A couple weeks ago, I asked you to rank the 11 Big Ten cities that weren’t Iowa City.
One of you said Madison was the worst. Others said it was the best. That kind of spectrum was predictable. I liked it. As expected, though, not a lot of love for Champaign.
Well, here are mine. Keep in mind these would probably change if I wrote this 15 minutes later.
I’ll have my Big Ten football stadium rankings later this week. And a couple of other posts that are basically pre-dated filler as I take a few days of vacation.
I’ve always enjoyed this city, though not so much from November through March. Which is when I’ve made most of my trips there in the last 30 years. But I like the Minnesota campus, like downtown Minneapolis, like the Uptown area. It’s a big city, but it isn’t overwhelming.
2. State College
It’s a bear to get to, but it’s worth the trip. A beautiful setting in the Allegheny mountains, a great campus downtown — it’s charming and feels remote even if it isn’t. It is a short drive from towns called Port Matilda and Bald Eagle and Pleasant Gap and Rambleswood. Does that not sound nice? Oh, you can’t go there without sampling the products at the Penn State Creamery. I can’t recommend Peachy Paterno, however. It’s nothing sinister, I simply haven’t tried it.
3. Ann Arbor
Always a favorite of mine. When you’re there, you know you’re in a college town. A great downtown, and a real feel that you’re in a place where education is taken seriously.
It’s not everyone’s cup of Joe, but this is the one Big Ten city not connected by an Interstate highway, at least the last time I looked. It feels like you’ve gone back in time when you’re there, sort of. And it is the setting of one of the best sports-related movies ever made, the underrated “Breaking Away.”
Too high, many will say. I would have said the same a few years ago. Then I discovered Columbus’ revitalized downtown with an NHL arena and nightlife/restaurants that sprouted because of it. And I always liked the OSU campus and High Street. The city as a whole … it’s big and I don’t know how good or bad it is. But my Columbus experiences have been favorable.
My preconceived notion of Lincoln was a place from which you could see the end of the world. Then I went there the night before the Iowa State-Nebraska football game in 2005, a heck of a game, by the way. I got a taste of the Haymarket district, in walking distance from Memorial Stadium. Liked it. But I still wouldn’t want to drive west of the city and keep on driving.
This is a sign of aging. Me, not Madison. When I was a younger sportswriter, Madison would have been in my top two. But that party-party-party deal loses its luster after a few decades. In the summer, however, I would shove Madison near the top. The lakes in the heart of the city certainly make Madtown eye-pleasing when they aren’t frozen over. OK, let’s get serious here. I didn’t really put Madison below Lincoln.
If you said Evanston/Chicago, this battles Minneapolis for No. 1. But Evanston isn’t Chicago. Evanston is BMWs and chardonnay, not elevated trains and Old Style. I like Evanston, but I don’t belong there.
It beats East Lansing and West Lafayette for one reason. It isn’t as long a drive from Iowa.
10. East Lansing
I’ve been there many times. Yet, I couldn’t tell you much about it. I’m pretty sure it’s east of Lansing.
11. West Lafayette
If you like red brick buildings, this is heaven. Otherwise … it’s not heaven.