All Part of the Gameday Football Tradition
Football season is upon us and other than making sure you will be properly attired in orange and blue and have your Gator chomp down, you will need to know where to go to pre-game. Pre-gaming, according to Urban Dictionary, generally means drinking before going to an event where drinks that you will purchase are more expensive. I believe the term crazy fun was included in the description as well.
Pre-gaming at UF mostly occurs by Midtown which is across the street from The Swamp (aka Ben Hill Griffin Stadium). You will see a sea of orange and blue crowding restaurants and bars including The Swamp restaurant (no reservations taken on Gameday so get there early), JJ’s Tavern, Tatu, and Salty’s as well as The Social, Fat Daddy’s, Rowdy’s, well just about any bar in the Midtown area. (It is also where you will find most ticket-scalpers. Just be warned about scalped tickets. Read my experience here).
Are you an alum of UF? Then head to Emerson Alumni Hall prior to each game for some live music, 4Rivers Smokehouse food and cash bar, tailgate games, and more. Life members may bring two complimentary guests; Annual members may bring one complimentary guest and pay $10 for each additional guest provided they are with you. Opens 3 ½ to 4 hours prior to each game and close 45 minutes before kick-off.
Students who participate in Greek life will probably pre-game, or tailgate as they prefer to call it, at the fraternity house that their sorority has been paired up with or with whichever frat they feel a connection to. I have experienced a fraternity tailgate and yes, crazy fun is a perfect description, but so is hot, crowded and loud. Fortunately, the crazy fun outweighs the others; therefore, tailgating still comes highly recommended.
Looking to up your tailgate experience? Check out Tailgate Guys turn-key – all you have to do is show up- they provide all the equipment (think tent, tables, chairs and a television package if you want- right on the Reitz Union Lawn. Pricing starts at $250.00.
Here are a few things that are useful to know before you tailgate at UF:
- 3 hours before kickoff, BUBBA Burger Gator Fan Fest opens outside Gate 2 at the corner of Gale Lemerand and Stadium Drive with booths and activities set up by corporate sponsors. You can also find former players signing autographs, enter sweepstakes for future games and other prizes. And, for those of you needing a clean, bathroom (they call it The Swamp for a reason), the arena lobby opens from at 8 am for a noon game and 12 for an evening kickoff. It is a great place to access the restrooms or just cool off.
- 2 hours 25 minutes before kick-off, there is the Gator Walk where the team makes their way to the locker room for the game. Head to the north end of the stadium, closest to University Ave. to cheer on the Gators and coaches.
We recommend getting to your tailgating destination early as traffic on campus will become a nightmare. You can find houses in midtown that will charge to park (I have paid as much as $40) but keep in mind, you will hit so much traffic leaving. They do have public parking lots but those are limited. Click here for parking information. I even have parked on the sidewalk on Frat Row without any problems but arrived 3 hours prior to game time.
Make note of these street closings: Lemerand Drive between University Avenue and Stadium Road 2.5 hours prior to the game.
There is a private company called Gator Parking (not affiliated with UF at all) that offers reserved tailgating spots across from the stadium but those are for the entire season. They are sold out for 2018 and offering a waiting list for 2019. Click here for more information if you plan on being a season ticket holder. And, you would be surprised how many people come up to tailgate with their RV’s. There is a completely different set of rules for this type of pre-gaming and tailgating. Finally, if the heat is just too much, you may want to consider one of the restaurants in Midtown (or almost any bar/restaurant in Gainesville), where there is usually a giant TV playing the game.
When the Gators are playing well, ESPN may send their pre-game show to UF. Fans show up early (really, really early) with their signs to get a front position closest to the stage. You’ll find the UF cheerleaders and members of the band at Plaza of the Americas. Definitely worth seeing if UF is lucky to be picked for their pre-game broadcast. I’ve been to my share of pre-games and football games and both are a lot of fun. Actually, one might say they kind of go hand-in-hand. With several disappointing seasons and a new coach taking the reins, Gator fans are hoping for a better season. But, Gator fans do show up and it is definitely an experience not to be missed.
Click here to learn more about UF football.