It’s barely dawn on a Saturday morning and you already have the car packed with everything from yard games to spare ribs. You’ve somehow managed to fit into a faded college sweatshirt from sophomore year and soon will hit the road to your old stomping grounds for a day of food, fun and football. It must be tailgating season.
We’ve searched stadium parking lots (and waterways) across the country to bring you some of the most unique tailgating scenes to put on your bucket list this fall.
University of Mississippi (Oxford, MS) – The Grove
Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty! Like many schools around the country, Ole Miss claims to have the best tailgating scene around, and 1 trip to Oxford may leave you convinced. The reasoning? The Grove. This 10-acre quad/park at the heart of campus transforms into downtown tailgate town on Rebel’s game days. A sea of blue and red cover this grassy area as fans dressed in their Sunday’s best parade from tent to tent sampling delicious food and drink. It is a true taste of southern hospitality that can’t be missed.
Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) – Mirror Lake Jump
One of the biggest games every year is the heated rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan. Each year, thousands of THE Ohio State students meet the week before the game for a midnight party and tailgate at Mirror Lake, a shallow pond on campus. If you dare (and many do), take the frigid plunge into the lake with the other co-eds.
Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA) – The Food
For real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. For tailgating, it’s all about the food, food, food. Perhaps no school demonstrates this better than LSU. It seems that every tailgate in Baton Rouge is well planned and well seasoned with everything from jambalaya to crawfish. And make sure to come hungry, because there is always enough for seconds, thirds and fourths…
Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) – Midnight Yell
No one may like their football as much as the natives of West Texas. For many of them, that means heading to College Station each Saturday to tailgate for the Aggies of Texas A&M. If you plan on joining the party, make sure to get there the night before for Midnight Yell. Students and A&M supporters pack Kyle Field (sometimes up to 40 or 50,000!) to practice cheering for the game in one of the more unique traditions in college football.
Clemson University (Clemson, SC) – The $2 Dollar Bill
This tradition is one that hits the road with its fans. Starting in 1977 after Georgia Tech refused to play Clemson, Tiger fans now stock up on $2 bills, freshly stamped with an orange tiger paw, to spend in opposing cities. The result is a lasting and clever way to leave a Clemson footprint on rival teams and economies.
University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC) – The Cockaboose Railroad
Ever tailgate on a train? No? Well look no further than the University of South Carolina. Roughly 50 yards from Williams-Bryce Stadium are 22 railroad cars that you can rent out on game day for your tailgate party. Each car is uniquely decorated, but all feature top-of-the-line interiors, flat screens, full kitchens and rooftop decks. This is a tailgating tradition truly unique to the Gamecocks of South Carolina.
University of Tennessee (The Vol Navy ; Knoxville, TN) & Washington (Husky Harbor ; Seattle, WA)
Both of these fine institutions feature what we so humbly call boat-gating. Their water-side stadiums offer the perfect opportunity for fans to bring their pre-game festivities dockside. In Tennessee, they call it The Vol Navy, and in Washington, it’s Husky Harbor. But no matter what you call it, tailgating plus boating equal greatness.
Penn State University (State College, PA) – Nittanyville
The scene in Happy Valley on a fall Saturday morning is something to see for yourself. Thousands of fans, dressed in white from head to toe, camp out in various tents, campers and RVs to prepare for the Nittany Lions’ next game. The pop-up community of Penn Staters is affectionately called Nittanyville and boasts some of the most passionate tailgaters you’ll find.
University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA) – Charter Hill
Better known to the Golden Bears faithful as Tightwad Hill, this popular tailgating and viewing venue is unique to the University of California. Just over the east side from California Memorial Stadium is this small foothill, providing an amazing — and FREE — view of Cal games each Saturday. For 90 years, students, alumni and faculty have climbed Charter Hill to enjoy this amazing game-day tradition.
University of Florida vs. University of Georgia (Jacksonville, FL ) – The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
One of the most anticipated matchups of the college football season takes place in Jacksonville, FL, between border rivals Florida and Georgia. This game always has one of the largest tailgate parties with nearly as many fans staying in the parking lot to keep the party going as actually going inside for the game — hence the unofficial title, “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”