Sports fans may know a bit about College Station thanks to the success of the Texas A&M football program. But there’s more to the area than Aggie football. Try a little culture, a lot of military history and more “howdys” per capita than anywhere else in the country.
1. IT’S A TWIN.
College Station and Bryan are essentially siblings. The former was incorporated in 1938, well after Bryan, which was incorporated in 1871. Texas A&M opened in 1876. So you’ll usually hear the area referred to as Bryan-College Station, or B-CS for short.
2. IT’S KIND OF A BIG DEAL.
A&M has long been one of the nation’s largest universities. The total enrollment at the College Station campus this fall is 59,129. Among the university’s strengths are engineering, business and agriculture, and it is is one of the few institutions in the U.S. to earn the triple designation as a land, sea and space-grant university.
3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
Despite its many selling points, it’s true that College Station doesn’t have the same big-city benefits as Houston, Austin, Dallas or San Antonio.The good news is that each of those is an easy drive away. Houston can be a quick 80-minute jaunt depending on its notoriously sludgy traffic. Austin’s live music bounty is a little more than 100 miles away, and Dallas and San Antonio are reachable within three hours.
4. SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER?
The summers are generally brutal, and stretch far into what other parts of the country consider as fall. Snow here is ultra-rare, yet we do get the occasional ice storm. And no, we do not know how to drive in it.
5. ABOUT THAT TRAFFIC.
Any residents who complain about College Station traffic should stop and slap themselves, then consider the daily dilemma of Houston residents. Same goes for the other big cities in the state. Granted, there are busy times and rush-hour jams in Aggieland, but a typical trek from one side of College Station to the other side of Bryan takes about 20 minutes. When it’s a home football game for A&M, however, all bets are off.
6. IT’S IN DEMAND.
The “college town” label might lead some to believe that life is inexpensive in College Station. But the area is growing in popularity, thanks to the size and success of the university. According to realtor.com, the median household income is $71,120, higher than the Texas average of $52,130. And the cost of living is 14.8 percent higher than the state average, according to the site.
7. THE MILITARY INFLUENCE.
A&M was a military school during most of its first century, and the campus was used as an Army training ground during World War I. Eight Aggies have received the Medal of Honor. Gen. James Earl Rudder was a World War II hero, and later became A&M’s most influential university president. Today, more than 2,400 students are in the Corps of Cadets, which includes the nationally famous Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.
8. FOOTBALL IS KING.
There’s no getting around it: Aggie football rules in Bryan-College Station. A&M has a proud football history, including one national championship (or three, depending on who you ask), two Heisman Trophy winners and one of the best game-day atmospheres in the nation. Kyle Field’s $485 million renovation lifted its capacity to 102,733, which is tops in the mighty Southeastern Conference (though an additional 3,000 people crammed in for A&M’s recent game against Alabama).
9. HOME OF THE 12TH MAN.
Here we have one of the more unique traditions in all of college sports. A&M students stand during the entirety of football games in honor of E. King Gill, who was called down from the stands during a game in 1922, when injuries had ravaged the Aggie team. Gill suited up and stood on the sidelines, ready to go in if needed. The student body stands ready, just as Gill did, and is known collectively as the 12th Man.
10. YELLING & BARKING ENCOURAGED.
You won’t find cheerleaders at A&M, but you will find Yell Leaders. These are five male students who are elected by their peers for the honor to don white outfits and direct school yells (not cheers) throughout football games and the traditional Midnight Yell Practice before each home game. And if you spot a regal-looking collie around town with an Aggie blanket draped over her back, that’s Reveille IX. The mascot is known as the “First Lady of Aggieland” and the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets.
11. REMEMBERING BONFIRE.
A solemn memorial and numerous references around town are connected to Bonfire, which was an enormous event before the annual football game against the University of Texas. In 1999, the Bonfire collapsed during construction and 12 Aggies were killed. The university canceled future Bonfires, though a student-led version that is not affiliated with the university happens each year off-campus. There is a Bonfire Memorial on campus.
12. EXTREME FRIENDLINESS.
How often do you hear the word “Howdy” as a greeting? You’ll hear it often in College Station, and you’ll likely see the more emphatic “Howdy Dammit” shirts or bumper stickers, too. Aggies are a friendly bunch, so any newbies that are lost or need a hand will likely encounter a happy helper. Aggies are also all about volunteering, as shown by the annual Big Event community service day, which is known as “the largest student-run service project in the nation.”
13. GETTING ANIMATED.
One of the more fascinating programs at A&M is the Department of Visualization in the College of Architecture, which trains students in computer science, animation and design. Its graduates go on to work for Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks and other major animation houses. The students show off their projects in an entertaining annual showcase called Viz-a-GoGo.
14. GETTING PRESIDENTIAL.
President George H. W. Bush chose the A&M campus for his presidential library and museum, along with the school of government and public service which bears his name. The complex opened in 1997.
15. LET’S EAT.
There was a time not too long ago that people got excited about an Olive Garden opening in College Station. But the area has evolved, and there are plenty of interesting non-chain dining options, including Café Eccell, Christopher’s World Grille, The Republic and Veritas. Old local favorites include Wings ’N More, burger dive Chicken Oil Co. and Freebirds World Burrito, which has exploded into other areas of Texas after getting its start in College Station.
16. LIVE ON STAGE.
Country music dominates the live music scene. But for those seeking something different, there are other options. The Memorial Student Center’s Opera and Performing Arts Society brings national performers and musicals to campus. Examples from recent years include In the Heights, Beauty and the Beast, Blue Man Group, Willie Nelson, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld. MSC Town Hall brings in acts for the college crowd including Kevin Hart, Mayer Hawthorne and Ben Rector.
17. NORTHGATE NIGHTS.
The party district known as Northgate is just across the street from the A&M campus. That’s where you’ll find the Dixie Chicken, a legendary spot that has been around since 1974, which frequently ranks among the best college bars in the country. Other long-standing Northgate favorites are the neighboring Duddley’s Draw and the Dry Bean Saloon, along with Bottlecap Alley – an alley covered in bottlecaps.
18. THIS OLD PORCH.
A stone’s throw from the back of the Northgate bars is the house where two legendary Aggies met in the ’70s. Robert Earl Keen rented a house and played bluegrass and country music out on the front porch with his friends. Lyle Lovett stopped by one day to play along, and they became friends. After graduation, both went on to become successful singer-songwriters, and their collaborative track The Front Porch Song is an Aggieland favorite.
19. DON’T MISS DOWNTOWN BRYAN.
The Front Porch Song refers to getting “a steaming, greasy plate of enchiladas” in “old downtown.” That’s Downtown Bryan, and the area has experienced a major rebirth in recent years. A number of businesses have added cultural value to the area, including bars (The Proudest Monkey, Murphy’s Law), restaurants (Caffe Capri, Madden’s Casual Gourmet), Mexican-food faves (Papa Perez, Casa Rodriguez) and a storied music venue now known as Grand Stafford Theater.
20. YOU COULD EVEN CALL IT ‘COOL.’
Though it likely made hipsters around the state chuckle, College Station was reently named the most exciting city in Texas, based on hotels, restaurants, bars and outdoor spots. The inevitable “huh?” responses (here, here and here) were no surprise. But that’s OK. Not everyone “gets” Aggieland.
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