Part of the fun each season in football, college or professional, is getting the opportunity to travel to an opposing team’s town and stadium. Now, it may not always be great for the players having to play in a hostile environment with crazy, rabid fans breathing down their necks on every snap, but it sure is fun for the fans. Or at least, it can be.
Road trips are a great time to create fun, unique memories while traveling to cities you might otherwise never check out. But if you aren’t prepared, it can be a bit of a nightmare. Not knowing where to stay, what to eat or the best place to celebrate a win in your opponent’s back yard can take a potentially great road trip and turn it into a bust. This year, the Bulldogs will travel to five different college towns, and we want to make sure you are prepared to cheer on the Maroon and White no matter what foreign town you may find yourself in.
Up first, Ruston, Louisiana. Home of the La-Tech Bulldogs, Ruston so far has not been kind to our Starkville Bulldogs. In our only previous trip to Joe Aillet Stadium in 2008, MSU left with an embarrassing 22-14 defeat. So the Bulldogs of Mississippi State will be ready for a battle come Saturday, but will you be there to cheer them on? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best hotels, food and drinks this bustling little metropolis right off I-20 in North Louisiana has to offer.
Located just north of I-20 between Monroe and Shreveport, Ruston has your usual chain hotels from Comfort Inn and Suites to Best Western Plus, but are there any local gems hidden amongst these and will they be available for this weekend? How far are they from Louisiana Tech’s campus? All valid questions that we are here to answer. Your newest and nicest option would be to go with the Best Western Plus just off I-20. The Best Western Plus is one of the newest options in Ruston (new is a relative word people, keep that in mind), but also one of the priciest as well with rooms for this weekend starting at 199$ per night. However, this will get you an extremely nice (again it’s Ruston people, not the Grand Caymans) room that not many have used before you, as well as only being 2.0 miles from Louisiana Tech’s campus. However, there is a closer option if two miles just doesn’t give you that true Ruston charm. The Sleep Inn and Suites, which has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor, provides a local flavor to the hospitality industry. The Sleep Inn and Suites, much older and broken in than the new Best Western Plus, has its own set of positives and negatives, but if you want to be able to walk to campus, then this is your best bet. Only 1.1 miles from campus, this hotel should definitely be considered for its sheer convenience over luxury, and as a result, it is cheaper than the Best Western Plus at 159$ (per night).
Our Pick: Best Western Plus
Though Ruston is only a town of about 22,000 people, it truly does have a good restaurant scene (shocking to those of us that live in Starkville). Ruston’s “downtown,” which is close to the La-Tech campus, has an extremely good Cajun-style restaurant called Ponchatoulas. Ponchatoulas was founded in 1996, and since then has become a mainstay in the Ruston downtown area. Truly a local gem, the Cajun dive is known for their gumbo and seafood, and should be a definite “go to” for anyone planning on visiting Ruston. The second place I would recommend is the Dawg House. The food was pretty good and draws rave reviews from people who visit Ruston. It’s a traditional sports bar atmosphere, but hey it’s football season. What more could you want? Lastly, if you enjoy greasy food that adds pounds to your thighs and takes years off your life, Cato’s Burger Dive is a must. Cato’s is located across I-20 and is not very close to La Tech’s campus, so I don’t suggest dipping in right before game time. However, it is a very good option if you are looking for a good classic burger that is served relatively quickly.
OUR PICK: Ponchatoulas (Friday Night) and Cato’s Burger Dive (Saturday)
Ruston doesn’t have an amazing bar scene (SHOCKER I know), but if you are looking for a great place to go after the game Saturday or to announce your presence upon arrival Friday night, you do have a couple options. Sundown Tavern would be your go to option, as they have a great selection of craft beers as well as TV’s to watch the games and even have some good music acts on most weekends. However, there is another option that almost couldn’t be considered a traditional “bar” because of the amazing food selection they serve. The Portico Bar and Grill has an excellent selection of foods, considered gourmet in fashion (I know I know, gourmet and Ruston aren’t necessarily two words you put together, but they seem legit), as well as having great beers on draft. All in all the night scene in Ruston isn’t comparable to an SEC Town, but isn’t awful either. As far as this old man is concerned, anytime you mix good beer with good food, I’m sold, and for that reason we will give the edge to Portico’s. But I expect a good crowd of Maroon-clad Bulldogs in Ruston this weekend, and that always leads to a good time no matter where you are.
Our Pick: Portico Bar and Grill
Ruston obviously isn’t comparable to Athens or College Station, both places the Bulldogs will travel to this year. However, the notion that it is an awful town is unfair, and due to the close proximity to Mississippi, tons of Bulldogs should make the short trip to Louisiana. Just a short drive down I-20 makes Ruston an easy destination for any fan, whether you stay the whole weekend or just after the game Saturday night. Either way, we hope this guide was helpful! Please feel free to let us know if you visit any of the locations we suggest and how they turn out for you.