The Michigan State Spartans are set to resume full-season football in 2021 — and that means one of Big 10’s best game-day parties is about to restart, too. Tailgating at Michigan State University is a wide-ranging experience that consumes East Lansing on scattered Saturdays in autumn.
This guide will help you find the right places to be and things to do, along with the best sources for tailgating service at Michigan State.
Before Game Day
Spartans 2021 Home Schedule
Michigan State plays these teams at home in 2021. All games are on Saturdays.
- Sept. 11th – Youngstown State
- Sept. 25th – Nebraska
- Oct. 2nd – Kentucky State
- Oct. 30th – Michigan
- Nov. 13th – Maryland
- Nov. 27th – Penn State
Rivalry Games: The Michigan Wolverines are the Spartans’ biggest rivals, naturally. The Penn State Nittany Lions aren’t far behind. Those games will be the ones to be at this fall.
Plan to get tickets for Spartans football far in advance. The Michigan State online football ticket office has season tickets and mini-plans, along with parking passes and single-game seats.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
Michigan State is in East Lansing, a little less than 90 miles west of Detroit. Here’s how to get there from out of town, along with some of the places you can stay.
Traveling to East Lansing
Driving: Interstate 96 is the freeway that most drivers take to East Lansing; it’s a straight shot from Detroit. Some drivers take Interstate 69 or US Route 127, depending on where they’re coming from.
Air Travel: Lansing has its own airport, Capital Regional International (LAN). However, it’s not very busy and serves very few domestic cities non-stop: Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, and Minneapolis.
Most air travelers will be better off flying to Detroit Metro (DTW), and either renting a car or taking the Michigan Flyer Airport Shuttle, which gets you to East Lansing in about 2 hours for $30.
Rail: Amtrak’s Blue Waterline goes from Chicago to Port Huron, MI, and makes a stop in East Lansing.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
There are three lodging options very close to Michigan State: Candlewood Suites, Springhill Suites, and Red Roof Inn. Southwest of the university, there’s a cluster of hotels around Okemos Road near I-95, including Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard, Hampton Inn, Fairfield, and Best Western.
You can also have a look at TripAdvisor’s map of hotels near East Lansing.
Guests that are bringing their own tailgating equipment should make sure their hotel has enough room and parking space. It may be better to line up an Airbnb residential rental if it can’t or to set up a tailgate equipment rental instead.
Getting to Spartan Stadium
The regional transit system runs two bus lines from Lansing to Okemos, both of which stop near Michigan State. On game days, they offer shuttle service to and from three parking lots to Spartan Stadium beginning five hours before kickoff.
How to Tailgate at Michigan State
Tailgating at Michigan State is one of the best pre-game traditions in the Big 10. Here are some tips on where and how to do it.
Where to Tailgate at Michigan State
Michigan State has an ample number of parking lots for Spartan football fans. Depending on what time the game starts, they open at either 7 am, 9 am, or 1 pm every Saturday. Spartan Fund Donors can get season-long premium parking permits. A single-game parking pass will cost you $20.
Here’s more info on Spartan Stadium parking options.
RV parking is available at Lot 97 for $60. However, this lot doesn’t accommodate overnight stays; it opens at the same time on Saturdays as all of the other parking lots. If you’re driving a big rig, you’ll want to get to Lot 97 as early as possible on game day.
Tailgating is allowed at every public parking spot at Michigan State. There’s no “hotspot” lot party better than the others — all are filled with devoted fans and high spirits.
Other tailgating activities at MSU include the following:
North of the stadium about 90 to 120 minutes before game time, the MSU Marching Band plays a few songs for the Spartan faithful before marching over the Red Cedar River to the stadium.
Parking passes to this lot are sold by the student government, not the MSU parking authorities, so this is the primary spot for MSU student tailgaters. As such, pre-game parties in the tennis courts tend to be a bit more high-spirited (figuratively and literally) than other parking lot parties.
Meijer Fan Fest
Up until a few years ago, Munn Field was the definitive spot for MSU tailgating, but that changed after the University made it a booze-free zone. Nowadays, it’s the site of the Meijer Fan Fest, a very decent pre-game party for family-oriented types.
Tailgating at Michigan State: Rules
MSU has some regulations on tailgating, including:
- No couches (lol)
- No kegs
- No “drinking game structures”
- No trailers or pig roasters
- No tents larger than 10’ x 10’
For more official policy on tailgating at Michigan State, check out its Football Tailgating Information page.
Tailgating at Michigan State: Traditions
Michigan State has more than its share of game-day customs and activities — here are a few of the ones you shouldn’t miss.
The Spartan Walk
This begins after the band completes their Adams Field concert. They march over Red Cedar, as mascots, spirit squads, and fans progressively join in. Near Kellogg Center, Spartan players and coaches join the procession and rub the feet of the Spartan Statue to bless their playbook. Finally, they all wind up at the stadium to conduct the day’s business.
Grand River Drumline
The Spartan Drumline performs in front of the SBS Bookstore about two hours before the game. It’s a great way to get riled up for the game using the power of percussion.
Zeke the Wonder Dog
Zeke is a Labrador who apparently possesses an unearthly ability to catch Frisbees with his teeth. He has been a presence at MSU games since the 1970s and often circulates among the tailgate parties before the game, dispensing whatever mojo he may have. The Spartans are currently on their fourth Zeke. It will be nice to have him back in ’21.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
Should your search for game-day nourishment extend beyond the parking lots, here are some food and drink options in East Lansing.
Bars Near Spartan Stadium
There are a few drinking establishments north of campus, on E. Grand River Road across the Red Cedar River.
Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub crafts their own beers with organic ingredients. The Peanut Barrel is a casual, no-nonsense joint with a healthy selection of pub grub. Dublin Square is a pub that’s about as Irish as they come on this side of the Atlantic. Rick’s American Cafe is a raucous student hangout that earns its Casablanca reference.
For more drinking options, check out Google Maps’ breakdown of bars and pubs around MSU.
Restaurants Near Spartan Stadium
You’ll find a few restaurant options on Trowbridge Road near Cherry Lane Park: Woody’s Oasis for great Middle Eastern food; Swagath for fresh Indian cuisine; and Koreahouse, which also serves Japanese food.
Back north on and around Grand River Ave., you’ll find a ton of good restaurants. There’s HopCat’s classic American food, Charlie Kang’s Chinese and Korean, Georgio’s gourmet pizza slices, Omi Sushi, El Azteco’s Mexican comfort food, and a little of everything at Beggar’s Banquet.
Michigan State Gameday Gear
With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Michigan State gameday gear to rep at your tailgate.
If your pop-up tent is in need of a refresh, this is a great chance to show your team pride at your tailgate. This Logo Brands one is a solid one and can be easily purchased at Amazon. Linked here.
These Logo Brands 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.
For the grill master in your group – these are a great way to rep your team all summer! Linked here.
For all things attire Fanatics: Michigan State 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 Michigan State: Tailgate & 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 Michigan State has all the qualities you’d expect from a small-town college football atmosphere: Outsized team spirit, big-event spectacle, and more than a little loudness. Live it up.
If you’re traveling with Michigan State to any of their away games, be sure to check out our other Tailgater Guides!
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