The Most Extravagant Tailgating Traditions
Tailgating is kind of like pizza. Even if it’s not that good, it’s still pretty good. We don’t believe Yogi Berra ever said that but we do feel like we’re on his wavelength with that statement.
Tailgating involves food, drink and hanging out with friends and strangers alike, so it’s hard to go wrong. Some places go the extra mile, though, and deliver an experience that’s pretty unrivaled. Here’s a glance at some of the most extravagant tailgating traditions.
Whether you love or loathe the sight of the terrible towel, there’s no denying the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL’s marquee franchises. There’s also no arguing a luxury boat cruise on the “Three Rivers” is one of the coolest ways to countdown to kickoff. Three hours before each Steelers home game, fans can board a yacht for a sailgate party featuring a cash bar, a buffet catered meal and flat screen televisions. Make sure to bring your Steelers hat for the chance to get it signed by a Pittsburgh luminary that comes along for the trip each game. This is one of the few experiences that may leave the actual game as bit of a downer.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
The Green Bay Packers are all about tradition. A trip to the smallest major professional sports franchise in the U.S. is a must for appreciators of sports lore. Lambeau Field and the town of Green Bay itself are landmarks, but make sure to leave plenty of time for the tailgate scene as well.
Follow the sea of Green Bay hats to Brett Favre’s restaurant two blocks from Lambeau. It offers free food on game day. For the best eats, though, head to the parking lots to down some cheese curds and summer sausage while sipping on your favorite cold brew.
Ole Miss isn’t exactly the most tradition-rich program in the vaunted Southeastern Conference, but the Rebels can stake claim to perhaps the top tailgating atmosphere in a league that takes the act pretty seriously. The Grove will leave you saying “Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty.” Well, likely not, but maybe. The 10-acre quad, surrounded by beautiful trees in the heart of the campus (it’s pretty spectacular as the colors change in the fall) turns into tailgate central on Ole Miss game days. For a taste of southern hospitality, a trip to Oxford is pretty dynamite. If you’re not a Southerner, just be aware you may come underdressed. Sunday-best is often the wardrobe choice for many football diehards in this part of the country, adding to the unique ambiance.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Death Valley is known as one of college football’s loudest homefield advantages, and it’s no wonder considering the proliferation of night games gives LSU fans all day to get riled up for kickoff. The Parade Grounds in Baton Rouge are engulfed with fraternity and sorority kids and Tiger faithful from all over Louisiana hours before kickoff–sometimes even the night before. An abundance of traditional Cajun food–boudin, jambalaya, sausage, crawfish, etouffee, gumbo and the like–will have you hungry before you park as the smells waft through the air. Many fans also enjoy the tradition of barbecuing the team’s mascot. It’s all in good fun. And a lot of fun.
Columbia, South Carolina
I’ve lived in South Carolina for seven-and-a-half years and shame on me that I never knew about the Cockaboose Railroad until today. Fans of the University of South Carolina can tailgate on the aptly named train just 50 yards from the Gamecocks’ Williams-Bryce Stadium. Twenty-two railroad cars are available to be rented out on game day and are a nod to trains that rumble through Columbia daily and often make students late to class. Each car is uniquely decorated, but all include plush interiors, flat screen TVs, full kitchens and rooftop decks. This is a tailgating tradition it’s safe to say you won’t see duplicated.
The University of Washington has experienced a renaissance under Coach Chris Petersen. When you head to UW’s out-of-this-world Seattle campus, it’s hard to see how anyone would not want to play there. Washington’s Alaska Airlines Stadium and much of the campus back up against Lake Washington and the Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier as the backdrop. Pretty stunning.
Husky Harbor takes advantage of the surroundings, as fans “boatgate” rather than tailgate. Buy a boat, or even better, make friends with people who already have one, and take your tailgating dockside. It’s another unique experience that’s pretty top notch.
Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
Penn State football may be college’s equivalent of the Green Bay Packers when it comes to delivering that small-town nostalgic feel. Nestled in central Pennsylvania, State College–popularly known as Happy Valley–turns into a mass of navy blue and white-clad fans on Nittany Lion game days. Nittanyville, as it’s called by the locals, is known as one of the more dedicated tailgating clans in the country.