On the Road

Top Towns to Tailgate In the South

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

Everything you need to turn your car into party central during tailgate season

For serious football fans, the tailgate rivals the importance of the game. And in the South, where hospitality is king, SEC tailgates mean killing your rivals with kindness (and some friendly sparring) on game day. Tailgating itself is a sport, often steeped in family traditions, planned and prepped days (and weeks) in advance, and supported by teamwork with fellow fans. With fall football season comes the opportunity to build travel plans around where your team plays. Whether you live it up in Tent City or crawl between sports bars, we wager that the most fun lies outside the stadium walls.

SEC tailgate catch game
What’s an SEC tailgate without a game of catch?

University of Mississippi

WHERE TO TAILGATE: On the Friday before game day, Rebels fans in Oxford line up outside the Grove, waiting to make a rush to claim their site when the barricades open at 7 p.m. Many fans remain in the 10-acre green well after kickoff, opting for the decked-out tents over stadium seats.

WHAT TO BRING: Quantity and quality are equally important: Fine china and chandeliers set up in tents cast an air of Southern sophistication. Shrimp and grits and fried chicken are obvious choices; however, many Ole Miss fans have taken a liking to snacks inspired by their rivals, such as pigs in blankets for Arkansas games and gumbo for LSU.

WHAT TO DRINK: Bring plenty of red and blue Solo cups for alcoholic beverages (usually bourbon based).

University of Texas

WHERE TO TAILGATE: Tailgating presents itself in various forms at UT—Austin turns into a game day playground with fans congregating at numerous outdoor bars along Sixth Street. Ticketed tailgates are also common.

WHAT TO BRING: It’s no surprise that smoked brisket reigns supreme—it is Texas after all. Other honorable mentions include jalapeño poppers and breakfast tacos.

WHAT TO DRINK: Ranch water (tequila topped with Topo Chico sparkling water and a squeeze of lime).

bbq tailgate at University of Texas
Parking lot grills get a game day workout on Saturdays across the Southeast.

Louisiana State University

WHERE TO TAILGATE: The parking lots around Baton Rouge’s Tiger Stadium attract the bulk of the excitement, containing the 30-hour parties that begin the Friday nights before game day.

WHAT TO BRING: Food skews decidedly Cajun, meaning massive pots of gumbo and jambalaya simmer for hours before kickoff while others smoke whole hogs on the grill or dump crawfish boils onto long tables.

WHAT TO DRINK: Make your own Tiger Tea, a staple from the Bengal Tap Room. This riff on the Arnold Palmer pairs Deep Eddy’s sweet tea and lemon vodkas with fresh-brewed tea that’s punched up with peach puree.

Clemson University

Tailgate Burger at Loose Change
Clemson’s very own @loosechange_cu with the perfect gameday Smokehouse Burger.

WHERE TO TAILGATE: From the sea of orange tents sheltering spreads of food to tricked-out trailers converted into mobile bars, stadium parking lots are the place to be. Many legacy families have their own time-honored tailgate sites at specific lots where they’ll set up flat screen TVs or projector screens, portable cooktops, comfy seats, and a variety of cooling apparatuses—it’s like your outdoor living room away from home.

WHAT TO BRING: Smoking meat—pork, chicken, beef ribs, you name it—is big, so come with your smoker in tow (or make friends with someone who has one). Sausage balls and cheesy ham delights are ideal snacky-snacks that can be offered to passing friends (or friendly rivals).

WHAT TO DRINK: Set up a deluxe mimosa bar with an array of orange, pomegranate, cranberry, and peach juices and fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries for fizz-inducing garnishes.

University of Arkansas

WHERE TO TAILGATE: The heart of the action lies in the grassy Gardens, though plenty of bites and camaraderie spill over to the parking lots around Reynolds Razorback Stadium, including Victory Village. Other hangs include Fayetteville’s iconic sports bars, like Farrell’s, Dickson Street Pub, and Sideways.

WHAT TO BRING: While many schools in the SEC traditionally consume food inspired by their opponent on gameday, UA tailgate spreads feature pork prominently. Go for ribs and smoked sausages, or slices of breakfast casserole if it’s a noon game.

WHAT TO DRINK: Whatever it is, make sure you keep it in a red Solo cup.

ribs being held out by hands
Ribs are a game day staple in the South.

Florida State University

WHERE TO TAILGATE: While there are sports bars and hangouts in the Tallahassee backdrop, cars and trucks pack into the parking lots around Doak S. Campbell Stadium.

WHAT TO BRING: Publix sandwiches and bakery cookies are tailgating staples, and you can expect other Floridian delicacies like shrimp po’boys and (during quail hunting season) quail poppers—bacon-wrapped bird with cheese and jalapeños.

WHAT TO DRINK: Florida = hot. Be sure to keep plenty of water on hand to counteract any other libations consumed.

a leashed dog at the game
Bringing your furry friends is the unofficial requirement of an SEC tailgate!

University of Tennessee

WHERE TO TAILGATE: Much of the action takes place in the parking lots at the Fort (or Fort Saunders neighborhood) and the G-10 parking garage. Knoxville’s riverside locale also makes it one of the few places in the SEC you’ll see floating tailgates (known as the Vol Navy) hosted between the hundreds of boats that arrive at the dock on game day.

WHAT TO BRING: Food runs the gamut of traditional tailgate fare with plenty of pulled pork and ribs to go around.

WHAT TO DRINK: Orange jello shots and enough moonshine for you to sing along to “Rocky Top” all day.

At the Table

A Barbecue Expert’s Top Tips for Tailgating

Need help with creating the perfect tailgating experience? Michael Letchworth of Sam Jones BBQ has four tips to make it stress free and easy!

In the Field

Our Favorite Tailgating Recipes

Whether we’re attending an intimate parking lot feast or massive blowout, these are the nachos, dips, wings, and sliders we bring to the tailgate.

Spread of dishes from Salt Box Seafood Joint in time for tailgating season

Ricky Moore’s Coastal-Style Tailgating Recipes

Chef Ricky Moore talks about his ideal coastal-style tailgate with fish fillets, shareable dips, and their anchor, Duke’s Mayonnaise.

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