Alright folks, after what has been the longest offseason ever, we are finally back to Tiger football. But as many of us know, the game is only one part of Gameday. Tailgating before and after the game is the other part, and quite frankly, a good tailgate can make a bad game feel better. Now, as someone who has been going to Clemson games since I could barely walk, and has tailgated at both big family tailgates and in gritty fraternity tailgates, I want to offer my expertise on how you can make gameday in Clemson the best.
The cool thing about parking is that there are options that will fit your budget. I want to clarify that most of the closer lots are parking for season ticket holders, and you can’t just drive up, pay, and park in those, you can find passes on the secondary market. My favorite lots are the intermural fields and the West Endzone Lot. They are for fairly higher-level donors, so if you find a spot for sale, you will be paying a pretty penny. But, if cost isn’t an issue, either one is great. I’m partial to the intramural fields, but there is a caveat there: beware of heavy rain. Run of the mill, it might drizzle or it might not rain will be fine, but if we have torrential rain like 2015 Notre Dame or 2017 Georgia Tech, then it can turn into a swamp. If you don’t have 4 wheel drive and this concerns you, go with the West Zone. If it’s all dry though, tailgating on grass is nice, and great for letting your kids run around and play. If you need something cheaper, there are many other lots both paved and grass. Regardless, I’d suggest you bring comfortable shoes. Even if you’re parked in a close lot, you may want to go walk campus, over to downtown or Esso, or just troll through the lots to see if you see any friendly faces with a full cooler. There are also shuttles and other options to help with getting from further spaces. Check online before securing a spot to see what there is.
If you pick up a spot in a season ticket holder lot, particularly the ones really close to the stadium, you should plan to arrive early. I mean, legally, no one will stop you from rolling in an hour before the game, but it will be much more congested and your neighbors will probably be a bit frustrated with you. I’d say best bet is for a noon kick be in by 9:00, 3:30 PM be in by 11:00 AM, and night game maybe 2:00 PM or 3:00 PM. Some tailgating purists will be there at 8:00 AM regardless of kickoff, but I understand not everyone can make that happen.
In South Carolina, pimento cheese is always a crowd pleaser. Store bought is fine, but the good folks at Duke’s Mayo have a recipe that is out of this world. Pimento cheese is versatile to be used as a dip, sandwich, burger topping, or whatever you can imagine. A lot of folks also like to poke fun at U of SC by eating chicken on gamedays. Any kind of chicken will do, but once again, Duke’s has a recipe for chicken salad that will have everyone crowing. One thing I will say about hosting, is double check to see if any of your guests have dietary restrictions. You probably can’t account for every allergy and diet, but it’s always nice to know if there’s any limits you should observe.
Heading Into the Game
Ideally, I say getting in the stadium between forty-five minutes and an hour before kickoff. Thirty minutes is about as close as I would cut it, so make sure to begin packing up your tailgate with ample time to account for this. This makes sure you can get through security, find your seat, get anything from the concession stands, and whatever else you need without worrying about missing kickoff. Clemson also has the great feature of pass-outs, where you can get a paper slip and hand stamp when leaving the stadium that allows for readmission. Many people like to use this at halftime to step out and grab food or some beverages at their tailgate. Remember, halftime is only 20 minutes, so I would only recommend this if you’re in a surrounding lot. And if you stay in the stadium, you can enjoy the sounds of Tiger Band’s halftime show.
Maybe you want to stop in a watering hole before or after the game, or maybe tickets were outside of your price range and you decided to watch at one of Clemson’s great bars. The closest one to the stadium is the Esso Club, and while it is packed, they rope off the parking lot and have trucks out there to help you get beverages quicker. They also will have big screens outside. During the game, they’ll obviously show Clemson, but pre and post-game, you’ll get whatever the major game is for that timeslot. Inside will have more TVs, but it is crowded. If you’re looking for other sports bars with multiple TV options, TDs, Tiger Town Tavern, and Backstreets are always fan favorites. These places have a good draft selection and good food menus. If you want a more chill atmosphere and maybe a good craft beer post game, Nick’s has a great selection. One thing to remember is that any bar will be packed, so please by kind to your wait staff and bar tenders and tip generously.
As I said earlier, comfortable shoes are the move. They don’t have to be anything special, but sneakers or comfy boots will make your gameday better. If it’s an afternoon kickoff, like 3:30 PM from late September on, I’d bring a jacket, sweatshirt, or something warm with you. A lot of times those games are tricky because it’ll be comfortable all day, but once the sun sets it can get chilly in Death Valley.