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If you’re new to Knoxville and find yourself downtown on a lovely fall Saturday, you will notice two things: the Market Square Farmers Market and an absolute sea of “gaudy orange” (Sandra Bullock’s words, not ours 😉). This Scruffy City loves her college football. And while Knoxville’s way more than a college town, we’ve found it’s fun to jump in and embrace the Volunteer spirit anyway. (Though we are not buyin’ checkerboard overalls… we have to draw the line somewhere, people.) We’re here to help you fully enjoy game day at Neyland Stadium – wherever your budget or love of (or lack of love of) sports lands you. Here’s everything a newbie needs to know about attending a University of Tennessee football game!
There are so many ways to enjoy game day (without even purchasing a ticket!) but not without showing up a few hours early. If you’re anything like us, you are always running late (we prefer the term “time optimists”) but game day is not the time, friends! You’ll probably have to park a good hike away (scooters aren’t activated on game day, but the free trolley makes its rounds!) so keep that in mind when planning your adventure. And as people who could take or leave football itself, you do not want to miss all the parties, music, and good times happening before kick-off. With that in mind…
If you’re brand new to Knoxville, you still may not have a tried and true group of friends to tailgate with (yet! You know we’re always here to help ya make friends 😉). But that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the tailgating experience! The Truly Tailgate (located between Gates 10 &11) opens up three hours before kick-off and the first hour is freeeee! Enjoy cornhole and other yard games, televisions streaming other games around the country, food trucks, and drinks (specifically Truly’s, obviously 😂). After the first hour, the tailgate is only open to ticket holders – so here’s a Pro-Tip: If you’ve been bullied into attending this football game, you can go straight from the stadium into this lil tailgate and just play yard games to your heart’s content while the game goes on inside.
The hours before the game are all about getting puuuumped. Specifically, two hours and fifteen minutes before kick-off, make your way in front of Neyland Stadium to watch the “Vol Walk.” The team, players, coaches, Smokey, Davy Crocket, etc. will all parade into the stadium while the rest of us do the very important job of making sure they know we love them. You can fulfill this task in a myriad of ways including shaking pompons, giving high-fives as they pass, and occasionally “whooping & hollering” as they say in the south.
Next, head up the hill to Vol Village for a pep rally! If you don’t want to pay for a ticket to a major game, but still want to enjoy all the energy and fun of a football game, this is the place you want to be. This pep rally is totally free for everyone, with or without a ticket to the game. There are cheerleaders, live music, food trucks, Smokey (Smokey gets his steps in on game day, that’s for sure) and more. Our favorite part was when the regular cheerleaders invited lil baby cheerleaders to join them in a routine and we nearly cried from cuteness.
Finally, make sure to head back towards the stadium to catch the band makin’ music while they march inside. (Fun Fact: They’re also called the “Pride of the Southland.”) You will hear them play “Rocky Top” QUITE A FEW TIMES on this particular adventure, so we highly recommend learning when to sing the “woo!”
Once the band goes inside, follow that music-makin’ mass! (We love their flair and don’t want you to miss a single second of any potential performances.) The crowd at this point will be massive. Just hold your clear bag close and dive in, pal. OR get a season ticket to the brand new Social Deck. We got to check it out on the first game of the season and we felt very fancy. There were also plenty of perks – not least of which was entering around the back of the stadium where the line was significantly shorter 😂
Quick pause for a recap of the Social Deck. The view from this deck is INSANE, Y’ALL. You look directly over the field and the iconic Neyland sign for an Instagram dream. You also get private concessions and a bar dedicated to just people on the deck so again, the lines stay pretty manageable. We did stand the whole time, but that just kept on our (literal) toes during the football portions. (Honestly, we’re here for the snacks and the marching band so we didn’t mind extra motivation to stay alert during the game itself 😂) Our very favorite part was watching the band form a Power T on the field. The cheerleaders, Smokey (again, that pup has endless energy), and the entire football team break through the T to enter the field and it. is. rad. Finally, right above the Social Deck is a brand new jumbotron to join the first.
Again, we’re here for the ✨drama✨ If you are too, here are a few things you’ll love about being inside Neyland Stadium for a UT football game. First, the Pride of the Southland truly does not hold back. They are marchin’ all over that field in the coolest formations. They are playin’ Rocky Top like their lives depend on it. They are somehow not passing out from the heat because they are magic people. Second, helloooo fireworks! Fireworks shoot off after every touchdown and we squeal with delight every time. Third, FLYOVERS?! With the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base just a few miles south of University of Tennessee, sometimes you’ll get a flyover at the start of the game. Don’t say you don’t care about flyovers until you’re right under one. We were mesmerized. Fourth, the fans. Y’all, these fans are adorably dramatic. There may be WOOOOOs and there may be BOOOOOs but there is definitely no question about how the crowd is feeling at any given moment. If you’re here for the drama, Tennessee fans deliver 😉
Finally here is some lingo/cheers we had to work to decipher 😂
GBO = Go Big Orange
VFL = Vol for Life
“I SAID IT’S GREAT – TO BE – A TENNESSEE VOL.”
“Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me. Good ole Rocky Top (WOO!) Rocky Top, Tennessee”
Rocky Top = Generally UT at large
Power T: The big orange T logo you see all over town!
We hope this can help you make the absolute most out of game day at the University of Tennessee! If you can’t make it to campus at all, check out some of our favorite spots to watch UT games around Knoxville!
Address: 1300 Phillip Fulmer Way, Knoxville, TN 37916
Publish date: 10 October.
Images by: Emilie Stooksbury