Tailgating at the University of Texas at Austin is a tried-and-true game day experience unlike any other, as can be expected for one of the winningest programs in college football. While the Longhorns’s performance varies year to year, a few things remain consistent at the campus tailgates surrounding Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium: It’s loud, it’s usually hot, and there are a lot of people.
If you’re a first-time tailgater at a Longhorn game, it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, there is no shortage of places to hang out on and around the University of Texas campus on game day, both free and paid.
Before you head out the door, make sure you’ve got the essentials: A hat and sunglasses (again: hot!), a koozie, a clear bag (or no bag) if you’re going to the game and of course, wear lots of burnt orange (Hook ‘em Horns), and a good attitude.
If you’re looking for the official pre-game party, Bevo Boulevard, located along San Jacinto Boulevard right outside of the stadium, is where you want to start. The free street party features food trucks, games, live radio broadcasts, and Longhorns merch — all right outside of the stadium. Bevo Boulevard’s official hours vary based on the kickoff time of each game, but organizers do stick to some regularly scheduled programming: Three and a half hours before kickoff, fans can watch Bevo — the team’s live longhorn mascot — arrive at the stadium, and an hour later, the Stadium Stampede features the football team, the Longhorn Band, Texas Cheer & Pom, Hook ‘Em and occasionally the school’s Minister of Culture himself, Matthew McConaughey, arriving for the game. Pro-tip: The beer sold within Bevo Boulevard is just $5 to $6 depending on the can size, and wine spritzers are only $5 – much cheaper than inside the stadium.
If you’re bringing the kids, don’t miss Smokey’s Midway just north of the stadium. The area, named after the famed cannon the Longhorns shoot off when they score, features a Ferris wheel, various rides, street performers, fair food, and free carnival games.
Longhorn City Limits
While not officially a tailgate, Longhorn City Limits is worth checking out. Depending on the kickoff time, this free concert series on the lawn of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library might occur before or after the football game. Longhorn City Limits has featured acts like Third Eye Blind, Nelly, Charley Crockett, and Briscoe. You can also often attend a silent disco with live DJs either after the concert or after the game.
This tailgate is free for Texas Exes Alumni Association members (and free for one guest accompanying a member) and $5 for non-members, but the air conditioning alone is worth the entry fee. Located right across the street from the stadium, it’s also the only location along Bevo Boulevard with a full-service cocktail bar. Kids 17 years old and under get in free, and the tailgate opens three hours before kickoff. This tailgate is also a popular halftime spot for those attending the game who want a break from the heat (or more affordable drinks). Bars stay open through the third quarter.
Unofficial But Still Organized Tailgates
Horn-Ball Texas Tailgaters
Recognized as one of the best tailgates in the nation (according to their website), this ticketed tailgate is worth the price. Each individual game tailgate is $50 for adults and includes beer and liquor, soda and mixers, food and snacks, high-definition televisions, tables and chairs, games, fans and misters, restrooms, in-and-out privileges, swag, and coupons. It’s also organized by a group of Texas fans and alumni who have an “all are welcome” mentality and have been throwing tailgates since the late 1990s.
Tickets for those under 21 years old are $20 per game and include all of the above, minus (obviously) the booze. Season passes are $250 for adults and $100 for minors. If you’re unsure of what to expect to eat and drink at a Horn-Ball tailgate, check out the past menus online to see what you might get for your money, like breakfast tacos and barbecue sandwiches from Rudy’s Bar-B-Q.
101X & KLBJ
Austin’s rock radio stations offer a free tailgate open to the public. Located in the Scottish Rite Theater parking lot at the corner of 18th and Colorado streets, these tailgates usually have radio station swag, games, prizes, and of course, free booze to those 21 years old and up.
This donation-based tailgate is open to the public and is located across the street from Scholz Garden at the corner of 17th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard. If you’d like to attend, shoot them an email to let them know which dates you’re planning on attending and how many people are in your group.
Want to wander? Best of luck.
Unfortunately, Texas doesn’t really have the type of tailgating setup where you can just roll up to a tent and expect to get fed or boozed by strangers. (Although if you find a group of people looking friendly, shoot your shot!) Ryan Lepper, one of the organizers of Horn-Ball Texas Tailgaters, says this is something that’s changed over the years.
“[If you’re] just wandering around and, like, finding tailgates, it’s really hard at Texas,” Lepper says. “Obviously, we’re in downtown, right? There used to be a bunch of surface lots that were available off campus, but there aren’t that many anymore. And the ones that they do have are further away. So there really isn’t a central hub of tailgating like there used to be when we first started.”
Lepper says it’s still possible to wander and pop into random tailgates — but he has some advice: “Just be cool. If you walk up to somebody and you say, ‘Hey, man, can I grab a beer?’ And they say, no, be like, ‘That’s cool.’ And they give you one, be thankful for it. Be chill, be cool. Never be afraid to ask. I think that a lot of people are kind of afraid to do that.”
How to host your own tailgate
Spots for tailgaters are hard to come by these days, but UT has set up an official way to organize your own tailgate. If you want to host a tailgate for your company or a group of friends, go through the athletics department’s official “fan experience” partner, REVELxp. You can reserve full-service tailgates and have the company take care of everything for you. Prices start at $600 for a 10-by-10 tent for up to 10 guests. You can customize food, beverages and add on a television package.
Best Bars and Restaurants Nearby for Pregaming
1607 San Jacinto Boulevard
If you can only choose one spot on this list, this is the one. Opening at 10 a.m. on game days, Scholz’s tailgate features live music, DJs, beer, cocktails, a sea of burnt orange, and delicious food. Scholz is a true Austin treasure with German food and an outdoor biergarten with plenty of shade. And it’s the self-proclaimed oldest operating business in Texas, so you can brag to your friends that you saw a piece of Texas history.
2911 San Jacinto Boulevard
A neighborhood and campus favorite, this pub is open every day of the week (even holidays) and offers plenty of television screens, a bevy of local beers on tap, and one of the city’s best cheeseburgers. Plus, it’s walking distance to the stadium if you’re going to the game, and walking distance to the next spot on this list if you want to bar-hop.
2900 Duval Street
Another longtime campus staple, the Posse has been entertaining Texas fans since the ’70s. At the corner of San Jacinto and Duval , this burger-and-beer standby hosts swaths of fans in burnt orange every game day.
Some honorable mention bars to watch the game that aren’t on campus:
- The Tavern, 922 West 12th Street, West End
- Doc’s Backyard, 5207 Brodie Lane, Suite 100, Sunset Valley
- B.D. Riley’s, 1905 Aldrich Street, Mueller
The Best Foods for Tailgating
If you’re setting up your own tailgate or watching from the comfort of your home or driveway and just calling it a tailgate (because why not?), there are a few rules for what you should have on hand.
First off, you need a grill. It doesn’t really matter what you’re grilling, as long as you’re grilling. Hot dogs, bratwurst, burgers, fajitas, brisket, and ribs are all fair game. Want to stay really on-theme? Grill up some Earl Campbell sausages to channel good luck from one of Texas’s most legendary football players.
The second most important ingredient is a cold beer in your hand while you’re grilling. Any beer is fair game, whatever whets your whistle, but you get bonus points if it’s from an Austin or Texas-based brewery (Shiner Bock or Lone Star are always welcome at a tailgate). You can really lean in and stock up on the “Oklahoma Suks” beer from Independence Brewing because if there’s one thing any Texas fan knows, it’s that OU sucks.
For appetizers and snacks, you’ll want the usual: Chips, maybe some queso, salsa and guacamole, and veggie skewers or jalapeno poppers are always a welcome addition. Importantly, these should all be foods you can eat with one hand because, let’s be real, you’re not going to set down your beer.
Tailgate safely and with hope. Hook ‘em Horns.