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How to Choose Your Tailgating Location

Location, location, location. The real estate of your tailgating spot can be a gameday win or bust. If you can find the right spot, you’ve got the perfect setup for the ultimate tailgating day.


We’re giving you some tips on how to choose your tailgating location, so you can have the best seat in the city!

  1. Get there early. 
  2. Coordinate with your friends. 
  3. Google the parking layout near the stadium. 
  4. Have a backup plan.
  5. Check proximity to the bathrooms. 
  6. Make sure the spot is legal. 
  7. Look at transport to and from the stadium. 
  8. Come up with an exit strategy.
  9. Choose a location based on its environment. 
  10. Figure out if the tailgating location is “your scene.”
  11. Check out the local tailgating traditions. 
  12. Make sure you’re on the right side.

1. Get there early.

Most tailgaters start four to six hours before the game begins. The earlier you can park your car, the better your chance of getting a good tailgating spot. At some schools, people arrive at 5 AM or even park the night before to get their spot, so make sure you ask around to see the typical early-bird time to get a good location. 

You may not be able to park overnight or too early based on city ordinances. So, do your research first. 

2. Coordinate with your friends.

The best part of tailgating is hanging out with friends (and eating good food), so get your buds involved in location-spotting! Whether you’re in college now or reuniting with buddies from decades past, it’s time to get a tailgating group chat going. You can work together to find some good parking spaces near each other, organize carpools, and decide who’s bringing what food. You can also coordinate your apparel and fan gear to make sure your school spirit is perfected. 


3. Google the parking layout near the stadium. 

In some instances, you’ll be tailgating right in the parking lot of the stadium or on campus. If there isn’t a lot of parking or those spots are reserved for season ticket holders, you may need to search for more tailgating zones around the city. 

If you’re able to park in the lot, see if you can find a layout of the space. For example, NFL stadiums often have different “lots” that each have a unique vibe—Jets stadium, for example, has one lot for families, another for the party folk, and another spread out for party games, etc. You will want to find the parking lot that best suits your tailgating style.

If you can’t park in the lot, check out some local facilities, fields, parking lots, and town hot spots to see if they offer tailgating spots. You may need to pay to park in these spots, so keep that in mind when searching. 

Pro-tip: Reddit is a useful spot to find some good advice about how to choose your tailgating location and other specific campus and city tips.  

4. Have a backup plan.

If you don’t get there early enough to get your first choice of tailgating location, you’ll want to have a few backups already picked out. Tailgating is often a race to be the first one to the party, so it can sometimes be challenging to get a great spot. Pick a few potential spots in advance, so you can park as quickly as possible to start your festivities.  

You’ll definitely want to read: How to Prepare for Your Tailgate


5. Check proximity to the bathrooms.

It might be a port-a-potty, it might be a restaurant bathroom, or it may even be a disposable container you brought from home… Whatever your toilet of choice, you’ll want to figure out your spot’s proximity to the nearest restrooms. After a few drinks, you’ll be happy you thought of this in advance. Trust us.

6. Make sure the spot is legal. 

There’s nothing worse than coming back after the game to a parking ticket-- or worse, your car towed away to a far away lot somewhere. Before you park, make sure it’s legal to park there on game days, and that you’re not in a fire lane or any other restricted zone. Also check that you don’t need a special permit for parking. Even on-campus parking may require a particular parking pass in order to stay on the lot. 

You’re probably going to have to do some research to make sure your tailgating won’t be ruined by a little visit from the parking police. 

7. Come up with an exit strategy.

We all get caught up in the excitement of the tailgate and the game. So you park in a cool spot, enjoy the festivities, and then you get back to the car after a long day… and then you have to wait in traffic for two more hours just to leave the lot. When you’re picking your tailgating location, make sure you choose something that will have an easy exit so you can get home for that much-needed sleep. Don’t get stuck in tailgate traffic. 

Want more tailgating advice? We love these borderline genius 41 tips on Buzzfeed

8. Look at transport to and from the stadium.

Don’t miss the game because you forgot that you actually needed to get there after your tailgate! If you’re not within walking distance, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get to the game and back. Some schools offer shuttles from major tailgating areas to the stadium/arena, or there may be local busses and trains with discount passes for game day. 

Refer back to tip number 7 here—public transportation will likely be packed around the game, and Ubers may be hard to come by. When you choose where to park, make sure you recognize the challenge of leaving the stadium at the same time as everyone else. 

Remember: NEVER drink and drive. If you plan on drinking on game day, take an Uber or public transportation home, even if it’s a little crowded.  

Check out this interesting opinion piece pushing for free game day shuttles


9. Choose location based on its environment. 

Will the environment around the spot work for your tailgating needs? 

Questions to consider:

  1. Does the spot have shade? If not, do you have a tent or awning you can bring to provide some much-needed mid-day relief? 
  2. Is the space hilly? You’ll want to avoid steep areas that make your guests more prone to trips and falls. 
  3. Are the cars parked close together, creating a good environment for socializing? Or are they spread out and better for games and running around? 
  4. Is there enough space to set up your BBQ area and chairs? Choose a spot with enough wiggle room if you plan to party out of your trunk.
  5. Will there be a grassy spot for dogs and kids to rest, if you have these tailgating guests? 
  6. What’s the noise in the area? Are there loud frats? Is it too quiet in the middle of nowhere? 

You know what you want your tailgating day to look and feel like. So make sure your parking spot will reflect your tailgating style and activities! 


10. Figure out if that tailgating location is “your scene.”

There are different sorts of tailgating atmospheres, activities, and rituals. You may like a more family-friendly vibe if you’re bringing kids or grandparents. You might want to enjoy a bit of the party scene if you’re reuniting with some college friends. You might prefer playing games, while others might care more about the food. 

Determining the vibe of the tailgating location is hard to plan for, so you’ll need to ask around to get the scoop. Online groups are a great way to get more information, or you can ask the group chat with your tailgating buddies. This article does a great job providing tailgating tips about the different traditions and “feel” of the tailgates at a bunch of schools, which is especially useful if you’re traveling to an away game in a new city. 

11. Check out the local tailgating traditions. 

If you’re visiting a new school or you’re new to campus, you’ll definitely want to find out about local tailgating traditions. The best part about tailgating is taking part in some of the weird, wacky, and crazy traditions of the area or school. Often, these traditions may be location-based, so you don’t want to miss out if you choose to park in the wrong area. 

Check out some of our favorite gameday rituals here

12. Make sure you’re on the right side. 

We almost forgot to mention—you want to ensure you’re parking near other fans from your team! Don’t be the one car sporting blue in a sea of red. You’ll get some looks and maybe some smack talk hurled your way, so you probably want to make sure you’re surrounded by familiar fan colors

How to choose your tailgating location

Figuring out how to tailgate boils down to choosing the perfect tailgating spot… and getting your gear! Get your premium licensed fan gear so you can be ready for tailgating the day away every time a game rolls around. We offer sweatshirts, tees, and hats, as well as unique accessories like flags, lanyards, socks, and more. Get your tailgating spot, throw on your tee, and let’s get to the game! 

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