Skip to main content

The Top 10 College Football Tailgating Scenes In The Country

Did Wisconsin make our list?

Did Wisconsin make our list?

College football is steeped in tradition and pageantry. Every program takes pride in its unique approach to the game day experience. And nothing encompasses the uniqueness of a college town and overall atmosphere better than its tailgating scene. The smell of the barbecue, the sound of the marching band, and the football-centric conversation permeates the scene of pre-game festivities around the nation every Saturday morning in the fall.

It's something that cannot be accurately described, only felt. Many universities claim to be the top tailgating scene in the land, but only ten made our list.

Did your favorite team's tailgating scene make the cut? 

10. Washington “Boat-gating”

That’s right, a weekly tailgate that takes place on open water. Of course, the Huskies aren’t the only program whose fans tailgate on boats (Tennessee does it, too) but they are the only ones to do it on a picture-esque lake. The scene at “Husky Harbor” is just a bit more grand than the Volunteers’ version of the pre-game festivities.

This tradition stretches back more than 50 years and just like many tailgates around the country, beer-pong, loud music and large TVs are all around -- except on the water. Washington’s nautical-tailgating is an exciting spin on traditional tailgating. A sight to see for sure.

Next: No. 9 - Michigan >>>

9. Michigan “The City Doubles In Size”

Ann Arbor is known as a small big city with a quirky, progressive vibe. But on game day, its population doubles in size...literally. Its 113,934 head count can almost double when the “Big House” fills up on Saturdays. The stadium, on the outskirts of metro Detroit, is a mecca for college football purists and the tailgating that accompanies it isn’t half-bad either.

The parties start the night before, as the stadium sits just minutes from vast student housing. And if you have a little too much fun the night before, hit up the famous Zingerman’s Deli to cure what ails you. On game day, there is no shortage of local brews being consumed for acres and acres of parking lots with thousands decked-out in maize and blue before the game begins.

Next: No. 8 - Auburn >>>

8. Auburn “The Tiger Walk”

The Tigers are known for having one of the most identifiable post-game traditions in all of college football - rolling Toomer’s Corner, aka throwing toilet paper at the trees to celebrate big-time wins. But Auburn fans do pre-game pretty well, too. Many fans hit up the amphitheater, which may be the most popular and beautiful spot to tailgate. It’s a tree-lined plot of land that features old academic buildings and a lot of space to set up and enjoy the tailgate.

But the Tiger Walk is the most famous of their traditions. Some refer to the Tiger Walk as the most exciting of all the player walks in the country, as the team makes its way through thousands of exuberant fans toward Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Next: No. 7 - Texas >>>

7. Texas “You’ll Be Hooked”

The history-rich Longhorns are the Big 12’s top tailgating school. Their famous barbecue alone is worth the trip, but there’s much more than that to find on game day. Austin is rapidly becoming the cultural hub of Texas, but one thing isn’t changing so quickly -- game day. Heading to Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium on a Saturday means that you’ll be surrounded in tradition.

You can join the mob of Texas and cheer on the Longhorns at the North Gate as they arrive in the morning. Or you can soak in the sounds of Big Bertha the bass drum or Smokey the cannon amidst sea of cowboy hat wearing fans clad in burnt-orange gear. One of the top sights is the lighting of the UT Tower, a symbol of a Texas victory, which you can see if you stay until after the game. Just one visit to a Texas tailgate and you’ll be hooked.

Next: No. 6 - Clemson >>>

6. Clemson “Tiger Rag”

Clemson is a university known for the traditions conducted by its players; namely touching Howard’s Rock and running down the hill. But its fans have some pretty great traditions as well. Since 1942, they’ve never tired of playing and hearing Tiger Rag -- “The Song That Shakes The Southland.” It’s a classic jazz song (their fight song) and it can be heard at every tailgate station in Clemson on Saturday home games.

Fans of the Tigers take tailgating very seriously and it shows. They have their own currency of sorts which is used during the pre-game festivities. They pay with two-dollar bills equipped with tiger paw stamps. Clemson faithful even took a page out of Wisconsin’s book and has their own type of cured blue-cheese enjoyed almost exclusively at their tailgate parties. The collection of unique behavior at Clemson tailgate parties is certainly impressive.

Next: No. 5 - LSU >>>

5. LSU “The Food”

Across the country, food plays an important part in tailgating. Certain regions bring to mind foods like barbecue or brats. But in Baton Rouge, the food is the main attraction, a stark reflection of the culture, and a reason to tailgate even if you don’t care for football. A sample of what’s on the menu at an LSU tailgate would be jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp and crawfish etouffee, alligator (when Florida is in town) boudin pie and apple cinnamon bourbon. The list goes on and on.

Mouth watering yet? Oh, and they do have a pretty healthy bar scene in Baton Rouge as well. But LSU is more known for its intense parties flush with tents and motor homes that sometimes set up as early as Thursday in anticipation for Saturday’s contest.

Plus, there's Keg Stand Granny.

Next: No. 4 - Penn State >>>

4. Penn State “Buses and Tents”

Penn State fans gather in hoards to support their beloved Nittany Lions. Penn State's players arrive at the stadium in a few large blue buses. The crowd begins to surge when they become visible. They park with thousands of fans on either side, and the starting quarterback (or head coach) leads the players to the stadium.

But that isn’t the only tradition in Happy Valley. “Nittanyville,” formerly known as “Paternoville,” is the influx of tents that students set up the night before a home game. Many universities have students who set up tents the night before games, but none do it on as large of a scale as Penn State does it. The student-led chants and songs played by the Blue Band are pretty awe-inspiring.

Next: No. 3 - Texas A&M >>>

3. Texas A&M “Fan Participation”

When it comes to fan participation in college football, not many programs can top Texas A&M’s faithful. They are the “12th Man” but their tenacity and traditions do not begin with the kickoff. The Aggies’ tailgate starts the night before with the “Midnight Yell,” a tradition started in 1913. It’s like a pep-rally, but it doesn’t end until the game ends the next day.

On game day mornings, many fans flock to the Aggie Fan Zone, an area reserved for pedestrian traffic only. It’s a prime place for refreshments and a chance at an autograph by either a current or former Aggie. There's also the Spirit Walk, during which the team walks by the fans. And ninety minutes before the game a very special tradition takes place -- the Corps March-In. There, the Corps of Cadets march toward Kyle Field and are accompanied by A&M’s marching band. 

Next: No. 2 - Ole Miss >>>

2. Ole Miss “The Grove”

The Grove is a ten-acre plot of land outside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium reserved for tailgating each Ole Miss home game. And it may be the one of the most famous tailgate spots in the world. The fans of the Rebels embark upon this sacred land at 9 P.M. the Friday before a Saturday game on a first come first serve basis.

One unique aspect to the Grove is that the fans typically show up in business-casual attire -- not with painted chests or in bikinis. Raucous-yet-classy might be the best way to describe the gathering. They pride themselves on having their entire tailgate in one area, rather than spread out between parking lots at different point around campus like some schools.

All of this leads up to the “Walk of Champions.” They claim it is the original pre-game team walk in the country. Ole Miss’ football team strolls down a narrow sidewalk as eager fans show their support on both sides. One thing is clear, when it comes to tailgating, the fans in Oxford get it right.

Next: No. 1 -??? >>>

1. Wisconsin “Jump Around...From Bar to Bar”

There is not another state in the country with a name more synonymous with beer and traditional tailgating food than Wisconsin (don’t forget about the cheese!). And in the state’s capital, they do it better than anyone else. Camp Randall Stadium is surrounded primarily by student housing, with many houses being only 20-25 steps away. No stadium is closer to the early-morning house parties. And the parties, the many parties, start early and rage right up until game time; often well into the first half. Flip-cup, beer pong, sizzling grills, all of it.

But many enjoy hitting up Regent Street, an immaculate stretch of bars (and businesses that become outdoor bars on game day mornings) that sits right next to the stadium. If you’re all about the game, you can head to see the “Arch March” which takes place about 135 minutes before game time. There you can see the athletes walk through the original Civil War-era arch (Camp Randall literally was a military training ground during the Civil War). If you’re in the mood for some music then head to the “Badger Bash,” which claims to be the biggest tailgate party in Madison. The Wisconsin marching bands plays there about 75 minutes before kickoff. The Stadium's parking lot even turns into a big party and features a giant TV as well.

After the game, fans enjoy the “5th Quarter” where the marching band plays and the fans celebrate together (win or lose) before heading back out onto the vibrant streets. On, Wisconsin!

Back To Start >>>