About as traditional as apple pie, tailgating on game day is an American custom that many colleges and universities pride themselves on getting right.
Regardless of weather conditions or team record, a Saturday is incomplete without partaking in a pick-up football game outside the stadium while your burgers char on the grill and your beer rests inside your favourite koozie.
Some schools go above and beyond to make the tailgating experience almost as memorable as the game-winning drive to beat their longtime rival.
Here are the best schools and places for tailgating in every state. We based our list on fan ratings, interviews, and national football rankings.
Alabama: The University of Alabama
The current champions of college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide continuously draw a ridiculous amount of fans near and far to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama residents may be split on whether their alliance lies with the Tide or fellow SEC rivals the Auburn University Tigers; however, there’s no denying the popularity of Nick Saban effect in Tuscaloosa.
In fact, these college tailgates are so legendary that this school frequently nabs a spot on the best tailgates in the country.
Alaska: The Peanut Farm
Alaska doesn’t have a huge college team, yet that has never stopped locals from following their favourite schools from afar. Located in Anchorage,The Peanut Farm has over 70 screens that broadcast just about every team in each division. The best part? They open at 6 a.m.
Arizona: University of Arizona
Gameday is a serious matter in Wildcat country, and students at the University of Arizona intend to party for as long as they can. Festivities begin a full 24 hours before kickoff with Bear Down Friday, a processional led by the marching band on University Boulevard followed by a pep rally featuring a special guest.
Win or lose, the warm weather year-round is the perfect excuse to head outside and cheer on this Pac-12 powerhouse.
Arkansas: The University of Arkansas
They may not always reign supreme on the rankings, but that shouldn’t be a reason to discount the Razorback community when it comes to throwing a proper pre-game. Nothing says “Woo Pig Sooie!” like some pulled pork smoked to perfection. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience worthy of a trip down south.
California: University of Southern California (USC)
An appropriate element of a true tailgate is the venue, and a historical one just adds to the overall allure.
The Coliseum has hosted the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and some of your favourite professional athletes once roamed the USC campus as students. There’s so much historical charm on this campus, even if you’re not a student you can’t help but partake in their many school traditions.
Colorado: Colorado State University
Colorado is home to breathtaking mountain views and great local craft beer, two ingredients to a great tailgate party. Colorado State’s pregame celebrations are a great example that the team doesn’t have to win in order to draw a large crowd. With an average of 32,000 attendees at each home game, Ram Town caters to all your entertainment needs.
Connecticut: University of Connecticut (UCONN)
They might be regarded more for their dominance in NCAA basketball, but UCONN fans still arrive in droves to watch their Huskies take the field at Rentschler Stadium. Fall foliage is in full swing in New England by this time of year, and this guide gives any first-time visitor a complete reference as to how to enjoy your time in Storrs, Connecticut.
Delaware: University of Delaware
Nestled in the humble city of Newark, Delaware is the University of Delaware’s Delaware Stadium, home to the Fightin’ Blue Hens. The alma mater of the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco, head to The Cockpit for a moderately sized gathering of student supporters who despite their record, are full-time supporters of their university team.
This tailgate also frequently makes the list of best tailgates in the country.
Florida: University of Florida
Talk to any University of Florida student or alum, and they will proudly proclaim that they put the “gator” in “tailgator.” One-half of one of college football’s most storied rivalries, the Florida-Georgia game has now been dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Be prepared to start your pre-game fun early and end well after the final whistle, but it’s an experience worth doing at least once.
Georgia: University of Georgia
“If you’re awake, the tailgate has already started.” Wise words from Will Leitch of Deadspin. Athens, Georgia is one of the most beautiful college towns, and you’re almost always guaranteed to have the time of your life even if the Bulldogs aren’t your team.
North Campus is the most suggested place to visit if you’re looking to partake in university traditions, and old-school tailgating is most likely to take place on the quad near historic buildings unique to the campus.
Hawaii: The University of Hawaii
Come for the beautiful sunsets and the freshest seafood, stay for the uniquely fun tailgate activities at the University of Hawaii. Aloha Stadium has an interesting take on game day food and drinks, not to mention their tailgate culture could rival any school down south.
“People here don’t necessarily tailgate because they like football,” writer Harrison Goo explained in Tailgate Fan. “They tailgate because they like each other and want to enjoy each other’s company. The food, the drinks, and the game are just an added benefit. The core of the tailgating experience in the ‘Ohana’ culture is the companionship and experience created with loved ones.”
Idaho: Boise State University (BSU)
Albertson Stadium is a sight to see on-screen, but in person is arguably one of the most visually stunning stadiums in all of college football. Why? The artificial blue turf. It turns heads, sparks conversation, and its history might surprise you. BSU’s athletic department just unveiled a new tailgating division near Albertson, The Ford Tailgate Zone. Fans will be delighted to have more food and beverage options readily available prior to kickoff.
Illinois: University of Illinois
The Fighting Illini fanbase takes their game day feasts seriously, and in Urbana-Champaign don’t be afraid to feel right at home with the students and locals. Down at Grange Grove, you can set up a day before the game, so you don’t waste any crucial moments firing up the grill the day of. In true tradition, a champagne-loaded mimosa is a must-drink.
“With all the good vibes and feel-good atmosphere, people do tend to get a bit rowdy, but don’t get alarmed because everyone is too happy to be anything but nice,” student Tatiana Perry wrote.
Indiana: Purdue University
Purdue tailgating is the stuff of legends. Between StreestFest and the March to the Stadium, there’s a celebration for everyone. The party starts at sunrise, so enough sleep the night before is crucial if you want to last from the morning to night time.
Iowa: University of Iowa
An arguable force to be reckoned with in the Big 10, the University of Iowa is stepping up their match day festivities. Iowa City turns black and gold every weekend, and there’s plenty of entertainment to keep you excited until the big game.
Kansas: Kansas State University
There was a time where the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri’s rivalry was the most anticipated game of The Big 12. Both schools have gone their separate ways, and that has paved the way for Kansas State University Wildcats.
Little Apple is the home base for this bustling athletic scene. Stuck on what to bring to your tailgate party? Kansas State’s Alumni Association has you covered.
Kentucky: University of Kentucky
Wildcat nation just stepped up their tailgate game, and introduced a luxury tailgate option in 2016. The 1865 Club is a neighbourhood of 300 square foot entertainment spaces that equipped with food, drinks, and air conditioning if you’re looking to escape that southern heat. If you’re aiming to partake in all things Kentucky without being surrounded by thousands of people in crowds, this is a smart option.
Louisiana: Louisiana State University (LSU)
Dubbed the loudest stadium in college football, Death Valley exceeds all expectations for your ultimate game day experience. Baton Rouge residents get the party started on Thursdays, and caters to the self-proclaimed foodie. Between gumbo, jambalaya and fried alligator, not much tops a proper LSU tailgate party. Basically, if it can be deep-fried, it’s going on on the menu.
Maine: University of Maine
Colleges in Maine aren’t really revered for their large college football audiences, but that doesn’t mean they don’t properly acknowledge rivalries. The Battle of the Brice-Cowell Musket, the big game between University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire is a long-standing game supporters in New England take seriously.
“The tailgating culture is an important component of the overall fabric of any university’s school spirit. It’s clear the current athletics administration, led by Karlton Creech, understands the importance of creating a more fan-friendly experience,” fan Brian MacLeod wrote in 2014.
Maryland: University of Maryland (UMD)
No matter the score, it’s basically guaranteed that you’ll have a good time at the tailgate. Join the 30,000 undergrad student population and enjoy a good ole-fashioned party in the DMV.
Tailgating in Massachusetts is generally reserved for well, the National Football League. However, never discount the Ivy League institutions. The Undergraduate Student Tailgate at Harvard are aiming to bring more attention to their longtime rivalry with Yale. This year, tailgates will be held near Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
Michigan: The University of Michigan
If you’re a football fan and attending a game at the Big House isn’t on your bucket list, then your notes need restructuring. Almost as rooted in tradition as USC, nothing completes a weekend in Ann Arbor quite like an experience at the University of Michigan.
“Wolverines fans are awfully welcoming, sharing whatever food and drinks are under the tent. The common spots to find the friendly people are parked on the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club course or at neighbouring Pioneer High School,” writes Bleacher Report.
Minnesota: The University of Minnesota (UM)
Minneapolis is an exciting metropolitan scene and UM delivers with an explosive itinerary fit for students and visitors alike. Check out this 2017 Gophers hype video, and be prepared to book your flights to the Twin Cities.
Mississippi: University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
Is The Grove on your list of must-do things while you’re in Oxford? If not, then your itinerary needs work. This 10-acre territory transforms into somewhat of a tailgate amusement park. From catered crab cakes and tiramisu on silver trays to tents interior designed with chandeliers and flat screen TVs, the Grove is essentially an outdoor party that everyone counts down the hours to attend.
Following the game, the nightlife scene is available for anyone not quite ready to go home. Like they say in Oxford, “We may lose the game, but we ain’t ever lose the party.”
Missouri: Faurot Field
Ever since they joined the SEC in 2011, the Missouri Tigers have elevated their pre-game routine. You can find fans posted up anywhere in Columbia, MO, and with every “M-I-Z” you shout, an even louder “Z-O-U” is echoed with more gusto.
Don’t be alarmed if you’re handed a loaded plate of food from a random fellow tailgater, that’s a part of the Missouri hospitality. Whether you graduated in 2018 or 1980, when you’re coming to Columbia, you’re coming home.
Montana: Montana State
The big Montana sky is perfect for stargazing and football watching. Bobcat supporters are so hospitable, as long as you’re wearing the right colours you’ll never find a tailgate fiesta without an open-door policy.
Nebraska: University of Nebraska
When the entire state has no major professional football, basketball, baseball, soccer or hockey squad, everyone rallies around the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The only requirement for any pre-game fun is a huge smile and a red shirt, that’s basically the password to get into any tailgate event. Refer to these basics as a guide to your ultimate Lincoln party affair.
Nevada: University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV)
Las Vegas is more globally known for its eccentric nightlife scene, but don’t sleep on UNLV’s ability to throw a true game day function. If planning a tailgate isn’t your style, thankfully Sam Boyd Stadium has a multitude of food trucks and bars that take the effort out of food and drink.
New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire
We spoke earlier about the Battle of the Musket, now you get to hear it from the other team’s side. On weekends where the weather isn’t as pleasurable or the Wildcats are away, head on over to the Tailgate Tavern and Marketplace for an all-inclusive game day experience.
New Jersey: Rutgers
In the Tri-State area, Rutgers students pride themselves on being the best of the best when it comes to football. The camaraderie in their tailgate parties are routine, and the groups are just as enormous.
New Mexico: University of New Mexico
Compared to their neighbours in California or Arizona, New Mexico tailgates don’t necessarily draw huge crowds. That doesn’t mean they don’t throw a fun bash. If you’re still not convinced why you should be spending your Saturday’s at Dreamstyle Stadium, here are eight reasons why you should change your mind.
New York: Syracuse University
North Carolina: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC)
The tailgating scene is rather quiet at UNC unless you play an in-state or ACC rival. You definitely want to show up for those games, and make sure to enjoy a couple hot dogs on game day. You’ll want a full belly cheering on the Tar Heels.
North Dakota: North Dakota State (NDSU)
Ranked #24 in 2017’s “The Top College Tailgates,” by Tailgater Magazine, Bison Nation is ready to compete with the competition for on-campus party royalty. Visitors will find that fans are so nice, even willing to share their food with the opposition.
Ohio: Ohio State
Columbus, Ohio is by far THE tailgate city in Ohio, and the quality of the football team matches the esteem of the pre-game gatherings. The space surrounding Ohio Stadium isn’t plentiful, but that doesn’t mean your trip won’t be memorable. Head to the local bars and immerse yourself in Buckeye county, it’s all a part of the experience.
Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma
In Norman, fully expect to get up bright and early for match day events. If you’re looking for the best weekend to head to this Big 12 champion school, go to the coveted Oklahoma-Texas match. The ceremonial fires make you feel extra special.
Oregon: University of Oregon
Once upon a time, the Oregon Ducks had the potential to bring a championship to Eugene, Oregon. Time hasn’t been kind to them in recent seasons, but that hasn’t dwindled their party potential. Looking for a place to go after the game? The Mo is an undisputed spot, and rarely overlooked.
Pennsylvania: Penn State
On (winning) game days, Happy Valley is a happy place to be indeed. Beaver Stadium houses nearly 100,000 of your closest friends, so a high-five following a touchdown is quite possibly within arm’s reach.Student tickets are scarce, but setting up camp outside is encouraged.
Rhode Island: University of Rhode Island
U-Rhode Island tailgates used to prohibit alcohol, but things have changed since then, and thus a new era of Rams tailgating has taken over.
South Carolina: Clemson University
Thanks to a 2017 College Football Playoffs National Championship victory, Clemson University has solidified themselves as a college football force to be reckoned with. Fans camp out in RVs for the weekend, so any doubt of a fan’s loyalty their team is mute. They were recently crowned “The South’s Best Tailgate School” and their protocols prove why.
South Dakota: South Dakota State
Super Bowl champion Adam Vinateria is a notable alumnus of their football program, and here you’re most likely to find some of the kindest people in America. Their tailgating rituals are pretty standard, so expect to just have a great time.
Tennessee: University of Tennessee
Forget tailgating. In Tennessee, “sailgating” is the norm, which is everything you appreciate about tailgating but just on water. It’s a unique way to draw a considerable crowd of fans.
Texas: University of Texas (UT-Austin)
Just like California and Michigan, Texas football is irrelevant without including (UT-Austin) football. Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the tailgating. In Austin, the rules are simple: “Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late, Wear Burnt Orange!”
Utah: University of Utah
This school often takes a spot as one of the best tailgates in America and for good reason.
Vermont: Ruben James Sports Bar
Apparently they have the best wings in the Northeast, so that’s enough of an incentive to visit Ruben James Sports Bar. Vermont’s claim to fame isn’t a an abundance of college teams, but they won’t hinder your support for any other bordering program.
Virginia: Virginia Tech
Universities in The Commonwealth know how to throw a party, and Virginia Tech is a cut above the rest. In Blacksburg, you’re sure to find some pre-game entertainment suitable to your needs, they cater to almost every enthusiasm level.
Washington: University of Washington
Similar to Tennessee, tailgating is the popular mode of celebration in Seattle, so your ultimate game day itinerary should undoubtedly include it. The fresh seafood is enough of an attraction, but there are other viable reasons to party on the water, too.
West Virginia: West Virginia University
According to Mountaineer supporters and West Virginia residents, game days are basically “Almost Heaven.”So, it’s fair to keep your expectations high. Thankfully, they don’t disappoint. The Mountaineer Mantrip is the main attraction prior to kickoff, so come early to ensure you don’t miss that.
Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin
Back to the Big 10 to learn about how Badger fans prepare some exciting pigskin play. Located miles from the campus, Camp Randall Stadium is a trot downtown. Festivities normally begin on campus, starting with Badger Bash and ending with a traditional journey downtown to their home turf.
Wyoming: University of Wyoming
Laramie offers you two options: party outside in the unpredictable weather, or begin your function in the comfort of their practice facility. The pride of rooting for the hometown team is enough, just ask these guys who do it every weekend.
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