Best Colleges for Tailgating 2015

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The school spirit is great, but the food is even better

The 25 Best Colleges for Tailgating 2015

Americans love football season for the sport of it, but also for that thing that turns a game into a social occasion: tailgating. Each football season, fans, alumni, and friends gather for kickoff to support one of their favorite college football teams — relishing copious amounts of Buffalo wings, barbecue ribs, chargrilled briskets, and (if you’re attending Louisiana State University’s tailgate), Creole seafood gumbo along the way. Tailgates are about supporting your team, but also about kicking back, eating and drinking, and observing time-honored traditions. If you plan on attending a few college games this year, here are a few whose tailgate will have you never wanting to leave.

#25 University of Missouri

University of Missouri

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University of Missouri — fondly known as Mizzou by many — makes its entry onto our list this year at No. 25. If you plan on being anywhere near the Missouri town of Columbia this season, this is a tailgate to enjoy. Head to “the jungle” located at the top of the field, where the crowd is young, boisterous, and filled with booze and food. For a more family-friendly area, try the Mizzou Experience at the Hearnes Fieldhouse, where there is catered food — perfect if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of hosting your own tailgate.

#24 Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

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Texas A&M University is one of the schools to envy when it comes to killer tailgating. The celebration begins many hours before kickoff, thanks to the "Midnight Yell" on Kyle Field. But Texas A&M has other rich traditions, including the giant maroon tailgating buses arrayed around campus and the Corps of Cadets March-In about an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.

#23 University of Tennessee

Unviersity of Tennessee

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The University of Tennessee students have so strong an allegiance to the school and its tailgating traditions that even parents of former students return after their kids have long since left the hallways. Neyland Stadium is right on the Tennessee River, hence the creation back in 1962 of the  "Vol Navy"  so tailgaters could party right on the water. Did we mention that there are waterslides? Waterslides, seriously! Plus, Tennessee fans know a thing or two about delicious tailgating fare. In addition to elaborate Southern cooking spreads, they also enjoy a classic cocktail known as the Knoxville Ice Pick — vodka, iced tea, and lemon juice.

#22 Michigan State University, Lansing, MI

Michigan State University

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With the fight song "MSU Shadows" ringing from Beaumont Tower over the crowd, Spartan fans get pumped for a day of serious tailgating. Their spacious lots are packed with fan-filled tents and grills covered with cheddar peppers, barbecued brisket, and burgers grilled to perfection. Fans looking to have a great time at bar should visit restaurants such as Backyard Bar-B-Q or Harpers Brew Pub to keep the post-game party going, since kegs are not allowed on campus lots.

#21 Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK

At Oklahoma State University, there is no shortage of homecoming fun. Oklahoma is full of enthusiastic school spirit, and at tailgating time, you’ll catch both alumni and current students belting out "The Waving Song” and indulging in a tented tailgating good foods such as savory steaks, well-grilled burgers, and cheesy French fries. The crowd is rowdy, but the fun remains safe for family friendly visitors.

#20 Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Florida State University

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The best thing is about FSU’s tailgate parties is that, if you're so inclined, you can cook and eat your rival's mascot — alligator. Florida State University Seminoles fans always host a gator roast to celebrate their team. Plus there are a ton of tents filled with fans, alumni and grills fired full of grilled alligator, barbecue ribs, and lots of beer for a good time in the surrounding lots. 

#19 University of Nebraska - Lincoln

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

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Three words: Omaha Steak dogs. This iconic food makes a frequent appearance at tailgates here and totally blows average franks out of the water. With an alarming amount of food and elaborately outfitted tents, the party is one to remember. But it doesn't stop there; post-game celebrations continue at the Historic Haymarket complex, where fans can either drown their sorrows from a loss or keep their post-victory adrenaline rush going at one or more of several dozen bars and restaurants.

#18 University of South Carolina

Gamecock fans literally take the party to the streets. With a stadium located off-campus, game days mean rowdy fans chowing down on bacon-wrapped hot dogs and washing them down with apple-pie moonshine. But the coolest part of the University of South Carolina’s tailgate scene? It has to be the "Cockabooses.” They are repurposed South Carolina-themed cabooses on an abandoned railroad track that are fully loaded with all the things on your tailgate wishlist.

#17 University of Southern California (USC)

Hours before kickoff at the University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, fans flood the Trousdale (a spacious area near the alumni field) to set up for a wild day. There are ballpark-style food trucks, serving classics such as nachos, grilled sliders, and hotdogs, for a family friendly tailgating experience. Be sure to follow the band as it plays around campus, then partake in the game-day tradition of kicking the flagpole at the edge of campus for good luck. The USC tailgate is only majorly amped up for UCLA games, where you’ll find plenty of UCLA teddy bears (the rival school's team is the Bruins) dragged around campus or hung up in trees.  

#16 Purdue, West Lafayette, IN

At Purdue, the band leads the way to Slayter Center to get the Boilermakers amped up for the game, while the lot overflows with spirited fans. The mindset at Purdue? It is all about the tailgate party; don your black and gold for some good old working-class fun. Or, if you are feeling really spirited, join the Purdue "Breakfast Club." Surrounding bars open their doors to students around the campus early in the morning for a costume party (yes, people take this seriously and really dress up) that lasts all day.

University of Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin is not particularly known for tailgating, but they have fun with it. Being centrally located in downtown Madison means they lack the space for open-air partying, but downtown pubs and bars open their doors to revelers. Take a stroll down Breese Terrace, where there are more than 30 residences blasting music and grilling some of their favorite tailgating foods, such as burgers, brats, and grilled shrimp prior to kick off. Then 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 set-up, and is famous for its burgers and brats.

#14 University of Texas

With all the great food and music in the Texas capital, a mere stadium is just not enough. The entire city becomes a fanzone on game days, whether you’re in 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 on campus itself.

#13 University of Georgia, Athens, GA

University of Georgia

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Bulldogs fans at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia start setting up as early as 7 a.m. on game day and proceed to grill and party until kickoff in spacious tailgating lot serving up delicious chicken and cheeseburger sliders, and lots of spinach and artichoke dip. Bulldog fans who are of age can hang at any of the surrounding game-day-friendly bars around this college town to keep the party going.

# 12 Baylor University

Baylor University in Waco, TX makes its debut on our list this year, and if you’re ever in Waco during football season, you'll find out why. Baylor's new stadium ups the ante by offering sailgating on the Brazos River, but  that’s not the only place to tailgate — if boating is not your thing, rent a RV, fire up of a grill of your favorite, brats, burgers and hot dogs “Texas style.” Whichever activity you decide to use, park your boat along the river, drop an anchor and enjoy!

#11 Auburn University

Auburn University

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Ever camped out before game-time days in advance? That takes dedication and lots of school spirit, but that's what Auburn fans do. Auburn University’s school tradition of the pre-game walk with the players to the stadium, called the Tiger Walk, is one in which students and alumni proudly participate. Before the walk, fans enjoy a myriad of delicious foods and drinks in their Tiger gear, including iconic Southern barbecued pulled pork. Should the team win, Toomer’s Corner (a fanzone hotspot) will be TP-ed, so bring extra toilet paper. 

#10 McDaniel College, Westminster, MD

McDaniel is one tailgate you should get to early, parking spots gets get filled really fast for this drive-in tailgate. With its brand new 8.2 million dollar stadium, McDaniel offers a unique tailgating experience, allowing Green Terror fans to drive up to the ridge (which overlooks the field). The layout of the land allows people to stand by their cars (with chairs and tents and grills and tables of foods and coolers, etc...) and watch the game.

#9 University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The Gators take their partying to another level: the party kicks off at “The Swamp” (as Florida Field is popularly known) and keeps going. Lauren Gordon, reported on last year’s list that “A Gator tailgate just may be the biggest such affair you’ll ever go to, with dozens of out-of-towners filling up tents and RVs for a good time. Gator fans are always decked out in extravagant tailgate garb and fry up amazing Southern food for a celebration the whole town can enjoy.”

#8 Prairie View A&M University

Tailgating in Prairie, Texas, means reserving a spot for your RV on the alumni field months in advance. Once tailgating kicks off, you will find yourself surrounded by endless barbecue grills overflowing with brisket, ribs, and delicious pulled pork. Tailgating at Prairie View is family-friendly, and filled with generations of Panthers alumni and current undergrads alike.

#7 Howard University, Washington D.C.

Howard University is late to tailgating, having kicked off their first one in 2008, but they've caught up quickly. The band is great, but the food is even better. Beyond the usual burgers and hot dogs, look for stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon, Louisiana gumbo, fiery jerk chicken, smoked porgy, slow-smoked bone-in pork shoulder, and barbecued pork ribs, among other delights.

#6 University of Alabama

If you are anywhere near Tuscaloosa on game day, you must attend a Roll Tide tailgate. Start your rounds  at “The Quads,” located nearby the stadium — an area packed with grills cooking barbecue brisket, hamburgers, hot dogs, and more. Don't miss the signature Yellowhammer Slammer cocktail at Gallette’s, a concoction of vodka, rum, amaretto, and orange and pineapple juice served in a 20-ounce cup; the bar sells 5,000 of them on a good game day.

University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)

 “To have a tailgate experience like you’ve never had before," as Lauren Gordon put it last year, "you have to visit The Grove at Ole Miss. Prepare for sensory overload: in addition to the miles of tented, Rebel-Nation-loving fans in red, white, and blue garb, there are folk hanging chandeliers and donning bow ties and pearls. This is one very serious party time. All of this is just a precursor to the Walk of Champions, where players walk to the stadium through The Grove full of fans on the way to victory. The spirit and pride Ole Miss fans have fills the stands and overflows outside the game for post-parties that rage on and on.”

#4 University of Michigan

University of Michigan

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We have one thing to say about the University of Michigan’s tailgating experience: #GoBlue! Ok, we have a little more to say about it than that. The party starts when the parking lot opens at 7 a.m. and continues on until the beginning of the game, when dedicated fans head in for some quality field watching time. Roughly 90 minutes before the show, fans are invited in to watch the traditional drumline stepshow to get them psyched for the game. In the tailgating area, you’ll find a spacious lot where tailgaters can spread out to get their pre-game party on. On the way to the stadium, some fans hang out at the local Quickie Burger, which also serves breakfast all day for those who need a boost to last through the game. There are also plenty of surrounding spots to pick up a bite to eat if you don’t want to cook at the game.

#3 Penn State University

Penn State University

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With close to 100,000 fans swarming the games and mulling around "Nittanyville" (formerly Paternoville), the tent city students set up before game day to get the best seats in the student section, there is no denying that this is a top place to tailgate. The crowd is ebullient, the spirit is strong, and there are tons of traditional foods to enjoy other than just your average tailgate fare. Penn State “stickies” (sticky buns laced with caramelized sugar) from the Ye Olde College Diner are a game-day must.   

#2 South Carolina State University

This is one tailgate you won’t want to miss is in Orangeburg, South Carolina at South Carolina State University. Bulldog tailgates are famous above all for the variety and quality of food you’ll find in the tailgating lot. Elaborate spreads are accessible in a warm, welcoming environment that makes tailgating for the whole family enjoyable. There are a few restrictions as to where you can cook, so be sure to check the lot out before you commit.   

#1 Louisiana State University (LSU)

Louisiana State University channels that true Baton Rouge spirit, with tailgates overflowing with alligators and pigs on the spit, boiled crawfish, and steaming gumbo. The LSU band marches down the hill to the stadium, inciting an atmosphere of pure fun. Tailgate setups are so elaborate, you feel like a living room has moved onto the lot, which is good because you should get comfortable — the party doesn’t stop all day or all night.