Texas A&M University is one of the most historic and tradition-laden schools in the SEC. From the yell leaders orchestrating the Midnight Yell to the gathering of students for the Silver Taps, the Aggie traditions are endless and equally awesome.
The school’s military roots trace back to 1876, when TAMU opened near Bryan, Texas, as an all-male establishment known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, or Texas A.M.C. Enrollment in the school’s Corps of Cadets was mandatory until 1965, and the school didn’t accept women until the year prior in 1964.
Members of the Cadet Corps (comprised of three Air Force Wings, three Army Brigades, three Navy and Marine Regiments and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band) actually serve in U.S. wars and conflicts — more than 20,000 Aggies fought in World War II. One such Cadet Corps alumni is former U.S. Secretary of Energy and former Texas governor Rick Perry.
That being said, the Texas A&M campus features a ton of landmarks, buildings, memorials, sculptures and statues that the student body and visitors from all over can enjoy. I compiled the eight coolest of those landmarks and things to do if you’re planning a road trip to every Texan’s favorite college town.
But first, a few honorable mentions found on the TAMU campus map: the Academic Building, Rudder Theatre Complex, Memorial Student Center, Reed Arena, Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, Cushing Memorial Library, Sbisa Dining Hall, Administration Building and Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center.
Now, on to the fun things to do.
Enjoy a Football Game at Kyle Field
“Home of the 12th man,” Kyle Field is a must-see and must-attend stadium on Aggie game days. Built in 1904, the venue is not only the oldest football stadium in college football but also the third-largest by capacity (102,733) and largest in the state of Texas.
Whether you want to step inside and learn how Edwin Jackson Kyle used his own money and built the field’s original wooden bleachers or want to partake in the one-of-a-kind Midnight Yell tradition inside the stadium each night before a game, Kyle Field is an American landmark anyone can appreciate.
Snap an Oval Office Selfie at George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Easily one of the coolest attractions, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum has a full day’s worth of things to see and read — 44 million pages of papers and documents, to be exact.
It’s here that you can learn about the Bush family and the 41st leader of the United State’s presidency, take a picture in a replica of the Oval Office and visit a 12-foot sculpture of the Berlin Wall in an exhibit.
The $43 million, 90-acre site that was dedicated in 1997 is also home to the grave sites of both George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush. Stroll over to Texas A&M’s west campus and dive into this treasure trove of American history.
Place Your “Pennies on Sully”
Texas A&M students are well-acquainted with the sculpture of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas from 1891-1898, who embodied the Aggie spirit.
As students walk by the iconic figure, they leave pennies (and other bills, cards and trinkets) on the statue for good luck before exams. The tradition, dubbed “Pennies on Sully,” pays homage to Ross. He used to help students with homework and when asked how they could repay him, he’d respond with “a penny for your thoughts.”
Dedicated in 1918, it’s the oldest sculpture on campus and resides in the middle of campus at Academic Plaza.
Dunk Your Ring at The Dixie Chicken
Serving up barbecue and beer to the College Station community since 1974, the Dixie Chicken is an absolute staple of a watering hole to Aggies and Texans.
The bar is where TAMU’s “ring dunking” tradition took place for the first time. In the late 1970s, one student dropped his Aggie ring in a pitcher of beer and his friends challenged him to drink it anyway. Now, it’s tradition for Texas A&M seniors to drop their rings in glasses of beer there and drink them.
The Dixie Chicken has also claimed to sell more beer per square foot than any other bar in the world. The only way to verify that may be to go order some yourself. Doesn’t matter if it’s craft beer or Bud Light.
Remember Lost Souls at the Bonfire Memorial
Twelve people died and 27 were injured in the tragic collapse of the annual Aggie Bonfire in 1999.
Every year, the Texas A&M students would build and light a stack of 5,000 or so logs sometimes as high as 105 feet high before TAMU’s game against the University of Texas until tragedy struck that year. One week later, Texas A&M upset the heavily favored Longhorns, 20-16, in a highly emotional game.
Five years later, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated in the same spot to honor the lives lost in 1999 and serve as a reminder of the Aggies’ core values.
Propose at Century Tree (Or Just Walk Under It)
Century Tree is an absolutely massive low-hanging live oak tree on campus that was planted over 100 years ago. It’s more than just an ancient, beautiful work of Mother Nature, though.
Legend has it that if a couple walks under the tree, they will get married. If a couple gets engaged under it, the marriage will last forever. Bring your significant other to this spot if you want to get romantic or just put pressure on them to pop the question.
Visit the 12th Man Statue
You might know that Kyle Field is “Home of the 12th Man,” but do you know how it got that nickname?
E. King Gill, a practice squad player for the football team, was in the press box helping reporters identify players on the field during a game on Jan. 2, 1922. The Aggies were squaring off against the top-ranked Centre College Praying Colonels in the Dixie Classic in Dallas.
A plethora of injuries had plagued Texas A&M during the game. The number of bench players was dwindling. That’s when coach Dana X. Bible remembered Gill and waved for him to come down on the field. Gill ran down and put on injured running back Heine Weir’s uniform. Gill never played, but he stood tall as the only player on the bench in what turned out to be one of the greatest upsets in college football history. The Aggies won, 22-14.
A statue commemorating Gill, known as the 12th Man Statue, now sits outside of Kyle Field.
Take a Photo of the “Welcome to Aggieland” Water Tower
It’s not as old as Old Main, the very first building constructed on campus, but the large “Welcome to Aggieland” water tower that currently welcomes high school graduates heading for TAMU and visitors to campus has a bit of history behind it.
Built in 1975, the current structure is 185 feet tall and holds two million gallons of water. It replaced an old water tower that allowed for students to climb up it and graffiti their class years or phrases like “Gig ’em” or “BTHO” whichever team they were playing next. That one had been around for decades before being demolished in 1975. To this day, it’s an iconic campus landmark.
Of course, there are way more things to do than these in the Brazos Valley and Bryan-College Station areas. Things like live music, art galleries, hayrides, natural history museums, nightlife and wine tasting can all be found in the city of College Station’s travel guide. If you ask me, the best things to do are found on Texas A&M’s campus.
This article was originally published May 22, 2019.