Cover photo by: @ScottSauls
Columbia SC may be Gamecock Country where the die-hard fans bleed garnet and black, but while we like to get down to business on the field, we sure do know how to roll out the welcome mat at a tailgate. Around here we know nothing brings people together like a big ole’ plate of ham biscuits and couple gallons of sweet tea (and maybe a cooler full of something craft-brewed or barrel-aged for good measure). So pull up a folding chair and glean a few tips from our list of Columbia SC tailgate musts for maximizing those few glorious hours before kickoff.
Find Your Hot (Parking) Spot
Unless you’ve been parking in the same spot and lot for years, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to set up camp on Gameday, especially if you are visiting Gamecock Country for the first time. Plan to arrive near the Williams-Brice Stadium at least three to four hours before kickoff to seek out the best parking options, avoid the heaviest game day traffic, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the day. Parking on game day ranges around $10-$40 per car, so if you can consolidate your people and your stuff (safely) into one vehicle, that is definitely the way to go. The South Carolina State Fairgrounds is close to the stadium and has been a favorite for both Gamecocks and visiting fans for generations. Make sure you include the basics: tent, table, tailgate chairs, paper products and a cute tablecloth (we’ve been known to use a painter’s drop cloth from the hardware store as a neutral and durable option). Then, accessorize with your team’s colors, flags, pompoms and swag, and those stickers that say “Beat Er’body” on them.
Columbia SC is home to the pimento cheeseburger, so out of homage, place a tub of the cheesy Southern spread on your table. Pick up yours from DiPrato’s and serve on burgers or simply with pita chips or crackers. No Southern tailgate is complete without fried chicken, so find yours (along with some mouth-watering biscuits) at Lizard’s Thicket or Bernie’s. For tasty bite-sized chicken salad sandwiches and a platter full of prepared deviled eggs, it’s worth the jaunt up I-26 to Mathias in Irmo (pre order from their party menu). A big bowl of boiled peanuts from Cromer’s will round out your spread, and don’t forget about brownies and lemon bars. These tasty bites are easy to eat with your fingers (who needs a plate?) and are oh, so Southern. Try Silver Spoon Bake Shop or Ally & Eloise for your choice of sweet treats.
You don’t have to be a master mixer to add local flair to your tailgate. Just grab a bottle of Columbia SC’s Copper Horse Distillery Old Mill vodka and follow the recipes on their website to impress your fellow tailgaters with some hyper-local cocktails or classic Bloody Marys. Pack your cooler with local brew selections such as Hunter-Gatherer craft beer selections or purchase direct from the breweries or visit Craft + Draft for multiple local selections.
Around here, the second question we ask after “What can I bring?” is “What are you wearing?”. Since Gameday temps can range from just a little on the warm side for a September day game to a chilly November night game, you may find yourself in need of a quick stop-over in one of Columbia SC’s many boutiques to be perfectly prepared. For super on-trend ladies' jeans, tops and casual dresses try M Boutique. If you need Gamecock team wear or a healthy dose of garnet and black, stop by Miss Cocky. Guys can try Granger Owings or Brittons for stylish menswear with a Southern flair, or hit Addams Bookstore or Todd & Moore for casual Gameday T’s and pullovers. And if it’s raining on Gameday and you didn’t bring your wellies, don’t sell your ticket! Head to Half Moon for a great selection of Hunter rainboots or Mast General Store for the perfect rain jacket.
Win or lose, you will be hungry (again) after the game, so don’t hesitate to continue the celebration in one of Columbia’s many hot spots for post-game festivities. If you’re feeling victorious, head to Five Points for an unrivaled collegiate party vibe. Hit the Vista to mix and mingle, see and be seen. Rosewood (near the stadium) is perfect place to find a cozy spot to watch the rest of the evening's games in a friendly neighborhood setting.
So whether you’re a Gamecock, Wildcat, Bulldog, Razorback, Commodore, Gator, Terrier, or Tiger, Columbia SC tailgating was made for you. Check out our website for more things to do when you're in town for the big game.