After responding to a couple inquiries from reporters about the game-day experience in Morgantown, I decided to share my insights here for all the opposing team fans who plan to make their first trip to Touchdown City.
Here are my tips for fans who are traveling to Morgantown for college football.
What is the atmosphere like on game day in Morgantown?
The atmosphere is loud, festive and blissful. On game day, Morgantown becomes the largest city in West Virginia. People travel from all over the state and the country for WVU football games.
Last year, we even met 2 guys who drove from New Hampshire and Massachusetts just to experience WVU game day. They had no ties to the university or the state.
And Mountaineer fans are eager to welcome fans from opposing teams and introduce them to the Mountaineer Magic. Nick Stevens, host and producer of the CBS Sports’ Tailgate Fan Show, suggested “we bottle ‘Mountaineer Pride’ and sell it as an anti-depressant” after he experienced WVU game day in 2014. The visceral pride of Mountaineer fans is so palpable you can see it, taste it and feel it.
What specialty food and drink items can you expect at a WVU tailgate?
Moonshine and pepperoni rolls are what West Virginia fans are most known for, but Dave and I are known for fueling our tailgates with gourmet food and craft beer. I also created a signature Mountaineer Margarita that I bring from time to time.
My favorite dish is Dave’s filet kabobs over a bed of wild rice. He begins marinating them the Thursday before game day.
We also try to have a healthier tailgate. We’ll have Way Better Snacks with salsa and guacamole, low-sodium turkey vegetable soup, chickpea salad with honey garlic lime vinaigrette and cabbage salad.
What should someone coming for the first time know about tailgating – where should they go, what time do they need to get there?
Come early, stay late. Walk around and experience the Mountaineer Magic of game day. WVU fans love to share their tailgates. We have a saying, “If I have food, you have food. If I have drink, you have drink.” You never have to worry about feeling welcomed.
The tailgating lots closest to Mountaineer Field require season parking passes. However, there are plenty of lots that allow single-game passes, like the gold lot, which is where we tailgate. It costs $20 per game. But don’t buy it ahead of time because there’s a $10 handling fee.
Just make sure to get there early enough the day of the game. WVU offers information about game-day parking.
What tips do you have for football fans coming to visit? Any must see or must try places or food?
I recommend the Rail Trail along the Monongahela River for walking, running and cycling. (Wamsley Cycles offers bike rentals.) You can also hike the Core Arboretum, which is located next to the WVU Coliseum. It has 3 miles of hilly foot trails. If you have a car, it’s worth driving out to Coopers Rock State Forest.
The most popular hangout is the original Mario’s Fishbowl on Richwood Avenue. The iconic bar is the perfect place to pregame the night before. You’ll find the friendliest and most mirthful folks you’ll ever meet and get a taste of what West Virginia fandom is all about.
In addition to Mario’s Fishbowl, I recommend Black Bear Burritos for a delicious taste of Appalachia as well as Mountain State Brewing Co. If you prefer a nice Italian meal, Oliverio’s Ristorante is a good choice and it’s adjacent to Mountain State Brewing Co.
Apothecary Ale House is an excellent place to hit up for a great craft brew selection and throw-back games.
My friend Harry Grandon also suggests Iron Horse Tavern, Tin 202 and Montmartre Restaurant on High Street. Kegler’s near the stadium is also a popular place to eat, drink and watch games on the big-screen TVs.
What are the best places to stay while in town?
Anywhere you can get a room. Hotels in Morgantown are very hard to come by and they’re very expensive on game weekends. Dave and I stay at the Best Western Mountaineer Inn. All the rooms have refrigerators and it’s only a 1.8-mile walk to our tailgate. (I always walk to our tailgate because my husband likes to get there at 6:30 a.m., no matter what time the game starts.)
There are also hotels closer to the stadium.
Downtown Morgantown also has some nice hotels that will give you a better taste of student nightlife. If there’s availability, the Chestnut Boutique Hotel is beautiful and the rooms are spacious. The historic Hotel Morgan on High Street and the Waterfront Place Hotel in the Wharf District are also popular places to stay.
If you stay downtown, you can ride the PRT to the stadium if you don’t want to drive. The PRT system comprises blue and gold, electric-powered cars that travel on winding tracks through the campuses and downtown, skirting the Monongahela River along the way. (If you take the PRT, get off at the Towers exit and walk to the stadium. Then you can stop by our tailgate in the gold lot.)
What is the closest airport?
Morgantown has a small airport but Pittsburgh has the closest major airport. It’s about a 60-75 minute drive to Morgantown.
What are some big WVU football traditions?
- The Mountaineer Mantrip is a 300-yard team walk designed to rally WVU fans about 2 ½ hours before kick-off. Players, coaches, cheerleaders and members of the Pride of West Virginia marching band make their way to the stadium amidst cheering fans, and as they enter the gate the players stop to rub a 350-lb. chunk of coal for good luck. This tradition honors West Virginia’s coal mining heritage.
- “Take Me Home Country Roads” is a rich part of Mountaineer football tradition. The Pride of West Virginia marching band performs it at every game, and when they do, they march end zone to end zone in the formation of the state’s borders. Fans also sing it in the stadium after a win. A USA Today article listed this as one of the 10 best traditions in college football.
- The Mountaineer Mascot is one of the most beloved of all West Virginia athletic traditions. In fact, the Mountaineer was recently named the best mascot in the Big 12 by ESPN.
- Let’s Go Mountaineers! This is a rousing cheer at any WVU athletic event. In the stadium, it’s tradition for fans to square off during a cheer challenge led by the cheerleaders and the Mountaineer. One side of the stadium shouts “Let’s go” while the other responds “Mountaineers.”
- The Pride of West Virginia is one of the best marching bands in the nation. Last year, College Magazine named it in its “10 Universities With Badass Marching Band Traditions.” In addition to “Country Roads,” the band always plays the university’s fight songs “Fight Mountaineers” and “Hail West Virginia.”
- The first-down cheer is another unique tradition. Created by students, Mountaineer fans raise their hands and utter an “Oooo” noise until the first-down call is made. Following the call, they lift their arms up and down 3 times while chanting “W…V…U,” clap, and then signal to the end zone shouting “First Down.”
- “Let’s Bring on the Mountaineers” is another great tradition, signaling the football team’s entrance onto the field. After the Mountaineer fires off his musket, he and the cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field through a shroud of smoke.