By Marcy Franklin
The Daily Meal

Summer's wrapping up, and we're (begrudgingly) putting the bikinis in the back of our drawers and digging out our second most favorite attire: Football jerseys. Time to dust off the body paint, the team sweatshirts, party beads, face tattoos, baby cheerleader outfits, and doggy costumes, and fire up the grill: It's tailgating season.

While some of us prefer to watch the games in the cool shelter of a bar with a hi-def TV, there's nothing quite like a college tailgate. Because, let's be real, once the hot dogs and burgers are polished off, the keg is tapped, and you've long lost the ping-pong balls for beer pong, you may not even find it in you to drag your feet into the stadium. (We personally know we haven't made it to a few college football games or two after some heavy tailgating -- go Buffs.) When you find a tailgate as legendary as you do at these 13 schools, we think you're not missing too much if you decide to camp out for a while -- after all, you've more than likely got your big-screen TV right at the truck with you.

Obviously, with experience comes know-how, and these schools have been studying the art of tailgating for as long as teams have been lacing up their cleats. In many cases, these colleges have time-honored traditions that make Game Day up there with Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. When picking our schools, we considered the following factors: crowd size (in one city, the population practically doubles during its biggest rivalry game), food and drink, dress, and traditions. These schools' tailgates range from rowdy to downright raucous, but that doesn't mean you won't be ready for some good fun no matter where you are.

We've got the full scoop on the schools that have tailgating down to a science -- and may just convince your high-school-age kids where they may want to look at schools come spring. Click here for the best tailgating schools in America, and let's get down to business.

Best Colleges For Football Tailgating Slideshow


9. Nebraska

Huskers football isn't just a one-tent setup for game day; it's an all-town, all-day festival with more than enough beer and brats to go around. Fans don’t just set up tents for game day (although the tents you'll find are decked out to the nines with satellite TVs and more than enough food and beer to feed a small Huskers army); they head downtown to the Historic Haymarket, where the party just keeps going and going.


8. Michigan

Yeah, we're not surprised: According to the 2010 census, says Bleacher Report, Ann Arbor, Mich., becomes the second-largest city in the state every Saturday during football season. When Michigan played Notre Dame in 2010, the number of fans that showed up to the stadium (114,804) was more than the number of people actually living in Ann Arbor (113,934). We'd say that makes for one crazy tailgate. If you’re not wearing maize and blue, you better get on home.


7. Florida

We know how you Gators roll: like every game is the biggest party you'll ever go to. For out-of-towners, you can crash with the students or rent parking at a house on University Avenue for about $10 to $30; although it's not necessarily included in your parking price, you can usually party with the students and join in on the beer pong and grilling fun. If you happen to get a spot on campus grass, be forewarned: taking alcohol onto the nearby street can get you a hefty ticket. But once you head to the Swamp, you'll be ready and beer-ed up for the action.


6. Georgia

Let’s get one thing straight: If Andrew Zimmern is tailgating there, we know we have to be there. (Save us a Big Dawg!) And Bulldogs (er, we mean "dawgs") are notorious for their tailgates, pimped-out grills, and cries of "Woof, woof, woof!" during the Dawg Walk leading up to the stadium.


5. Mississippi

Ole Miss is home to what's known as the most famous tailgating spot in the world, the Grove. An estimated 25,000 begin the party the Friday night before Saturday games, with fans decked in their Sunday best (and zero body paint in sight). Really, only The New York Times could describe it so vividly: "It is every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political handgrab, gala and networking party-hearty -- what might have inspired Willie Morris, one of Mississippi's favorite sons, to declare Mississippi not a state, but a club." The Grove is the opening act to a true Ole Miss tradition, the Walk of Champions.


4. LSU

LSU doesn't just take the cake for being one of the most fervent tailgates; it's also one of the most sophisticated tailgates -- well, culinary-wise, anyways -- in the country. After all, where else can you get a true Cajun cookout while decked out in your Tiger gear? Jambalaya, Cajun sausage, and alligator stew are as common as a burger and brat anywhere else. (As ESPN once put it, Food Network should get on getting broadcast rights just for LSU game day). Baton Rouge instantly becomes the fifth-largest city in the state on game day, while the team and fans suit up for some killer football.


3. Alabama

It should be no surprise that 'Bama consistently ranks as one of the best schools for tailgating, from Bleacher Report to Southern Living. Heck, there’s even the Tailgate Beer and the Alabama Tailgate Cookbook — does that solidify its ranking near the top? Crowds on the quad on Game Day are estimated to top 100,000 fans for the bigger rivalries, like LSU or Texas A&M. Before you start singing "Roll Tide," slam down a Yellowhammer (yep, it’s a drink that really does exist) and get ready to root for the number-one seeded college team this year.


2. USC

At this football powerhouse, fans get to campus hours before kickoff to park their behinds along Trousdale, and set up elaborate tailgating contraptions (think chandeliers and flat-screen TVs). You’ll hear plenty of the So-Call spell-out cheer while grilling, boozing, and generally partying it up on game day before making the short walk to the Coliseum. Be sure to follow the band as it plays around campus and partake in the game-day tradition of kicking the flagpole at the edge of campus for good luck (just be forewarned: don't attempt this too aggressively in a pair of flip-flops). The true craziness of a USC tailgate is only amped up for UCLA games, where you’ll find plenty of UCLA teddy bears dragged around campus or hung up in trees. (Yeah, it gets weird.)


1. Auburn

Tailgating at Auburn just got a little easier, thanks to the university’s brand-new plan to open an extra 2,000 parking spots around campus just for game day. After all, this is one university that takes its tailgates very seriously; fans start lining up in their campers days before game day, decked out in their Tiger-inspired gear. What’s more, Auburn University cemented the school tradition of the pregame walk with the players to the stadium, called the Tiger Walk. And then you know, bring some extra rolls of toilet paper so you can TP the crap out of Toomer's Corner should the Tigers win. Let's just say, game day in Auburn is a spectacle unlike any other.

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For the complete slideshow of the Best Colleges For Football Tailgating, go to

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