by 4Q Basket Case
This is the most variable logistical consideration. And as noted in the disclaimers, unless you’re staying with family or friends, there are no perfect options – cheap, nice and close to stadium is a pipe dream.
Keep in mind, there are 7 game weekends a year, and the hotel operators look to these to make their other 45 weeks a year profitable.
- Many hotels require reservations for all seven weekends, at a two- or three-night minimum for each.
- If you can find a room, you will pay full rack rate. There will be no bargains.
- If you are coming in for one game only, and have to be near campus, start calling in the spring and go for a cancellation.
- All rooms will be expensive. The main tradeoff is availability vs. distance from campus.
- I cannot emphasize enough: Make your reservations well ahead of time – like April / May time frame. For big games (think LSU and Auburn), even that might be late.
- Hotel Capstone – Literally right on campus, between Coleman Coliseum and Bryant-Denny Stadium. Has one of the full-season arrangements I mentioned above. There is a 100% chance it will be 100% packed on game weekends.
Best bet if you don’t already have a reservation is to get a cancellation. Still, it’s worth a long shot try for the incredible convenience of the location.
- Embassy Suites – Downtown Tuscaloosa, in the middle of a lot of downtown restaurants and bars. Excellent in-house restaurant called Side By Side. Owned by chef Chris Hastings. If you don’t know Hastings, Google him. He’s the real deal. About 12-14 block relatively flat walk to the stadium, or there are shuttles a few blocks away at the Downtown Parking Deck (see parking topic below).
- Hotel Indigo – On the edge of downtown, easy walking distance to the Amphitheater, but about a two-block uphill walk to the downtown nightlife. Could walk to the stadium if you don’t have mobility issues, but it will be a longer, somewhat hillier walk.
- Holiday Inn Express – Not walking distance, but is across a busy street from University Mall, where there is a gameday shuttle. I think the shuttle is $10, but you’d need to check.
- Other Hotels – There are dozens of other hotels that are not within walking distance to the campus, and don’t provide a shuttle. Chances of getting a room will be better. Just understand that (1) you’ll have to find gameday parking on your own, and (2) there are no bargains on hotel rooms on game weekends.
- Air BnB and VRBO – There are options for Tuscaloosa on both sites. Just be real clear on where you’ll be. Caveat emptor.
All things considered, this is a good option for a one-off game weekend. There are several hotels at or near the I-459 / US 280 interchange. Easy hop onto I-459, then to I-59/20 to Tuscaloosa.
Also, lots of options downtown, which is experiencing a renaissance. If you haven’t been here in a while, you probably won’t recognize the place.
Downtown, Uptown, Lakeview and even Avondale are buzzing, and the restaurant scene can hold its own with any city in the country anywhere near its size.
Highlands Bar & Grill in Five Points South just won the James Beard Award as the best restaurant in the country. They take reservations 30 days in advance, and I’m sure it will be booked up about five seconds after they start taking calls for a given day.
Hot’n’Hot Fish Club, Bottega, and Galley & Garden are all nearby and first rate.
Both downtown and the 459/280 interchange are about 60 – 75 minutes to Tuscaloosa in non-gameday traffic.
If you’re staying in downtown Birmingham, take the surface street detour around the closure, and hop on 59/20.
I don’t know much about Meridian, but it has a Naval Air Station, and so has a lot of mid-range chain hotels near the interstate. About 90 minutes to Tuscaloosa in non-gameday traffic.