Tips, traditions and advice from an Notre Dame insider on the best way to tailgate at a Fighting Irish game this college football season. 

August 23, 2018

Dad/Ken graduated from Notre Dame in 1970. By contrast, he and his wife, Jane’s children, Betsy, Amy, Susie, Paul and Brad graduated between 1998 and 2003.


When should you get there and where you should park? 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.!

What should I wear? 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.

What should I bring? 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.  

What is the best thing to eat at a typical tailgate? 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? The opportunity to connect with both Notre Dame alums and related family members and friends from across the generations and the country.

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!

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