The Tailgaters Guide To Happy Valley

*Disclaimer* - While Tailgate Professional does not offer regular tailgate options for Penn State home football games, given advance notice, we do have the capabilities to offer services for select games. If this is an option you would like to explore further, please reach out to us via our "Contact Us" page and we'd be more than happy to make a tailgate happen for you and your friends!

Happy Valley. State College. University Park. Whatever you call it, Penn State in the fall is a football fan’s paradise. On game-day, State College becomes the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania with 100k strong rolling into town looking to watch the Nittany Lions and most importantly... tailgate. Overall, Penn State consistently ranks among the best sites for college football tailgating and there are plenty of reasons why. A lot has to do with the tradition but what is constantly reported and experienced by fans (especially of visiting teams) is the camaraderie and friendliness of Penn State fans filling the lots surrounding Beaver Stadium. That said, there are a lot of options when it comes to finding parking and tailgate lots when going to a Penn State game. If is your first time heading to Happy Valley, there can be a lot of traps to fall into. And even for those who have been to a game or two over the years, there is always a constant shift in lot color and traffic patterns that can make or break your tailgate… and making sure you get out of town before Sunday morning.

First, let’s establish a few things before getting into the various lots.

Traffic is absolute nightmare. There is simply no other way to put it. State College, in the nicest way possible of saying it, is in the middle of nowhere.  So imagine 100,000 people squeezing into a 500 acre tailgating area and combing that with the fact that route 322 is really the only highway into and out of State College - you get traffic jams.  The best way to avoid traffic problems is to get the tailgate early. For a 12:00 or 1pm game we suggest being parked by 9:00 am or earlier. For a 4:00 pm game you really want to be in your parking spot around the same time as those earlier games.   Night games are a different story.  For a 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm start you can safely arrive by noon and beat the traffic.  Also if you are aiming to be in a certain tailgating lot (for instance the family friendly lot or a specific lot where you will be meeting friends), consult the tailgating map below to make sure you arrive by the correct route for that specific lot.  If you arrive the wrong way there is zero chance that you will get to the lot you are aiming for.

Purchase parking ahead of time. For each of the lots below we go into this a little more specifically based on availability and feasibility for the normal fan. But overall, if you are looking to save money and have decreased stress come game-day, look to purchase ahead of time but make sure to do so a week in advance to allow for shipping. For the most part, standard passes go for $25 but come the day of the game they can be $60 or more should they be sold out or if you have to go through a scalper.

Make sure people can find you. This means having your cellphone charged (with charges as backup) and maybe even a flag. The tailgating fields at Penn State are huge and they are not all connected.  If you arrive late, (see above) you may be very, very far from where you first told your guests where you would be.  This is a very common problem but it can be avoided.  First, arrive early.  Second make sure you arrive via a route that will get you into the lot you are aiming for so make sure you consult the tailgate map that comes with your parking pass.  Third is to text your friends with an intersection (for example: Park Road and University Drive) or very large landmark, where they can meet you at a specified time.  Then meet them and find your way back to your flag.  Don't tell them to just meet you underneath your flag.  They will never find you. Absolutely nothing is worse that not being able to find the tailgate.  A Penn State flag is not distinctive.  There are several thousand tailgates with a Penn State flags.  So if you want people to find your tailgate you need a flag that is any color except blue and white.  

Do not bring prohibited items: Glass bottles, charcoal grills & fire pits, etc. Glass bottles and kegs are prohibited in tailgating lots, so stick with cans or aluminum bottles. This rule is not necessarily enforced, but it is worth noting just in case you are one prone to bad luck. Also, Penn State also no longer allows alcohol consumption in the tailgating lots during the game. Coolers can come back out after the final play, when many tailgaters stay and snack some more while waiting for the heaviest traffic to disperse. Propane grills are the way to go for game day grilling. While charcoal and fire pits use to be allowed (until a few accidents) they have since been banned from being used. So just stick with the propane.  A full 16.4 oz propane tank will last about 2 hours. There is nothing worse that tossing a few burgers on the grill only to have the propane tank run out so make sure you are prepared.

Pack your stuff up before going into the stadium. While the vast majority of tailgaters are friendly and respectful, it’s smart to lock away your belongings before you enter the stadium. And always take your tent down, as rain and wind could knock it loose. There's nothing worse than coming back and your tent is gone and your neighbor is waiting for you to pay for the damage your tent did to their car.

Don't leave right after the game.  The traffic leaving can be as bad as the traffic coming in (if not worse) if you leave right away.  Wait an hour or so and things clear out nicely.  It is a lot easier navigating out of the fields after some of the tailgates have called it a day.  Also when leaving the tailgate lots, follow the directions of the police and traffic control staff.  They may direct you to go out a different way than you came in, but they know what they are doing and more than likely it will get you in the right direction much quicker.  Penn State has a lot of experience with post game traffic and believe it or not they have figured out the best way to keep traffic moving.  It can be difficult to follow their directions, especially if you think you know a short cut that will get you where you want to go.  But remember there are at least 5,000 other cars trying to take that same short cut, so just tough it out and drive where they direct you.

So now where do I park?

Aside from knowing the tips and tricks of tailgating, it is always important to remember and research ahead of time to where you are parking – especially given the always changing direction from the University and also the weather. Given many of these lots are grass fields, you can sometimes find issue. For example, the end of the 2018 football season saw weather become an issue with the record-breaking rainfall the region. Because of this, Penn State had to alter a lot of the parking given situations where fields were unsuitable and safe for fans to park on. This alteration meant decreased lots and fans having to park off-site and rely on shuttles to the stadium which for many, takes away from the game-day experience.

Given your preferences, here is our list of possible parking options and their potential benefits and flaws to help you make decisions if planning a trip this fall.

*Note - Penn State has recently made updates to their parking patterns and lots for 2019, more specifically they are moving away from the colored lot nomenclature to strictly numbered lots, but for the most part the lots remain unchanged. To read more about the 2019 changes, one-way traffic patterns and lot opening times, READ HERE.

penn state parking map for tailgating with Tailgate Professional

General Lots (Yellow Pass):

You’ll need a parking pass to park in any of these designated lots for football games; they can be bought beforehand for $25, but if you buy online leave plenty of time for shipping, because you need to have the color-coded pass in hand to enter your designated lot. When it comes to the yellow lots, there are a number of options to choose from, so it best to know which one serves the environment you are looking for and also to have a general idea of its location in relation to the stadium.

  • Lot 12 - This is where you are going to want to be if you are a student as most student tailgates are here. If you are looking for a loud and rowdier tailgate experience, this is where you are going to want to be. NOTE: Drive down Park Ave from the West Side of campus (Atherton Street) to get funneled into this lot.

  • Lot 11 - 11 is used when lot 12 is full. The problem with this tailgate lot is you are far. You are all the way back behind Penn State's Arboretum, which is a fair hike to the Stadium (and it also miserable to get out of because it is one road in and out of the lots). Also porte-potties and other amenities may be far and in-between down in these lots. So arrive early to try for Lot 11 instead. Again, drive down Park Ave from West Campus to be funneled here.

  • Lots 23 & 24 - Compared to 11, this is a prime location located behind Penn State's baseball stadium and the purple/blue reserved lots. The tailgates over here tend to be a little less rowdy and loud than lot 12. The problems with lots 23/24 are that the areas can be hilly in some parts, (no one like tailgating on a slope), they are pretty vast holding numerous tailgaters, you are a good distance from the stadium for the most part, and lastly, there are few lights in this area so traveling back to your car may be a little tough after a night game. However, this is perfect lots if you are coming into town from the East side. Driving up Porter Road will throw you into these tailgate lots.

  • Lot 21/20 - A little far from the action but PERFECT if you have friends staying in the RV Lots that you want to visit. Head down Park avenue from the East if you want to tailgate here.

  • Lot 22/26 - You are just pretty far out now. It's a long walk to the stadium from here. This is where you will be put if you get to the Penn State tailgate lots really late or right before the game if you don't want to tailgate. The good thing is that unless you are heading to the white out game or another major prime time match up, these rarely get used.

Preferred and Reserved Lots