Thankfully football has become more than just a game. There's the mascot, the choosing of the gameday outfit, and most importantly the tailgate...the all day (sometimes days) celebration of 22 men in tight pants chasing the ole pigskin. If you like football, drinking, and food, pack up the cooler and put the rubber to the road, all you need is a pack of brats and a truck load of optimism. Of course, everyone does it a little different, and everyone thinks their way is the best, just ask any diehard wearing full body paint perched on the back of an F150. Here are our six college football tailgates worth traveling for.
University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
There is no doubt that these Rebels know how to tailgate; their unofficial motto is, "We may not win the game, but we never lose the party!" Named "The Holy Grail of Tailgating Sites" by Sporting News and featured by the New York Times, Boston Globe, and ESPN, the ten-acre plot called "The Grove" is a sea of red, white, and blue on game day. Under the tents (that have sometimes been set-up as early as 2 p.m. the day before) a visitor will find all things southern: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fine china, chandeliers, and football fans in their Sunday (err, Saturday) best. But before you visit, make sure to learn the Hotty Toddy cheer, so when someone yells "are you ready?" you know the appropriate way to answer.
Louisiana State University (LSU)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Tiger Stadium, aka "Death Valley," is legendary for the crowd noise created by the fans (the rumble is said to register on a seismograph), but do not think this electrifying experience only exists within the 92,500-seat stadium. Eighty miles northwest of New Orleans, these fans know how to party and, of course, eat. But it's not about the hotdogs and hamburgers here. Drop by on a Saturday morning and you'll follow your nose to gumbo, crawfish, spicy alligator, Cajun sausages, grilled duck, po'boys, and a beignet (deep-fried dough with some sort of sweet topping) for dessert. Did we mention LSU usually has night games? So you have all day long to indulge; and all night long to forget.
You might need to train for this tailgate. Fans here start the party at 7 a.m.—7 a.m. on Thursday morning that is...and they're not leaving after the game is over either. Don't get too swirly or you'll miss the thousands and thousands of fans that line Donahue Drive before the game to cheer the team on as they do their Tiger Walk to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Afterwards converge at Toomer's Corner, where two massive oak trees take the brunt of the school spirit through a tradition known as "rolling the corner." Stringing toilet paper from the trees is thought to have started back before games were televised. Toomer's Drug had the only telegraph in the city, therefore being the first to receive the outcome of away games. If it was a win, they would throw the ticker tape from the telegraph onto nearby power lines. In the 1990s the lines were moved underground, and the tradition took a different shape. Today it's done to celebrate just about anything good that happens on campus.
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
University Park, Pennsylvania
So many fans come to Happy Valley just to tailgate that law enforcement had to ban drinking during the game OUTSIDE of the stadium...so you know without a doubt this place provides a good party. More than 100,000 fans pack into State College, making it the third largest Pennsylvania city on game days. The Nittany Lions even have Paternoville, in honor of Coach Joe Paterno, where students camp out in front of Beaver Stadium, sometimes a week before the game, to secure a front-row seat. And watch out for those fans that go Full Monty; you don't want to bump into them on an unusually hot Saturday (or cold one for that matter). This is coming from a school that apparently likes to get naked. The annual Mifflin Streak is a tradition where students (generally seniors) run unclothed down Mifflin Road the night before finals begin. Of course, each year injuries and run-ins with the police threaten a good time.
University of Texas
In Texas, they do all things big, and you can bet that translates to football and tailgates. The old saying "Football is a religion in Texas," doesn't become more real than when you find yourself flooded in a sea of orange in the parking lot of Texas Memorial Stadium. The Longhorns have one of the most winning-est football programs of all time, so that doesn't hurt the Longhorn-lovin', orange-blooded, Sooner-hatin' Texas enthusiasm. Nearly that same amount of enthusiasm is shown for their grillin' skills as well, it's a pregame Weber showdown before a mass exodus into the stadium for a group chant with pinkies and pointer fingers raised for "hook 'em horns."
University of Washington
It has been said that the best place to tailgate is wherever you are that weekend, but landlocked Bible-belters might consider cheering on your team waterside as a unique experience. Thousands of Huskies fans tether their boats together on Lake Washington (just a few blocks from the stadium) and start well before and stay well after the game for food, drinks, and boat-hopping. If you happen to not secure a ticket into the Dawg Pack, then you are sure to find someone at the massive floating party that has a TV large enough to catch the plays.
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