The tailgating experience is well worth the parking price. In some lots, you pay $20 for every space your vehicle fills. In other lots, you pay a set price for size — $20 for a car, $40 for a trailer and $60 for a bus.
Packing may take a few hours, so do it the night before. Arrive between 7:30 and 8 a.m.Muny Lot: State Route 2 and East Ninth Street. Home of veteran tailgaters, this is the craziest sea of wild-eyed but friendly orange-and-brown hounds. Muny has a lot of wind but a great view of the lake.
Port Authority Lot: Erieside Avenue, directly north of the Browns’ end zone. This lot is right on the lake and is closest to the stadium. No grills are allowed, but you’ll still find plenty of tailgaters. Park by the lot en-trance and interact with fans as they head toward the gates.
West Third Street Lot: Directly west of the stadium. This lot has quick access and a great view of the stadium. No grills.
The Pit: West Third Street and Summit. This is one of our favorite places to party, with its wild mix of veterans, out-of-towners and novices. It’s a convenient halfway point between the bars and the stadium. There are only two bathrooms here, so be prepared to stand in line.
The Pit Extension: Front Avenue and West 10th Street. Still part of The Pit family, this lot is a little closer to the Flats.
Shaia’s Lot, the Flats: Main Street and West 10th Street. This has scattered tailgating but good bar hopping.
The Ridge: West Third Street and Summit, overlooking The Pit. The crowd is similar to The Pit, but a little more removed from the central hub. It’s a tighter squeeze but has more bathrooms and a better shield from the wind.
County Courthouse Parking: Behind the courthouse, this lot is smaller and $5 cheaper than the other lots, plus it offers quick access to the bars on West Sixth Street.
Dock 20 Lot: Access off West Ninth Street. Dock 20 is reserved for campers and buses and has walkway access to the West Third Parking Lot. It’s out in the open with a great view, but provides no cover from the elements.
Willard Park Garage: Behind City Hall, this lot lets you see the city and the stadium and is an easy walk to the West Sixth bars.
Ride into Battle
If you’ve already got friends tailgating, save cash and ride the RTA. The Waterfront Line runs from Tower City down to the tailgating lots. Visit www.gcrta.org or call (216) 566-5100 for schedules.
Set up Training Camp
To keep the smoke from blowing into your car, don’t park downwind of your grill. If you have two cars, leave space in the middle for setup. The sides and ends of lots have more football-throwing space and better wind blockage. Only park in marked spaces and leave room for emergency vehicles. Bring toilet paper!
If it’s an evening game, bring a TV to watch the earlier NFL games. But you probably won’t be watching them anyway — there’s too much going on here. Bring beanbags and a platform for a game of cornhole.
Set up a telescoping flagpole. It’s the easiest way to be recognized.
Camping-style folding chairs and tables are your best bet for convenient packing and unpacking.
Build a Strong Team
Create a tradition with an outfit, wig, table centerpiece, specialty food or vehicle. Vintage Browns apparel is especially fashionable this season and nothing is over the top.
Mingle. Score free food by asking other tailgaters for their secrets and complimenting them generously.
Fuel Up for the Game
Make a day of it — cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bring a donation can to share the costs or alternate cooking duties weekly. Don’t forget antacid, paper towels, tons of trash bags and extra water to douse the grill fire.
Disposable grills may be your easiest option for transportation and cleanup. They run about $6, and you only need a lighter and charcoal. If you can afford to spend more and have extra space, bring a portable charcoal or gas grill.
Take some turkey-frying advice from the pros. First, never let the oil get over 450 degrees. A 10-pound turkey should cook in about 35 minutes if you keep it between 325 degrees and 375 degrees. When frying multiple turkeys, marinate them in different flavors and place the turkeys in brown grocery bags to absorb the oil. Also, have a container ready for the rest of the old oil.
Start out simply with burgers, dogs, brats and kabobs. Later, go extravagant with lobster, steaks, a pig roast or venison. Don’t poke at your meat or press your hamburgers; this lets the juices escape. Always have barbecue sauce, Italian dressing, Stadium Mustard and other condiments on hand. Chips and dip and dog bone-shaped cookies are a necessity. For recipe ideas, go to www.tailgating.com.
No kegs. You only want to be responsible for yourself, so bring your own beer and cooler. Try orange and brown Jell-O shots or “drink the enemy’s blood” by making opposing-team-color Jell-O shots. In the winter, spike your hot cider with a little rum. Keep cooks content by throwing them Jell-O shots. And, finally, toast for a victory!
Even if you’re in the minority, you should always have a few nonalcoholic beverages. For the warmer months, try raspberry lemonade, fruit juice and ginger ale punch, virgin daiquiris and smoothies, pop and Gatorade. In the winter, bring thermoses of hot chocolate, tea, coffee and hot mulled cider. Drink eggnog — spiked and regular — for the holidays.
The Cleveland Police Department has about 12 officers patrolling the entire tailgate scene. They love the Cleveland Browns as much as the rest of us, but we still have a few tips to stay on their good side. Feed them, stay away from the railroad tracks and don’t travel from lot to lot carrying your beer. (Open containers are illegal.) Bring plenty of 16-ounce plastic cups for beverages and avoid acting like the day is a frat initiation. Heckle but just don’t touch the enemy fans.
The designated driver is a thankless job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Plan for work the next morning by leaving a lot of aspirin next to your already-set alarm. If you want to enjoy (or actually remember) the game, don’t do shots or play drinking games.
Even the veterans should have sunscreen, a first-aid kit and jumper cables. In the winter, set up a propane heater, dress in layers and remember the blankets. Bring extra water or a small ABC fire extinguisher in case of fire.
We know what you’re thinking: Are there any? Head to West Sixth Street’s Blind Pig Speakeasy or Dive Bar for burgers, corn dogs, Italian sausage, chili and fries, plus a live band, classic rock videos and visits from former Browns players. The Blind Pig’s 18 plasma TVs may be the next best thing to seeing the live game. Stop at Velvet Dog for a rooftop tailgate party, live band, Browns ticket giveaway and visits from former players and the Miller Lite cheerleaders. Get beer specials and wings at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Flats. Cleveland Chop House and Brewery has its own buffet brunch, and Rock Bottom Brewery sells dollar dogs and pizza and $2 nachos and pints. Johnny’s Bar serves Sunday brunch and an outdoor barbecue. The Flat Iron Café has its own shuttle running to the stadium. Shooters and Panini’s are both hopping before and after the game. For ticket holders, WMMS 100.7 hosts its Buzzard Barking Lot tailgate party inside Browns Stadium two hours before kickoff. And new this season will be the family-friendly and alcohol-free Cleveland Football FANdemonium on Mall C, where fans can sample new products, receive giveaway items and compete in sports-themed interactive activities.
Kim Schneider and Kathleen Murphy Colan contributed to this story.