Tips, traditions and advice from a Texas insider on the best way to tailgate at a Longhorns game this college football season.
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.