Excitement is off the rails for University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football in 2021. And there’s good reason to think they’ll shake up the Big 10. In their last full season in 2019, the Gophers finished at 11-2, their best win-loss record since 1905. They didn’t even have to use helmets back then! So you can imagine the fever that’s about to grip the Twin Cities and the rest of the North Star State.

The Golden Gophers have played their home games at TCF Bank Stadium since it opened in 2009. Before then, they played in the off-campus Metrodome. Heading into their 13th season on campus grounds, Golden Gophers fans have established a new, vibrant tradition of tailgating at University of Minnesota that goes right along with their higher expectations on the field.

Here’s our guide to making the most out of your visit – how, when, and where to tailgate at University of Minnesota.

Before Game Day

The Golden Gophers’ 2021 Home Schedule

Big Ten Conference football is coming back in full force in 2021, and the Golden Gophers’ home schedule features some bruising matchups at TCF Bank Stadium, all on Saturdays:

  • Sept. 2 – Ohio State
  • Sept. 11 – Miami (OH)
  • Sept. 25 – Bowling Green
  • Oct. 16 – Nebraska
  • Oct. 23 – Maryland
  • Nov. 6 – Illinois
  • Nov. 27 – Wisconsin

Pro tip:  A game between any two Big Ten teams is a massive event. This year, U of M is hosting two of their most intense rivals: Nebraska on Oct. 16 and the season-ending battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Wisconsin on Nov. 27.

Getting Tickets

As with most NCAA games, it’s strongly advised to buy single-game tickets as far in advance as possible. Season tickets and mini-plans are available at the Golden Gophers’ official website.

The University is still finishing up plans for restarting football after the abbreviated 2020 season — including tailgating services — so keep an eye out for updates and announcements. Game-day tickets are available at the TCF Bank Stadium ticket office three hours before kickoff.

Travel and Accommodations

If you’re traveling a long distance, your best bet’s the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, about 10 miles south of TCF Bank Stadium. It’s a hub for Delta Airlines, so it’s directly served by most major metropolitan airports in the U.S. Drivers may take Interstate 35 or 94 to get to Minneapolis.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

TCF Bank Stadium is right across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis, so there are plenty of options for hotels in the area. Here are TripAdvisor’s recommendations for the best options.

If you’re planning on tailgating at University of Minnesota with your own set-up or with tailgate equipment rentals, we recommend skipping downtown hotels. Get a room at a more distant motel that has room for your rig and tailgating supplies or find an Airbnb or VRBO.

One important note you should heed in the luggage-packing phase:  Minnesota is one hellishly cold place. September is usually mild, but the cold season starts in October and lasts through, approximately, the end of civilization…or the following March, whichever comes first. Don’t skimp on oversized and/or heavily insulated clothing items!

Transportation

TCF Bank Stadium is well served by local public transit. The METRO Blue and Green lines both stop at Stadium Village Station and connect to several local bus routes. The Northstar train line stop at Target Field Station also connects to the Green line. MetroTransit bus routes 2, 3, 6, and 16 all stop by or near the stadium as well. Here’s MetroTransit’s guide to all your game-day transit options.

Those who are driving straight to the game will find plenty of parking lots available around the stadium. Season ticket holders should get season-long passes, but single-day passes are also available for $10 or $20.

Keep in mind that many of the lots don’t allow tailgating, however. Fans parked at Lot S108 at the St. Paul Fairgrounds can also take the St. Paul Gopher Shuttle, which runs every 10 minutes starting three hours before the game.

How to Tailgate at University of Minnesota

You’ve arrived! Here’s how you, your friends, and your 7 layers of clothing can get the most out of tailgating at University of Minnesota.

Where to Tailgate at University of Minnesota

U of M has designated quite a few areas and parking lots for tailgating on game day — here’s a complete list. One particular favorite of Gopher fans — especially those without tailgating permits — is East River Flats Park, about a mile from the stadium on the banks of the Mississippi.

Tailgating at University of Minnesota is allowed six hours before game time, but never before 7:00 am. It ends four hours after the game’s over, but never later than midnight. Gas grills and legal alcohol consumption are allowed, but no kegs, glass containers, fire-based grills, or huge furniture. You’ll find a list of approved and disallowed items on the University’s tailgating policy page.

The University also hosts a more organized pre-game party at the McNamara Alumni Center that starts 3 hours before kickoff.

Fans Tailgating at Minnesota

Also, the pre-game event to attend is the Gopher Victory Walk, two hours before the game starts. The U of M marching band, spirit teams, former players, and Goldy the mascot gather at Tribal Nations Plaza and form a human tunnel for the team to walk through.

Tailgating Permits and RV Policy

The best bet for Gopher season-ticket holders is to get an annual parking pass. It requires a minimum donation to the U of M Athletic Department and can be a little pricey, especially at the $25,000 Gopher Lot. Other spots are a little more affordable: Spots at the Maroon Lot, Gold Lot, Minnesota Lot, Ski-U-Mah Lot, and other places with less colorful names will set you back only $1,000 or $2,500.

On-campus RV parking is only allowed at the Victory Lot, which will set you back $3,500. However, RVs are allowed to park in the Victory Lot the day before the game for easy tailgating set-up.

Single-game parking passes for RVs are available at the State Fairgrounds Lot S108 in St. Paul (if the State Fair’s not in session). It’s about 3½ miles from the stadium and single-day RV passes are $40. Lot S108 is also home to its own, more remote tailgating party — just catch the shuttle when game time comes.

Off-Campus Tailgating Options

Should you decide to forego the parking lot and campus for tailgating, you’ll find more than enough outlets in the surrounding area for quality Gopher revelry.

One spot that’s absolutely not to be missed is Stub & Herb’s, located in Stadium Village, about a 4-minute walk from TCF. It’s been around since 1939, hence its motto “Your Grandpa Drank Here.” Their game-day parties are some of the most revered in the Big Ten.

Sally's Saloon in MinneapolisSally’s Saloon, just around the corner, runs a full-on parking lot party with beer pong, jumbo Jenga, outside TVs, and about half of all the sausage and cheese in the Midwest. There’s also a tattoo parlor just upstairs in case you make some very questionable decisions during the party.

Check out some of the top bars and restaurants around TCF Bank Stadium courtesy of the Daily Gopher.

Minnesota Gophers Game Day Gear

With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Gophers game day gear to rep at your tailgate.

Minnesota Gophers Tailgating ChairThese Logo Brand tailgate chairs are great – and are only $25 each. 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.

Minnesota Gophers Grill UtensilsFor 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.

Minnesota HatIf 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: Minnesota Golden Gophers 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!

Gophers Gear

Fanatics also has a fun 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:

Best Tailgate Tents of 2021

Best Tailgate Grills

Other Relevant Blogs

Tailgater Guide: University of Michigan

Tailgater Guide: University of Illinois

Tailgater Guide: The Ohio State University

Tailgater Guide: Northwestern University

Wrap-Up

The tradition of tailgating at University of Minnesota is still evolving since their stadium is relatively new. But as a Big Ten school, it’s by definition a full-on rager of an event.

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