Obviously, we love football season for the sport, but what makes it really special are the tailgating festivities that surround the games. Every college football game day begins with a pre-game of some kind, and the biggest and best of them really are the most spectacular parties. At the best college tailgates fans, current students, alumni, and their families gather together to party, eat, drink, watch football, and enjoy the pre- and post-game festivities.
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One of the key appeals of the University of Washington’s tailgate is undoubtedly the ability to party on land and water. There are two huge parking lots with plenty of space for cooking, but the stadium is right next to the water, meaning that you have the option of pulling up a boat and swapping the tailgate for a sailgate. The food reflects the university’s coastal location: Besides the typical tailgating fare, you’ll find lots of salmon and fish fry being cooked and served by both the fans and the vendors.
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The entire town of Greenville, North Carolina, dresses up in purple and gold to come together for game day. The food is taken incredibly seriously, but the lots only open six hours before the game starts, so the fans have to make sure they come fully prepared and ready to cook. At ECU tailgates you’ll find everything from seafood boil to biscuits to chili, but the main feature is North Caroline Barbecue: There’s never a shortage of barbecued pork at these tailgates. An hour before the game begins, the band marches through, setting the scene for an incredibly lively game.
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University of Tennessee students have such a strong allegiance to the school and its tailgating traditions that even parents of former students return long after their kids have graduated. Neyland Stadium is right on the Tennessee River, so since the creation of the Vol Navy in 1962, tailgaters have been able to party on the water. The floating tailgaters make the most of their water-based location by creating waterslides off the edges of the boats: This definitely beats a regular parking lot. The Tennessee fans don’t skimp on food, either: While feasting on elaborate Southern spreads, they sip on a classic Knoxville Ice Pick cocktail, which is made of vodka, iced tea, and lemon juice.
University of Missouri tailgate is a boozy, rowdy party. Head to “the jungle” located at the top of the field, where the crowd is young and boisterous, and there are incredible amounts of food and drinks, and lots of space for cooking, too. If you’re after a more family-friendly vibe, head to the Mizzou Experience at the Hearnes Fieldhouse where there is plenty of catered food, in case you don’t want to bother with hosting your own tailgate.
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Texas A&M University’s tailgates begin many hours before kickoff, thanks to the "Midnight Yell" on Kyle Field. Texas A&M has so many tailgating traditions such as the giant maroon tailgating buses arrayed around campus, and the Corps of Cadets March-In, which always happens just over an hour before the game starts.
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Tailgating in Prairie, Texas, requires some planning: You’ll need to reserve a spot for your RV on the alumni field months in advance, but it really is worth it. At a typical Prairie tailgate, you’ll be surrounded by innumerable barbecue grills, which are overflowing with brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Tailgating at Prairie View is definitely family-friendly: The crowd is a made up of many generations of Panthers alumni and current undergrads.
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Baylor University’s new stadium has transformed this Texan tailgate into a stunning sailgate on the Brazos River. However, if boating isn’t your thing, you can still make the most of this Southern tailgate: Rent a RV and get grilling. Classic Texas-style burgers and hot dogs are everywhere at Baylor’s pre-game parties.
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By far the most unique element of FSU’s tailgate is that, if you so desire, you can cook and eat the rival's mascot — alligator. FSU fans always host a gator roast to celebrate their team, and if alligator isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of other tents of fans and alumni cooking up ribs and other barbecue classics, all washed down with several beers.
Auburn fans are some of the most dedicated out there: Days in advance of a game, they’ll start camping outside the stadium, coming together in the strongest of school spirits. Auburn fans are hugely proud of the Tiger Walk, where they walk with the players to the stadium before the game. Prior to this traditional event, fans can be found feasting on Southern barbecue and pulled pork, and drinking plenty, all dressed up in their Tiger gear.
The University of Texas at Austin / Facebook
On University of Texas game days, the whole city becomes a celebrating fan zone: Take your pick from all the great food and music available in the Texas capital prior to the game, and choose between a rowdy country-and-western bar on Sixth Street, a local beer garden like Scholz Garten, one of the city's many excellent barbecue joints or Tex-Mex restaurants, or even a classic tailgate on campus itself: There really is something for everyone.
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Hours before kickoff, USC fans flood the spacious Trousdale area to set up for a raucous day. Here you’ll find ballpark-style, family-friendly food trucks serving classics like nachos, grilled sliders, and hot dogs. Fans always follow the band as it plays around campus before kicking the flagpole at the edge of campus for good luck.
Howard University only celebrated their first tailgate in 2008, but they have successfully made up for lost time. The food is the star of this D.C. tailgate: Beyond the usual burgers and hot dogs, keep an eye out for stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon, Louisiana gumbo, fiery jerk chicken, smoked porgy, slow-smoked bone-in pork shoulder, and barbecued pork ribs.
University of Wisconsin is located in downtown Madison, which means there’s not much space for open-air partying. However, the lack of space is made up for by the numerous pubs and bars that open their doors to Badger fans. On Breese Terrace, more than 30 residences will be blasting music and grilling some of your favorite tailgating foods such as burgers, brats, and grilled shrimp prior to kick off. For a more drink-focused party, head over to Jordan’s Big Ten Pub, which turns its parking lot into a beer garden on game days. Lucky’s has a similar beer-centric set-up, and is also famous for its burgers and brats.
At 7 a.m. on game day you’ll find Bulldogs fans at the University of Georgia are already setting up. They’ll start grilling straight away, and will carry on serving up chicken and cheeseburger sliders, and lots of spinach and artichoke dip, right until kickoff. If you want to focus on drinking, fans can head to any of the surrounding game-day-friendly bars around the college town.
McDaniel is one tailgate you should get to early, as parking spots fill up fast at this drive-in tailgate. McDaniel’s new stadium provides a unique tailgating experience, as Green Terror fans can drive up to the ridge that overlooks the field. This means that you can tailgate while you are watching the game: It doesn’t get much better than that.
University of Florida / Facebook
The Gators partying kicks off at “The Swamp” (as Florida Field is popularly known), and keeps going, all night long. A Gator tailgate is a huge affair: All the fans are always wearing extravagant orange and blue tailgate garb, and the tastiest fried Southern food is enjoyed by the whole town, as well as the out-of-towners who’ve come in just for the game
On game day, close to 100,000 fans will be swarming around Nittanyville, the tent city students set up before game day. The crowds are crazy, the school spirit is strong, and food abounds everywhere. Besides the classic tailgate fare, Penn State “stickies” (sticky buns laced with caramelized sugar) from the Ye Olde College Diner are a game day classic.
University of South Carolina / Facebook
Gamecock fans really do take their tailgate party to the streets: The stadium is located off campus, so game days consist of rowdy fans feasting on bacon-wrapped hot dogs and drinking plenty of apple pie moonshine. However, the coolest party of this tailgate has to be the "Cockabooses.” These are repurposed South Carolina-themed cabooses, which are stationed on an abandoned railroad track, and really are everything your tailgating dreams are made of.
The Roll Tide tailgates at Tucaloosa are a busy, rowdy affair. Game day celebrations typically begin early at “The Quads,” located nearby the stadium. This area will be packed with grills cooking barbecue brisket, hamburgers, hot dogs, and more. The signature Yellowhammer Slammer cocktail served at Gallette’s is an essential feature. This lethal drink is made of vodka, rum, amaretto, orange juice, and pineapple juice, and is served in a 20-ounce cup. Make sure you don’t miss the Elephant Stomp pep rally: the Million Dollar Band, who plays before and during the game, always meets an hour before the game on the stairs of the Gorgas Library, and then march to the president’s mansion to perform before the game begins. After the game, fans looking to continue the party head to Dreamland Bar-B-Que, where the festivities run late into the night.
For one of the most amazing tailgate experiences, you have to visit The Grove at Ole Miss. This tailgate party is taken incredibly seriously: Tented, Rebel-Nation-loving fans in red, white, and blue garb fill the space, and many of them hang chandeliers and don bow ties and pearls. This tailgate party is just part of the build-up to the Walk of Champions, where players walk to the stadium through The Grove full of fans. The Ole Miss fans are incredibly proud and celebratory at every game, and here, the post-game parties never seem to end.
The University of Michigan’s tailgates start as soon as the parking lot opens at 7 a.m. Before the game begins, the majority of fans watch the spectacular drumline stepshow, which really gets everyone psyched up. The tailgating area is a spacious lot where tailgaters have plenty of space to cook and party. Many fans hang out at the local Quickie Burger, which is conveniently located on the way to the stadium and serves breakfast all day: The perfect boost to help keep you going for the whole game.
Louisiana State University tailgates really channel that amazing Baton Rouge spirit. The tailgates are always filled with the most spectacular food: The amazing boiled crawfish and steaming gumbo are served alongside alligators and pigs cooked on the spit. It’s not only the food that is extravagant, though. The tailgate setups are amazingly elaborate — it often feels like people’s homes have been moved into the parking lot. This level of comfort and the quantities of amazing food perhaps explain why the party doesn’t stop at any point throughout the day or night. Before the game, the fans get riled up by the LSU band, as it marches down the hill to the stadium, making sure everybody is ready for the game.