Family travel five: Enjoy the vibe in these great college football towns
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Family travel five: Enjoy the vibe in these great college football towns

You don't have to be present for game day to appreciate the enthusiastic ambience of a great football town. Here are five places that may appeal to the sports fans in your family:

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1. Ann Arbor, Mich.

It's all about the maize and blue in a community where the University of Michigan Wolverines capture the town's attention every fall. Those lucky enough to snag tickets to the "Big House," as the 100,000-plus-seat stadium is called, will revel in the sweet smell of barbecue as fans fire up their grills before the game. While in town, check out the local farmers market, enjoy breakfast at Zingerman's, a local fan favorite, and visit the botanical garden. Stay at the cleverly renovated and centrally located Graduate Hotel, where you'll appreciate the classic collegiate inspiration and the nod to local history and tradition.

Contact:www.visitannarbor.org; www.graduatehotels.com/ann-arbor/

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2. Los Angeles

It's fun to take in a spirited college football game in a stadium that is also brimming with Olympic history. The Coliseum, home to the University of Southern California Trojans, has twice hosted the world event and in remembrance, has integrated the lighting of the torch ritual into every home game. Before the start of the fourth quarter, the Trojan rider and the USC mascot, a majestic white horse named Traveler, ride onto the field, accompanied by the band's rendition of the William Tell Overture. On the rider's command, the torch is lit and play resumes. From the Harry Potter fun at Universal Studios to the Getty Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Starline tours, the beaches and hiking in the hills, there is no shortage of family fun in the L.A. area.

Contact: www.discoverlosangeles.com.

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3. Boise, Idaho

The Idaho capital city, named by French-Canadian fur trappers, is a dynamic destination known for a plethora of outdoor activities, a thriving culinary scene and an enthusiastic fan base that comes out in force to support the Boise State Broncos. You'll want to ride bikes or stroll along the wooded Boise River, where a scenic greenbelt provides recreational access for visitors and locals. On game day, "Smurf Turf," the artificial blue playing field at Albertsons Stadium, is center stage for the sporting action. The unique blue surface, the brainchild of athletic director Gene Bleymaier, was introduced in the 1980s and continues to set the venue apart.

Contact: www.Boise.org

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4. Columbus, Ohio

Along the shores of the Olentangy River, Buckeye fever rises to red-hot as fans prepare for the annual rivalry with the Michigan Wolverines. For every home game, expect tailgate parties around The Horseshoe, as the stadium is known, and enthusiastic support for The Ohio State Marching Band Skull Session, a pregame music fest. Later the band famously spells out O-h-i-o on the field, and on rare occasion reserves the option to "dot the I" with an honored Columbus resident or alum. While in town, visit the world-famous Columbus Zoo; COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, and explore the historic German Village. You'll find a burgeoning art, culinary and fashion scene.

Contact: www.experiencecolumbus.com.

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5. Your SportsTown, USA

Do you or someone in your family have a sports tradition to share? Take the kids to your own high school or college homecoming game and take a stroll down memory lane. Wear the school colors and sing the old fight song. Revisit your favorite haunts, recall the taste treats, music or other details that have made the memory stick. Head on to campus and revisit your classroom time and share what you learned along the way.

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(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)

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