The Tennessee Volunteers have a long and storied football tradition, counting Peyton Manning and Reggie White among their alumni. As the team prepares to rev up its 2021 campaign, tailgating at the University of Tennessee is coming back with a bang.
The University’s location on the Tennessee River gives game-day partygoers some unique options, including a bona fide tailgate flotilla. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the ins and outs of game day in Knoxville and point you toward the best tailgating service at the University of Tennessee.
Before Game Day
Volunteers 2021 Home Schedule
The Tennessee Volunteers have eight games on their home schedule this year. All games are on Saturday, except where noted.
- Sept. 2 (Thursday) – Bowling Green
- Sept. 11 – Pittsburgh
- Sept. 18 – Tennessee Tech
- Oct. 9 – South Carolina
- Oct. 16 – Ole Miss
- Nov. 13 – Georgia
- Nov. 20 – South Alabama
- Nov. 27 – Vanderbilt
Rivalry Games: The end-of-the-year matchup with Vanderbilt is the likely highlight of the schedule. Although they’re no longer the annual rivals they once were, Ole Miss and Tennessee do have a long history with each other that may bring out the fans.
AllVols.com is the Volunteers’ athletics ticket office, and they have quite a few options for season tickets and mini-plans, as well as single-game tickets, parking passes, and, interestingly, seat cushions for season-ticket holders.
Get your tickets as soon as you know your travel plans — the Vols bring out the crowds, no matter who they’re playing.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
Knoxville lies on the banks of the Tennessee River in the eastern part of the state. Here are your options for traveling there, plus some suggestions on where to stay.
Traveling to Knoxville
Driving: Interstates 40 and 75 go through Knoxville. US Routes 11, 129, and 441 will also get you close to the University.
Air Travel: McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) serves 30 nonstop flights from most of the biggest cities in the Eastern U.S., as well as Las Vegas, Denver, and a few cities in Texas. The two closest international airports are in Nashville and Atlanta, 175 and 223 miles away, respectively.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
The hotels closest to Neyland Stadium include Graduate Knoxville, Hampton Inn, and Hilton’s Cumberland House. There are a few more downtown options, especially around Market Square. Check out TripAdvisor’s recommendations for hotels near the stadium.
Visitors who are hosting tailgating parties on game day should call ahead to find out if their hotel has room for their equipment and rig. A better option may be to book a reservation at a private residence through Airbnb.
Getting to Neyland Stadium
How to Tailgate at University of Tennessee
UT was one of the few schools to allow tailgating during the 2020 season, albeit in a limited capacity. Hopefully tailgating at the University of Tennessee will return to its pre-pandemic levels. When it does, here’s how to make the most of it.
Where to Tailgate at University of Tennessee
Most of the parking lots closest to Neyland Stadium are reserved for UT donors, who get season-long permits. In 2020, $40 public parking on campus was limited to a couple of garages, all of which were a bit of a hike to the stadium. Click here to see UT’s 2020 parking map. Watch for an update for 2021.
Likewise, RV parking on the UT campus is reserved for season permit holders. Last year RVs were able to park in two lots near the south ends of the campus on either side of the Parking Services Building.
The City of Knoxville offers public RV parkers their own spots for individual games at a few garages near the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Season permits for Garage C are already sold out for 2021, but game-day permits at Garages A and B will be available through Ticketmaster in August. RVs can arrive at the public lots beginning Wednesday before the game.
Tailgating in Knoxville is practically a city-wide activity. Here are some of the best spots for on- and off-campus parties.
Near the stadium’s west side, Volunteer Village is the family-friendly tailgate on game day. It has bands, sports talk radio hosts, food, Volunteer alumni, and the Tennessee spirit squad to keep attendees happy.
Tennessee fans take full advantage of the school’s river location. The Vol Navy is simply a floating tailgate party near the banks of the Tennessee, “hosted” by the hundreds of boats that arrive at the docks on game day. If you find yourself onboard a seafaring vessel on a game weekend, don’t expect the party to stop until Sunday morning.
G-10 Parking Garage
This space is reserved for season-long permit holders, and it’s square in the heart of the tailgating action at Tennessee. It’s where the longest-tenured, most serious tailgaters ply their wares on Saturdays.
Public parking areas around Fort Sanders — aka “The Fort” — typically have a few tailgate tents and grills happening on game day. You’re encouraged to get there early if you want to secure a spot.
Tailgating at University of Tennessee: Rules
UT allowed restricted tailgating in 2020. Since Neyland Stadium is operating at full capacity in 2021, it’s expected that tailgating options will open back up. Although there’s no published list of regulations yet for 2021, tailgating guests are expected to behave responsibly. Your definition of “responsibility” may vary.
Tailgating at University of Tennessee: Traditions
Be sure to catch these traditions and events when you hit Knoxville on game day:
Every game day, Volunteer coaches and players start their long, meaningful march at the Torchbearer statue in Circle Park, walking over Peyton Manning Pass until they get to the stadium. They’re accompanied by UT cheerleaders and the Pride of the Southland Band and are surrounded by helpful and enthusiastic fans the entire route. Get to the Pass two hours before kickoff to see the spectacle unfold.
Salute to the Hill
At a certain point in the march, the Pride of the Southland Band makes a stop at the oldest section of campus and pays tribute to UT tradition. Learn the words to “Rocky Top” if you haven’t gotten them down yet.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
For eating, drinking, and game-watching away from the tailgate scene, check out some of these Knoxville establishments.
Bars Near Neyland Stadium
Most drinking establishments are more than a mile from the stadium, but they’re well-populated on Saturdays. Cool Beans Bar is popular with UT students and bills itself as the best place to be on game day. The Half Barrel is laid back, with a limitless selection of bourbons. You’ll have plenty of options if you go downtown: The Public House, Merchants of Beer, Clancy’s Tavern, and Preservation Pub.
Restaurants Near Neyland Stadium
Cumberland Avenue and Downtown Knoxville have a huge range of dining options. Some highlights include:
- Gus’s Good Times Deli
- Chesapeake’s, for seafood
- Yassin’s Falafel House
- Cafe 4
- Myrtle’s Chicken + Beer
- Tomato Head, for gourmet pizza
Check out some of TripAdvisor’s restaurant recommendations.
University of Tennessee Gameday Gear
With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Tennessee Volunteers gameday gear to rep at your tailgate.
If you want to rep Tennessee before gameday, this is a great-looking ball cap! Linked here.
For all things attire Fanatics: University of Tennessee 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 section University of Tennessee: Tailgate & Party 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.
If you’re thinking of upgrading some of your basic equipment, be sure to check out the following blogs:
You really have to see tailgating at the University of Tennessee in person to understand its game-day power. Volunteer fans are loyal through and through and pull out all the stops on Saturdays in the fall.
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!