The Clemson Tigers are about to play their first full schedule since winning the College Football Playoff National Championship for the 2019 season. That means tailgating at Clemson University is about to roar back in shades of orange and purple.
Clemson University’s tailgating tradition is arguably the strongest in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s intense and spirited, even as it’s welcoming and friendly to new faces in the crowd.
In this guide, we’ll steer you through some of the top tips on getting the most out of your game-day party while exploring how to get the best tailgating service at Clemson University.
Before Game Day
Clemson Tigers’ 2021 Home Schedule
Here’s what the Clemson Tigers’ 2021 home schedule looks like (all games are on Saturdays):
- Sept. 11 – South Carolina State
- Sept. 18 – Georgia Tech
- Oct. 2 – Boston College
- Oct. 30 – Florida State
- Nov. 13 – UConn
- Nov. 20 – Wake Forest
Rivalry games: Everyone wants a piece of Clemson, with their two national championships in the last five years and recent dominance in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Three of their biggest rivals — Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Florida State — travel to Memorial Stadium in 2021.
Clemson games are, as you might expect, big-ticket events. Season ticket holders get priority. The University has a late April deadline just to apply for season tickets.
It’s always best to buy single-game tickets in advance. Although Clemson ranks among the NCAA’s top teams in attendance, there’s always a chance that game-day tickets will be available. Visit Clemson’s online ticket page to find out more.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
Getting to Clemson, SC
Driving: I-85 is the interstate route closest to Clemson. Exit onto U.S. Route 76 and travel about 13 miles north to South Carolina Route 93. Follow the signs to Memorial Stadium. U.S. Route 123 also connects with Route 93.
Air: Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP) is the airport closest to Clemson, about 50 miles northeast of the campus. They primarily serve other large Southern cities, like Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston, as well as Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, and Newark. Passengers from other areas may fly to Atlanta or Charlotte and connect to GSP.
Rail: Amtrak’s Crescent Route stops in Clemson, with a station on Tiger Boulevard less than 2 miles from Death Valley.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
Several hotels are within a couple of miles from Memorial Stadium, including Clemson University’s own Conference Center & Inn. Other nearby accommodations include the Hampton Inn, the Abernathy, the Inn at Patrick Square, Hotel Tillman, and other hotel chains. Here’s TripAdvisor’s list of the closest hotels. Rooms fill up fast for Tigers football games, so make reservations as soon as you get your plans firmed up.
If you’re hosting your own tailgate party, it’s best to avoid the closest hotels and go for an Airbnb, motor inn, or another place that has room for your equipment, and a kitchen to prep your food!
Getting to Memorial Stadium
Clemson Area Transit (CAT, as in Tigers) serves the University directly with several stops on campus and in town. It’s free for everyone. Amtrak passengers can hop on the Red Route at the Clemson depot and go straight to campus.
Check out Clemson’s webpage about traveling to and getting around the University, as well as their local transit services page.
How to Tailgate at Clemson University
Go ahead and raise your expectations for tailgating at Clemson. 247Sports ranked the Tigers tailgating experience as the 8th best in the country in 2020 (despite there being no tailgating that year). The orange sea starts trickling in on Thursday and Friday, reaches full craziness on Saturday, and doesn’t stop when the game ends. Here are where the hotspots for tailgating service at Clemson University can be found and what you can do when you get there.
Where to Tailgate at Clemson University
Parking lots are officially open at 6:00 am on normal game days, when kickoff is at 1 pm. On days with alternate kickoff times, they open at 8:00 am. 15,000 spaces are leased to season-ticket holders, but there are plenty of other parking options available close by.
Frankly, any site with an orange glow and a food prep table is likely a great party spot. Clemson’s tailgaters take over the whole town for Saturday home games, and they’re very big on Southern hospitality, especially to visitors.
Tillman Hill, Cemetery Hill, and Lot PBX are some of the spots Tigers fans gravitate toward. But honestly, finding a great spot for tailgating at Clemson University is far from the hardest task you’ll ever take on.
Tigers fans with RVs will want to check out the Clemson RV Park at The Grove. It’s four miles from the stadium, but it’s touted as “a one of a kind camping and tailgating experience.” They’re a little pricey during football season, but offer catered meals, Friday night entertainment, and shuttles to the game.
Tailgating at Clemson University: Rules and Tips
Compared to other schools, Clemson University is fairly easy on tailgaters in terms of rules and regulations. There are a few, though, including these:
- All driving aisles must be kept clear
- Tailgating is allowed only in spaces behind vehicles
- Portable generators are allowed, but they can’t be louder than 70dBs
- No bands, PA equipment, or gigantic speakers
Here are more of Clemson’s tailgating guidelines from 2019 — they should be at least somewhat the same in 2021.
Tailgating at Clemson University: Traditions
Besides draping themselves in orange with purple accents, Tigers fans embrace a couple of game-day traditions during the football season.
The Tiger Walk in the P-3 parking lot starts two hours before game time. It’s where the players walk into Memorial Stadium, exchanging greetings with the mob of fans around them. The Tiger Band also plays a brief concert in the nearby outdoor theater an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.
If you’re lucky enough to attend the Clemson Homecoming game (this year it’s against Boston College on Oct. 2), head to Bowman Field to see a ridiculously colorful and large assortment of floats. Also look for Tigerama, the annual pep rally that includes player skits, performances, and fireworks.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
Bars Near Memorial Stadium
The Esso Club is not just a favorite bar of Clemson locals: According to ESPN, it’s one of the best sports bars in the U.S. Game days at the Esso Club — a former gas station that started serving drinks on the day Prohibition ended in 1933 — are absolute masterpieces of celebration less than a half-mile from campus. It gets crowded. We’ll leave it at that.
Restaurants Near Memorial Stadium
Good game-day grub is plentiful around Memorial Stadium. Students and alumni flock to TD’s of Clemson and its impressive array of chicken wings options. They also flock to Nick’s Tavern & Deli for its unusually good sandwiches and high-grade pub food.
If you’re venturing a bit further from the University, stop at the historic Mac’s Drive-In — no other restaurant is as tied to the city of Clemson as this classic, short-order burger joint.
Look at some of the diverse restaurant options near the University.
Clemson Gameday Gear
With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Clemson Tigers game day gear to rep at your tailgate.
If you want to rep Clemson with your pop-up tent, this is a great option from Logo Brands that you can find on Amazon. Linked here. Or if you want to opt for a plain colored tent, and spruce up your tailgate with other Clemson items, check out our Best Tailgate Tents: 2021 guide.
These Logo Brand tailgate chairs are great. There are quite a few ‘fancier’ chairs out there, but these are all you need for a tailgate party. For the most part, you’re hardly even sitting. You can find them here.
If you’re a small group of tailgaters behind your vehicle – I love this 3-piece chair and table set. It’s great for a nice get-together with you and a friend! Linked here.
For the grill master in your group – these are a great way to rep your team all summer! They’d make for a great Father’s Day gift, too. Linked here.
If you want to start showing your team spirit soon, this is a great daily hat. You can find it here.
For all things attire, Fanatics: Clemson is a great place to start. They have something for every member of the family. Be sure to only buy when they have promotions running, which is quite often!
Fanatics also has a fun Tailgater & Party section that has cute decorations, car decals, and tailgate games. Outside of cornhole (bags) games, I’d stick to Amazon for your bigger tailgate items like tents, tables, chairs, etc. Or your actual team’s ticket office.
If you’re thinking of upgrading some of your basic equipment, be sure to check out the following blogs:
Tailgating at Clemson University is a rite of passage for South Carolina football fans. With its sheer size, it’s also one of the most accessible college parties in the nation. It’s best to just take a deep breath and dive in.
Are you planning a trip out there this fall? Let us know which game you’re attending in the comments below!
Please note: Tailgater Concierge is a participant in the Amazon and Fanatics Affiliate Programs and may receive commissions on purchases. Tailgater Concierge only recommends products that we find valuable for our tailgating community! Thanks!