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RVs have had a presence at college football tailgating long before the era of Winnebagos and travel trailers. At a 1869 Rutgers vs New Jersey game, tailgaters were serving up snack food from the back of the wagon and carriage models from which today’s RVs evolved. Other accounts suggest the first proper tailgate was at a 1906 match between Harvard and Yale, just a few years before the first Packard auto-camper, one of the earliest RV motorhomes, hit the market.
Whichever game gave tailgating its official start, vehicles and good food have always been a part of this national past time. Wherever college football teams travel, so do their fans. And as RV tailgating evolved, so did the tailgate grill and other equipment that makes it even easier to enjoy cold beers, hot burgers, and all manner of treats from seven-layer dip to Frito chili pie.
Are You Ready for Some Football? These Campgrounds Are Perfect for RV Tailgating
If you’re hoping to make the most of your favorite team’s game day, we’ve got the scoop on where you can park your rig and camp for a few hours, or all weekend long. Some universities have lots set aside for day use on game day. Here’s where you can head afterwards to camp out, or settle in for longer to make the most of the area while you’re there, long after the last touchdown hits the green.
No matter who you’re rooting for, there’s always somewhere great to go RV tailgating this college football season:
1. Coaches Corner RV Park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
The Crimson Tide spills over from Tuscaloosa all over the country, but when you’re in Bama country, there are a few especially great places for the tide pools to gather. There are on- and off-campus RV lots during the game, but if you want to make your trip really worthwhile, the Coaches Corner RV Park caters especially to Bama fans cruising in big rigs.
This campground offers nightly, weekend, and season passes, as well as WiFi, full hook ups, a grill at each site and concrete pads for RVs and gravel parking for additional vehicles. If you RV is your home away from home, you can arrange for reservations on the weekends you plan to be in town for a game. You can also arrange to store your rig on-site between games, combining RV tailgating access with long-term parking. If you’re a hardcore season fanatic, you can also choose between packages that include parking for vehicles beyond your RV.
When you’re off-duty, check out the nearby Holly Springs National Forest or Talladega National Forest if you’re craving a little serenity in nature, or the Houndstooth Sports Bar or Baumhower’s Victory Grille if you want to keep celebrating. It’s not hard to find pretty scenery and good bars in Tuscaloosa—the only thing Bama fans love more than the outdoors and good beer is U of A football.Camp Here
2. Southlake RV Park in Knoxville, Tennessee
On the far edge of the Smokies, Knoxville, Tennessee takes its geography and its football very seriously. Just look at the Tennessee Volunteers’ unofficial theme song, “Rocky Top,” which celebrates life in Tennessee hill country. (Though technically the real Rocky Top is an hour north east, closer to Kingsport, Tennesese) The streets run orange when a game is coming up, but just a few minutes outside town, you’re back in the peaceful countryside.
Enjoy the best of both worlds at Southlake RV Park, just 15 minutes from Neyland Stadium on the Fort Loudon Reserve and 30 minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s been family-run since the early 1980s, and is also located next to Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, where you can get some quintessential southern food.
In addition to full hookups and water for RVs, there are also tent sites. You can reserve nightly or by the week, and there are discounts for seniors, veterans, firefighters, and police. That leaves more money in the budget for sweet potato biscuits and ham!Camp Here
3. Tree Haven in Columbus, Ohio
Buckeyes have been painting Columbus, Ohio red since 1922, and as a result Ohio State University has developed a serious plan for tailgaters, including special lots for season pass holders, and several others for day-of RV tailgating, all of which can be booked through the OSU Athletic Department ohiostatebuckeyes.com.
If you want to overnight, however, the closest you can get your rig is the Ohio Expo Center, where there are staff patrols, full hookups, and partial hookups, all under a ten-minute drive, short bus ride, or 30 minute walk from Ohio Stadium. You’ll also be a short stroll from the trendy Short North district. If you’re not feeling like firing up your grill, grab breakfast and a latte at Fox in the Snow Cafe, a brew at Seventh Son, or a tasty Cincinnati-style poutine at Standard Hall, all of which are pretty close to The Shoe.
For more of an actual camping experience, however, head to Tree Haven Campground just 30 minutes from downtown. This Westerville, Ohio campground offers nightly, weekly, monthly, and seasonal rates, and shady, grassy campsites. Dogs are welcome, there’s WiFi available, and in the warmer months you can enjoy the swimming pool. Tree Haven has been treating campers right since the 1970s, so you know you’re in good hands.
“I found a family-friendly environment there. We stayed more than four days there, and experience was outstanding. I felt like I am in heaven especially with campfire at night. It took me into the world of fantasy.” –The Dyrt camper EdenCamp Here
4. Auburn RV Park in Auburn, Alabama
Every RV Park and campground has its own character, and the Auburn RV Park at Leisure Time Campground is no different. Here, you know you’re going to find fellow Auburn fans ready to cheer on the Tigers, as well as a pretty little creek flowing through the nearby Alabama scenery. You’re not only a ten-minute drive from Jordan-Hare Stadium, you’re also right next door to the Auburn Links at Mill Creek, a picturesque eighteen hole golf course just over from Chewacla State Park.
Auburn RV Park has several packages specifically for football fans that start a week before the first game of the season and end a week after the final touchdown. They include WiFi for two devices, Cable TV, 30 or 50amp service, water, sewer, bath house access, and dumpster service. All you have to do is bring the pimento cheese and deviled eggs, your grillables to throw on your propane stove, and your best War Eagle battle cry.
“This is a popular RV campground for football fans coming to Auburn Games in the fall. There is very little shade and it is on a busy highway but up off the road a bit. Football fans are notoriously rowdy but this is a more civilized group. Close to the interstate and across the road from Chewakla State Park.” –The Dyrt camper Anna R.Camp Here
5. Paynes Prairie State Park in Gainesville, Florida
Gainesville, Florida is well-known to be gator country—both the fans of the Florida Gators football team and the giant reptile native to the Sunshine state. You have a good chance of seeing both at Paynes Prairie State Park, especially when it’s college football season. Paynes Prairie sits just about ten miles and twenty minutes from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, with the Sweetwater Wetlands State Park in between.
Here at Paynes Prairie, you can appreciate the diverse geography and wildlife of inland Florida before, during, and after your RV tailgating adventures. The only thing more exciting than a winning touchdown at the Swamp is glimpsing wild horses while you munch on leftover Gator Bait salsa and chips and craft beers from Swamphead, a local Gainesville brewery.
“I especially like the tower that looked over the wetlands. There were also good trails that went through the campground for hiking and biking (and like I mentioned above, a beautiful trail along the prairie. Dogs were not allowed on this trail). A nearby lake allowed for fishing and kayaking, canoeing and boating.” —The Dyrt camper Malaney H.Camp Here
6. Cajun Country Campground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Just across the Mississippi River from Tiger Stadium, Cajun Country Campground is popular with snowbirds and football fans alike. They have 135 RV sites with hookups, as well as seven cabins, a playground, game room, and clubhouse. There’s also a concession stand if you find yourself short of more grub to throw on your outdoor stove.
Of course, there’s not too much chance of you going hungry. As anyone who’s been to Louisiana knows, Cajuns know how to eat well, and right up there with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Mardi Gras on the Baton Rouge calendar is the annual Taste of Tiger Tailgating event at the start of every year’s football season. Not only that, all season long Ruby Slippers, a Louisiana institution, serves up their famous biscuits and bacon in special Game Day Tailgate Brunch Boxes. You might just have to roll back to the Cajun Country Campground after the final play.
“The park is nice and quiet. Staff is nice. The grass and grounds are kept up very well. There’s picnic tables and fire pits. Laundromat is on site. RV spots are large.” –The Dyrt camper Jensen K.Camp Here
7. South Bend Elkhart North KOA in Notre Dame, Indiana
Notre Dame’s very first game was against Michigan in 1887, and the Fighting Irish have been an important part of college football ever since. In the 132 years since, Notre Dame has had plenty of time to develop its delicious pre-game traditions, including its own version of tailgating called the Notre Dame Smokers, a booster rally where the beer and wine flows, the Italian potato salad is plentiful, and fans get extra excited for the season to come.
Camp close to all the action at South Bend Elkhart North KOA, eight miles from Notre Dame Stadium. It’s been a hub for RV tailgating during football season for decades, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance. There are a few cabins, too, as well as tailgate ready concessions like Hunt Brothers Pizzas, Wingbites, cheese bread and Jalapeno Poppers. If you’ve got children or grandkids in tow, they’ll love the on-site mini golf park, glowstick wagon rides, and PG movie screenings on Saturday nights.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack an extra bag of marshmallows— one for the s’mores and one to pelt fellow Irish fans during the last home game of the season. It’s a student section tradition.Camp Here
8. Pinckney State Recreation Area in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Speaking of that 1887 faceoff, the University of Michigan has its own football traditions over at The Big House, as their stadium is affectionately called. Grab a hearty breakfast at the Fleetwood Diner, which is open 24 hours. You’ll need the baselayer to prepare for a solid eight hours of tailgating— Wolverines get started early.
You might want to check out the tailgating scene at Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, which is a longstanding tradition and site to behold. See if you can catch a glimpse, too, of the Blue Loonies’ famous ambulance, converted to hold a giant grill. Of course, you can rock your own outdoor stove to prep beer-braised brats and chili. Friends and family tailgates are just as popular and common as the big location-centric events. Just don’t let any Michiganders catch you eating a Buckeye candy for dessert!
Walk off your tailgating fare at Pinckney State Recreation Area. It’s a 30 minute drive from Ann Arbor, but you’ll have a chance to really relax, get some exercise, and see how pretty eastern Michigan can be. Whether you brought the rig along for RV tailgating, or need to find some post-game accommodations, Pinckney has you covered.
“There are multiple camping opportunities with a variety of camping styles. Yurt rental, to hike-in rustic sites, there’s good camping for anyone. A 35 mile hiking trail runs through the entire area with small day trails branching off to points of interest, all with corresponding camp sites. It has good isolation, but not far from creature comforts either.” — The Dyrt camper Greg F.Camp Here
9. Pecan Grove RV Park in Austin, Texas
A live steer for a mascot, the firing of a replica Civil War cannon, the world’s largest Texas flag, and an annual event called The Big Yell— there’s no doubt about it, even college football traditions are more epic in Texas. There are professional, ticketed tailgating events you can take part in, or Longhorns fans can join in on the “crews” that organize various amateur tailgate parties. There’s also the official tailgate parties organized by the University of Texas for alumni, the UT club, the Legends Club, and the general public.
If that sounds like the makings of an incredible weekend, you’re in luck. If you want to hit the town, The Pecan Grove RV Park is within walking distance of all the fun to be had at Ladybird Lake and Austin’s famous Dirty Sixth Street. Many of the bars, hotels, and restaurants along this strip know how to throw down for tailgating, too. backYARD at Waller Creek has been known to project Longhorns games onto the big screen, for example, while Hotel Ella does a luxury take on tailgating. Cain and Abel’s Texas Tea is a must on game day, or you can swing by The Family Business brewpub for a frosty one.
“This campground is run by a lovely older gentleman who only does reservations over the phone. The park is a lot of seasonal, but there are a number of spots available for travelers. It’s a tight fit around the solitary loop and would probably be difficult with a big rig. But we paid $45 a night to be within walking distance of 6th street and much of downtown. Worth it for that alone.” — The Dyrt camper Jessica C.Camp Here
10. Hollywood KOA in Miami, Florida
It takes more dedication to tailgate some games than others. Up north, fans weather brutal cold, snow, and ice to cheer their teams on. In Miami, it’s a slightly different story. Hurricanes fans brave the tropical heat, Florida’s famously sudden rain showers, and a commute from campus to the Hard Rock Stadium to show off their swagger. That dedication shows in their approach to tailgating, too, with fraternity-sponsored cookouts and transportation to the stadium no matter how early the game starts. We suggest skipping the co-ed burgers and dogs in favor of caja chinas with Cuban-style roast pork and churrasco dripping with mojo sauce.
There is no shortage of RV parks in Miami, but Hollywood KOA is closest to the Hard Rock Stadium and all the game day action. They have a laundry room, a small store, showers, restrooms, and a pet-friendly policy for your #DyrtDog, and are only 5 miles from Hollywood Beach and the Broadwalk. Hollywood is hardly the backcountry, being only 10-15 minutes down the turnpike from the stadium in the heart of the Ft. Lauderdale-Miami metro area. That said, you can get a dose of the great outdoors halfway between the KOA and ‘Cane central at Snake Warrior Island Natural Area, which is popular with birders and hikers.Camp Here
11. Riverside RV Park in Boise, Idaho
Tailgating for the Boise Broncos has never been more popular, leading Boise State to set up the brand new Ford Tailgate Zone on Dechevrieux Field, where the Broncos practice. That area includes private, reservable tailgate space as well as space for the general public that can accommodate food trucks, kids activities, and big screens to keep track of the action over at Albertson Stadium.
The Bronco Athletic Association also offers overnight RV permits that include shuttle service to and from Albertson. If you want to kick it old school, however, head to Boise Riverside RV Park for some RV tailgating, just 25 minutes away on the Boise River. There’s a large common area with a nice stone grill if you’re rooting for the Bronc’s with a group. You can also take a stroll when you get too full along the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt, which borders the RV park.
“This RV Camping Site is AWESOME! They do allow tent camping and have cabins. They have full hookups for RVs as well. There is a lower rate for “back-ins” to the Boise River Greenbelt. They also have a higher rate for Pull Through Sites for RVs. There is so much to do in the area. Biking, hiking, walking along the Boise River.”—The Dyrt camper Ed. E.Camp Here
12. Team RV Park in Athens, Georgia
Bulldogs fans take tailgating seriously enough that Team RV Park was built not just for campers, but specifically for the huge number of RVers who love showing up for Georgia games. Set up behind Team Biscuits & Burgers, which for years has been serving up the titular menu items and other game day favorites like hot wings. It’s close to the grocery store if you want to stock up for your own RV tailgating treats, and you can reserve your spot for the whole season if you want.
Team RV Park is also just two miles from Sanford Stadium, with shuttle transportation provided and additional parking for family and friends. That’s way simpler (and cheaper!) than scoring one of the RV passes from the UGA Tailgate Club, and you don’t have to worry about the Quad’s restrictions on outdoor stoves, smokers, grills, and fryers. You also don’t have to worry about safely getting back to your rig after a day-long marathon of celebratory libations.Camp Here
13. Twin Lakes Campground in Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson won the 2012 Southern Living “Best Southern Tailgate” award and has routinely come in the top five in the years since. So what makes a Tigers tailgate so magical? For one, your ticket lets you go back to the parking lot at halftime to scarf some more boiled peanuts and cans of beer from Swamp Cabbage Brewing Co.
For another, the tiny town of Clemson—normally a population of 14,000—swells in size on game days to over 80,000 in number, turning this Southern college town into football city. Not bad, considering college football attendance has been down slightly overall in recent years— except at Clemson, where, according to the Greenville News, there has only been a decrease of one quarter of a percent.
Camp nearby at Twin Lakes, where you can enjoy a variety of outdoor pastimes when you aren’t RV tailgating before a Tigers game.
“It is a very family friendly site that is always a favorite. The lake isn’t the cleanest but it’s great for boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding. The biggest plus for me is that it is a short distance from Fants Grove and T Ed Garrison arena.” –The Dyrt camper Maddie P.Camp Here
14. Lake Bryan Campground in College Station, Texas
How can you tell you’re in Aggie country? When everyone is (good-naturedly) yelling at you. It’s a special part of A&M tradition that fans yell instead of cheer, even gathering for The Midnight Yell before every game day. The tailgate treats you’ll find served up throughout College Station are just as fierce, from gourmet takes on jalapeño poppers to a variety of dishes inspired by opponents’ mascots. You’ll find equal measures of southern hospitality, however, so never fear.
You can get an on-campus RV permit for one of several RV tailgating areas set up on campus, but unsurprisingly, it can be competitive to snag a spot. That’s why Texas A&M opens the waiting list as early as May, and has a points system based on attendance and adherence to check in procedure to determine which permits get renewed season to season. There’s also an RV Exchange to help circulate permits and streamline resale of parking spots.
It can be much cheaper and more chill to camp out at Lake Bryan just twenty minutes outside College Station. This huge man-made lake, managed by the local utility company, is popular with boaters, kayakers, and SUPpers, and has a variety of RV campsites to choose from.
“While the camp spots are few, this area gets extra points for its walking/running/biking trails. The park is open 365 days of the year and is first-come, first-serve on sites. Only $10 for the night. Check out the Lakeside Icehouse for events and live music throughout the year. Several local triathletes train in open water here as well.” –The Dyrt camper Gretchen N.Camp Here
15. Bellefonte / State College KOA at State College, Pennsylvania
You never know what might happen at a Penn State tailgate, with occasional appearances by state troopers on horseback and even a low-flying police helicopter. The crowd on game day is over twice the size of State College, Pennsylvania’s usual population, and few teams inspire quite the level of loyalty as the Nittany Lions. So grab a beer at The Phyrst—a classic sports bar that has been open since the 1960s—load up on sausage and peppers or a Philly cheesesteak, and let the game day magic wash over you.
If you don’t want to deal with the crowds in State College proper, head up to Bellefonte/State College KOA. It’s close enough to be convenient and has all the amenities you might expect from a KOA. Just err on the side of caution if you’re driving an especially large RV or camper—apparently the drive in can be a little tight.
“Very peaceful and quiet, but close to State College (a must since we were in town for a Penn State game). Once we were in it, I even loved our site once we were in it. It was very secluded, private, quiet and woodsy.” –The Dyrt camper Gayle B.Camp Here
16. Big Oak RV Park in Tallahassee, Florida
Florida State is another university that is leaning in to the popularity of pre-game tailgates. This year, FSU announced the “Back Porch,” a new area at Doak Campbell Stadium where ticket holders can order beer and snacks. That’s on top of other game day innovations from FSU like The Tailgate Guys, a catering service designed to plug Seminoles fans in to Tallahassee’s food and beverage scene hassle-free, and mainstays like Madison Social, a popular bar that keeps the whiskey flowing. And of course, don’t forget to kick things off a little early at the famous Tallahassee Downtown Get-Down, a pep rally put on by the city.
You can easily drive or take the bus from Doak Campbell Stadium to Big Oak RV Park, a super convenient campground right next door to the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park. Also nearby is Ochlockonee River Wildlife Management Area, and Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area. You can learn just as much about the land and history of the Seminole people, who have sanctioned FSU’s use of their tribal name and depictions of Osceola, the FSU mascot and a real-life Native leader.Camp Here
17. Rebel RV Park at Oxford, Mississippi
Given that the Ole Miss football team are called The Rebels, it’s safe to say their sense of tradition goes way back. Some have catch names like the Walk of Champions. Others are so much a part of the Ole Miss experience they are basically synonymous, like the seriously epic spreads at the Grove’s car-and-RV-free lawn. That’s right, your rig can’t be part of the Grove tailgating experience, but that means there’s even more room for Delta tamales, Louisiana étouffée, Alabama sausage balls, and hot toddies.
You can park your rig at the aptly-named Rebel RV Park, however, a well-appointed RV park with nice extras like a live-in manager, a store where you can get camping and RV supplies, a grill at each campsite, mini-golf, and even a paintball course. There’s a slew of taxi services you can use you get down to The Grove when it’s game time. You’ll be a hop skip and a jump from Sardis Lake, as well as Holly Springs National Forest, just in case you want to follow up all the football with fields and groves of a different sort.Camp Here
18. Dixie Caverns in Blacksburg, Virginia
Hokie fans have a couple different options for RV tailgating near Lane Stadium. There’s the special parking lots for Hokie Club members, as well as Public RV parking at the Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive Airport, University Golf Course, and Lot 17. Virginia Tech has even arranged rentable space for fans who want to store their RVs near campus outside of football season.
Whether you go this route or are just visiting parties thrown by those who have their rigs lined up at the Drill Field, follow the scent of deep-fried turkey wafting on the breeze. While it’s pretty common to see football fans eat dishes based on their rival’s mascots at other schools and tailgates, Hokies are unique in their tradition of eating foods reminiscent of the mysterious Hokiebird.
If tailgating Virginia Tech gives you an appetite not just for turkey, but adventure, too, skip the crowded lots on campus, and enjoy RV tailgating at Dixie Caverns. You’ll have a chance to explore the local caves, and can follow up football with a trip to George Washington and Jefferson National Forest where there are lovely swimming holes and hiking trails, or on to the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is a couple hours away.Camp Here
19. Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse, New York
Camping and sports go hand-in-hand at Syracuse University, where it’s long been a tradition for loyal students to camp out at the Carrier Dome in hopes of scoring coveted tickets to university games. It’s become such a part of Syracuse culture that prospective students have been invited to camp out at the Carrier Dome and get a taste of what it’s like to be part of Otto’s Army.
Camping out with a tailgate grill at the Carrier Dome might not be available for the general public, but tailgating is the next best thing. Fortify yourself for a day of party-hopping with brunch at Funk and Waffles on Syracuse’s legendary Marshall Street. If you need to refuel later the day, go to DJ’s on the Hill, right across the alley from the Funk and a favorite amongst Syracuse sports bars.
If firing up your own tailgate grill sounds more like your speed, park your RV and light your tailgate grill at Green Lakes State Park just on the edge of Syracuse. In the summer months, Green Lakes is popular for its lifeguard-observed beach, kayaking, and SUPing. Year round, it’s favored for its RV sites, cabins, camp store, and friendly atmosphere.
“The sites are nice, some are little close to each other but nice for group camping. A short distance (walk or by car) to the beach. The lake is a little chilly sometimes but very refreshing. There are hiking trails around the two lakes and the beach has lifeguards. Very well maintained.” –The Dyrt camper Mary H.Camp Here
20. Apache Palms RV Park in Tempe, Arizona
Kegs may have gotten kicked off the lot outside Sun Devil Stadium, but tailgate culture at Arizona State is still going strong. Camp close to all the action and throw an RV tailgating party at Apache Palms RV Park. Apache Peaks is game day ready with free WiFi & Cable TV, big-rig friendly pull-thru sites with full hookups, and Elite Sites that include picnic tables and a tailgate grill. What it lacks in backcountry wilderness it makes up for in easy access to Sun Devil Stadium via the Phoenix metro area’s fantastic light rail system.
Not only that, you are super close to Four Peaks Brewing, which admittedly has more Minnesota Vikings and Elvis paraphernalia on display than anything with ASU’s Sparky on it. Still, it’s a great place to grab a local brew before the game. Afterwards, you can hike off all the beer and hot wings at Hayden Butte, which has a 60 foot letter A to honor the Sun Devils.Camp Here