Win or lose, University of South Carolina's Gamecocks have some of the most devoted fans in the Southeastern Conference. Nothing exemplifies their enthusiasm like the Cockaboose Railroad, a luxury line of repurposed train cars that serve as upscale tailgate sites.
Since the turn of the century, former coaches Lou Holtz (1999-2004) and Steve Spurrier (2005-15) have produced competitive teams, giving Gamecock fans plenty of reasons to cheer. South Carolina's current coach, Will Muschamp, is doing the same, charging up the fan base each fall at Williams-Brice Stadium.
How to enjoy a Gamecocks weekend, inside or outside the stadium:
Getting tickets – Tickets for some USC home games – non-SEC games, but also some conference games – are available through GamecocksOnLine or by calling 800.4SC.FANS.
Where to eat before the game – The Vista, Columbia’s downtown restaurant district, draws most of the crowds with its variety of high-end and family dining. Favorites include Motor Supply Bistro, Blue Marlin, Jason’s Deli, Newk’s and brewpub Twisted Spur. Another popular spot is Thirsty Fellow, adjacent to the Colonial Life Arena.
Where to celebrate after the game – Why travel when Williams-Brice is surrounded by three craft breweries within walking distance: River Rat, Conquest and Swamp Cabbage. Just minutes away is Hunter-Gatherer at The Hangar, a new brewery housed in a historic hangar that once hosted famous aviators like Amelia Earhart.
Where to tailgate with Gamecock fans – The stadium is surrounded by parking areas for season ticket holders, but the SC State Fairgrounds offers more tailgating space across George Rogers Boulevard from the stadium.
Where to purchase your tailgate fare – Many fans flock to Bernie’s Fried Chicken. Those with a hankering for barbecue head to Palmetto Pig near Colonial Life Arena, Doc's Barbecue or Little Pigs Barbecue on Alpine Road.
Best USC game day rituals – Get to the stadium early to watch the Gamecock Walk, featuring the marching band, cheerleaders and team members parading into the stadium complex. Outside the stadium, you'll also find legendary 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers signing autographs and posing for photos, with donations benefiting his educational foundation. The stadium turns electric when the Gamecocks enter the field to the music of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
What they’re singing or dancing to – “Sandstorm,” the Scandinavian electronic anthem, is second in popularity only to "2001." Played before kickoff, the song is the cue for fans to wave white “rally towels” and bounce up and down.