Wisconsin Tailgate

The Daily Meal

Obviously, we love football season for the sport, but what makes it really special are the tailgating festivities that surround the games. Every college football game day begins with a pre-game of some kind, and the biggest and best of them really are the most spectacular parties. At the best college tailgates fans, students, alumni and their families gather together to party, eat, drink, watch football and enjoy the pre- and post-game festivities.

Classic tailgate fare such as Buffalo wings, barbecued ribs, brisket and chili is present at almost every party, but the most amazing tailgates (the ones featured on this list), also serve and enjoy more niche, specialty food such as the seafood gumbo seen at LSU and the spicy jerk chicken that's a key feature of Howard University tailgates. There's more to a tailgate than just supporting your football team: A spectacular feast, plenty of drinks, and wonderful old-school traditions are what really make these amazing game days.

For the fourth year running, The Daily Meal has taken on the challenge of identifying the 25 very best colleges for tailgating. To create this year's rankings we created a public poll, which asked our readers to vote for their favorite college tailgate, share details about the atmosphere and spaces, and fill us in on the time-honored traditions, unique experiences, and, of course, the classic dishes. For the second year in a row, several Division II schools received such strong support that they have been included in the list, and this year we've also had two new entries: Washington (no one can resist an amazing seafood-filled sailgate) and East Carolina (the home of North Carolina barbecue is always going to host a great party feast).

15. Auburn

15. Auburn

Auburn fans are some of the most dedicated out there: Days in advance of a game, they'll start camping outside the stadium, coming together in the strongest of school spirits. Auburn fans are hugely proud of the Tiger Walk, where they walk with the players to the stadium before the game. Before this traditional event, fans can be found feasting on Southern barbecue and pulled pork, and drinking plenty, all dressed up in their Tiger gear.

14. Texas

14. Texas

On Texas game days, the whole city becomes a celebrating fan zone: Take your pick from all the great food and music available in the Texas capital before the game, and choose between a rowdy country-and-western bar on Sixth Street, a local beer garden like Scholz Garten, one of the city's many excellent barbecue joints or Tex-Mex restaurants, or even a classic tailgate on campus itself: There really is something for everyone.

13. USC

13. USC

Hours before kickoff, USC fans flood the spacious Trousdale area to set up for a raucous day. Here you'll find ballpark-style, family-friendly food trucks serving classics like nachos, grilled sliders, and hot dogs. Fans always follow the band as it plays around campus before kicking the flagpole at the edge of campus for good luck.

12. Howard

12. Howard

Howard University only celebrated its first tailgate in 2008, but it has successfully made up for lost time. The food is the star of this D.C. tailgate: Beyond the usual burgers and hot dogs, keep an eye out for stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon, Louisiana gumbo, fiery jerk chicken, smoked porgy, slow-smoked bone-in pork shoulder and barbecued pork ribs.

11. Wisconsin

11. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is located in downtown Madison, which means there’s not much space for open-air partying. However, the lack of space is made up for by the numerous pubs and bars that open their doors to Badger fans. On Breese Terrace, more than 30 residences will be blasting music and grilling some of your favorite tailgating foods such as burgers, brats and grilled shrimp before kickoff. For a more drink-focused party, head over to Jordan’s Big Ten Pub, which turns its to Jordan's Big Ten Pub, which turns its parking lot into a beer garden on game days. Lucky's has a similar beer-centric set-up, and is also famous for its burgers and brats.

10. Georgia

10. Georgia

At 7 a.m. on game day you'll find Bulldogs fans at the University of Georgia are already setting up. They'll start grilling straight away, and will carry on serving up chicken and cheeseburger sliders, and lots of spinach and artichoke dip, right until kickoff. If you want to focus on drinking, fans can head to any of the surrounding game-day-friendly bars around the college town.

9. South Carolina State

9. South Carolina State

South Carolina State tailgates are most famous for the variety and quality of food you’ll find in the tailgating lots. Elaborate spreads are enjoyed in a warm, welcoming environment, which is wonderfully family-friendly.

8. McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland

8. McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland

McDaniel is one tailgate you should get to early, as parking spots fill up fast at this drive-in tailgate. McDaniel's new stadium provides a unique tailgating experience, as Green Terror fans can drive up to the ridge that overlooks the field. This means that you can tailgate while you are watching the game: It doesn't get much better than that.

7. Florida

7. Florida

The Gators' partying kicks off at "The Swamp" (as Florida Field is popularly known), and keeps going, all night long. A Gator tailgate is a huge affair: All the fans are always wearing extravagant orange and blue tailgate garb, and the tastiest fried Southern food is enjoyed by the whole town, as well as the out-of-towners who've come in just for the game.

6. Penn State

6. Penn State

On game day, close to 100,000 fans will be swarming around Nittanyville, the tent city students set up before game day. The crowds are crazy, the school spirit is strong, and food abounds everywhere. Besides the classic tailgate fare, Penn State "stickies" (sticky buns laced with caramelized sugar) from the Ye Olde College Diner are a game day classic.

5. South Carolina

5. South Carolina

Gamecock fans really do take their tailgate party to the streets: The stadium is located off campus, so game days consist of rowdy fans feasting on bacon-wrapped hot dogs and drinking plenty of apple pie moonshine. However, the coolest party of this tailgate has to be the "Cockabooses." These are repurposed South Carolina-themed cabooses, which are stationed on an abandoned railroad track, and really are everything your tailgating dreams are made of.

4. Alabama

4. Alabama

The Roll Tide tailgates at Tucaloosa are a busy, rowdy affair. Game day celebrations typically begin early at "The Quads," located nearby the stadium. This area will be packed with grills cooking barbecue brisket, hamburgers, hot dogs and more. The signature Yellowhammer Slammer cocktail served at Gallette's is an essential feature. This lethal drink is made of vodka, rum, amaretto, orange juice and pineapple juice, and is served in a 20-ounce cup. Make sure you don't miss the Elephant Stomp pep rally: The Million Dollar Band, who plays before and during the game, always meets an hour before the game on the stairs of the Gorgas Library, and then march to the president’s mansion to perform before the game begins. After the game, fans looking to continue the party head to Dreamland Bar-B-Que, where the festivities run late into the night.

3. Ole Miss

3. Ole Miss

For one of the most amazing tailgate experiences, you have to visit The Grove at Ole Miss. This tailgate party is taken incredibly seriously: Tented, Rebel-Nation-loving fans in red, white, and blue garb fill the space, and many of them hang chandeliers and don bow ties and pearls. This tailgate party is just part of the build-up to the Walk of Champions, where players walk to the stadium through The Grove full of fans. The Ole Miss fans are incredibly proud and celebratory at every game, and here, the post-game parties never seem to end.

2. Michigan

2. Michigan

Michigan's tailgates start as soon as the parking lot opens at 7 a.m. Before the game begins, the majority of fans watch the spectacular drumline stepshow, which really gets everyone psyched up. The tailgating area is a spacious lot where tailgaters have plenty of space to cook and party. Many fans hang out at the local Quickie Burger, which is conveniently located on the way to the stadium and serves breakfast all day: The perfect boost to help keep you going for the whole game.

1. LSU

1. LSU

LSU tailgates really channel that amazing Baton Rouge spirit. The tailgates are always filled with the most spectacular food: The amazing boiled crawfish and steaming gumbo are served alongside alligators and pigs cooked on the spit. It's not only the food that is extravagant, though. The tailgate setups are amazingly elaborate -- it often feels like people's homes have been moved into the parking lot. This level of comfort and the quantities of amazing food perhaps explain why the party doesn’t stop at any point throughout the day or night. Before the game, the fans get riled up by the LSU band, as it marches down the hill to the stadium, making sure everybody is ready for the game.

For the complete list of 25 Best Colleges For Tailgating 2016, go to TheDailyMeal.com

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