Very few college football programs anywhere in America can boast the long and storied tradition of Stanford. The Bay Area school’s legacy of legendary football includes superstars like John Elway, Andrew Luck, and Richard Sherman. Its influence on overall football philosophy is enormous thanks to head coaches like Bill Walsh and “Pop” Warner.
And to our knowledge, they’re the only school in the country with a redwood tree for a mascot (albeit an “unofficial” one).
On top of all that, tailgating at Stanford is downright beautiful. The spectacular campus is filled with greenery, the celebrations are spirited and humorous, and the options for food, beverages, and fun are incredibly diverse. Throw in the warm California autumn climate, and there is no place you’d rather be.
In this guide, we’ll tell you some ways to enhance your game weekend experience, with tips on preparing, traveling, and enjoying the first-rate tailgating experience at Stanford.
Before Game Day
Cardinal 2021 Home Schedule
The Cardinal will play each of these teams at Stanford Stadium in the fall of 2021. All games are on Saturday, except where noted:
- Sept. 25th – UCLA
- Oct. 2nd – Oregon
- Oct. 30th – Washington
- Nov. 5th (Friday) – Utah
- Nov. 20th – California
- Nov. 27th – Notre Dame
Rivalry Games: The Big Game against Cal on Nov. 20 will have all of Northern California glued to their screens. Don’t miss Stanford’s annual clash with Notre Dame for the Legends Trophy, either.
Stanford Stadium has a surprisingly low capacity of 50,000 — needless to say, it fills up quickly on game day. Get your tickets as far ahead in advance as possible. The Stanford ticket office has options for season tickets, mini-plans, group sales, and single games.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
Stanford University is in Santa Clara County at the south end of the San Francisco Bay. Here are directions on how to get there and where to stay.
Traveling to Stanford
Driving: The Bay Area is a sprawling metropolis served by a dense highway system. US Route 101 and I-280 are the two major highways closest to Stanford. Whatever highway you take to Santa Clara County, you’ll find it easy to get to either one.
Air Travel: Stanford is almost equidistant to two major international airports: San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose Mineta (SJC). SFO is the bigger airport, serving just about every big city in the U.S. But SJC has plenty of nonstop options as well and is better served by public transit.
It’s worth looking into whether your nearest airport offers options to fly directly to San Jose if you don’t plan to rent a car.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
Stanford has a virtual Hotel Row along California State Route 82. Near the north end, you’ll find Best Western Plus Riviera, Menlo Park Inn, Hotel Keen, and Best Western Plus Executive Suites. Further south are Hotel Parmani, Stanford Motor Inn, Creekside Inn, and Crowne Plaza Cabana Palo Alto. And those are the cheaper options — you’ll also find some of the better-known, pricier chains nearby.
Here are TripAdvisor’s suggestions for Stanford-area hotels.
If you’re bringing your own tailgating rig, consider a motor inn or an Airbnb residential reservation. Or if you’re looking to host a tailgate in general, getting an Airbnb so you have access to a kitchen to prep is a must.
Getting to Stanford Stadium
Stanford is an extremely easy place to get to via public transit. On game days, Caltrain makes a stop right at Stanford Stadium. Riders on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) can take the railway to Millbrae Station, where they can connect to a bus or train to Stanford. For more information, check out Stanford’s transportation page.
How to Tailgate at Stanford
Tailgating at Stanford happens in one of the most stunningly beautiful environments in the NCAA. A grass-filled, tree-dotted campus, passionate fans, and a great variety of food, beverages, and entertainment make it a first-rate pre-game destination.
Where to Tailgate at Stanford
The Cardinal Lots, closest to the stadium, are for premium, season-long pass holders. Single-game parking is available in the General Lots just outside. There are also five lots for RV parking and two of them offer game-day permit purchases.
Tailgating is allowed on all University parking lots. Most of them are all grass — no concrete beneath your feet. Each of them opens five hours before kickoff or noon, whichever is earlier. RV Lot #2, which borders the stadium, allows overnight parking beginning at 3 p.m. two days before the game. That’s unusually early.
Look for “Toby the Van” somewhere in Lot #2 — it’s a party-within-a-party that you can enter for $10 or $20. That donation gets you all the eatables and drinkables you need.
Fan Fest is located near the practice fields by the Arrillaga Sports Center. It’s a family-friendly tailgate party featuring pre-game entertainment and service from a diverse selection of Bay Area food trucks.
Tailgating at Stanford: Traditions
The Stanford Cardinal’s march to the stadium is a nearly century-old tradition. Two hours before the game, team players, coaches, and the marching band walk from Arrillaga Family Sports Center to Gate 1 as Cardinal faithful cheer, applaud, and make various whooping sounds to encourage them.
Big Game Week
The importance of the Big Game against Cal can’t be overstated. It’s practically a week-long, highly spirited, organized party and prolonged insult of the Golden Bears.
On the Monday before the game, the Cal mascot Oski is impaled in a ritual called the “Bearial” near Claw Fountain. The night before the game, students hold a special pep rally on campus.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
Since the Cardinal plays for one of the most diverse and globally significant colleges in the world, there are diverse options for food and drink in the immediate area.
Bars Near Stanford Stadium
Outside of game day, Stanford is a school that tends to party in moderation. For that reason, there aren’t many drinking establishments too close to campus. But a few bars in the general area may be prime spots to watch the game in a semi-tailgate-ish setting.
The Old Pro in Palo Alto is the sports bar closest to Stanford. It has several brews on tap and a special menu for game days. The Patio is a sprawling pub with three outdoor seating areas and plenty of TVs. Hidden Tap and Barrel is an upscale bar with craft cocktails and microbrews on tap.
You can also check out Google Maps’ directory of bars and pubs near Stanford.
Restaurants Near Stanford Stadium
Food options are more plentiful in the areas surrounding Stanford. Sundance in Palo Alto is a slightly upscale steakhouse but has a selection of more modest burgers as well. Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill serves American favorites in a ’50s diner setting, counter seating, and all.
Other Palo Alto restaurant highlights include Cafe Pro Bono’s Italian food, pizza at Terun, the Mexican cuisine at Reposado, Burma Ruby’s Burmese delicacies, Cajun dishes at Nola’s, and the authentic Brooklyn bagels at Izzy’s.
Here are TripAdvisor’s recommendations for Stanford area restaurants.
Stanford Gameday Gear
With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Stanford game day gear to rep your team at your tailgate!
To protect you from the early season sunny games, this is a solid Cardinals hat. You can also wear this all summer long to show support for your team! Linked 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: Stanford 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 Stanford: 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:
Stanford may be the most Ivy League school west of… well, the actual Ivy League. But Cardinal football fans have a passion for the game that rivals any team in the Pac-12 or the nation at large. Tailgating at Stanford is almost as awe-inspiring as the game itself.
If you’re going on the road with Stanford this fall, be sure to check out all our other Tailgater Guides for the Pac-12 Conference schools!
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!