Ultimate College Football Tailgate: All the Best Elements from Across the Sport
It's almost as important as the game itself.
What would college football be without the ubiquitous and traditional tailgater?
Tailgating is something every college football is intimately familiar with, and every fanbase—and sometimes different elements within the fanbase—has different ideas about what makes a tailgate truly epic.
We thought about what would happen if we could somehow take the best tailgating elements from around the nation and combine them into one, awesome, ultimate tailgate.
So what elements did we pick?
Here's our list of the best of the best elements of college football tailgating from around the nation.
Setting: The Grove
First, we need an epic setting for our ultimate tailgate party.
From east to west, north to south, you can scour the nation and not even come close to what goes on in “The Grove” at Ole Miss.
The Grove is, not surprisingly, a grove of elms, oaks and magnolias.
It's also appropriately large enough—about 10 acres—to host our ultimate tailgating bash.
As we mentioned in our intro, there's also a little bit of something for everyone.
If the classic grill out tailgate is your style, The Grove's got it. If fine dining with all the trimmings is what you're after, The Grove's got it. If relaxed jeans and t-shirts is your way to relax on game day, The Grove's got it. If a coat and tie makes you more comfortable, The Grove's got it.
All in all, there's no better setting for the ultimate tailgating than the “Holy Grail of Tailgating.”
Tradition: Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame is synonymous with college football tradition.
And that tradition spills over into the tailgating areas before the game as well.
Notre Dame has one of the most loyal fan bases anywhere in the nation, and a pregame stroll around Notre Dame Stadium on Saturdays will show you how close-knit this group really is.
In addition to the traditional tailgating wares, the hearty northern fans in South Bend also adorn their tables, cars, vans, trucks, and RVs with some pretty amazing flower arrangements—a la Notre Dame Stadium's sidelines.
The great thing about tailgating at Notre Dame is that it has something for everyone: the college student, his kid brother and sister, their parents and even their parents. Whether you're nine or ninety, tailgating at Notre Dame is something special.
Size: Penn State
Penn State is home to the nation's second-largest football stadium with a capacity of 107,282.
So you can well imagine how large the tailgating crowd is.
But if you're thinking somewhere around 107,000, you're low-balling it—by many, many a thousand.
Happy Valley is famous for hosting tailgating crowds well in excess of the number of people that can actually fit inside Beaver Stadium. So many people can get into the stadium that the university, in fact, had to put rules in place that govern tailgating during the game.
Whether you're one of the thousands of students occupying the recently renamed Nittanyville or a day-tripper coming for some top-notch Penn State tailgating and football, you can take pride in knowing that you're part of one of the nation's largest gatherings of college football fans.
Versatility: Washington and Tennessee
For those of you who like to keep your feet on dry land, tailgating is fine. But if you're looking for a little more, why not try something different?
At Tennessee and Washington, you can try a little “stern-gating.” With fans navigating their way to the games via water routes, both of these locations have seen the popularity of water-based tailgating rise dramatically.
For anyone who has spent time on the water, you know how great it feels to sit out on the aft deck and kick a few brews back with the buds.
Add in a college football game immediately following, and you have one of the great—and rare—aspects of tailgating.
If you've ever showed up for a football game at Auburn, you've probably arrived pretty early.
You may have noticed that no matter how early on Saturday you show up at Jordan-Hare Stadium, there were thousands of fans that beat you to the punch.
That's because they started showing up on Thursday. Morning.
And if you thought the end of the game would get rid of them, think again. Auburn fans have a habit of sticking around long after the final play to continue their ritualistic celebration of our favorite sport.
And if the Tigers win, you can bet the partying will last well into Sunday.
Liquid Menu: Michigan
Michigan isn't just home to the nation's largest stadium. It's home to what might be one of the most varied menus of that traditional tailgating beverage: beer.
The state of Michigan has undergone a beer boom over the last decade, and with more than 80 different brewers, there's a little something for everyone.
While Grand Rapids is home to the most microbreweries, sleepy Ann Arbor has become a mecca for beer-lovers on the east side of the state.
Home to one of the state's top ten breweries—Arbor Brewing Company—and a number of new start-ups, including the aptly named Wolverine State Brewing Company, there's no doubt that a pregame stroll through Ann Arbor will tempt the taste buds of even the more discerning beer aficionado.
Places like Wisconsin and Colorado might have the upper hand on sheer volume, but when it comes to hand-crafted specialty beers for the connoisseur, there's nowhere quite like the Great Lakes State.
Food Menu: LSU
Since food is the heart and soul of any ultimate tailgating experience, we've saved the best (food) for last.
If you've never treated your palate to Cajun food, you're really missing out on one of the true treasures of America.
No one cooks like the Cajuns, and LSU is the perfect place to begin sampling everything the folks in Louisiana have to offer.
Jambalaya is everywhere. So are various gumbos. And if you're ready to really widen your tastebuds' experience, try some crawfish etouffee, alligator stew, Cajun sausage, stuffed quail or many, many other great dishes.
If you only pick one, make sure it's cochon de lait (French for “pig of milk,” meaning a young, suckling pig). Pit-roasted pork is tasty enough, but cochon de lait is as delectable as a pork dish gets.
There's really no competition: LSU is home to the ultimate tailgating menu.