream, or for a nightcap at Logboat Brewing Co. (the green chile ale is a long-time staff fave).
While you’re here … Downtown, browse the stacks at Yellow Dog Bookshop on 9th Street, perhaps timing your visit to take in an author reading, book signing or story time. On campus, make sure to wander through “The Quad,” snapping a selfie with the university’s trademark columns, a relic of the old Academic Hall that burned in 1892. On your way out of town, schedule a stop at Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport, where you can enjoy a glass of sparkling brut while overlooking the Missouri River Valley.