A question was raised in this week's mailbag by a first-time tailgater on where they should be looking to set up. Ben deferred to me on that one, given that I was more familiar with the campus, and I told him that it was probably too much info to include as a mailbag answer.
That being said, a couple of years ago, we did a once-a-week write up on different tailgating spots around campus called the "Tuesday Tailgate"...because, you know, it came out on Tuesdays and I wanted to give it a clever name. Anyways, this post will contain a lot of the information that those posts did, but I'll try to trim it down a bit. But, without further ado, here are ten of the top tailgating spots around campus, including nearby "facilities" as well as distance to the stadium (in normal units, time walking, and golf units).
(1) The IC Lawn
Nearby "Facilities": The Campus Recreation Center, the Student Center, the IC (restricted access)
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: About half a mile, 10-15 minutes walking, a couple of par-5s
Many an alumnus and sidewalk fan alike can be found in this area, tearing it up the old-fashioned way. The area comes complete with beer, grills, food, bourbon, families, and tailgate games as far as the eye can see. Enjoy some of the great community that goes on here prior to heading over to the game. Afterwards, head back this way and (after a pit stop at the Student Center) join one of the RVs parked nearby to catch up on all of the action that went on while you were at the game. Make sure you say hello to the guy who flies two flags from his car every week -- one of Georgia Tech, and one of the team playing georgia. Also, stop in and say 'hey' to my parents while you're there -- this is their spot to tailgate. Young or old, alumnus or sidewalk fan, I guarantee you a good time if you tailgate in this area.
(2) Fifth Street Bridge
Nearby Facilities: Greek Houses, Waffle House, Barnes & Noble @ Georgia Tech
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: .3 miles, 5 minutes walking, a LONG par 5
This area tends to be filled with young alumni, particularly Greek alumni, although there are the occasional families here too. It's in a great location -- in easy walking distance from the Greek sector (in case you need to use the bathroom or want to bring beer to your fraternity brothers), Waffle House (breakfast of champions on game day), and Barnes & Noble (for all of your expensive game day apparel needs). Walking across the Fifth Street Bridge reveals countless tents, cornhole boards, and progressively emptying coolers. Drink of choice here? I can't be sure, but my guess is it's a mix of almost purely beer and strongly-mixed whiskey drinks. If you want a fun experience with some die-hard Tech fans, the Fifth Street Bridge is for you.
(3) Nanotech Parking Lot
Nearby "Facilities": Port-A-Potties, Trees, Police Station, Campus Buildings (with access)
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: .75 miles, ~15 minutes, a few par-5s
Let's make one thing clear -- this experience is not for everyone. From my understanding, the folks who have the best time in the Nanotech Parking Lot tend to be recent graduates who don't want to do the "family" thing and haven't really "grown up" yet. They'd much rather relive the glory days a few times every fall. When tailgating here, you might want to just pass on the beer and go straight for liquor drinks. (The "15 minute walk" estimation is assuming you can walk straight.) Bring a dish to share, just not pizza dip (yes, this was the scene of the crime). Enjoy the pre-game festivities with some really fun folks, and enjoy the quick outlet from campus after the game!
(4) Tech Tower Lawn
Nearby "Facilities": Tech Tower, Highland Bakery (RIP Junior's), Bobby Dodd Stadium, Library
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: ~100 Yards, 90 seconds, Less than a 9 iron
Last week, we profiled an area that's good for kids who have graduated college but haven't really mentally left yet. This week, we profile the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This is the place where you're going to drink your foreign coffees and teas, fine wines, and champagnes (pinkie finger up, of course) while schmoozing some prominent alumni who might have graduated right around the time we sent troops to Vietnam. They're incredibly successful but not a lot of fun, but that's OK because they might make you rich too if they like you enough. Stop in and catch up with President Peterson, Dean Stein, and other important folks. Don't forget your monocle, tie, and British accent -- all crucial parts of the Tech Tower Lawn tailgating experience.
(5) Center Campus -- Student Center, CULC Lawn
Nearby "Facilities": Student Center, Flag Building, Ferst Theater, Clough Building
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: .4 miles, 10-12 minutes, a couple of par-4s
This is a spot that has picked up a lot of steam in recent years, and with good reason. Center Campus has recently been home to a couple of fraternities (and their alumni) who don't have the luxury of having a house at which they can tailgate. Don't let that fool you though -- I've encountered giant barrel smokers, home-brewed beer, and just about any type of tailgate game I've seen here. In short, these guys do it right. In addition, the CULC Lawn (a.k.a. Tech Green) is the site where the Tailgate Guys set up last year and will continue to do so this year. They also have the privilege of being right next to a parking lot, meaning they can tailgate near their car while still having a nice grass patch for activities. Oh, and don't forget that they're right next to the Campanile, home of the Marching Band around an hour before kickoff.
(6) Russ Chandler Stadium Lawn
Nearby "Facilities": Ford Building, Whitaker Building, Klaus Building, Greek Housing
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: .4 miles, 5-7 minutes walking, a couple of par-4s
This isn't the most popular spot on campus to tailgate, but don't make any assumptions based on that statement. The group who tailgates here is the few and the proud. They do it right -- complete with tailgate games, team-themed tents, and plenty of cold beverages. Honestly, it's probably the most well-rounded spot on campus: reasonable walking distance, plenty of facilities available, full tailgating experience, and still family-friendly. I wouldn't say it's #1 in any of the above categories, but it ranks near the top of each list, making this a truly solid tailgating spot before a home game.
(7) The Greek Sector
Nearby "Facilities": Exterior of Any Nearby Rival House
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: Varied, up to .3 miles (30 seconds-5 minutes), a sand wedge to a par-5
I'm not sure anyone's ever done a survey or anything, but if they did I bet they'd find out that one out of three tailgaters on game day could be found in the Greek sector. Between so many alumni supporters of Georgia Tech athletics who have Greek connections, and so many student supporters of Georgia Tech athletics who are Greek, it makes sense that a large percentage of pre-game festivities would be concentrated here. As far as an experience, it's..."unrefined", we'll say. Between college kids binge drinking, some guys wearing nothing but boxers and ties, and loud, occasionally inappropriate music -- this experience may not be for everyone. If you're trying to bring your kids to tailgate with you...maybe pick another place. Bringing that new lady on a date with you to a game and trying to impress her? If you picked the Greek Sector to do more than just stop by, you might need to reconsider.
I gotta say though, after five years of Greek Sector tailgating, it's a great way to start any game day. If you're a student who's not in a fraternity or sorority, but you have friends in one of the houses, I'd recommend heading over at least once, if only for the experience. (Also, to any parents who regularly attend games -- this is a GREAT place to get cheap parking in a prime location. Just...don't judge your kids while there.)
(8) Peters Parking Deck
Nearby "Facilities": Port-A-Potty options, Greek Housing, Bobby Dodd Stadium
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: ~150 yards, 2 minutes, roughly a 6 iron
If you're looking for a parking and tailgating spot, you're not going to get much closer than the parking deck found directly in the shadow of the north stands. Peters is a great location in that there's a ton of room to park and tailgate, while not having to be too far away from the stadium. Perfect for those families with kids who won't want to walk very far, Peters affords a great opportunity to do just that. Without ever having been there to tailgate, my guess is that Peters ends up being more of a family crowd, meaning your beverage choice will more than likely be along the lines of "6-pack" than "liquor drinks".
(9) Techwood Drive
Nearby "Facilities": Greek Houses, Campus Ministry Centers (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist), Campus Housing
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: ~200 Yards, 2 minutes, 5 wood
To tell you the truth, I think I'd be honored if someone who regularly tailgates in this area is a reader of my unworthy publication. If you tailgate on Techwood Drive, you're the most serious of Tech fans. You have a customized vehicle (such as a fire engine or RV), a spot reserved just for you, and probably a pretty cool name (such as the "Conyers Mafia"). You are the most revered of all Tech fans as 55,000 of your best friends make their way past your site to join you in the stands. You hold Tech tradition close to your heart and prepare for every game like it's your last, with a nice bottle of whiskey and the occasional splash of Coke. You're even tempted to "start 'em young" on your aforementioned favorite tradition, and then realize that you might be taking it a little far.
If your pregame tradition includes reading this site, we are truly honored and would love to hear about it. I would also love to meet you, if given the chance. (Also, if you tailgate anywhere else or don't tailgate at all, I would probably like to meet you too. Just as a disclaimer.)
(10) Yellow Jacket Alley
Nearby "Facilities": Campus Ministry Centers (Catholic, Methodist, Baptist Centers), Greek Houses, Mobile "Facilities"
Distance to Bobby Dodd Stadium: ~100 Yards (30-40 seconds), maybe a 9-iron
Where better on campus to tailgate than the place that you don't even have to leave to see the players and coaches walk by on their way to the stadium? Two hours before game time, wish all of the guys best of luck as they march from the bus into the stadium! Resume your tailgating, and when the time comes, stroll roughly the length of a football field and go cheer them on some more. Not to mention the proximity to all of the pregame festivities on Peters Parking Deck, the Greek sector, and on and on. This area is truly the center of attention on game day. Pregame refreshments will either include stiff bourbon drinks or a six pack of craft brew -- which one will be determined by age of the tailgater in question and "family situation".
You tell me, Tech fans. Did I miss any areas? Where do you tailgate? Did I misrepresent your area? Got any tips for specific spots on campus?