- Sailgating! Buckeye eating! War Eagle-ing! Tailgating diehards from college football's top schools hand out specific tips and guides for how to best enjoy tailgating at their respective schools this fall.
Hoping to explore a new tailgate this fall? Whether you're heading south to see the defending champs at Clemson, braving the cold to see the Buckeyes or Wolverines, or going west-bound to see Sam Darnold at USC, one thing's for certain: the tailgates will not be boring.
But they can be overwhelming. Where to park? What to see? When to arrive? To address those lingering questions ahead of the season, we reached out to students and alumni across many of SI's Top 25 schools to get their advice on the best ways to enjoy a tailgate at the home of their respective teams.
Wear scarlet and grey and eat buckeyes. Butch Moore, President of the Buckeye Boosters Organization, gives his advice for a Columbus tailgate.
What’s the best way to get to the stadium? Because the University is so big there are plenty of ways to drive in and find a parking area, but the walk definitely needs to be the path the team takes to the stadium. You walk through the Jesse Owens Plaza and right underneath the huge Rotunda at the closed end of the stadium. Once you walk inside the entire stadium is in front of you.
Where should you park if driving? If you have a pass we prefer the WEST Stadium parking lot. You have a spectacular view of the stadium, you are on the (as Keith Jackson used to always welcome the TV crowd), “The banks of the Olentangy” and if it’s a night game the stadium lights make it look amazing.
How early before kickoff should you get there? While some wait in line at 5A, you definitely want to be there 3-4 hrs. before most games and before a BIG game you need to be there all day—we say Ohio State football and Ohio State tailgating is an “event” and it’s an all day event.
What should you bring? If you come to our tailgate, nothing! We supply everything right down to the porta john! Catered trays of food items to people grilling out can be seen everywhere but the final item should always be BUCKEYES (Peanut Butter dipped in chocolate that actually look like a real Buckeye) for dessert-—think Reese’s Cups.
What’s the tailgating culture like at Ohio State? Inclusive. We have literally been tailgating in the exact same spot, with the exact same families, for more than 25 years. If you forget a wine opener, or need extra ice everyone knows everybody so you just borrow from a friend. And we love when fans from the visiting team (yes, even Mi##igan) stop by.
How should you dress? Scarlet & Grey. Unlike some traditions in the south, we don’t really dress up in jackets or dresses. It’s shorts and shirts early in the year and of course in November you need to dress and stay warm.
What traditions set the school apart? There are many but for first timers there are a few you shouldn’t miss: The SKULL SESSION—where the band marches from the stadium to St John Arena and puts on a concert to get everyone fired up. The team arrives during the concert and the place goes crazy. While there is no cost, finding a seat is next to impossible. The band is HUGE at Ohio State. The players leave the ‘skull session” and walk through a tunnel of fans to the stadium. Once the concert is over make sure you are in your seat early as the Band performs their entrance to the field from the closed end-—it gives you chills. And of course there is NO greater tradition than “Script Ohio”!
What’s the number one reason for college football fans to make tailgating at Ohio State a bucket-list item? It’s a tough ticket so while 100,000 people attend the game, most estimate that there are MORE than that number who never go in! People watch the game on TVs and just continue to party. We have a general rule at our tailgate—if OSU gets ahead by three touchdowns or more we are back open—and everyone who attends knows the rule. Unlike some stadiums that are partly built into the ground, Ohio Stadium is SO massive just the look of the structure and you realize something big is about to happen.
Zach Hake, a member of Oklahoma State’s Class of 2021 and the entertainment editor at the O’Colly, talks about the all-day event of Stillwater tailgating.
How to park: Unless you have access to the reserved VIP lots near the stadium, chances are parking on game day will be a nightmare. Luckily, there are several paid lots around campus that are a short walk from Boone Pickens Stadium and the major tailgating spots. I recommend getting a taxi or Uber from your hotel. If you really want to have your car nearby, you can find parking for around $20 near to the stadium, but you'll be parking in private yards. I don't advise this because the people are trying to make a buck and don’t care if they jam you in there all night.
A portion of Lot 74, one of the largest student parking lots, is also reserved for RV parking on game days. There are also several parking garages, including the Wentz Garage, Fourth Ave. Garage, Monroe St. Garage and the Student Union Garage that have parking available for purchase on game days.
How early to get there: Tailgating in Stillwater is an all-day event and fans start setting up their tents as early as 9 a.m. The night before game day, avid tailgaters stake out their spots. If you want prime real estate for your tailgate, you’ll have to reserve it a day early like everyone else. If you plan on visiting someone else’s tailgate, be sure to get there before the food runs out.
How to dress: Wear orange. Lots of it. (And make sure it’s the right shade!) Most guys usually wear an OSU polo, jersey or t-shirt with khaki shorts but if temperatures are bearable, jeans are also an acceptable choice. For girls, it’s a bit trickier. The centerpiece for all girls’ outfits, though, is their boots. Some wear orange or black dresses, others wear jerseys and jean shorts.
Best things to eat at the tailgate: Burgers, brats and beer are all staples of OSU tailgate cuisine. Some of the most common set-ups include giant smokers filled with fall-off-the-bone barbeque. Before last season’s home opener, a friend and I made our way to the OSU golf team’s tailgate, which had a massive, cast-iron smoker that was filled with mouthwatering ribs and brisket. Most tailgate food is delicious, but I would stay away from the egg salad, especially if you get there late and it’s been sitting out for a while. The last thing you want is to have to leave the game early because you ate some funky food while tailgating.
Other tips for a successful tailgate experience: For the most part, OSU tailgaters are very hospitable and will treat even visiting fans with respect and decency. I would estimate that 40% of all tailgates have TVs set up and whatever big game is happening at the time will be on. This is an easy way to get an "in" to a promising tailgate. Start by asking the score, then try and strike up a conversation and see where it takes you. Before you know it, you'll probably have a beer in your hand. The most important tips I can give are to have fun and drink responsibly; no one likes belligerence.
Connor McCarthy the Brand Manager for Trojan Fever, USC’s student fan group, on eating that postgame Victory Dog and kicking that pole.
Where to park: Park at parking structure X early and get to campus. Otherwise, you will have to park around the Coliseum, something that’s still a great time, but it’s much more crowded around Exposition Park.
When to arrive: People at USC typically get to campus around 8 a.m. to secure the best spot on campus to set up their tailgate. The best spot is underneath the Traveler Statue across from the iconic Tommy Trojan statue at the heart of campus on Trousdale Parkway, the same place where the USC band, the Spirit of Troy, marches down blasting the most iconic fight song in college football on their way to the LA Coliseum.
What to wear: At USC tailgates, you shouldn't be seeing anything other than cardinal, gold and black. Face paint, Mardi Gras, and even the occasional Trojan helmet are always met with admiration.
What to bring: A grill, as long as it's 15 feet away from a structure. Beer pong tables, hamburgers, cornhole, a tent for shade and lawn chairs are staple marks of a good tailgate.
How to pass the time: Passing the time at a USC tailgate is the easiest part of the day. Relax, sit back, enjoy the always beautiful California weather and the beautiful people around you that all share in the passion for Trojan Football. Head over to Heritage Hall around an hour before the game to see the marching band rally the crowd and head over to the Coliseum through Trousdale Parkway.
Best thing to eat: One of the best traditions at USC is the postgame Victory Dog that celebrates another Trojan win and provides you with much-needed grease and sustenance to carry you home on the walk back to campus or fraternity row. These hot dogs, wrapped in bacon and cooked on tin foil oven pans outside the Coliseum, cast off a smell that can only be described as angelic. Loading your victory dog up with grilled onions, peppers, and veggies is a pro move that will not disappoint.
Best sight to see: While no one is sure of its origin, "Kicking the Pole," is as sacred of a Saturday tradition at USC as a Trojan victory. The flag pole in question is the one that resides at the end of Trousdale Parkway on the edge of Exposition Boulevard, and the kicking of it is for good luck. It creates a loud but beautiful sound of clanks that invites everyone passing by to join in. While there's always a few "unbalanced" people who either whiff or jam a toe, it’s always a sight to stop at and take in while heading to the game.
Biggest selling point: It's simple—only at USC are you getting the chance to hang out with your best friends, throw a few beers back and enjoy the country's best weather before seeing the best football team in the country take the field. At USC, our tailgating tradition can only matched by our team's championship-winning ways.
Planning on going to a game to see the defending national champions this year? Clemson senior Elizabeth Marks, who's also the President of Central Spirit, offers her expert tips and advice on how to make the most of your Clemson tailgate.
What’s the best way to get to the stadium and where should you park? There are a couple different techniques when it comes to getting to the stadium. The best option would probably be buying a parking pass and driving in or riding in with someone who has one. You can also utilize the free parking at Kite Hill and make the trek across our hilly campus or park downtown for between $20-$40 in support of the local church ministries. There are also buses coming in and out throughout the day, but there is typically a wait to get home after the game.
How early before kickoff should you get there? People typically arrive between four and six hours ahead of kickoff, depending on the time of kickoff. Parking lots open at 6 AM for 12 and 1 PM kickoffs and 8 AM for all other kickoff times. There are some fans that are in their tailgating spot at 8 AM no matter whether kickoff is 12 PM or 8 PM. Clemson tailgating is an event in and of itself, so it is important to not feel rushed to get into the stadium. Enjoy yourself and stay a while!
What should you bring? There are some definite essentials at any Clemson tailgate. Food is very important; especially when you are responsible for feeding college students that consider tailgates their meals for the entire day. Chick-Fil-A nugget trays and Bojangles boxes are a few favorites. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, because it is likely to get hot in the early games of the season. Corn hole boards, a tent to provide shade and define your space, and chairs are also great things to have. Many people bring TVs and generators to watch other games before or after the Tigers play.
What’s the tailgating culture like at Clemson? It reflects the feeling of a family reunion. There are tailgates all across campus everywhere you look, involving families with young children, college kids, Clemson alumni who haven’t missed a game in 50 years, and fans of the opposing teams. Tailgating at Clemson is a family affair, perhaps not always in blood, but in Southern hospitality and friendship.
How should you dress? Wearing orange is a crucial part to a game day in Death Valley. In Central Spirit, the premiere sports organization on Clemson’s campus, we often go “all in” by painting up in the front row of the student section or wearing orange overalls to wave the flags on the field. I personally would recommend some orange overalls–you can get them dyed by Judge Keller’s in downtown Clemson. Fans also dress up in dresses and orange blouses for the women and button ups, polo shirts, khakis, and bowties for the men. Of course, for the first few games, a tank top or t-shirt and shorts is sometimes your best option to keep cool!
What traditions set the school apart? Tiger Walk is the players’ entrance into the stadium to warm up, which takes place in the P-3 parking lot. It happens two hours before kickoff as fans crowd around and high-five players as they walk in. Tiger Band plays a mini-concert, including Tiger Rag, in the outdoor amphitheater 90 minutes before kickoff. During Homecoming, one of the Clemson traditions put on by Central Spirit, there are massive floats towering 30 feet tall on Bowman field to admire, take pictures with, and explore.
What are the best things to eat at a typical Clemson tailgate? Our Southern location often determines the menu available at our tailgates. There is likely to be lots of sweet tea and fried chicken (especially when we play our rival, whose mascot is a chicken). Boiled peanuts are sold on the side of the road on the way into Clemson and often eaten at tailgates. South Carolina barbecue is also a typical delicacy, especially if it’s from the Smokin’ Pig in Pendleton – even if it’s not at your tailgate, you should stop by and grab a bite. It’s worth the wait!
What’s the number one reason for college football fans to make tailgating at Clemson a bucket-list item? I’ve tailgated other places, and all schools have a different feel and approach when it comes to tailgating. The atmosphere of Clemson tailgating is so unique. The hospitality is unlike any other school, and you will feel welcomed and at home from the moment you step onto our campus, even if you happen to be wearing colors other than orange. You will see Clemson fans decked out in orange of all ages and an evident feeling of family, also seen in our game atmosphere. The love of Clemson football brings tailgaters together.
Anything else to know? Make sure you have plenty of time to see campus, eat, and find your seat before the Tigers run down the hill. You wouldn’t want to miss “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” or miss out on seeing our beautiful campus! Smoking is prohibited on Clemson’s campus, except in a select few locations, to allow for a welcoming environment for all. Also, Clemson upholds a clear-bag policy, meaning all bags must be clear if they are larger than a small purse or clutch. They will not let fans in with anything larger than a small purse if it is not clear, so I would recommend purchasing a clear bag, which are available in most stores downtown as well as places like Walmart and Academy.
What exactly does "drinking from the duck" mean? Joe Gordon, President of the State College Quarterback Club, details his past traditions as a student and the current features of a Penn State tailgate that make it so special.
Where should you park? Penn State police services do a great job with traffic. As an insider tip, pay for a premium parking pass (typically, an annual commitment; however, game day passes are sometimes available). These include purple, pink, brown lot etc. and are better because access is granted through special routes, shortening the time to your tailgating location. Otherwise, arrive early...at least 4 hours before the game. Bring chairs, food, beverages, a tent canopy for inclement weather and to fight the sun early season, and plenty of clothes.
How should you dress? There’s no specific dress code as most fans where blue and white or business casual.
What traditions set the school apart? Each tailgate has its own traditions. My tailgating dates back to my time as a student. Our tradition was to have first-time tailgaters with us to drink from "the duck". This usually involves drinking from a wooden duck with a few ounces of beer, liquor, etc. Each week, someone new comes. That is tradition! Lastly, you must see the players arrive on the traditional "blue buses" to the stadium. Everyone honks their horn as they drive up to the stadium. They walk a short distance to enter the stadium to crowds of adoring fans. Another must-do is have Creamery ice cream. One of the best ice creams in the country; and if you love it, ship some home on dry ice.
What’s the number one reason for college football fans to make Penn State a bucket-list item? The sheer size and variety of tailgating, volume of the stadium during game time, and Creamery ice cream.
Sean Underwood, a University of Washington student and a self-proclaimed "Life Long Dawg Fanatic" explains the uniqueness of Sailgating and the importance of layering.
What’s the best way to get to the stadium/where should you park? Coming from anywhere southwest, the light rail is the move. It’s $2.50 a ride and drops you off right at the stadium. Coming from the east side I would look to the metro, but if you are driving the trick is to go find parking up North of 45th street. It’s a longer walk but realistically the only place to find street parking.
How to dress? DRESS IN LAYERS AND GRAB THE FIREBALL! Seattle is not intolerably cold, but late October onwards it is quite wet. The move is ALWAYS to dress in layers and expect it to rain. I like to go for the husky cutoff, sweatshirt, t-shirt, rain jacket approach. That normally keeps me warm. Gloves are always a good choice.
What traditions set the school apart? If you come to Washington and don’t sailgate you’re doing it wrong. It is the most unique way to tailgate in the country and provides fans with an awesome experience they can find no where else: You roll up on a boat to the east side of the stadium and literally tailgate on a yacht. Aside from feeling like an absolute highroller, the view is incredible, there are tons of boats out there, and the atmosphere is an absolute party. In the early part of the season if it’s warm, you’ll see all sorts of antics on the water.
Another great tradition is our unofficial fight song. “Tequila” by the Champs is an absolute staple of Husky Tailgating. Play that bad boy on max volume and you’ll have every tailgate in the area bouncing. Bring your bag of limes and salt and offer them to the surrounding parties and they will happily accept.
What are the best things to eat at a typical UW tailgate? I think you’ve got to break out the grill and go with the classic chili dawg. The weather dictates that you eat something warm. However, if you can get your hands on some clam chowder, then you know you’ve really made it. As far as drinking goes, during the colder part of the season I ALWAYS go for fire-nog. A mix of fireball and egg-nog. It sounds gross but it keeps your insides warm. Be on the lookout for hurtling Rainer beer from the younger tailgaters, and some hopped up IPAs from the older ones. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water for every standard drink you get to avoid the halftime hangover.
What’s the number one reason for college football fans to make tailgating at Washington a bucket-list item? If you think you can find a more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful setting in college football you’re deluding yourself. That middle of the country/ SEC vibe is nice but if you want something scenic you absolutely must travel to Washington. It is the Ritz Carlton of stadiums, renovated in 2013 with a ballistic atmosphere, a huge internal tailgating area called “The Zone” and home to the baddest group of men to ever don the color purple.
Anything else to know? Yea, quick shout out to the fans. People know that Seattle is a football city but they can’t truly understand until they go. Even though the stadium doesn’t pack as many as Michigan, Oklahoma, etc. it packs the same punch. This place is LOUD as f***. The students are a mess of purple passion, the young alumni section is one of the rowdiest in college football, and the boosters are up shouting and cheering all game. I guarantee no Pac-12 team looks forward to traveling to the Pacific Northwest, because the Dawgs, they out here to EAT.
War Eagle! A mixture of Auburn alums/mega-tailgaters, Chris Bumpers (class of '81), Annie Harvell (class of '07), Mike Stover (class of '05/'17) and Lee Thompson (class of '06) give a rundown of what they've learned in their many years of tailgating, what makes Auburn so special, and why you need to claim your spot early (seriously, don't procrastinate when it comes to this.)
For someone who doesn’t have a reservation, what time would you recommend arriving to claim a spot?
Thompson: If you want to get a really good spot, close to campus, I would recommend getting there as early on Friday as you can. You can rope off parking spots in certain locations so the earlier the better.
Harvell: If you’re planning to have your own spot, and it’s not reserved, you need to be out there Friday morning to claim your space. You can’t mark anything off until 4 pm, but if you wait that long, there won’t be anywhere.
Any parking tips?
Thompson: Download the Auburn tailgating guide. It has tons of information, including on parking, which you should definitely do your research on ahead of time. If you’re not familiar with town, try to park in places close to roadways that exit town. The roadways are marked pretty well all over campus. If you don’t want to fight parking on campus there is tons of free parking off campus and they provide travel to and from the stadium all day!
What’s your tailgate setup? (RV, car, tent, etc.)
Bumpers: A 45-foot RV with a 25 x 20 deck out back and 16 x 24 patio/outdoor kitchen on the side, three TVs inside and four outside.
Harvell: The Mises Institute has a covered patio/carport area that’s big enough to host at least 100 people. There are multiple families that set up there. They provide the ice machines, bathrooms, and TVs, so all we have to do is bring tables, chairs, and our food for the week.
Stover: We have multiple tents in a reserved field area. Typically 3 tents, with multiple tables, a TV with satellite, etc.
Thompson: The current set up we have is about 4 pop up tents. We typically put all of them together to create a big “room” with seating and tv on one side and food buffet along the back. I have tailgated in basically every scenario at Auburn and I can tell you they’re all outstanding. Now a days there are even several RV parks like University Station that offer a whole weekend experience if you put your RV there. They have catered food and live music every Friday night. With over 800 spots it’s like a popular rock concert every night.
How should you dress for an Auburn tailgate? (i.e. school colors, however you want, Ole Miss formal, etc.)
Stover: Definitely all orange and blue, but not “Ole Miss formal”. Casual, but school colors.
Thompson: At Auburn, any form of dress is acceptable. On game day you’ll see anything from your typical Auburn fan wear to formal style dresses & blazers and of course students painted from head to toe.
What’s the food situation like at Auburn tailgates?
Bumpers: If you’re tailgating at a reserved spot on campus then it is best to have it catered. At my spot we prefer to grill and usually we tie to who we are playing. Arkansas= BBQ pork. South Carolina= BBQ chicken. LSU= Cajun food. Florida= fried gator tail, shrimp.
Harvell: There are several food trucks and dining options around the stadium on game day. Campus is also really close to downtown where there are tons of restaurants. Lots of the places around campus also offer party trays and tailgate packages that you can pick up and take with you.
What should you bring with you to make your tailgate the best possible experience?
Harvell: In Auburn, I’ve never seen a stranger turned away from any tailgate, even if you’re cheering for the wrong team. We’re a really friendly bunch. However, if you want to make your life easier, it’s usually smart to have a cooler with whatever your beverage of choice is and a few tailgate chairs. If you can manage that, you’ll be set.
What are the must-see Auburn traditions?
Bumpers: I usually carry some first timers each year; this is the must do list:
—4 pm Friday: “Football Fans and Feathers” at the Southeastern Raptor Center. They will have the eagle that flies at the Auburn games there and they will exhibit and fly him and many other raptors for an entertaining and educational hour. You can have your picture made with the Auburn Eagle. A must for a first timer.
—5 pm Friday: Tour the locker rooms and go out onto Pat Dye Field in Jordan Hare Stadium.
_Sometime before the game take time to visit the statues of some of Auburn’s famous student athletes such as Bo Jackson, Cam Newton and Charles Barkley.
—Two Hours before kickoff: Must attend “Tiger Walk”. A tradition that started at Auburn that most all schools have copied but no one can duplicate.
—One hour and 20 minutes before kickoff we march with the band down to the intersection right outside the stadium for a pregame pep rally.
—25 min before kickoff you must be in your seat to watch the Eagle fly. The greatest current tradition in college football.
—After the game you can go the locker room exit and congratulate the players as they come out.
—After the game go to Toomers Corner for a Victory Celebration that all of college football envies because they keep trying to destroy it either by poison or fire. You have to Roll Toomers!!
—On Sunday Morning on your way home stop by the Wellness Kitchen on campus for brunch. It is great food and last chance to mingle with great Auburn people and students.
Thompson: Right by the stadium is an entire field set up with events for fans of all ages. Theres face painting, bounce houses, autograph sessions and more. Tons of vendors set up offering anything from a free meal or chance to win a new car. There is often a booth set up with former Auburn players that allow you to interact with them, take pictures, and get autographs.
What general advice/tips would you have for someone attending an Auburn tailgate for the first time?
Stover: If you are joining someone else’s tailgate, find out what you can bring that fits the menu of the day. Plan to get there early, and wear orange and blue. Be prepared to greet friends with a “War Eagle”, and plan for a long, fun day. You will most certainly make several new friends that will welcome you to town and be generous hosts.
Is there anything else a visitor should know about tailgating at Auburn?
Stover: Try to join a group that already has a spot established. If you aren’t familiar with the way campus is setup and the unspoken rules/traditions, it can be a little challenging to figure out. It’s best to find a group to tag along with so they can show you the ropes.
Bumpers: Learn to say WAR EAGLE!!! And Smile.
Robert Elgin, 69, graduated from Michigan in 1970 and has been tailgating for decades. He retired and moved to Ann Arbor 10 years ago, and says he and his wife still have the same tickets that his wife’s parents had when they began the tailgating tradition back when the stadium was built. Below, he offers up some advice for new tailgaters to the Ann Arbor scene.
Where on or near the Michigan campus do you tailgate? Where do you park? I tailgate in the athletic parking lot right next to the Stadium. It is know as the Blue Lot.
What time do you arrive to set up your tailgate? Do you have a spot reserved?: A member of our group arrives shortly after 6:00 a.m. to ensure that our spaces are saved. There are not assigned spaces. However, the ability to acquire a blue lot pass is no easy feat and there is generally a good understanding of who owns what turf.
For someone who doesn’t have a reservation, what time would you recommend arriving to claim a spot?: The University only grants enough passes so that everyone has a spot. Hard core tailgaters will generally arrive 3 to 4 hours prior to a noon game and 6 to 7 hours prior to a 3:30 game. The other individuals either are not tailgating or are just tailgating by themselves and they accept any open space. My group is composed of 6 cars and game days are generally 12+ hour days. Night games are 14+ hours days.
What’s your tailgate setup? (RV, car, tent, etc.): Multiple tents, side curtains, rain gutters, multiple heaters, large grill, bar with a very wide selection of everything, lots of seating although only a portion is used, multiple eats prior to the meal, full meals, deserts etc.
How should you dress?: Anything short of multiple Michigan items is considered a breach of protocol and will be brought to the offenders attention for the entirety of the tailgate. Personalized clothing signed by a former or current player is an excellent start. Jerseys with your name on the back is also considered kosher. You cannot have too much Michigan stuff in or around your tailgate. It is expected that you have a least one new item every year and multiple new items are the norm. We all have flags flying and there are Michigan banners hung between the flag poles with the tailgater’s name on the banner. I have a complete hard case of all the lucky charms for home football games. There are different cases for away games. Hockey, basketball and baseball have their own cases.
What’s the food situation like at Michigan tailgates? What are the best things to eat there? Should you bring your own food, or are there places to get food while tailgating?: I am not certain how open other tailgates are but we invite lots of people to join our tailgate. It is generally an open house. Opposing fans are generally asked to stop by for drinks and/or food. However, unknown OSU fans are encouraged to keep on walking by. Our group generally has a wide selection of food. A lot of our food requires so much preparation that the food is brought pre cooked and is heated up at the tailgate. Items like Swedish meatballs, pulled pork, etc require more time.
What should you bring with you to make your tailgate the best possible experience? A hearty appetite, a strong desire to participate in multiple conversations, know something about football or have the courage to ask someone about Michigan football, be prepared to meet multiple new people and strike up a conversation with them, laugh heartily and enjoy the game.
What are the must-see things at a Michigan tailgate? A newbie should always walk around the parking lot to see what other people are doing. You will see everything from a small table with a couple of donuts to a tent that is loaded with chafing dishes. The most important thing is to get engaged with all the people that are attending not just our tailgate but all of those close to us. It is a joyous event with drink, food and conversations covering virtually every topic with the exception of politics.
What general advice/tips would you have for someone attending a Michigan tailgate for the first time?You should not have preconceived notions of what it is going to be like. Relax, loosen up, forget about work or anything other problems in your life and have the time of your live. A dear friend of mine came to a ND game, his love, and he asked me what we could possibly do for 12 hours. By the end of the day he had become a convert of our tailgate.
What in your mind makes a Michigan tailgate a must-attend event? It is an experience that I have not seen duplicated in other venues. The setting, the excitement, the camaraderie, the game and the post game analysis is an event that is truly one of a kind.
Is there anything else a visitor should know about tailgating at Michigan? Expect a lot of excess. Huge displays of Michigan stuff, tons of food and beverage, lots of activity and many friendly people unless you are from the school down south. Additionally Michigan has a very proud history of fielding very good teams. Because we have had some rocky seasons recently and appear to be on the mend, the old spirit of having high expectations has returned. The fans are proud of our University and its ability to excel in many things from scholastic standing to being very competitive in a large number of athletic teams. The Victors is not just some song to sign, but rather a rallying cry for all Michigan fans to sing together and to cheer their team to victory and this is personified at a football tailgate.
A recent Stanford alum on the beauty of tailgating among the groves for the Cardinal.
Where are the best places to park for a tailgate? If you can get a spot, Lot 2 is the best place to tailgate. It’s right next to the stadium where decked out RVs set up with music, televisions and plenty of food and drink. For visitors to campus without season tickets, general parking lots (Lots 4, 8, 9, and 13) are available for parking and each provide a unique vibe. Lots 8, 9 and 13 are among the eucalyptus groves on campus.
How early before a game should people plan to show up for a tailgate?: Parking lots open five hours prior to kickoff, or noon—whichever is earlier. The earlier you arrive, the better spot you’ll be able to claim.
How should you dress? Cardinal gameday attire -- smart casual. You’ll probably be doing plenty of walking and the weather can be very warm, particularly if your seats are on the east side of the stadium. Bring layers for evening games, games later in the fall, or if you’re seated on the west side of the stadium.
What are traditionally the best foods at the tailgate and is there anything school specific that people should expect to eat? Depends on the opponent and the tailgate ... some tailgates do full pig roasts, others may roast duck and others will have more standard burgers and hotdogs. There will also always be some California fare, vegetarian and healthy options available here.
What should people bring? Hat, sunglasses, food and drink and a fun and friendly attitude.
Is there anything happening that people should see or watch out for? Special events all season long—Navy leap frogs jumping into the stadium, The Walk, coaches chalk talk at fan fest before every game, other Stanford team appearances at fan fest throughout the season, band appearances, listening out for the train whistle signaling it’s almost time for kickoff.
Why should people make sure to attend the tailgate? Stanford tailgates are a unique experience. Fan fest includes local food trucks and other fan activities and hosting your own tailgate in groves allows you to make new friends decked out in Cardinal. Walk along various tailgates and notice everything from linens, glassware and chandeliers to very casual open grills or fans enjoying takeout in the beautiful weather.
Anything else we missed that makes it special? It’s on campus, on grass and among eucalyptus groves (very few concrete parking lots) and a very family-friendly environment.
Rebecca Burns, publisher of the Red and Black, the independent student paper at Georgia, stressed the classiness of Georgia tailgating and its commitment to history.
At Georgia, the tailgating is taken very seriously, it’s “a lot classier” than other parts of the country. History is very important
Best things to eat: Lots of people eat barbecue, pick up from places in Athens (Pulaski Heights, Dawg Gone Good), and some people smoke food themselves.
Best places to see: I definitely would go to north campus, which is the oldest part. Visit the famous Georgia Arch (Students don’t walk under because of superstition but visitors are welcome!) Old-school tailgating happens near historic buildings on the quad on north campus. Many of the individual colleges have individual tailgates down Sanford Drive, while Myers Quad has the most students and activities. Another unique-to-Georgia event is the Dawg Walk—the team arrives early in the heart of campus and players will walk through the crowd to the stadium.
Things to bring: Coming as a guest we wouldn’t ask you to bring anything because southern hospitality is alive and well, but if you wanted to pick up food for a tailgate, lots of restaurants do tailgating packages such as Dawg Gone, Weaver D’s Fried Chicken. Pimento Cheese is also really popular at tailgates.
Where to Park: It gets very crowded, so get to Athens early or maybe even the day before and give yourself lots of time to park— it can be tricky to figure it out as you approach from the freeway. There are free places around town, and private businesses rent out parking spots. There are tailgating zones on campus, and there are deeded lots that are passed down through generations that can cost up to $15,000. If you park on the outskirts of campus, there are shuttles to bring you to the stadium. It’s best to figure out where you want to park in advance: The Red & Black’s tailgating guide has very detailed information on parking, UGA.edu/Gameday also has instructions for parking. Businesses around campus will let you tailgate there, and you can even rent out space from the student newspaper.
How to Dress: Red and black, but think fancy. People get dressed up! In the fall, when it’s cooler, people will often wear bowties. Style is definitely a factor. Men should wear khakis and a nice polo shirt. If it’s very hot, shorts are fine. Some people wear pants with a bulldog embroidered on them. For women: Sundresses, or very nice tops with jeans.
Most important tip: You should definitely know that people party very hard. Pace yourself. You can have containers around campus but not in the stadium. In the stadium, you can only buy water or soft drinks, and you want cash for that because it gets really hot. Bring a hat or a fan, and hydrate.
What separates Georgia tailgating: An amazing spirit and attitude. Everybody says that, but it’s very friendly and warm. That hospitality sets us apart. And you can meet the most adorable mascot in all of college football.
The Florida Gators are already dealing with a heavy deal of tumult heading into Week 1 against Michigan (10 suspensions!), which means the spirits imbibed during the tailgates will become even more important for those decked out in blue and orange. Stuart Rimland, class of 2012, breaks down how to navigate a weekend in Gainesville this season.
How to park: Depending on timing, the best place is the commuter lot on Gale Lemerand or off of Museum. Also, there is some street parking and some small parkings lots by Shands. It is a bit of a walk but not too bad. People leave Shands at all hours so parking opens up there sporadically, whereas if you are in areas where everyone is parking for the game, no spots generally open up.
How early to arrive: For afternoon games if I wanted to be safe on parking (generally I would aim for Shands) I would get there by 9 am. That was mainly for games where I wasn't doing a full on tailgate. Generally three hours before is a good idea if you need to just park. Tailgating wise, the earlier the better.
How to dress: Wear something comfortable and light. Hats are a must for the sun. If it might rain, don't wear cotton because it takes forever to dry. Sundresses seem to be what most women wear. Bring a poncho if you have one. Sunscreen and sunglasses are necessary too. For me anything with Gators on it works pretty well too. Its nice to be part of the sea of orange and blue.
Tips for visiting UF: Take a walk around main campus. Stop by the Gator statue on Gale Lemerand and Stadium and see if you can go in and see the trophies. Also walk next to the stadium on Gale Lemerand to see Tebow and Spurrier. Check out Midtown and Downtown. Even if you aren't into dive bars, Midtown insanity makes for great people-watching. Downtown is probably a better option if you are with the family. If you have time you can go by the bat house and see the bats at night.
Best things to eat at a tailgate: Corn on the grill. Best way to eat corn by far.
Best things to see around Gainesville: I was a fan of the Hippodrome Theater when I was there, so if you can see a show there go for it. Satchel's is great but get there at off hours or you will wait a long time.
Best things to bring along with you: If your seats are high up binoculars can be ga great way to catch some details you're missing. Some kind of cheap seat cushion if you are sitting in the student section can make a big difference. You won't be sitting much, but it helps for when you are. And water. Bring water.
Jake Engle is in the Mountaineer Maniacs, the student fan group for West Virginia, and emphasizes the importance of knowing the words to Country Roads and of eating plenty of pepperoni rolls.
How/where to park: Definitely the Blue Lot if you can get your hands on a pass, or go in on a pass together with a group of friends.
When to get there: The aforementioned Blue Lot opens at 7 a.m. every game day, no matter what time the game starts, so get there early to get your spot. It is always first-come first-serve for each spot.
What to wear: Mountaineer fans are pretty forgiving on this topic, as long as you have some form of WVU gear on, whether it’s a jersey, T-shirt, or hoodie. Just make sure it is WVU themed and you’ll be fine.
What to bring: Bring some form of tailgate beverage (again, WVU fans are not picky on this, so your personal adult beverage preference, but if you can get moonshine, they’ll love you even more!), and you’ll likely need a cooler to store your drinks unless your tailgate destination provides this great amenity for you. You also better know the words to Country Roads and the correct way to sing the chorus of Sweet Caroline.
How to pass the time: The classics apply with cornhole, watching GameDay on TV at your tailgate, grilling/smoking some awesome tailgate food, finding the mascot and getting your picture with him & hoping he has extra deer jerky for you to try.
Best things to eat: Pepperoni rolls (homemade preferably), deer jerky (freshly made), main dishes vary (but some pulled pork, brisket, any kinds of BBQ or tailgate food).
Best sights to see: The RVs in the blue lot are a must. The Mountaineer Man Trip is also a must-see: it’s when the team walks through the lot into the stadium and passes a piece of coal, paying tribute to the history of the state and its tradition of coal. Also, find the Mountaineer by following the sound of his musket throughout the morning/afternoon throughout the Blue Lot
Selling point: The pepperoni rolls, deer meat/jerky, the actual mascot visiting tailgates, the Mountaineer Man trip and of course, moonshine are all the reasons why West Virginia is the best spot to tailgate in the country. We'll see you at 7 a.m. on game day this fall.
Neil Peltier is Texas A&M’s Assistant Director University Center & Special Events and Athletics Tailgating, and he breaks down a day full of brisket and the Aggie War Hymn.
How to Park: The best way to get up to the minute information on to Texas A&M is the Destination Aggieland app. It provides visitors with real-time information on parking lot availability, cost and traffic conditions. It also provides suggested directions and provides a wealth of knowledge about the Bryan/College Station community.
Must-see traditions: Tailgating is a family affair at Texas A&M: check out the signs on people's tents that list the name and class year of all participants who have attended Texas A&M. It's not uncommon to find four or five generations of Aggie gathered to celebrate. Don't miss midnight yell Friday night before the game, thousands of Aggies will pack Kyle Field to officially kick off game day! Be prepared when you visit Kyle Field, the Spirit of ‘02 is an authentic 3 inch field gun fired after every score and 102,000 Aggies sway in unison to the Aggie War Hymn. Texas A&M is steeped in traditions and they are in full display on game day.
The best things to eat: This is Texas and beef is King. Night games provide an opportunity to sample a Texas treasure, smoked brisket. The process can easily take 12 to 14 hours and it is well worth the wait! Stuffed jalapenos are an art form here. Cream cheese and bacon is a nice start but an adventurous palate can find a variety of artisan cheeses and prime cuts of meat. My favorite is blue cheese and ribeye wrapped with bacon. Menus are often customized for game day based on the opponent, if your mascot is edible, expect to find it on the grill. The last time Florida came to college station you couldn't buy an alligator between Austin and Louisiana!
What separates A&M’s tailgates from the others? Texas A&M prides itself on our friendliness. Before or after the game, stop by any tailgate and bring a willingness to talk football and you'll be treated like a long-lost friend. Some of the best tailgating takes place in Aggie Park, adjacent to Kyle Field. The people that tailgate right up against Houston Street are serious and have been doing this for generations. You're sure to have a remarkable time with college football's best fans.