Kelsey Hendrix, a producer at Sports Illustrated, was a student at the University of Alabama from 2008–12 and attended every home game during those four years. As an alum, she goes back at least once a year to go to a game and, of course, a tailgate. There's no denying her expertise when it comes to Crimson Tide festivities.
When should you get there? Fans starting setting up tailgate tents on The Quad at 6 p.m. the night before the game. But the real action starts 4-5 hours before kickoff.
Where you should park? Parking around campus can be tricky. Most lots on campus are reserved for students and/or season ticket holders with special permits. I recommend parking downtown along University Blvd between 19th Ave to 28th Ave. Parking on the street is free on the weekends, with no time limit. There’s also a parking deck downtown called The Tuscaloosa Intermodal Facility, which is free and offers a shuttle to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Be aware that all roads around the center of campus close three hours prior to kickoff, so if you arrive later than that, you’ll have to drive around the heart of Tuscaloosa to get to your parking destination.
What should I wear? Crimson, white and houndstooth, of course! In the South, it’s common to see fans dressed to the nines as they walk into the stadium—pearls, sundresses, ties and even high heels. When I first started at UA, I was told something along the lines of: “Your team dresses for you, so you should dress for your team.” So don’t be afraid to have fun and rock a houndstooth skirt or a bowtie with embroidered script A’s on it. But above all, be comfortable and cool, because it’s hot down in T-town until late October or November. Forgot to pack your color-coordinated gameday attire? Don’t worry! Shops like JCG Apparel, Alabama Express, Expeditions and The Shirt Shop are piled high with every Alabama-themed piece of clothing and accessory you could imagine.
What should I bring? A shaker, a clear bag, a pair of sunglasses, an Alabama face sticker, a personal-size fan and an Alabama koozie. Alabama abides by the SEC “clear bag policy,” which sets a limit on both the size and type of bag that can be brought into the stadium.
What are the best thing(s) to eat at a typical UA tailgate? Tailgating can be an all-day event, so a lot of tailgates have menus for each meal of the day. My favorite tailgate in Tuscaloosa does breakfast burritos until 11 a.m., then pulled pork sandwiches and hot dogs until 3 p.m., and sliders or nachos until kickoff. For first-timers, I would recommend picking up some grub from local BBQ hotspots like Big Bad Wolves (parked on the patio of The Houndstooth Bar) or Dreamland BBQ to bring to the tailgate. Or you can always stop by the east side of The Quad and try a few different dishes from the local food trucks parked on 6th Ave.
What traditions set Alabama tailgates apart from others? Someone new to tailgating at Alabama should definitely walk The Quad to check out all of the tents and traditions of the University. The Elephant Stomp takes place on The Quad on the steps of Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library. Fans can join along as the Million Dollar Band plays favorites like “Yea, Alabama” before heading into the stadium. But don’t limit yourself to The Quad, though! Take a stroll around campus to see sites like Denny Chimes and the President’s Mansion before heading up the Strip to grab a Yellowhammer at Gallette’s. And then be sure to stop by the Walk of Champions where, two-and-a-half hours before kickoff, the members of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team make their way off of the team buses and into Bryant-Denny Stadium. The small path in front of the stadium is home to championship plaques and stones, as well as life-size statues of National Championship-winning coaches.
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? Come ready to yell “Roll Tide” all. day. long. And be sure to brush up on the lyrics to “Yea, Alabama,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Rammer Jammer.” You’ll likely be hearing those tunes more than once during your three-plus hours watching the Tide dominate at home! But don’t head out right after the game. If it’s a Tide victory, the party is only just getting started. All tailgates on The Quad will be forced to shut down about 90 minutes after the game, but fans can head to The Strip or downtown to bars like The Houndstooth, The Bear Trap, Gallette’s, Innisfree or CopperTop for a celebratory drink (or three)! Plus, it’ll help you avoid the traffic on I20/59 that starts about 30 minutes before the end of the game. If you’re looking for general gameday info, you can go here.