Whether it's sailgating in Husky Harbor in Washington or huddling in tents at the Grove in Mississippi, a college football tailgate is an affair like no other. But having an authentic experience on a Saturday before kickoff can be an overwhelming experience, from finding a parking space, to wearing the right shade of a school's colors, to following along with age-old traditions. Don't fret—we consulted experts across many of the Top 25 schools to source the best advice for enjoying a tailgate for their respective teams.
Below, you'll find tips and tricks on where to park, what to wear, when to arrive, what to eat and drink, where to find the must-see sights and traditions and much more.
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.
Planning on going to a game to see the Tigers this year? Former Clemson student and president of Central Spirit Elizabeth Marks 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 a.m. for 12 and 1 p.m. kickoffs and 8 a.m. for all other kickoff times. There are some fans that are in their tailgating spot at 8 a.m. no matter whether kickoff is 12 p.m. or 8 p.m. 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.
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 hours 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.
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.
Where should I park and when should I arrive? 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, as does the UGA website. Businesses around campus will let you tailgate there, and you can even rent out space from the student newspaper.
What is the best thing to eat? Lots of people eat barbecue, pick up from places in Athens (Pulaski Heights, Dawg Gone Good), and some people smoke food themselves.
What are the must-see sights and traditions at a Bulldogs tailgate? 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.
What should I 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.
How should I 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.
What is the most important tip you can give? 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 from other college football tailgates? 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. At Georgia, the tailgating is taken very seriously, it’s “a lot classier” than other parts of the country. History is very important as well.
George Stoia, an Oklahoma rising senior and the sports editor for the OU Daily student newspaper, details the must-see sights and why you should try a Schooner.
What should visitors be sure to check out on game day? Check out Campus Corner and the bars and restaurants in the area. OU is unique in that there is a huge bar scene on game day. That’s where everybody is. There’s O’Connell’s, which we call “O’Conns” for short. It’s definitely a landmark. While you’re there try the Theta Burger and the Rocket (which is one of those huge things of beer, these are fun to share with friends). Diamond Dawgs is my personal favorite. While you’re there, try the Wonder Boy, which is a corn dog that is battered in Cap'n Crunch. Their famous drinks are their margaritas. There is a brand-new restaurant that former OU wide receiver Ryan Broyles opened on campus recently called The Porch. It has a rooftop that overlooks OU. A lot of people roam around Campus Corner on game day. There are tailgating tents around it, but just not in Campus Corner.
Any sites to see? If you get a chance, try and watch the Walk of Champions. They debuted this brand-new tradition in 2014. The Walk starts two hours before kickoff and players will get to the intersection of Lindsey and Jenkins before they begin the march. Before the team gets there, there is a pep-rally with cheerleaders and OU football alumni. It’s a good sight to see for kids. Another tradition that is unique is that the players stay in a hotel the night before a home game and go to a movie together. You’ll also run into some Greek tailgating near Asp Street and are welcomed if you’re a member of alumni.
Sooner Fan Fest is great for families. It’s on Jenkins Street in a parking lot. It’s like a big tailgate hosted by the university for kids. They have food vendors, games, music, and cheerleaders there, and you can be sure to find inflatables to scramble over. Sometimes Sooner athletes congregate there to sign autographs.
Legends Lobby is a must-go. There is an incredible display of murals, trophies, and even jerseys where you can get a feel for why OU football is so prized. You can also get tours of the museum.
Come to OU for the tradition, even just to walk around our campus. Walk down Heisman Park on Jenkins Street to see all the Heisman statues (five) as well as coach statues like Bob Stoops. You can feel the tradition in the atmosphere. They just built a new locker-room in the south end zone and visitors can view all the national championship trophies (complete access to the locker room is blocked off though). Alumni presence is huge at OU and prominent alumni tend to return to Norman on game days. You can spot them at the “O Club” which is for grads that played a sport at OU.
Where should I park? Lloyd Noble Center—where the baseball team plays—is a great place to park. A lot of people end up tailgating there because it’s a huge parking lot. That’s where all the fans with the massive RV’s park. There is a shuttle that takes you to the stadium from there. All of this is free. You could also walk, it’s probably only a half mile or mile from the stadium. There are also a lot of neighborhoods just in the area that sell spots on their own yard for $10 or $15.
What are rules and regulations? Tailgating at OU is a controversial topic right now. There are a lot of regulations. One of the reasons for this is OU is typically a dry campus, but it becomes a wet campus on game days. There is definitely no alcohol in the stadium.
When it comes down to where you tailgate that becomes more of an issue. There are cool places to go, the bar scene is hot, but once you get closer to the stadium it becomes tricky to tailgate. The tailgating takes part pretty far from the stadium. What makes tailgating so great is being close to the atmosphere, so it makes it more difficult. You used to be able to tailgate on Lindsey Street, but as of 2016 this is prohibited. The college built new student housing facilities along Lindsey Street, and now they are trying to protect them. They said you can no longer tailgate there because its university living, and that took away a huge area for tailgating. This was implemented last year and people were pretty upset. South Oval is the main part of campus in which there could be a lot of open area to tailgate, but again they don’t allow it because it’s considered a part of campus.
When do people arrive? If there is an 11 a.m. kickoff, people start setting up as early as Friday morning, this is when people start staking out a spot for their tents. If it’s 11 a.m. I would say to get there around 8 a.m., if it’s a 2:30 p.m. game I would say 10 a.m.. If it’s a night game, people are out there all day. But, the “tenters” usually claim their spots on Friday.
What should I bring? Don’t forget beer. But also, bring a grill, maybe a tent considering you never know with Oklahoma weather, it can turn very quickly here. Other school’s grill their opposing team’s mascots, but we don’t do that stuff. We are just your normal average tailgate. It’s a lot of barbeque, a lot of ribs and definitely a lot of pulled pork.
A food I’ve found unique to Oklahoma that I have been eating since I can remember is the burger-dog. You take the hamburger and the hotdog and cut the hotdog the long way and then put it on top of the hamburger. It’s probably not exclusive to OU tailgates, but I’ve grown up with it. It’s famous in my family (I come from a family of OU alumni) and I usually stuff down three at a time. I know some of my friends have made this drink called the “Schooner” which is just Kool-Aid and vodka, which turns to crimson red when you mix it.
What do people wear? A lot of crimson and whites. You’ll see your typical polo shirts (depending on the weather). You would almost think it was an SEC school with all of the polo shirts. But, we aren’t as country as OSU; I would say they wear 90% blue jeans and boots and we are more 60% blue jeans and boots. But, boots are still big here, I think it’s a southern thing. I never wear boots because it gets real hot. Girls wear boots with some sort of jean skirt or dress.
When Baker Mayfield was here these guys, they called themselves the Sooner Men, always dressed up in those Chef/ Baker hats so they would wear those in addition to these capes with an S on the back. There were about 20-30 guys. They dressed head to toe in red and white, some of them would go on the field before the game and help hold the flag pole. They are glorified cheerleaders, and they have a big white board and write funny things on it, which usually gets on the big screen. I don’t know what they will do this year since Baker is gone, but maybe they will think of something else.
What is the atmosphere like? Every fall Saturday is like a big family reunion, especially if you’ve been around the program for as long as my family has, you run into so many people you know. Even my parents are seeing people they knew from college (my dad and cousin both played football for OU). It’s a friendly atmosphere. Since OU is very rich in tradition, many fans have been fans for their entire lives. Some fans don’t even go to the games, but just go to hangout, you become friends with them. It’s not a great tailgating scene, but it’s a fun tailgating atmosphere. Check out the student union, check out the library (it’s beautiful), and go to Heisman Park to see the statues. Check out the traditional trophies, and check out Campus Corner.
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? 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.
Jake Kocorowski is a class of 2006 UW-Madison alum and has covered Wisconsin football as a reporter/deputy manager for Bucky's 5th Quarter since 2013. Living in the Badger State for most of his life, Jake has seen and experienced tailgating at countless Wisconsin sporting events. He also co-wrote a book on the Wisconsin walk-on tradition, Walk-On This Way, with former tight end Joel Nellis, that was released in 2016. Below, he gives his tips for attending a game, food and drink recommendations and more.
When should you get there? Covering this team now for nearly five years, I’ve walked to Camp Randall Stadium three hours before an 11 a.m. kickoff, and I’m seeing people already grilling while drinking beers and Bloody Marys. It really depends on how much of the experience you want to get. People arrive early for those morning starts, but some turn it into an all-day extravaganza from dawn until dusk if it’s an afternoon or evening tilt.
For those that have to take care of some priorities beforehand, I’d say about three to 3.5 hours before kickoff is a safe bet. Find your parking spot and get the grill going if said lot allows you to—lots that are farther away from the stadium are more conducive to that. If you don’t have your own tailgate, that allows you to either take an extended walk down to beautiful State Street (warning: it’s about a 20-minute plus walk to the stadium) or stroll up and down around Regent Street for particular bars’ tailgating events. (You can try Jordan's Big 10 Pub, Lucky's 1313 or Sconnie Bar to start.) You also can just roam around the stadium where there are usually house parties up and down Breese Terrace and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Where you should park? There are definitely spaces available, but it can be difficult depending you arrive downtown for the game. You can check for particular parking garages in and around downtown and campus that have special event rates (some lots have shuttles available for a fee to get you to the stadium). Of course, the closer you are, the more you’ll have to pay.
According to UW, parking for a single game (not season) is "available for purchase from lots with availability on a first come, first served basis on the day of the game only,” with those lots being confirmed for use once the season begins.
Check out around the neighborhoods close to the stadium, though—specifically, right off of Regent Street in the Vilas Neighborhood and west going towards Madison West. Again, the closer you are, the more you’re going to pay and you’ll likely want to get there earlier. Right after graduating from Wisconsin, I lived in a house just a couple blocks from the stadium, and we had a group of annual tailgaters pay us in cash and delicious steaks. I don’t know if they were farmers or guardian angels, but for a kid making minimum wage out of school, they knew the way to our hearts...through amazing beef we had no clue how to cook properly.
What should I wear? For your standard Wisconsin fans, you have to start off with anything Cardinal and White. Shirts, caps, anything Badgers-apparel based. These bibs are a staple of a lot of college kids these days, so those stick out often in the crowd. There are plenty of places to acquire attire, including the University Bookstore, Bucky’s Locker Room and the Under Armour store on State Street.
If you’re a fan of an opposing team, I’m guessing you’ll wear your program’s respective gear. Most Badgers fans are pretty well mannered in that they won’t yell or curse at you. But no matter what team you’re cheering for, definitely prepare for colder temperatures if you’re going to a late fall game.
What should I bring? Bring cash for parking, food, drinks and potential cover charges for bars’ tailgating events. Also, ensure you have an appetite, especially if you plan on having your own party with your set of friends and family or wanting to jump between other events. Of course, remember your driver’s license to show you’re of legal age to drink, which will likely happen if you’re tailgating in the state of Wisconsin. Read up on Wisconsin’s carry-in policy with what you can or cannot bring into the stadium. Pretty standard, but note the “clear totes” rule as well.
Best thing to eat at a typical tailgate? A brat! There is just something about a brat from the state of Wisconsin (my personal favorites are Klement’s or Usinger’s), battered in beer and onions and served with some amazing condiments. It honestly does not matter what time of the day it is—8 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. on gameday—it always hits the spot.
If you go to an actual restaurant for a tailgate or pregame festivities, they may have cheese curds. For those out of state fans getting a taste of them for the first time, give them a try. [Insert Wisconsin stereotype here]
What traditions set Wisconsin tailgates apart from others? Maybe the one tradition that pops out the most is that the students are always late to the game itself, which draws groans from many older fans on social media. Perhaps the kids enjoy their parties a hint too much, as our writers at B5Q reminded me of seeing some multiple story beer bongs, for what it’s worth.
Get downtown early enough, and you’ll see members of the UW Marching Band, notably the tuba section, walking up and down the streets blurting out some tunes before they perform at Union South.
Speaking of Union South, the Badger Bash Tailgate Party takes place there and provides some family-friendly activities. It starts about 2.5 hours before kickoff and includes a performance by the marching band 90 minutes before kickoff.
Overall, the atmosphere really stands out. The first thing I notice walking to the stadium is the smell the brats and other meats searing on everyone’s grills—while the beers and other spirits flow. Camp Randall Stadium is situated in a unique feel. It’s located on campus, but within a square mile of it, you’ll have a mix of homes owned by families and rented by college students, and then the bars where the public tailgates take place. Breese Terrace, the street adjacent to the west side of the stadium, is essentially shut down each home game for the crowds, with the houses on it usually sporting some sort of lawn games and tailgating.
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? Here’s a pro tip: If you’re going to a late October or November game (or any game that’s going to be below 45 degrees and the sun’s not shining in your section), bring some hand warmers/foot warmers and dress warmly. That’s a trick I use when covering home games. The carry in policy also states you can bring in blankets if you see fit.
If you’re visiting from out of town and everyone is of age, check out the Regent Street bars for those tailgating events. You’ll likely see some pregame shows from local sports radio stations taking place down that mile-stretch of street. (ESPN Madison 100.5 FM will host its tailgate at 1201 Regent St. this year.) While you’re down on Regent Street, grab some Greenbush Bakery donuts. Best ones in the city, in my opinion, and I frequently go there before covering practices.
If you get to State Street or University Avenue area at some point before or after the game, pop over at State Street Brats, Vintage Spirits & Grill, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry and/or Ian’s Pizza.
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.
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 p.m., 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 p.m. 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 p.m. 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.
Ken Buser graduated Notre Dame in 1970 and he's been attending Fighting Irish games (and tailgates!) ever since, even passing along the traditions to his children. Paul Buser graduated in 2003 and has worked at the Notre Dame investment office for the past nine years. Below, the Busers of South Bend break down the ins and outs of a green-and-gold tailgate.
When should you get there and where you should park?
Paul: It depends on whether you want the best spot and how long you want the party to go! For the big games, people are known to have found a way to park in the wee hours of the night prior—and for the biggest games, it's not unusual to find a way to leave a car in the spot for days on end that is discreetly switched out for car full of food and beverages the morning of the game! By sunrise, people are getting set up and by mid-morning things are in full swing.
Ken: In the “old” days, prior to 2003, we would leave Wisconsin at 4 a.m. so that we would arrive by no later than 8 a.m. to set up in the grass field unmarked space tailgate lot in order to get our favorite location. In the past 15 years we have had to obtain parking passes that originally cost $25 and are now $125 in paved and lined parking lots. We now try to park in our designated lot at 6 a.m. when the gates open and have first choice of our regular spot. (That spot is in the corner of the lot with a grass area behind the parking space for more comfortable and wide open tailgating.) Fortunately, we now live in South Bend, so we do not have to get up until 5:30 a.m. in order to arrive by 6 a.m.!
Paul: Decades ago, parking used to be wide open—find an open field here or buy a pass last minute. Those days are long gone, for better or for worse. Now, passes are a cherished and rare commodity, and they are for specific parking lots on campus that seem to be getting smaller and smaller in between new buildings and green spaces. One of the best parts of the Notre Dame football experience in general is tradition—the word is almost synonymous with the Fighting Irish. And, it applies very well to tailgating. There are families that have been in the same spot of years and sometimes decades. Our family has been in the same spot within earshot of Notre Dame Stadium for 18 years!
What should I wear?
Ken: Casual clothing is by far the most common, and always includes some type of university-affiliated apparel. Of course, when you spot somebody with a sport coat and tie, you know that they must be from the Development Office and are prospecting for donors! Depending on weather conditions, it is not uncommon to bring several layers of clothing as well as rain gear. We can also retreat under the cover of our tailgate tent in the event of precipitation.
Paul: Attire requires two considerations. First, what team you are cheering for. That's easy!! It's all green, blue and gold. Second to that is the weather. Good luck!! Some fall days sparkle in the fading glow of autumn outlined by a medley of colorful foliage. Others require five layers of clothing or a doubled-up rain-suit to make it through the hours of tailgating before an ND victory.
What should I bring?
Ken: While it is not necessary to bring anything, friends, family and guests often bring beer or wine, or sometimes bags of chips, a dessert or sandwich platter.
Paul: It's a shared, family-like affair! The tailgates range from a small cooler with sandwiches sitting on the back of a pick-up to extravagant affairs with food and beverages lined up as far as the eye can see. We welcome all styles, and we've hosted the full gamut over the years, depending on the quality of the opponent, the weather and how far our imagination takes us! What is very special is the way that guests typically bring more to the tailgate than they consume. So, bottom-line, you can't go wrong in terms of what to bring. Though, you may want to hold off on bringing your vintage champagne if it's going to be a couple of people tossing the pigskin next to a small barbeque with some simple hot dogs on it!
What is the best thing to eat at a typical tailgate?
Ken: Breakfast coffee cakes, banana bread, pasta salad, Italian potato salad, Texas caviar, taco dip, chips and salsa, fresh veggies and dip, homemade cookies and brownies, apples, candy bars and of course, freshly grilled brats, dogs and burgers. If you consider Jell-O shots a food group they are a regular staple as well. Several years ago, mom’s Italian potato salad was included in a Notre Dame tailgate cookbook that was sold in the bookstore.
What traditions set Notre Dame tailgate apart from others?
Ken: The opportunity to connect with both Notre Dame alums and related family members and friends from across the generations and the country.
Paul: Notre Dame has the best tailgates in the country given the family nature and the way you can just sense tradition, the glory of a fall football weekend, and the close intermixing of athletics, academics, and faith. They are all right there together in a singular manner—it's why people make the pilgrimmage from all over the world to come be a part of it—and always come away smiling, whether their team wins or loses. Leprechauns, a huge marching band and a scenic campus all should be mentioned too!
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? Be prepared to have a great time! It is not necessary for you to be a Notre Dame fan, as all are welcome!
Karl Asher, a 2013 graduate from Michigan State University and a Spartans season ticket holder, hopes to pass on the tradition of tailgating at MSU to his future children. Below, he shares his best tips and tricks.
When should you get there?
I always arrive 4-5 hours before kickoff. This way you have time to set up properly to have a good time and you have ample time to put everything away before kickoff. Which gives you plenty of time to enjoy your tailgating time.
Where you should park? If you’re going to park in public lots, it depends on what kind of tailgating you’re going to be doing. If you just need a place to park to walk to a tailgate, there are lots all around campus for parking. I’d recommend parking in the commuter lots off Trowbridge Rd. They have buses to take you into campus from there and it gives you an easy exit to the highway after the game is over.
If you’re looking to park on campus in a public lot it will cost you a bit ($20 a car) and the best ramp to park at, in my opinion, is ramp 6 off of Grand River Ave. This ramp has access to the most grass area tailgating of the public parking. It will also give you the fantastic opportunity to walk through campus, past the bell tower and down and across the Red Cedar river that traverses through the middle of campus.
If you’re looking at getting a parking lot pass, I would highly recommend the south parking lot of Spartan Stadium. It’s a paved lot surrounded by trees for some shade. There are so many great things about this parking lot. It’s right next to where all the students enter the stadium, so you can get fired up for the game listening to the chant “Go Green, Go White.” It’s also next to the where the activity tents set up, for kids and fans to enjoy for free. The biggest perk for this lot is the access to stadium bathrooms up until the time they open the stadium to the public. Nothing is worse than having to spend most of your tailgate in the port-a-John line.
What should I wear? On game days, you should always dress for it to be colder than the weather permits. It’s nicer to shed layers then shiver during the tailgate. And don’t forget your green and white!
What should I bring? Always bring a koozie to keep your hands warm and your beer cold. Don’t forget a bar multi tool. I’ve seen many tailgates delayed as folks scramble to find a wine opener or a bottle opener.
What should I eat at the tailgate? Walking tacos are the best in my book—a game day tailgate delight. Not only is it filling, but it’s a taco with little to no mess. But once you’re inside the stadium, you must get an ice cream cookie sandwich. It’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
What traditions set Michigan State tailgates apart from others? My favorite Michigan State tradition is relatively new, it’s the 300 chant. “SPARTANS WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION?” “HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!” It gives me shivers every time hearing the stadium erupt in this chant.
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? If you get a chance after the game, grab a bite to eat at Brody cafeteria. It’s the largest non-military dining hall in the country and the food is phenomenal. They have everything from pasta to sushi and southwestern fare to fresh pizza. I always stop before I head home.
A recent Stanford alum shares 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.
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.
Connor McCarthy the Brand Manager for Trojan Fever, USC’s student fan group, on eating that postgame Victory Dog and kicking that pole.
Where should I 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 should I 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 should I 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.
Anything in particular I should 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 should I pass the time during the day? 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.
What is the best thing to eat at a USC tailgate? 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.
What is a must-see sight on gameday? 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.
What is the best part of a USC football tailgate? 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.
Below, a mix of seasoned, South Carolina tailgaters explain what makes a Gamecock tailgate unique. Mike McManus, Steve Eason and Cory Thompson are members of the Gamecock Cruisers RV Club, a group of RV owners (and non-RV owners!) that support SC Gamecock Athletics by traveling to home and away games. All three men are well-versed in Gamecock tailgates—McManus is a 1978 graduate who has had season tickets since graduation; Thompson is a 2017 graduate that has been attending home and away games since 1997; and Eason attended South Carolina from 1979-83 and is a longtime Gamecock fan and season ticket holder.
When should you get there and where should you park? Arrive early for pregame festivities in Gamecock Park across Bluff Road from the stadium. Tailgating is the norm at both public and private parking venues around the stadium and most parking spots allow room for some type of tailgating. They all generally have deeded parking spots with a common club house and most are used for home games only. This fall, the Cruisers Roost RV Tailgate Park will open about a half-mile walk from Williams-Brice Stadium. It will have 36 deeded RV sites and will be available for use by owners year round. RV parking lots open on Friday afternoon, and stay open through Sunday morning. Public parking for cars on gameday opens four hours before the game. Parking is available at the fairgrounds across from the stadium. Additional parking information can be found on the Gamecocks website as well.
What should I wear? Garnet and black, of course! For hot weather in September through mid-October, be sure to wear breathable clothing. When the weather changes to cooler weather into November, you’ll need gear to help keep you warm in the cold. Some fans dress up, like the fraternity guys and sorority gals, and others dress more for comfort.
What should I bring? Never come empty handed! If you are joining a tailgate, ASK what you can bring—appetizers, drinks, ice, drinks, desert….drinks. (You get the idea.) And extra chairs are always good item to have with you. Williams Brice Stadium has a clear bag policy and no stadium seats are allowed unless they are the cushion type without pockets.
What are the best thing(s) to eat at a typical tailgate? You’ll definitely want to try the typical Southern tailgate fare of sandwiches (probably chicken salad), snacks (served up with pimento cheese) and fried chicken (and biscuits) but some tailgates will also include grilled items like burgers, hot dogs, barbecue chicken or beef and even steaks. You also may find items like a low country boil, which consists of shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob and potatoes.
What traditions set South Carolina Gamecocks tailgates apart from others? Inside Gamecock Park is The Gamecock Village on Bluff Road, which continues to be a must-see destination before each home game with interactive games, sponsor giveaways and inflatables for the kids. There is also live music on site each week. Small contingents of the Carolina Band will be performing throughout tailgating areas 2.5 hours prior to kickoff. Look for members of the Carolina Band mingling with fans throughout Gamecock Park and the fair grounds to help create the proper game day atmosphere during the Carolina Band “tailgate takeover."
Matthew Winston, a class of 1990 alum and current senior associate vice president for alumni relations, explains how Virginia Tech may be the only school in the country that eats its own mascot at a tailgate.
When should you get there? The lots open at 7 a.m., no matter what time the game starts! But you definitely want to be at the stadium two hours before kickoff, when the team busses arrive. Fans can also stop by our Alumni Center every game day at 9:30 a.m to hear a “Hokie Talk,” which is a pre-game Ted-Talk style presentation that highlights some of our cool projects.
Where you should park? Virginia Tech has a lot of parking areas on campus, although most close to the stadium are reserved for season ticket holders who are member of the Hokie Club. However, general parking is available around the Drillfield and in the parking lot and deck across from the Alumni Center. There are also some park-and-ride shuttle options available from remote locations in and around downtown Blacksburg.
What should I wear? Maroon and orange, of course. But it depends on the time of year. Weather for the early games in September can get a little warm. Most fans will be comfortable with golf shirt, t-shirts and shorts. As you move through October games, it can get chilly, so your Hokie gear might be a hoodie or long-sleeved shirt—maybe even a jacket. November games can get frigid, so get that big coat, hat, scarf and gloves from the bookstore!
What should I bring? Bring your VT tailgate chair, game day tables and your pop-up tent. Bring your grill, bring your crock pot and bring your coolers. Bring your cornhole set and bring your music. Then settle in and have a good time with a few thousand of your closest Hokie friends.
Best thing to eat at a typical tailgate? You can get a taste of just about anything at a Virginia Tech tailgate. Everything from chicken wings to chili, sandwiches and BBQ, hamburgers and hotdogs to ribs and ham biscuits. But the diehards serve up big turkey legs, that you can also buy in the stadium, while others deep-fry a whole turkey. We may be the only school in the country that will eat its own mascot.
What traditions set VT tailgates apart from others? Overall, it’s just such a relaxing atmosphere, and the camaraderie between Hokies is strong. It’s not a bunch of separate tailgates—it turns into one large one pretty quickly. And nothing can stop it or dampen the spirit. I’ve seen people hosting tailgates in blizzards and in the middle of hurricanes. That’s no exaggeration. No matter the conditions, the marching band always visits your tailgate to play the “Hokie Pokie.”
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? Gameday in Blacksburg is one of college football’s great experiences. Many schools have great atmospheres and traditions and Virginia Tech is one of them. Hokie fans and fans of the opposing team always enjoy it. And a night game in Lane Stadium is regarded as one of the best in the land.
Stuart Rimland, Florida Gators class of 2012, breaks down how to navigate a weekend in Gainesville this season.
Where should I 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 should I 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.
What should I wear? 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.
What are some 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.
What is the best thing to eat at a tailgate? Corn on the grill. Best way to eat corn by far.
What are the 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.
What should you 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.
A 1989 Florida State graduate, Matt Pave is Seminoles football fanatic—he hasn’t missed a game since 1995. “It’s 288 in a row if you’re counting!” he says. His crew hosts one of the biggest tailgates you’ll find on gameday in Tallahassee and below, he shares the tips he’s gathered from years of parking lot parties.
When should you get there? The lots open five hours before kickoff and we are always in line before then to maximize our time. Our tailgate setup takes 45 minutes to an hour, based on how early kickoff is. Noon games are tough because we are heading to the stadium at 6:45 a.m. But Friday night is in the unofficial start of the tailgate—this is when we arrive and get ready for the big day on Saturday. We all gather at the bar at Jacob’s at the DoubleTree hotel in Tallahassee. We are creatures of habit, so this is where we stay for every game during the season and the hotel bar is easy and convenient. Everyone knows to find us there!
Where you should park? We park in the first row at Doak Campbell Stadium in the Golden Chief lot! We’ve been there since ’90s and that won’t change. If you’re not a Booster or new to town, Civic Center is easy and gets you to the stadium easily, either via a five-minute shuttle ride or a 10-minute walk. The price is about $10 per vehicle but there are also apartment lots in the area that charge about $10-20 as well.
What should I wear? Make sure to war garnet and gold and plenty of it! No need for a tie or jacket in Tally—tank tops, T-shirts and shorts work for guys and gals!
What should I bring? Jack or Tito’s are the hosts’ favorites so you can’t go wrong. No wine at our tailgate! We have tents, chairs, tables, a TV, a satellite, bar, coolers and a bunch of other items, but these are good suggestions if you’re attending another tailgate.
Best thing to eat at a typical tailgate? At our tailgate, we go the catering route, with Moe’s being a crowd favorite. Who doesn’t like fajitas? Wings and biscuits are also big in Tally, but we’ll usually cater food because we are busy watching other football games on the big screen and catching up with friends. Fireball would be our special drink—we have cooler just full of Fireball on ice. We also have our own bar and bartender at our tailgate!
What traditions set FSU tailgates apart from others? The spirit spear at beginning of the game is Florida State’s biggest tradition and it is not to be missed.
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.
Where should I 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 should I 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 should I 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 should I 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.
What are the best things to eat at a WVU tailgate? Pepperoni rolls (homemade preferably), deer jerky (freshly made), main dishes vary (but some pulled pork, brisket, any kinds of BBQ or tailgate food).
What are the 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
The biggest selling point for a West Virginia tailgate? 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.
Christopher Kluck is a founding member of the Longhorn Tailgaters, an open-to-the-public tailgate made up of “Longhorn-loving, orange-blooded, sooner-hatin' Texas fans and their friends and family.” For one game a year, the group also donates all donations and money raised from a silent auction to Meredith’s Mission for Melanoma. He’s also a UT alum and a season ticket holder for more than 15 years—who better to dish on the details of a UT tailgate?
When should you get there? There is a saying at the University of Texas at Austin… “Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late, Wear Burnt Orange!”
Although they meant that to apply to the fans coming to a game, it can easily apply to the tailgating prior to the game as well. Early in the season, games usually start later in the afternoon to avoid the brutally hot and humid Texas weather. That allows for all-day tailgating, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it. A good rule of thumb for a novice tailgater is 4-5 hours if you plan on going to the game. That gives you 3-4 solid hours of tailgating and then an hour to walk to the stadium and get settled in before kick-off. Not only that, finding a close open parking garage and dealing with traffic is much less cumbersome if you get there early.
Where you should park? The challenging aspect of tailgating for a UT football game is that the campus and stadium are located right next to the Texas State Capitol, which is located very close to downtown. The ideal, iconic green grass fields for tailgating are all but gone around here with the last decade of explosive growth. Now, tailgate operators expect to set up in a parking lot (or garage) in which they purchase ½ dozen or more spaces. Most of the parking garages are by permit for season ticket holders but there are a number that are Pay-to-Park. Expect to pay $20 to park. If you are visiting from out of town, I highly recommend using a ride sharing app like Uber or Lyft, especially if you plan on drinking all day. There are also a bevy of pedicabs outside the stadium waiting to whisk you back to your car or even your hotel if it’s close enough.
What should I wear? Burnt Orange of course! In September and October, it’s still summer-like in Texas (Austin) so wear shorts, comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Most tailgates have multiple canopies and shaded areas but you will most likely be walking a lot and thus exposed that hot Texas sun for multiple hours, especially once you get into the stadium.
What should I bring? Have a minimalist approach. Most tailgates will have everything you need for a fair monetary donation. A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, koozie, fully-charged cell phone and some cash should do it. If you plan on going to the game, leave the Louis Vuitton purse at home because only clear bags or very small clutch purses are allowed into DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
What are the best thing(s) to eat at a typical tailgate? It’s Texas after all so the best thing to eat at a tailgate is some authentic Texas BBQ. If you are lucky enough you’ll get into a tailgate with a smoker/grill and a Pitmaster that arrived at 7 a.m. to start smoking the meats. Typically those tailgates are not open to the public but rather a family affair. A typical open tailgate will have burgers, hot dogs, brisket, fixins’ and a potluck of other items that the regulars contributed to.
What traditions set Longhorns tailgates apart from others? At Texas we take our Fight Song seriously. So whenever a tailgate within earshot plays the Fight Song or “The Eyes of Texas,” activity stops to pay homage and raise your Hook’em Horns sign.
Any other tips or things I should know before I go? Hydrate. That Texas sun is no joke.
Trennie Williams Jr., a Tennessee superfan and class of 2017 graduate, Hannah Poarch, the vice president of membership of the Delta Zeta class of 2019, dish on the insider secrets to a Vols tailgate.
When should you get there? Williams: I used to be in the band (Pride of the Southland) and people would get there before we would. People start to set up as early as 5:00 a.m. But most people get there 4.5-5 hours before kickoff.)
Where does the party happen (and parking)? Williams: There is stuff happening all across campus. The streets close, and the frat village comes alive. There is no public parking—all of Tennessee’s campus is closed off for parking passes. Donors can park anywhere right next to the stadium all the way up onto the other side. If you don’t have a parking pass, there are still many options downtown. But, the free parking lots fill up super quickly. Fort Sanders neighborhood north of campus is a good spot where people can find parking on the street. East Tennessee children’s hospital has a parking lot, and the proceeds from parking go to the hospital. Carpooling is VERY encouraged, based on the lack of parking.
Poarch: Unlike other schools, our stadium is located on campus. Because of this, everything is easily accessible to one another so you can hop from tailgate to tailgate. Before the game, a lot of our fraternity and sorority life will hang out at Fraternity Park where each house hosts a tailgate. It’s nice to welcome back alumnus of the houses; current members really do a nice job of welcoming them home. It’s really cool to see past and present members reconnect on game day.
Are there any traditions that separate Tennessee? Poarch: You should definitely check out the “Vol Navy,” which is an aspect of our tailgate you don’t get at most other schools (except Washington). You’ve got about 200 something boats docking up along the Tennessee River right next to Neyland Stadium (it started in 2002 officially). Everyone’s walking along side it, you’ve got a lot of restaurants down there too (Calhoun’s Restaurants). It’s a really cool atmosphere—it’s shaded so it’s a little cooler down there. Everyone’s jumping on each other’s boats with “Rocky Top” blaring. When it comes to the game, many people watch it from TVs on the boats. When we score the fireworks go off, which is really picturesque.
Williams: Another tradition is Big Orange Friday, which is a student campus initiative for the students and faculty. We promote everyone to wear orange, as much as possible, to show some school spirit for the game the next day. Orange from head to toe. The huge push for Big Orange Friday comes forward during football season to get ready for that Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
What should I wear? Poarch: The more orange the better. Entering the campus you’ll see a sea of UT orange. We dress up, but we aren’t quite the Grove, but we also aren’t as casual as other schools. It’s so hard to find our specific orange, I can’t tell you how many times I wished we were red. The older crowd is very strict about their orange—it has to be the right orange. We are Tennessee orange, not Texas orange. We are the real UT. A lot of our guys try to dress “retro” like the ’80s and ’90s. Goodwill is our guys’ favorite place to find that vintage kind of polo and orange t-shirts. They dress retro because the last time we won a national championship was 1998. So you’ll see a lot of things that say “It feels like ’98” and it does to us until the bitter end of football season. So you definitely have all those guys looking like it’s the ’90s.
Are there any sites to see during the tailgate? Poarch: Try to stop by “Vol Village” before kickoff, which is a great place for families. It opens about three and a half hours before the game right there outside the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) building. You’ll find most of your kids there. For somebody who went to every game dressed in a cheerleader outfit since she was one year old, seeing the cheerleaders roaming around and getting a picture with them is really special. You have Smokey there, and some of the band will walk by. It is a good place for your kid, away from all of the tailgates for adults (there are inflatables and other student athletes signing signatures as well as food and live music, probably country.
Williams: You need to catch the “Vol Walk,” which happens 2.5 hours before kickoff. The team pulls up to Peyton Manning Pass and the band is there performing, giving out high fives to all the kids. Gate 21 is where everything goes down. It is where the band and team march through. The Pride of the Southland forms a T for the team to run through onto the field.
And you should check out Peyton Manning Pass. It’s a perfect photo destination for game day. Snap a picture right in the middle of the Power T in front of Neyland Stadium. It is replicated like a football field; at the top and bottom there are checkered boards.
What should I bring? Williams: Bring a chair—you’re going to want to sit down every once in a while. Definitely bring a tent because it gets pretty sunny out here in Knoxville. Bring a cooler with your beverage of choice, from Jack Daniels to orange juice, orange Sunkist, or orange iced tea, orange is just part of the culture. I know Walmart makes Power T molds that you can make Jell-O shots out of. Bring flags and blankets, too.
Poarch: Probably a “Go Vols” shirt, because if you’re a UT fan, you’re welcome at any tailgate.
Are there any rules and regulations? Tennessee is a dry campus every day, but that is ignored on Saturdays. No alcohol is allowed in or sold in the stadium. But, as long as its closed containers, it’s all good. There is a clear bag policy: you are allowed to bring a clear bag into the stadium and allowed a clutch purse that is the size of 4.5 by 6 inches, and of course wallets and stuff. (Most SEC schools have taken part in this safety protocol, creating a larger precaution.)
Williams: Neyland does not allow any artificial noisemakers; we are not like Mississippi State, we don’t have cowbells.
Poarch: You cannot be an Alabama fan on a Vol Saturday, that’s against the law down here in Knoxville.
What kind of food will be there? Poarch: Food wise BBQ is everywhere; after all you are in Knoxville. Many people bring their own grilles, but it is popular to bring in from nearby restaurants. The most popular one is Calhoun’s Restaurants. There is one next to the River that many people take out to their boats, and the line is usually out the door especially before and after the game. Gus’ Good Time’s Deli is really popular among students. And, you can be sure to find many fans eating Petro’s chili from none other than Petro’s Chili and Chips, even on a hot game day.
Kirk Purdom, a former baseball player at Ole Miss and the current executive director of Alumni Affairs, shares insider information on what he calls “the best gameday experience in America.”
Where should people park? To park on campus you have to have a parking pass, but there are various organizations that allow parking, like local churches and schools in the area. Places like Oxford High and FNC Park, which is a baseball facility, allow you to park at rate of about $20 per vehicle. They also have a shuttle service that takes you straight to the stadium.
How should fans dress? There is no real formal dress code. You’ll see a variety of clothes, but most of the time people wear what is comfortable for them. If it’s hot you’ll see people in khaki shorts and a golf polo. It is more formal than most gamedays, so people will at least be wearing collared shirts. The college students tend to dress up more, so the women will be wearing dresses and the men will normally wear a jacket and tie.
Can you explain “The Grove”? The Grove is a grassy area on campus, where most of the fans do their tailgating. Most people pay vendors to store their tents and all their tailgating equipment, and at 7 p.m. every Friday before gameday all the vendors set up the hundreds of spots people have staked out. You’ll have a wide variety of tents that they set up. You’ll have anywhere from small simple ones to really elaborate ones with TVs and satellites and even chandeliers. It’s basically organized chaos. It’s really incredible to see.
What tradition sets Ole Miss apart? At Ole Miss we do what is called the walk of champions, where the players walk down through The Grove to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. All the fans form a tunnel for the players to walk through a couple hours before the game. This season they have added to the walk and it will go through “The Letterwinner Walk” just outside the stadium. The team will walk through a series of pillars recognizing all of the letter winners at Ole Miss in every sport. If you’re a college football fan it should definitely be on your bucket list.
Jason Badeaux, the LSU student government president, rising senior and Sigma Phi Epsilon member, and Jared Bassett, a recent graduate and the LSU student government director of athletics, detail the scene before games at Tiger Stadium.
When should I get there? Bassett: Most people get there around 8 or 9 a.m. the next day after setting up the night before. Most of our games are at night as LSU; we really only have one day game a year, which is unique. Tailgating does not happen at the houses; it is all at one common ground on campus called the Parade Grounds. You will see tents of Greek and student organizations and the party typically starts on Friday night before the game. This is when most people come to mark their coveted territories.
Where should you park? According to Badeaux, this is the age-old question. You can pay people to park in their front yards. You can purchase tickets from LSU, and they have lots near the baseball field, fraternity row and by the track.
Are there any rules and regulations? Badeaux: We are at an interesting point at LSU, the university is coming down with restrictions and increased security on Greek specific tailgating due to the loss of freshman [Maxwell Gruver] due to fraternity hazing. It’s going to be a transformative year for LSU tailgating. New regulations will move around where students have tailgated and change traditions of the past. I think we are going to have to get a lot of new traditions created. The future is really up in the air. According to LSU’s campus newspaper The Daily Reveille, the university is attempting to move Greek life back to their chapter houses during tailgates to ensure a safer environment. The tailgating area is so packed that there is a policy on tent size and the use of drones is prohibited.
What should I wear? Badeaux: Garb at Death Valley varies. You can see most men in a casual shirt or polo (creating a see of purple and gold) with jeans, while most women wear sundresses. It’s definitely not the Grove at Ole Miss, we don’t dress up all preppy. We are a little looser at LSU.
What should you bring? Badeaux: A lot of beer and a fun time. In reality, you will be fed no matter what team you are on, so bring an empty stomach too. College football is what brings everyone back together on campus.
What should I eat? Badeaux: You will find traditional Cajun food as soon as you step on the scene: boudin, jambalaya, sausage, crawfish, etouffee, and gumbo if it’s cold enough, all made with unique Cajun spices. Food is so central that one of their cheers revolves around it: “Hot boudin, cold couche-couche, come on Tigers...Push, push, push!”
When visiting teams come to Tiger Stadium, LSU fans make sure to get festive and cook or barbeque the team’s mascot. For instance, during the Florida game you will see many fans cooking alligators. (For Arkansas they cooked a hog.)
What are the best sites to see? If you venture down to Baton Rouge, be sure to check out Mike the Tiger’s habitat sitting in between Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Their mascot is more than a mascot, it’s an actual tiger.
Bassett: This past year was our first year with our new tiger (Mike VII, Harvey) since the previous one passed away last year with cancer. They stopped the tradition of bringing the tiger on the field with the arrival of this new tiger (they used to put him in front of the opposing team’s locker room so they would have to run around him to get to the field). Animal rights groups put an end to his time in the trailer cage during games. He is still out in his habitat on game days (where there is a pool and stream system) and you can still see him since he sits right next to the field. You can see him roaming around more comfortably, instead of in a trailer cage.
What else should I know about an LSU tailgate? Bassett: The people in Louisiana are as nice as can be and very inclusive, when it comes to tailgating. If you are from the opposing team traveling to the game you are going to be treated almost better than LSU fans treat each other. No guarantees if the opposing team comes in and beats Louisiana.
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.
Where should I 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 should I 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.
What should I wear? 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.
What are the 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.
Neil Peltier is Texas A&M’s assistant director for the University Center & Special Events and Athletics Tailgating, and he breaks down a day full of brisket and the Aggie War Hymn.
Where should I 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.
What are the must-see traditions at a Texas A&M tailgate? 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 three-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.
What are the best things to eat on gameday? 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.