Look, I like the Clemson campus. It is one of the prettier campuses to go to with large botanical gardens and being set on Lake Hartwell it is a fun place to visit. You can also stop at Greenville on the way up which is a fun city with a good food and craft beer scene. That said, do you really want to go to Clemson to watch Georgia Tech lose? Because you know that’s what will happen right? More power to you, I just feel like there are better things to do with your Saturday.
To get some additional insight this week we reached out to @NotAlexCraft on Twitter (a member of Shakin’ The Southland) for additional information. Thanks again to both @NotAlexCraft and the whole team at Shakin’ The Southland… I hope at least your crew can get some enjoyment out of the GT @ Clemson game this week.
Travel How To: Getting from Atlanta to Clemson
Getting to Clemson is not as bad as it might seem. I think many people get worried about traveling to college towns that are a bit more off the beaten path, but Clemson is one of the easier places to travel to from Atlanta, assuming you have a car.
From Georgia Tech to Clemson is approximately a 2 hour drive mostly up I-85. Once you get close, you will need to veer off onto Highway 76 to get the rest of the way. Despite not seeming like a long drive, you will want to plan to get to Clemson’s campus (or near campus) either the night before or very early the next morning if you plan to avoid traffic. Despite the roads going into Clemson being highways, they always clog up on gameday. It’s been a few years since I last went, but the time it took for the last leg from when I left I-85 took about an hour on its own gameday morning.
There is also a regional airport near Clemson, but I could not find prices for flights. Uber and Lyft are available for use in the area, but as stated above be aware of gameday traffic impacting your travel time/cost.
If you go about 30 minutes north of Clemson on the I-85 you will come across Greenville, South Carolina which is a great small scale city with plenty of breweries and restaurants to enjoy as a rest stop. I reference Greenville because its going to be coming up a bit in the next few sections.
Places to Stay
There are quite a few hotels near campus with prices ranging from $100 to $150 a night. The hotels actually look quite nice… but good luck finding availability. It may surprise you, but most of these hotels are fully booked on gamedays and unless you’re planning to book for a year (possibly 2) down the road, you won’t be able to find a room.
Airbnb is an option, but the prices on a gameday weekend are insane! I was able to find one house that cost $83 a night that was across the lake from campus, but every other option remotely close to Clemson campus is upwards of $800 a night. Gonna say no to that.
If you want to find an affordable and comfortable place to stay you will need to expand your search pretty far from Clemson itself. It really may be best to just get up super early and drive up if you think you have the energy to manage it. There are also many campgrounds within driving distance because of the number of parks in the area. If you are comfortable with camping and want to avoid the long drive this may be the best option. You will need to contact the parks ahead of time though as, not surprisingly, the camping areas near Clemson also fill up quickly.
According to @NotAlexCraft if you aren’t staying in Clemson, and you won’t be because there is no availability, it is ten thousand percent worth making the extra 30 minute drive to downtown Greenville. In @ NotAlexCraft’s words “Don’t bother with the interstate frontage places between Anderson and Clemson, since these hotels off the interstate don’t offer much outside of a bed — go to Greenville and make a weekend out of it. Greenville has a beautiful downtown and not so secret foodie scene. Breweries line miles of trails, one of which becomes a park which encompasses a literal waterfall in the heart of the city. You can’t go wrong if you stay in Greenville! With the city booming, there’s large selection of nice and new hotels in Greenville.”
Most of the campus parking is private for school employees or students, but you should be able to find pay parking at fraternities or houses near the campus. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t take a bit of luck to find parking on campus, but you should be able to find something within walking distance. Just be sure if you’re bringing kids you have a way to carry them.
Clemson Village is a student residence/shopping area which is about a 30 minute walk north of the actual campus (in Calhoun). I’ve been told there is more public parking here, but I have never parked there when going to Clemson so I cannot vouch for this. Transit buses do run between the Village and the rest of campus, but I could not find information about how the transit buses are impacted on gameday.
Things to See near Clemson Campus
The best thing about Clemson, in my opinion at least, is the natural beauty to be found around the campus. There are many nature trails and beaches right off of the lake which are great to walk and enjoy.
The South Carolina Botanical Gardens are just off of campus and are a beautiful sight. I was surprised by the huge scale of the gardens and how, despite the fall weather, many plants were still on full display during the football season.
We already discussed Greenville, which is a great place to roam around and find new things if you’ve never been there before. I’ve actually been to Greenville more than I’ve been to Clemson and there is plenty of shopping and unique restaurants to enjoy here.
The campus also has plenty of older Antebellum buildings scattered among the educational structures. Its cool to see some of the historical buildings as you walk around campus.
Food in the Area
The best food area on the campus near the stadium is north of Riggs Field (the soccer field next to the tennis center) along College Avenue. There are many pubs and restaurants along this road that are closely congregated. Charleston Sports Pub, Study Hall, Spill the Beans, ITSURWIENER, they even have a Moe’s. Lots of good stuff to try and enjoy.
The pubs tend to be for the younger crew, so if you’re a student this could be fun but it might be difficult if you are with children. Its still a good location, and is a great place to pick up Clemson swag if you’re looking for a souvenir of the time you came to Clemson to watch Georgia Tech lose.
Elsewhere on campus, food tends to be more spread out, so if you are planning to roam around it may be best to pack your own food and snacks.
The Esso Club is the famous spot on campus where “everyone” goes for drinking and food prior to the game. It is definitely a neat experience and I remember their food being pretty good, but what I mostly remember was how hard it was to move around once you got anywhere near the Esso. It’s a cool place, just be prepared to have to wrestle people to get inside.
Also there is a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in Gressette Hall near the stadium. I don’t really get the obsession that some people have with this place, but other people swear by that place so if its what you’re craving you can track it down.
Fan Base and Traditions
So I grew up as an Alabama fan (I swear this is going somewhere). My parents both went to UA and raised me to love the Tide. I’ve been to many Saturdays in Tuscaloosa. As I grew up I found that no matter where I went no campus could replicate the same environment provided by Tuscaloosa.
In terms of enthusiasm, friendliness, spirit, and joy, the Clemson fanbase has been the closest to reminding me of being a kid going to those big Saturday gamedays at the University of Alabama.
It is so cool to me that every Clemson fan you run into knows in their heart that there is no better place to be in the world than in Clemson cheering on their football team to a victory. I absolutely love that. Clemson fans are so excited just to be there, and the ones I have met are super pumped to talk to you. Maybe its because they don’t see GT as a threat, but they seem genuinely excited to talk to you about football and know what you think of the experience of being at Clemson.
As far as traditions go you will find that every fan has their own. I love the tailgating craziness that people setup. People at these games push the limits of imagination with some of the tailgating tents and vehicles they put together. The antics seem to be supported by current students who will allow the tailgaters to use power outlets in dormitories to support their activities.
If you’re able to make it up early, you’ll notice a propensity of Orange on campus. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the team colors are orange (and purple), but Clemson has declared Fridays prior to gameday as SOLID ORANGE, where students, alumni, and faculty all wear orange in solidarity and support of their team.
If you’ve watched any Clemson football games you should be decently familiar with the gameday traditions that take place in the stadium. The team all touch Howard’s rock and run down the hill to enter the stadium. Howard’s rock is a rock brought from Death Valley in California in 1966. Coach Frank Howard told his team prior to a game against Wake Forest in 1967 that if they gave 110% they would get the honor of touching the rock. Since then touching the rock has become a tradition. Running down the hill came from the fact that the football team would dress at Fike Field House and then have to run to the stadium where they entered down a steep hill. I hope they no longer have to change at a different location, but the tradition remains.
Clemson fans will also give the Alma Mater salute and you will hear the “Tiger Rag” in the stadium. Clemson fans are definitely awesome people, but they will turn on you immediately once the game starts.
Being in Death Valley is one of the most intimidating experiences I’ve ever faced as a college football fan. The opposing fans section is in the lower corner of the stadium opposite of the hill that the Tigers run in on. This seems great since it gives you a good look at the field, but its not all sunshine and rainbows. Death Valley, as its name implies, is a dug in stadium. To get to your seats you will need to march down steep stairs to get to the field from where you enter the stadium at ground level. It might be my imagination but it feels like the stairs are steeper than they are wide. When you get to the bottom you know that if you want to leave the stadium, or even just go to the bathroom, you will need to climb back up past hundreds of cheering, screaming, eccentric fans. It is one of the few times I was worried about what would happen to me if we won the game in this opposing stadium. Not that I think Clemson fans would hurt an opposing fan, but just seeing all the orange and purple above you in the stadium is intimidating.
Going to Clemson is both a great and terrible experience. Great in the sense that it is a beautiful campus which offers one of the most unique gameday experiences in football. Terrible in the sense that Georgia Tech is pretty much guaranteed to lose once they march into Death Valley. I still recommend going, even though we have lost every time I have been I always find something new to enjoy. So take the good with the bad and make your way over to Clemson if you get the chance.