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Tailgating UCLA Style: Getting Started

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Whether your a veteran tailgater or a newbie, it’s never too early to get prepared!

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve hit that time of year where sports are really winding down. Softball is over, baseball is wrapping up, and the NBA and NHL are about to crown champions as well. So what do we do until September?

Get ready to tailgate!

I have to say that having season tickets at the Rose Bowl for several years now has been a great experience. Sure, coaches have infuriated me and I’ve seen anything from a complete shellacking to the absolutely incredible comeback win against Texas A&M last year. But despite what happened on the field, what made all of these days great was the tailgating. Wikipedia has a page for it, and tailgating and doing it right is so important that CNN devoted an article to it a couple years back.

Tailgating even has a place in our nation’s history. At the first major battle of the Civil War at Bull Run, spectators showed up with blankets and picnics, and effectively started the tailgating tradition (although they quickly learned they were a little too close to the action).

So, where do we start?

First, let me say that by the time we play Cincinnati on September 1, you’ll know everything you need to know about the Rose Bowl and how to make yourself comfortable. The weather in the early part of the season can get nasty, and the end of the season can get extremely cold, so you’ll need to take some extra steps here and there in the area of preparedness. We’ll be breaking this down to anything from physical set up to food prep to where the best bathrooms are, and hopefully help you to create the best all-day game experience you’ve ever had.

I’m going to write this column for those who have never tailgated before, and also those who have been doing it for years, so forgive me if you read some stuff you already know. We want our Bruin brothers and sisters to have a great experience, and this means starting from the beginning. This first post is all about getting you in the door—what you need to know about parking, meetups, and the like.

Keeping Your Group Together

One of the greatest parts about UCLA football games is seeing friends and family that we don’t get to see all the time. We’re coming from South Orange County, L.A., Lakewood, Century City, you name it—just to root on our Bruins. The best thing to do if you have a group that’s coming from all different directions is to pick a spot off the 210 freeway, meet up, and caravan in. Right near the Rose Bowl is very residential and doesn’t really offer much in the way of meet up spots (there is a Jack in the Box off Arroyo that is popular). This way you can park together. Just be sure to tell the parking attendant how many cars are in your party so you don’t get separated. They’ll usually oblige.

Parking Passes and Lots

UCLA now offers advanced sales on parking. Season ticket holders have the ability to buy parking for the entire season, as long as you pick the same lot for every game. However, you can’t buy parking for the season for the golf course or Lot H—these are considered “gameday” parking locations, and can only be purchased on a game by game basis. But here is a little known fact—you can buy parking online through the UCLA Athletics website up until the day before each game—but not the day of, so buy in advance! If you do this, parking is $5 cheaper. If you were to purchase this type of pass for each home game, you’d have saved enough money to equal one free pass for the season. Not a bad deal.

So where are the best places to park? My personal preference is Lot H. Every lot opens six hours in advance, but I’ll tell you, in the last few years, people have been lining up early to get in line specifically for this lot. Any overflow lands you on the golf course. Lot H is next to the Fan Zone with all the giveaways, games, and food vendors, and also has abundant restrooms with hand washing stations (they’re port-a-potties and a. Team families usually tailgate in Lot H, the Alumni Band plays near the front and also walks between tailgate set ups, and you’re really close to Gate A (about as close as you can get).

The best part is watching the team walk in. About two hours before the start of each game, the cheerleaders lead the Bruin Walk, and coaches and the entire team walk from the back of the Fan Zone all the way through to the locker rooms. High fives all around.

The golf course is also a ton of fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s quieter for sure, the further back you are. So if you’re looking for something a little more low key, shoot for the golf course. Restrooms are still available, and for a $5 charge, you can even use the restroom in the clubhouse if you park close enough (they’ll also give you a $5 voucher to use in the clubhouse snack bar). If you hate port-a-potties, this is the way to go. But you’ll need to be one of the first to arrive for this option.