Autumn. The temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing, first round of midterms are over and, ah yes, football season is swinging into high gear. Or, since this is Duke, I should say Tailgate season.

Side note: I have not been on campus since last April and have no idea where this fervent debate about Tailgate came from. All I know is that I have no interest in joining that discussion, other then to say I’m a full supporter of giving the football team more, er, proper support.

But I digress. What I’m trying to say is that, upon arriving at Duke as a wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears freshman more than two years ago (scary!), I had never seen a party quite like Tailgate.

But ladies and gentlemen, señoras y caballeros, I have an announcement to make that might surprise several of you. Tailgate is not as good as it gets as far as raging parties go. That award most definitely has to go to the entire category of European festivals.

Now, note the fact that I gave this prestigious award to the entire category, not just a specific festival. That’s because there is not just one awesome party—rather, there are multiple ragers that make up what can only be described as a “party season” that sweeps through the entire continent.

I’ve been to three and loved them all, so in the spirit of channeling my inner anal Duke student (book-bagging starts in less than a week!), here is a top three countdown:

No. 3—La Noche en Blanco: Madrid, Spain, Sept. 19. This one-night-only special is tight for so many reasons. To begin with, the city opens all of the museums for free and keeps the metro running until 3 a.m. instead of 1:30 a.m. for this huge cultural bash (can’t really say there is anything cultural about Tailgate). Next, the entire city, from perky 4 year-olds to sprightly senior citizens, hangs out in the street all night long. Seriously, all night long—I can attest to that fact since it took me and my roommate 30 minutes to finally hail down a cab at 5:30 am. And finally, La Noche en Blanco is part of a bigger party known as the European White Nights, so similar festivals are going down in Paris, Rome, Brussels and other cities on successive weekends. This progression makes it possible to travel to all of them throughout the fall. You might as well take advantage of one of the positives of this whole united Europe movement (because the Euro is taking advantage of you all the rest of the time!).

 No. 2—Fringe Festival: Edinburgh, Scotland, Aug. 7 to 31. According to the official Web site, Fringe is the largest arts festival on Earth (more culture!). And they aren’t kidding—this year’s festival featured 34,265 performances of over 2,200 shows in 256 different venues. There are comedy shows, theatre shows, concerts, “dance and physical theatre” and some acts just for the kiddies. And they are performed all over the city, some in official, enclosed venues, but most are just scattered randomly throughout the street. Now, there are imitation Fringe festivals all over the world, but they can’t quite replicate the Edinburgh magic—this is easily Europe’s best-kept secret. The Scots (like a lot of Europeans) don’t work early, late or on weekends, so the setting is perfect to go walking, running or trainspotting through the streets and just take in all of the month-long craziness that is the Fringe.

No. 1—Oktoberfest: Munich, Germany, Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. Now say what you want about one-night or one-month cultural stands, but at the end of the day, you just can’t beat the granddaddy of them all. Imagine Tailgate, minus cars (if they are even still allowed, I can’t keep up), plus huge beer tents and carnival-esque rides. The music is eerily similar—who would have thought the Germans would love to sing along to “Sweet Caroline” and “Country Roads”? Instead of drinking out of aluminum cans or plastic cups (once again, I can’t keep up), you get to drink out of huge, liter-sized glass steins that are literally as big as your face. And rather than digging through frat-tastic trash cans for beer like you are a homeless person in search of gold, you get to sit at a table as a German beer maid, complete with full costume, serves you the most delicious beer in the world.

Best of all, where else are you going to meet people from literally all over the world? Over the course of my three-day trip into the (Bier)garden of Eden, I sat with a group of Dutch men celebrating their friend’s birthday (he was embarrassingly old), a group of 16-year-old German boys who thought we were the coolest thing ever (their embarrassingly young German girl friends didn’t really share their enthusiasm; the scent of perceived competition is universal), some appropriately aged Australians and finally some good ol’ Dukies. It was everything I could have ever asked for and then some. It can only be compared to experiencing Tailgate for the very first time, only better.

So when Tailgate rolls around this Saturday, I don’t expect to feel any pangs of nostalgia. Miss Tailgate? Please, that would mean missing out on Europe instead. I’ll take my continental culture parties with real beer over a Busch Light shower in the Blue Zone any day.

Laura Keeley is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Tuesday.