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USF vs. Cincinnati Football Road Trip Planner

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Our resident travel expert gives you all the advice you need for a football weekend in the Queen City.

NCAA Football: Alabama A&M at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We want Bulls fans to go to as many road games as possible. To that end, our resident travel genius Mike Stuben will put together guides for fans looking to attend each of the Bulls’ five road football games this season. This is the second in the series. Got questions about how to get there? Ask in the comments!)

USF at Cincinnati

Game Date: Saturday, October 1, 2016
University Setting: Urban
Nearest Airport: Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
Alternate Airport(s): Dayton (DAY), Columbus (CMH), Louisville (SDF), Indianapolis (IND)
Usefulness of a Rental Car: (1 meaning you don’t want one, 10 meaning you need one): 4
Stadium Name: Nippert Stadium
My Road Game Rank (1 is the best road game to attend and 5 is the least desirable): 4 (tied)

Getting to the Game

Let’s start with the flights. Tampa to Cincinnati can be really expensive. CVG used to be a Delta hub and had very limited competition to keep prices high. Delta moved out, but amazingly, competition never filled in the gap. At the time of writing, a Friday-to-Sunday plane ticket to CVG can be purchased for $211 roundtrip, which is a great price for that route and worth booking if it is still available when you are reading this.

I should mention that CVG is actually in Kentucky. I remember it as about a 25 minute drive to downtown Cincinnati. There aren’t any nonstops from Tampa to Cincinnati, so plan on connecting in both directions. Right now, you won’t save any money on your flight by picking an alternate airport. However, Southwest flies to Dayton, Columbus, Louisville and Indianapolis, and they offer two free checked bags per passenger, which might save you money when you factor that cost in. You still may want to consider the alternate airports for other reasons, like attractions that will round out your trip.

Rental Car?

For this game I might think about skipping the rental car. Just don’t take a cab from the airport to downtown Cincinnati – it will be expensive. Use a city bus, airport shuttle (like Super Shuttle), or Uber for the long ride to and from the airport.

If you used an alternate airport, if you want to see sights out of town, or if your hotel is in a suburb, you may want a rental car. On the other hand, there’s plenty to keep you busy in and around downtown Cincinnati, and downtown hotels can be very expensive places to park a rental car.

Lodging

Figure out what you want to do on this trip first. If almost everything is in or near downtown, then get a downtown hotel. Rates shouldn’t be too bad on a weekend. If you have plans that take you away from downtown, then there are lots of great hotel deals to be had in Kentucky.

Again, staying at the team hotel is a really cool experience. Sharing an elevator with the offensive line or running into the coaches in the lobby makes you feel like a super fan. The players appreciate fans who travel to see them play and will be glad to chat about the game or pose for a photo as long as they aren’t rushing to a team function.

My Take on the City

I really like Cincinnati. I think the city has charm and grit, even if I can’t ever find WKRP on the radio. Cincinnati’s downtown crowds the Ohio River, and just on the other side of the river are Covington and Newport, Kentucky. Because the two Kentucky cities are so close, I am going to include them as part of the city.

One reason this trip excites me is the chance to take in a Cincinnati Reds home game. The Reds host the Cubs all weekend long. With the Cubs being good and Chicago not too far away (and it also being the last weekend of the regular season), you may want to buy your tickets in advance. If you fly in on Thursday, the Cincinnati Bengals host the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals’ and Reds’ stadiums are right next to each other along the river, with the local arena next door too. Right by the stadiums is an outstanding civil rights museum called the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Party in Kentucky! While downtown Cincinnati has some bars and nightlife, mostly around Fountain Square, a first-time visitor may want to cross the river looking for entertainment. Main Street in Covington is called MainStrasse (lots of German influences in Cincinnati) and has bars and restaurants. Or head to Newport on the Levee, where you will finds movies, an aquarium, a mall and plenty to eat and drink. I have enjoyed visiting Hofbrauhaus, which now has a location in St. Petersburg. While it can’t compete with the original in Munich, it still has good beer and food.

Allow me to plan a few of your meals for you. Let’s start with lunch. Cincinnati is famous for chili, but it isn’t like any chili you get anywhere else. Cincinnati chili comes without beans, in a thin but spicy sauce. Don’t order a bowl of it. Instead get it over spaghetti with mounds of shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions. There are two chains competing for your chili business: Gold Star and Skyline. Both are comparable. I would take Skyline if they were next to each other, but I tend to eat at whichever one is most convenient. No need to find them on a map, because every exit of the interstate has at least one of the two. For $10, you will get full and you’ll get change back, making this meal a bargain.

On your first trip to the city, be sure to grab a BBQ dinner at the Boathouse at Montgomery Inn, which is famous for their ribs. Normally I associate ribs with shacks and holes in the wall, but Montgomery Inn has white tablecloths, linen napkins, and dressed-up waiters. Don’t let that fool you, though — they’re good ribs.

Cincinnati is known as a city with a huge German population. Get some German food while you are here (a hot dog at the game doesn’t count). I mentioned Hofbrauhaus earlier, and they are good, but it can get pricey. There are plenty of less famous options around town serving up spätzle, potato pancakes, and weinerschnitzel.

Getting Out of the City

This trip will keep me busy in Cincinnati, but I do want to mention two fun things to do outside of the city. One cool must see is up the road in Dayton on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There you will find the National Museum of the US Air Force. This museum has top of the line exhibits to rival the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC. The museum is huge, with examples of almost every plane that flew for the Air Force. They have the original Memphis Belle and a couple of Air Force Ones. Admission is FREE, but would be a bargain even at $20. If you go, first thing to do is sign up for the Air Force One tour, which is also free. Without this tour, you won’t have access to the hangar that contains several former Air Force Ones.

I also wanted to mention that Miami University is in Oxford, just 40 miles north of Cincinnati. They also have a home game on October 1 against Ohio, so if the kickoffs line up (noon and 7:00 p.m., for example), it would be easy to see two games in one day. Unfortunately we won’t know kickoff times until a couple of weeks before the games.

Road Game Rank

I ranked all the road games in my subjective opinion, based on the following factors: desirableness of the destination, USF history, and significance of the opponent/game. 1 is the best road trip of 2016, and 5 is the least desirable trip:

1. Memphis
2. Temple
3. SMU
4. Cincinnati (tie)
4. Syracuse (tie)

Please don’t see this as a bad ranking, USF has five good road trips this year. This game ended up where it did because USF football has been to Cincinnati more than almost any other destination (this is the Bulls’ seventh visit, tying UConn). But if you haven’t been to a Bulls game at Cincinnati, this can be a great road trip. And remember, this will be USF’s first trip back to Nippert Stadium after its renovation.