The University of Utah Utes are relative newcomers to the Pac-12, but their long football tradition is one of the most intense in the conference (even if it’s often overlooked).
Coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 18th season with the team as a certified legend that has kept the team in contention nearly every year. Utah fans have high expectations for a Pac-12 title in 2021.
Tailgating at the University of Utah is just as storied a tradition. It may be slightly more restrained than colleges in party-happy states, but it’s a necessary game-day ritual replete with edibles, drinkables, and Rocky Mountain camaraderie.
Here’s our guide to planning a great game-day experience and tailgating service at the University of Utah.
Before Game Day
Utes 2021 Home Schedule
The Utes face these teams at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2021. Games are on Saturdays, except where noted.
- Sept 2 (Thurs.) – Weber State
- Sept 25 – Washington State
- Oct 16 – Arizona State
- Oct 30 – UCLA
- Nov 20 – Oregon
- Nov 26 (Fri.) – Colorado
Rivalry Games: The Colorado Buffaloes are the biggest rivals on Utah’s home schedule this year, closing out the season with the teams’ annual Rumble in the Rockies.
You can buy season tickets at the University of Utah’s ticket office. Single-game tickets are a little trickier to find — instead of having an obvious link to them on the ticket page as most other schools do, Utah webmasters direct you to a Ticketmaster page that isn’t exactly user-friendly.
We suggest you call (801) 581-8849 to ask about single-game tickets or stop by the physical ticket office near the stadium. Get your tickets as soon as you know your plans.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
The University of Utah is in Salt Lake City, the state capital and the only real urban area of the state. Here are some tips on traveling to the area and places to stay.
Traveling to Salt Lake City
Driving: Salt Lake City is served by Interstates 15 (north-south) and 80 (east-west). US Route 89 also goes through town.
Air Travel: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) takes in direct flights from almost all major American cities and quite a few smaller ones in the Western U.S.
Rail: Amtrak’s California Zephyr line stops at Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub, about 3.5 miles from the University.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
The only major hotel right at the University is Salt Lake City Marriott University Park. You’ll find many more hotels in downtown SLC, including Hilton, The Peery, Sheraton, Towneplace Suites, Holiday Inn Express, another Marriott, and yet another Marriott. Check out some of TripAdvisor’s recommendations for Salt Lake City hotels.
If you’re hosting your own tailgate at the University of Utah, we recommend looking for an Airbnb residential reservation, rather than a downtown hotel. That way, you’ll likely have more room for your equipment, as well as a kitchen for food prep.
Getting to Rice-Eccles Stadium
Take light rail if you can. The Utah Transit Authority’s Red Line stops at the campus’ Stadium station. A few other bus routes go near the stadium as well; use the UTA’s trip planner to help you find your way. Your game ticket gets you free rides on public transit during game day.
Uber and Lyft are options for areas that are not well-served by public transit.
How to Tailgate at University of Utah
Even with its reputation as a toned-down school when it comes to parties, tailgating at the University of Utah is a loose and spirited scene with plenty of options for food and fun. Here are some tips on where to go and what to do.
Where to Tailgate at University of Utah
We’ve scouted out the best hotspots for tailgating at the University of Utah. Here’s what you need to know!
Parking at the University of Utah is fairly inexpensive, and we strongly recommend getting a season-long parking pass. As of 2020, you could get one for $100 for lots right next to Rice-Eccles Stadium and $50 for general parking a little further out.
Day-of-game parking passes are available in the general lots, but they fill up relatively quickly — get there early. Here’s a link to the 2020 parking map. Tailgating is allowed in all campus parking lots.
RVs are allowed in Guardsman Lot just south of the stadium, one of the two major tailgating spots at the University. However, RV passes for the Guardsman Lot are extremely hot tickets: they’re sold out for 2021.
A few lots in the northern general parking area offer RV parking for $40, but overnight camping isn’t an option on University property. If you’re staying for multiple nights, look for a nearby campground.
Some of the prime football tailgating spots include:
The parking lot just southeast of the stadium is a designated tailgating spot, and it features all of the grilling, drinking, and horseplay options you’d find at any other university.
Veteran Utes tailgaters imply it’s a little more reserved and restrained than at other schools, but it’s still full of eager fans partying as hard as it can get in the state of Utah.
The RV lot across the street from Tailgate Island is where the most dedicated Utes tailgaters hang. It’s a wonderland of portable chairs, grilled cuisine, and Beehive State friendliness.
Mighty Utah Student Section Tailgate
The MUSS tailgate, overseen by University students, is just north of the Eccles Tennis Stadium. It’s reserved for paying MUSS members and paid guests.
Check out the University of Utah Tailgating Facebook page — it may have valuable information and updates on tailgating activities and announcements ahead of your visit.
Tailgating at University of Utah: Traditions
Want to make the most of your tailgate at the University of Utah? Here are some traditions you won’t want to miss!
The Utes’ game-day march to the stadium starts at the corner of Guardsman Way and 500 South. Players, coaches, and other interested parties follow the Utah marching band surrounded by thousands of screaming but well-mannered fans. Look for the Utes spirit squad, who have been known to hurl t-shirts into the crowd.
At the base of a hill near the stadium you’ll see a large letter “U,” a visual reminder of the immense civic and athletic pride in the University of Utah. It’s lit up after the Utes win; if the Utes lose, it sits in darkness and frustration.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
Salt Lake City is a major urban area with plenty of great bars and restaurants, especially downtown. Here are our picks for some of the best.
Bars Near Rice-Eccles Stadium
You’ll have to head downtown to find a drinking establishment, but you’ll have many to choose from once you get there. Beer Bar, The Green Pig Pub, Beerhive Pub, Legends, ‘Bout Time, Duffy’s Tavern, Water Witch, and Johnny’s on Second are all great game-day bars.
Restaurants Near Rice-Eccles Stadium
Near the university, you’ll find a few casual, convenient eating places, including:
Other recommendations in the general SLC area include:
Check out TripAdvisor’s recommendations for restaurants in Salt Lake City for more suggestions.
Tailgating at the University of Utah may be a bit different than other Pac-12 schools, but it’s full of local spirit and amiability even to fans of the opposition. The spectacular mountain lake setting adds to an experience like no other in the NCAA.