How to Tailgate Like a Pro at Alabama

Tailgating tips from Tuscaloosans, University of Alabama employees, and lifelong ‘Bama fans.

Bryant Denny Stadium
Getty Images

First, let us state the obvious. Every school in the South has its own rich tapestry of tailgating traditions from the Grove of Ole Miss to Tennessee’s Vol Navy. Since football season is here, we will elaborate on the snowflake-like nature of them all.
But today, we are here to talk about the 2016 #1 ranked team in the SEC, Alabama’s Crimson Tide, who has won 16 National Championships.

Are you a bewildered, out-of-state freshman? A wayfaring fan of the visiting team? A foreign scholar of Southern culture? Just relish reading anything short of a Coke Zero advertisement that mentions Coach Saban? We’ve asked Tuscaloosans, University of Alabama employees, and lifelong ‘Bama fans for their best tailgating tips. With our collective wisdom, you too can make the most of your time in Title Town.

Welcome, New Fans. If you’ve never come to an Alabama game, you can’t exactly just show up on Saturday morning and waltz right in, whether you have a ticket or not. Get in place Friday afternoon at the latest, and make sure to bring your own game plan and an ocean’s worth of patience. Traffic has become near nightmarish in the past few years as record-breaking attendance merges with historic infrastructure.

Branch Out. “Getting into the scrum of the Quad is great, but there's a lot happening on the Strip and downtown,” says University employee and native Tuscaloosan Adam Morrow. “Grabbing some food at a stand-by like Hooligans and getting a drink or two at Alcove or Loosa Brews is a nice respite from the crowds and early season heat before heading into the fray.

Local Flavor. You can’t go wrong with Dreamland BBQ according to lifelong ‘Bama fan and Tuscaloosan Reed Watson (who, full disclosure, is the author’s boyfriend and who converted her to the Tide). “But you have to go to the one in Jerusalem Heights,” he says.” Another Tide-and-true option for ribs is Archibald’s. Both offer tailgate packages you can pick up the day before or the morning of gameday.

Walk with Champions. Outside Bryant-Denny stadium, or what some affectionately call the Mothership, you’ll find the Walk of Champions where you can Instagram yourself with the statues of legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and the reigning monarch Nick Saban. Two hours and 15 minutes before the game, the team is dropped off at the Walk to make their way into the stadium. Stake out a spot 30 minutes beforehand if you want to get a good look at one of your favorite players and what brand of headphones he endorses.

Take a Walk. “Walk around when the Million Dollar Band is scattered across the Quad,” says Morrow, also a local musician. “When the drumline is thundering beneath Denny Chimes and footballs are flying through the air from the hands of kids (and grown men) nervously anticipating the coming kickoff. It’s a warm, fuzzy picture of why this is so beloved.” But why is it called the Million Dollar Band? The story goes the band often had to raise funds to get from school to school to play at games even when the team wasn’t doing so swell. Once at a game against Georgia Tech, a sportswriter asked a football manager W.C. “Champ” Pickens "You don't have much of a team; what do you have at Alabama?" Pickens replied, "A Million Dollar Band." To really see them in action, head to the Elephant Stomp, their afternoon performance on the steps of the Gorgas Library an hour before kickoff.

Play Tailgating Tunes. Get creative with your playlist advises University of Alabama Football Photographer Jeff Hansen. There’s no need to overdo “Sweet Home Alabama.” You’ll be hearing plenty of it, trust us. Go for less overt picks like Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blue.”