Each week on NCAA.com, College Football’s Ultimate Road Trip takes you to some of the best places to watch college football in the country. You’ve gone from the Big House to Stark Vegas and “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” down by the bayou. This week, NCAA.com is going to Palo Alto, California for some Pac-12 football.
Oregon State comes to the Silicon Valley on Saturday to play against Stanford and while the Beavers and Cardinal prepare for their conference show down, you get to enjoy a few days in beautiful Northern California.
Obviously there’s more to do in California than what will fit on this page, but let’s concentrate on two cities surrounding our destination: San Francisco and San Jose. Sure you can go for a splendid walk through Oakland’s Rockridge, Rockridge district or even take a tour of wine country in Napa and Sonoma, but you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied in San Francisco and San Jose.
If you’re coming up to Stanford from the south, you’ll hit San Jose. One of the really cool things to see in San Jose is the Winchester Mystery House, a spooky mansion and home to the Gun that Won the West. When you’re done being creeped out, Downtown San Jose is a pretty cool place with a farmer’s market in the morning on Fridays, live music any day of the week and a really fun nightlife scene at San Pedro Square.
There is a great outdoor shopping mall in San Jose called Santana Row, that’s a great place for both brunch and happy hour. I know there is a very thin line between the two, but make sure you get out and explore all corners of San Jose.
Coming from the north, San Francisco is already an exciting town, but any sports fan that visits this weekend will feel a certain buzz in the city that can only be brought on by having a team in the championship. The San Francisco Giants have found themselves in their third World Series since 2010 and Games 3-5 are in AT&T Park. It’s something I would highly suggest attending, if you have the means.
For those of you who do not plan on attending the game or actually want to see San Francisco in the daylight should look to go see the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The culture clash between the wealthy elite and the fossilized hippies from the Summer of Love era make for an interesting part of the city. It represents the contradiction of what San Francisco really is, an expensive, free city.
George Harrison visiting Haight-Ashbury, 1967. pic.twitter.com/PeY54wx3xp
— OnThisDay & Facts (@NotableHistory) October 23, 2014
One thing you’ll find is that there is a lot of music that was either born in this city or made about it, and Haight-Ashbury has plenty of it. Whether it’s a group of panhandlers banging a drum in Golden Gate Park or the endless sea of CDs at Amoeba Music on Haight Street, everywhere you look you’ll find evidence of that around Haight-Ashbury. A good bit of college football history is also in Haight-Ashbury as the Haight Street Grounds was the birthplace of the Cal-Stanford rivalry.
Look back at how rock & roll electrified San Fran’s Haight-Ashbury. Get lost in our playlist and photos here: http://t.co/FkSwh0C5wM
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) October 23, 2014
There is also an area called Fisherman’s Wharf that just has some amazing restaurants and bars, but it also gets very crowded with visitors. There’s also a vintage arcade at the Wharf called Musée Mécanique, with penny operated musical instruments and arcade games that make for a good time in the city.
There are a few excellent scenic lookouts over the city, the big one being the Coit Tower right near Fisherman’s Wharf. But there is also Crissy Field, a natural wetland that has both a view of the city skyline as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you really want to go to prison, Alcatraz does tours. And depending on the day you can drive on the crooked Lombard Street on Russian Hill. There are plenty of other things to do in this city, so go out there and have fun. It should also be noted that although this is California, the whipping winds make for some chilly temperatures and rain.
But just listen to San Francisco legend Jerry Garcia: There’s some satisfaction in the San Francisco rain, no matter what comes down, the mission always looks the same.
It sure was nice to get some rain in the Bay Area last night and this morning! pic.twitter.com/ZglpKCYJyZ
— Golden Gate Bridge (@GGBridge) September 25, 2014
So don’t get lost in San Fran because your mission is to make it to Stanford Stadium on time.
When you get to Stanford, visit the campus. It’s an Ivy League-type school, academically, with a relaxed California feel (take a look at Palm Drive for all the Cali you need) and beautiful structure, including many different fountains and a gorgeous quad.
Now it’s time to concentrate on football. The game day traditions are similar to some other schools. Much like the Elephant Stomp in Alabama, the Cardinal has the Walk. Unlike Alabama, its not so much a pep rally as it is a confident strut by the players into the stadium, where players actually stop and get a send off from their families as they go off into battle.
There is a kid-friendly event on every game day called Fan Fest that has some music, some tailgating and some fun activities for the kids. While you’re out having a good time and tailgating, look out for the Leland Stanford Junior Varsity Marching Band. I know you haven’t seen a tree this happy since the last time Bob Ross painted his last 10-minute landscape, but be on the lookout for the unofficial mascot of the Stanford Cardinal accompanying the marching band.
Then head inside and see the Cardinal take on Oregon State and quarterback Sean Mannion (who’s just about as tall as a tree).
There are a few different spots for good postgame activities in Palo Alto, Antonio’s Nut House is a terrific dive that will give you mixed feelings about being 22 again, The Old Pro, is an interesting place for someone whose never drank wine straight from the barrel and the crown jewel of Stanford Bars is the Dutch Goose, complete with a outdoor heated patio and plenty of fans of the Cardinal.
That will complete this week’s college football road trip. Join us next week for a trip to Sun Devil Stadium to see Utah take on Arizona State.