College football's tailgating hot spots
History suggests that tailgating's earliest roots can be traced back to 1861. Union supporters showed up at what is now known as The Battle of Bull Run and cheered on their soldiers with shouts of "Go Big Blue" while snacking on food brought to this famous battle.
Almost 150 years later, Americans now root for their favorite sports teams with similar cheers, but much more elaborate cuisine. While every college football team's fan base brings something unique to the tailgating experience, these ten venues are a cut above the rest. They make the bucket-list for tailgating aficionados. (Just missing the cut: Clemson, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, Nebraska and Alabama.)
10. Iowa City, Iowa (Iowa Hawkeyes) The Magic Bus, a 20-something-year-old iconic tailgating fixture on Melrose that attracts droves of party-revelers, has no official home. Olive Court is no longer an option for tailgaters as well. Students were up in arms, but don't fret just yet. Iowa City wasn't named one of the top party colleges in the country for just one landmark--the flow of beer and smell of cooked meat never stops here. Turkey legs, brats, and bacon are standard fare, but the cream cheese pickle wraps are a must-try for classic Midwest tailgating.
9. Gainesville, Florida (Florida Gators) It can get hot in Gainesville, but for male football fans, there's a benefit--the hotter the weather, the skimpier the girls' attire. Throw in the smell of suntan lotion, and your tailgating may feel more like a tropical vacation than a pre-game feast. The Gators boast one of the largest student-run pep rallies in the world--The Gator Growl. Everything in or around The Swamp is loud, orange and blue. If you feel the need to escape the smell of Gator Stew, Satchels Pizza is a great alternative.
8. Madison, Wisconsin (Wisconsin Badgers) Nowhere is there more traditional tailgating than in Madison. It's mostly simple fare--beer-soaked brats, beer, cheese, beer cheese soup, and well, you get the idea--more beer! But it remains a Wisconsin tradition. House parties are very popular since the tailgating areas are so limited. It can get a little too cozy, but when it's 20 degrees outside and you have a cold beer in your hand, is that such a bad thing?
7. Dallas, Texas (Texas Longhorns v Oklahoma Sooners) Everything is bigger in Texas, and the proof is at the Red River Rivalry every year. Some of the biggest grills you will ever see are cooking up steaks, burgers, sausages and beans amidst a sea of burnt orange and crimson red. If you don't feel like cooking your own food, the State Fair of Texas is right next door to the Cotton Bowl, and has these heart attack-inducing items for you to try--deep-fried s'mores, fried beer, Texas fried Frito pie and yes, a deep fried frozen margarita.
6. Seattle, Washington (Washington Huskies) Perhaps no venue offers a more spectacular place to tailgate than Husky Stadium. Brilliant green trees grace Lake Washington's shores while the Cascade Mountains rise up in the background. On Saturdays, more than 10,000 Husky fans may arrive to the game via boat, and thus, their tailgating takes place right on the lake. Sterngating--or sailgating if you go by yacht--is a Husky tradition, and their tailgates reflect the abundance of the local seafood. Fresh crab, grilled salmon, and a great bottle of Chardonnay or beer from the local vineyard or microbrewery are just some of the treats you'll taste while sterngating in Seattle.
5. Auburn, Alabama (Auburn Tigers) Alabama may be the defending BCS champs, but the Tide can't quite hold a candle to Auburn in terms of tailgating. How crazy is it in Auburn? On game day Saturdays, Jordan-Hare Stadium becomes Alabama's fifth-largest city. Fans arrive as early as Thursday and start their partying outside the stadium before their RVs' engines even get cold. Mile upon mile of RVs and campers line the road to the stadium, beautiful people roam everywhere and echoes of "War Eagle" fill the air. It's Southern eye-candy.
4. Oxford, Mississippi (Ole Miss Rebels) Tailgating at The Grove is a tradition that is so unique in so many ways. This is the place to go if white linen tablecloths, candelabras, fine china and beautiful women dressed to impress are your cup of tea. That's not to say this is a stuffed-shirt affair--plenty of tailgaters in the ten-acre picnic area mingle from tent to tent yelling "Are you ready?" The classic response from other Rebel fans will give you goosebumps. "Hell Yes! Damn Right! Hotty Toddy gosh almighty who in the hell are we? Flim flam bim bam, OLE MISS by damn!"
3. State College, Pennsylvania (Penn State Nittany Lions) When Penn State plays at home, State College swells to the third-largest populated city in Pennsylvania -- good luck trying to get a hotel reservation around town. Penn State boasts the largest alumni dues-paying alumni association in the world, with more than 164,000 members, and if you ask any visiting team's fans, they'll swear every PSU grad is at the game. Throw in all-day tailgating, beautiful surroundings and a fan base that executes a "white-out" to perfection, and you have a classic tailgater's paradise.
2. Jacksonville, Florida (Florida Gators v Georgia Bulldogs) Its nickname is "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," despite that moniker's use is no longer officially encouraged due to the prevalent alcohol-consumption of attendees. Nevertheless, this is a minimum four-day party attended by hundreds of thousands of football fans who view this as almost a pilgrimage--think spring break in the fall. The festivities usually are at a fevered pitch by Thursday and end on the Sunday after the game. Lock up the women and children; this is not for the faint of heart.
1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LSU Tigers) Since most of LSU's home games are at night, their fans are usually in a carnival-like mood by kickoff, especially after partying all day in the heat. The tailgating menu here is incredible -- crawfish, etouffee, Cajun sausage, jambalaya, dirty rice, gumbo, barbequed catfish, grillades and grits are just some of the tempting treats offered. But the LSU fans are what make this the No. 1 place to tailgate--dressed in crazy purple and gold get-ups, they go all out to make sure your tailgating in Death Valley is memorable. The locals' motto? "We may have not invented tailgating, but we perfected it."