Ed note: We want Bulls fans to go to as many road games as possible. To that end, our Resident Travel Genius Mike Stuben will be putting these together for each of the Bulls five road football games this season. This is the first of this series. Got questions about how to get there? Ask in the comments!
Game Date: Saturday, September 17 at 3:30PM
University Setting: Urban
Nearest Airport: Syracuse SYR
Alternate Airport(s): Rochester ROC; Buffalo BUF; Albany ALB
Usefulness of a Rental Car (1 meaning you don't want one, 10 meaning you need one): 6
Stadium Name: Carrier Dome
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 Syracuse, Friday to Sunday can be purchased right now on Delta for $245 roundtrip. There aren't any non-stops from Tampa to Syracuse, so plan on connecting in both directions. Right now, there is no price savings by picking an alternate airport, with the noted exception that Southwest doesn't fly to Syracuse, but does to Rochester, Albany and Buffalo. Southwest offers two free checked bags per passenger so they may 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.
I love public transportation, but for this game I would suggest getting a rental car and not staying downtown. Having a rental car downtown means parking costs and higher priced hotels. This is a trip where I would stay in the suburbs and want a car at my disposal.
There is a tradeoff. Stay downtown and maybe walk to the game, but incur higher hotel rates and parking rates, or stay in the suburbs and get free hotel parking and lower rates and drive in and pay to park at the game. My vote is the suburbs on this trip.
I also want to mention that 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
Syracuse is a perfectly nice medium sized city as long as it isn't winter. All the attractions I want to talk about are outside the city, so I don't really have a lot to say here. I'm sure locals will tell you lots of places to eat, but I can vouch for two of them. The first is Dinosaur BBQ (they have locations in Buffalo, Rochester and other cities too). ( found Dinosaur to be ok but not a place I would go out of my way or wait in a long line for. Part of my letdown might have been all the hype so many locals gave this place. It was good BBQ, but I can name five places in Tampa I like just as much.
The second is Mother's Cupboard. The first time USF went to Syracuse in 2005 my group stumbled into this place. It's a little hole in the wall shack, and seats only 35 or so. We went for breakfast. The food is good and the prices are cheap, but that isn't the real story. I noticed a food challenge on the menu: eat a 6 pound breakfast frittata and get your photo on the wall. I have never before (or since) attempted a food challenge, but I went for it that day. Here is what you need to know:
1. I didn't beat the frittata, even though many locals came up to me and told me I could. 2. It was actually very good. 3. It was only $9 or so (today it is $10.95, I think), so it is a great deal. For those wondering, it was the potatoes that did me in, too many potatoes! Seven years later Adam Richman defeated the frittata challenge on the show Man vs. Food.
Getting Out of the City
Truth be told, Syracuse looks great in the rear view mirror. Turning Stone Casino is about an hour East in Verona. Years ago the buffet featured fresh steamed clams that were excellent, I see no mention of them on the website, so I have no idea if they are still there (or possibly seasonal).
If you fly into Albany then you may want to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, NY. I remember getting directions in Cooperstown once that said take a left at the traffic light. I asked for the street name and the lady said don't worry, we only got one traffic light, so if it blinks you are at the right street (yes the light was only a blinking yellow light, no red or green).
If you fly into Buffalo you can visit Niagara Falls. The Bridal Veil Falls on the American side are not as impressive, but have the state park to provide a historical narrative. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side are very impressive but will require a passport and two trips across the border. Now, let me warn you, the area around the Falls is a tacky tourist trap. Sort of like Orlando without the Mouse or the crappy school. If you like to gamble, there is a casino on the US side and two on the Canadian side. Remember, the Canadian casinos require you to gamble in Canadian dollars, so if you happen to win, they will take back some of your winnings as a currency conversion fee.
Buffalo has two famous foods to eat: wings and beef on weck. Anchor Bar is the inventor of Buffalo Style Chicken Wings, so next time you see a wingless chicken you know who to blame. It's a little pricey and expect to wait in line at peak times, but it is cool to say you have been there. Beef on weck is a regional delicacy of Western New York. Basically it is a fresh carved, rare roast beef sandwich with horseradish on a salted bun that has caraway seeds on it. I had one at Charlie the Butcher's shop in Buffalo and loved it, but I'm sure it is great many places.
Bonus trivia time. Buffalo Wild Wings used to be called BW3's, which stood for Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck, as the founders were from Western New York and the chain featured beef on weck. They have since dropped the weck from both their name and menu.
Road Game Rank
I rank 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.
Here are my rankings (1 being the best road trip and 5 being the least desirable trip):
4. Cincinnati (tie)
4. Syracuse (tie)
Please don't see this as a bad ranking, USF has good road trips this year. This game ended up where it did because USF has been there many times before and Cuse football isn't making anyone too excited like there basketball team would. Last I checked Jim Brown is out of eligibility. I also wish there was more to do closer to Syracuse. They do gain points for being the only Power 5 Conference road game on the schedule.