September is the month when homecoming season kicks off and, let’s face it, some schools do it better than others. We’ve scouted out some of the best homecoming celebrations and traditions across the country. Of course, the football game always seems to be the main attraction on every campus, but there are other aspects of homecoming that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here’s the best part – they each take place on a different weekend, so if you start planning your October travel now you can enjoy all of them! Whether you’re an alumni or not, you can certainly celebrate at these three universities alongside current and past students – just be sure you don’t wear a sweatshirt from a rival school.

University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida


If a “student-led pep rally” conjures images of a few co-eds shouting into megaphones, then you’re in for a surprise. University of Florida – Gainesville’s homecoming kicks off with the Gator Growl — it’s one of the largest student-driven pep rallies in the world, complete with live music, theatrics, and pyrotechnics. The marching band is always on hand to provide ambiance, as are well-known national music and comedy acts. Past performers include greats such as Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby, Dave Chappelle, and Billy Crystal. This year’s event will take place on October 14th and tickets are already on sale to the public. The acts for this year haven’t been announced yet, but you can bet this 80-plus-year tradition won’t disappoint.

Penn State – State College, Pennsylvania


The Best of Penn State Carnival & Field Day is truly fun for all ages. For one day, the Old Main lawn is transformed into a carnival atmosphere, complete with games, inflatables, and food vendors (think snow cones, cotton candy, and corn dogs). Penn State student bands and music groups provide entertainment. Compete in one of the sporting activities or take a tour of the impressive bell tower. This year the event will take place the afternoon of October 5th and will be open to the public (no tickets or reservations required).

Arizona State University – Tempe, Arizona


If you’re planning to go to the Arizona State University homecoming game, be sure to get there early to experience a unique tradition. The annual Lantern Walk began in 1917, and is still a favorite homecoming activity among students, alumni, and friends. Revelers climb to the top of A Mountain (which is called that because of the giant letter A  near the top) carrying lanterns to light the way. It’s a spectacular sight whether you’re on the hill or observing from below. The journey alone is worth it, but you’ll also be rewarded at the top of the mountain when the homecoming royalty is announced. As you descend the mountain, anticipation builds for the homecoming game. This year’s Lantern Walk will take place on Friday, October 21st. Tickets are required for the homecoming game but not for the walk itself.

Have you experienced a notable homecoming tradition or celebration? Where was it? Let us know in the comments section.


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About The Author

Jen Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing ( and Bouchard Design Co.