Tailgating is a traditional part of game day in America – and no college football game is complete without it. It’s such an important tradition that even most professional football team fans get in on the action.
What is tailgating?
Tailgating is the pre-party before a big – or even an unremarkable – football game. Fans of a team meet in the parking lot, usually on site of the stadium or field – in the late morning or early afternoon for a party with the exact time being subject to game time.
These parties may be as simple as getting together for a beer before the game or become elaborate rituals featuring region-specific dishes.
A tailgating event is as wild and eccentric as the fan base. We’ve put together a list of our 10 ten favorite tailgating traditions from both the NFL and NCAA to show why the pre-party is more than a beer fest – it’s a way of life.
The 10 Best Tailgating Traditions to Get Involved with Next Season
If you want to get involved, these are by far the best spots to do so!
Ole Miss’s Walk of Champions
When you think of American football, you think of Ole Miss.
It’s a great school with an incredible sports team as famous for churning out future NFL superstars as it is its hangovers.
Football at Ole Miss isn’t just football: it’s religion. So, it’s no surprise that the school is home to our favorite tailgating tradition – the Walk of Champions.
The Walk of Champions features the Ole Miss football team walking through the middle of an area called The Grove. Located at the heart of the college’s campus, The Grove is 10 acres and accommodates 25,000 screaming football fans.
Before every home game, the team parts the seas in The Grove to parade dramatically into the stadium. All the while, the home team fans go wild in the crowd to bring the energy Ole Miss is so famous for both on and off the field.
New England Patriot’s Clam Chowder
Patriots fans are renowned for being committed to the cause and with more than a few of the most recent Super Bowls under their belt, who could blame them?
Tailgating events run for miles around Gillette Stadium, and a Pats’ tailgate can get so wild that some people even miss the game.
While the Pats Nation serves up much of the same standard fare as the average tailgate: beer and brats. What makes New Englanders unique is their commitment to their clam chowder.
Green Bay’s Owners Join the Tailgate
If there was a competition for being the most hardcore – and bizarre – football fans in America, Green Bay Packers fans could win it every time.
Lambeau Field is in Green Bay, a mid-size Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Unlike other stadiums located either in the heart of large cities or way-out-of-the-way suburbs, there’s plenty of parking at Lambeau. In other words, Packers fans don’t just tailgate: they create a tailgating city at every home game.
While you’re bound to see something weird on any given Sunday: the Packers do one thing that stands out above the rest. The team owners are found on the front of the session every weekend – a symbol of the small town feel and their commitment to the team. After all, the Packers play outdoor football during the peak of the region’s frigid winters.
Even if you don’t understand the hype surrounding this legendary team, you learn everything you need to know about the organization when you find out that the Packers’ owners like to get down, just like the rest of us.
University of Tennessee’s Nautical Tailgate
Bringing it back to college football once again, one would be simply wrong to neglect the University of Tennessee at the top of the list of best tailgaters.
The Tennessee Vols are one of the wildest teams in the NCAA, and their stadium allows fans to make the most of it.
Neyland Stadium is next to the famous Tennessee River. While other schools make due with parking lots or green spaces, the Tennessee allows you to tailgate on the road and on the water.
Founded in 1962, the Vol Navy Association began running boats down the river between the boathouse and the stadium, meaning you don’t need to choose between water sports and tailgating.
It’s called sailgating – and you need to get involved.
All Aboard South Carolina’s Cockaboose
The South Carolina Gamecocks may not always a force to be reckoned with, but South Carolina’s parties are certainly worth talking about.
While other teams meet up under tents or in trucks, lucky Gamecocks students hold court in the cabooses of trains. Each car is 270 square feet and is maintained by a private association who bought the rail cars specifically hoping to create a place to party.
The result is a mix of football and luxury unknown to most other schools.
Georgia Meets Florida – With Cocktails
Every year, Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators go head to head in what is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. The two teams have been playing each other in Jacksonville since 1933. Jacksonville was chosen because it was the most convenient location for Gainesville and Athens to meet up by train (but the Gators do have a bit of a home field advantage.
While the players prepare to annihilate their opponents, their fans drink up in what has been dubbed the World’s Largest Cocktail Party.
The Cocktail Party started in the 1950s when a reporter described the scene of one of the parties: a drunk sports fan was falling all over a uniformed police officer, offering him a drink.
Auburn’s TP Tradition
Football in the south is holier than religion. If Ole Miss is a bit too intense, but the Florida-Georgia game isn’t quite what you had in mind either, consider paying a visit to the Auburn Tigers.
The Tigers offer two traditions to chose from. The Tiger Walk features thousands of students and alumni high fiving as they march to the stadium for the game.
If you’re looking for something a bit more devious, stick around after the game. Although tailgating tends to take place at the start of the game, an Auburn win includes toilet-papering Toomer’s Corner. This tradition is not only well-loved by Tigers, but it’s potentially in danger as the trees on the property have become sick.
Florida State’s Cemetery Party
Florida State’s bizarre tailgating tradition is completely unique compared to its peers. Any school can hold a party, but only Florida State can put together a tailgating funeral.
Sound weird? It is, but it’s memorable.
Every time the Seminoles secure a massive win on the road, the team commemorates it by taking a piece of their vanquished opponents turf and sending it back home to Tallahassee. The sod ultimately ends up in its final resting place: Florida State’s Sod Cemetery.
How does a tradition like this begin? Back in 1962, the Seminoles were renowned not for their wins but for their epic losses. Before heading out to play Georgia in 1962, a Florida professor told the team to “bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia.”
The frequent loser then came back from an illustrious career in shameful plays to beat the Bulldogs spectacularly at 18-0.
That day, Florida brought the win and the team brought the sod. The professor brought it to his house before returning it to the school and putting it near the practice field. Today, it’s the Sod Cemetery.
The Seminoles carry on the tradition today. The rules are simple: FSU needs to win as the road underdog or takedown Gainesville to bring home the sod.
Wine and Cheese at Harvard
The Harvard-Yale game is one of the biggest football events of the year for alums, even if it goes unwatched by most college football enthusiasts.
As you might expect, Harvard tailgates a bit differently. Rather than BBQs and beers, the Harvard-Yale Bowl is marked by an impeccable cheese plate with a few bottles of wine.
Of course, tailgating isn’t limited to nibbles. A leg of lamb marinating away in a cool may soon be shown off as a potential bulldog leg.
Kansas City Two Day Barbecue
Ending with a return to the NFL, it’s only right to acknowledge the Kansas City Chiefs’ fans and unstoppable tailgaters.
They may not party with the rich, famous, or the team owners, but they do have heart.
In fact, KC has so much heart that you’ll catch them tailgating two days before kick-off – and they don’t stop when the game is over.
Party Like It’s Kick-Off Time
If you didn’t know any better, you might believe that half the fun of being a football fan is tailgating. After all, it’s more than an excuse to party: it’s used to band fans together and encourage them to celebrate not only their team but their institution and themselves.
Does your favorite team have an excellent tailgating scene? Share your stories in the comments below.