340 consecutive sellouts and counting.
Over 90,000 red-clad fanatics jam-packed in one of the country’s most storied venues.
Around 50 or so watering holes within walking distance of said venue.
This is Lincoln, Nebraska.
Don’t let the “Nebraska Nice” perception fool you, Husker Nation can get turnt with the best of them. A big reason for that is the University of Nebraska’s proximity to downtown Lincoln and the recently revamped Haymarket district, but more so because the entire state looks forward to those seven glorious Saturday’s each fall like a kid does Christmas.
From some of the best eats this side of the Mississippi to some of the most renown college bars in the country – Lincoln, Nebraska is any college football fan’s party paradise. Don’t believe me, ask one half of Kid ‘N’ Play if Lincoln knows how to turn the party out…
With the help of a few locals and Husker Saturday veterans, I present to you THE quintessential list of tailgate areas, bars, restaurants and party spots you need to check out to ensure you reach optimum inebriation. Cheers.
The Tailgate Spots
If there is open space within a two mile radius of the stadium, chances are you can tailgate there. That said, the closer you are to the red circle on the map below the better.
In terms of organized events, Embassy Suites’ “Do the Dock” tailgate is highly recommended. Located just a half-mile from Memorial Stadium, this game day staple offers live music, food and all the beverages you could ask for. Due to it’s location, this spot offers prime people-watching opportunities as a large portion of those attending the game have to walk by this popular pre-game destination.
Another organized tailgate that’s a must-try is the Grand Manse’s “Big Ten Collegiate Tailgate“. Since private indoor and outdoor tailgating spots as well as catering and bar packages are available for tailgaters, this situation may be feel a little more corporate than some of the locations mentioned in this article, but there’s fun to be had nonetheless. You may even have the chance to be a part of a remote radio broadcast as local sports radio hosts frequent this location each home game.
If you’re an out-of-towner and simply want to jump right into the tailgate scene for the common man, head just west of Memorial Stadium and check out the carnage that goes on right underneath the I-180 bridge. To prevent any issues getting into the lot, enter on the east side as the security team has more strict about folks entering from all other entrances over the years. Once inside you’ll be treated a huge crowd of fans from both schools playing that day, various merchants, extravagant tailgate rigs, and more. There’s even a party within the party as the Blur Parties tailgate is stationed right in the heart of all the action (tickets must be purchased online in advance).
Other tailgate spots of note:
Nebraska Champions Club – a membership or pass is required to tailgate at the 400+ parking stalls literally a few feet from the stadium, but nothing beats the experience of having beautiful Memorial Stadium as your backdrop and knowing you have an extra fifteen minutes of boozing because you’re so close to the entry gates.
University Lots – as evidenced by the map below and here, there are plenty of lots managed by the university you can find tailgaters having a good time at, but make sure you know someone that owns a spot as each stall owner is allotted a limited amount of wristbands for guests.
North Bottoms – home to many a drunken college student, this area just north of the stadium is buzzing with booze-related activities on game days. From my experience, if you come equipped with a bottle of liquor (preferably Fireball) that you’re willing to share and have a few co-eds tag along, you can pretty much gain entry to any party going on in this neighborhood.
If you’re underage age, tread lightly. This is MIP Central on Saturdays.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two old favorites that are no longer with us. The “Indian Lot” and the Gold’s lot were casualties of recent developments over the years, but they were so popular they deserve a mention here.
The Indian Lot served as one of the most popular tailgate spots in Lincoln for 30+ years until an incident a year ago caused the landowners to permanently ban alcohol on their premises. May the lot be gone, but not forgotten.
As for the Gold’s lot, new student housing development wiped out this once popular locale.
(Click image to view full-size PDF)
The Watering Holes
What better way to start this section than to talk about a bar named The Watering Hole.
This popular O Street bar is mostly known for its famous chicken wings (try them grilled), but because of that fact, many fans that make the pilgrimage to Lincoln on game days congregate here. Personally, I prefer N-Zone’s wings over TWH’s, but if you want to get the full experience of Husker Saturdays this is a must-visit location.
Speaking of the N-Zone, this bar located in the heart of the Haymarket and is usually packed with rabid Husker fans before, during, and after each game. The casual atmosphere is conducive to mingling with people you have never met and taking part in loud chants. Unsuspecting fans of the visiting team can expect to get razzled by the entire bar crowd as soon as they step foot in this underground pub, but can also expect a few complimentary shots for their troubles. Pro Tip: ask for an Agent Orange shot while you are there. Tell them “Potts” sent you and they’ll know what you’re talking about.
Barry’s Bar & Grill, the bar you can’t miss seeing if you’re anywhere near Memorial Stadium, is home to downtown Lincoln’s only rooftop bar. Situated right down the street from the stadium, this hotspot is usually packed to the brim on game days so prepare to wait in line for a while. Once inside, you’ll be greeted to a wall of TVs and a bar and wait staff full of attractive co-eds. If you’re the clubbing type, head to the back of the bar to gain entry to Barry’s “10 Below” nightclub-esque area.
Named one of the country’s best college bars, Duffy’s Tavern is a mandatory inclusion in this list. If you like stiff drinks and fishbowls full of various liquor, this is your spot. Oh, and Nirvana once played here.
Other bars of note:
Harry’s Wonder Bar – you can’t complete the Barry’s-to-Harry’s bar crawl without wrapping up your night at this popular dive bar. Home to two of the best and experienced bartenders in Lincoln, this bar serves the most potent drinks in the Capital City. Believe me, it’s well worth the long walk down O Street.
Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill – perhaps the best combination of food and craft beer in Lincoln. Be sure to try the Chaco Canyon Gold while you’re there.
Longwell’s – located in the Railyard right across the street from Pinnacle Bank Arena, this establishment boasts the largest tap beer selection in Lincoln. There isn’t much space inside the facility, but just outside is an outdoor area where booze is allowed and a giant TV screen that regularly shows the most important college football games of the day. Even A-Rod thought this spot was cool…
C. Berry’s – this isn’t bar and they have the most random hours ever, but if you can catch this burger and BBQ joint when it’s open, order food immediately. It’s that good. Their menu includes BBQ nachos, deep fried pickles, sliced beef brisket, and more. While you’re there, you can even check out the awesome mural of the legendary Washboard Man.
Embassy Suites Atrium – although this is another location that really isn’t a traditional bar, the hotel’s atrium is jam-packed with Husker fans on game day. If veterans don’t recommend Barry’s, they usually mention Embassy Suites as a must-visit location to first-time Husker Saturday partygoers.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are half-a-hundred bars within an earshot of Memorial Stadium, so this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Just make a few friends at the places listed here and you’ll surely learn of other watering holes to check out.
Odds & Ends
Here are a few items of note to help you maximize your time in Lincoln and stay out of trouble:
- Although there are plenty of areas around the stadium you can booze on game day, alcohol is prohibited on city streets and sidewalks, city and university parking lots, and parking garages. However, the rules aren’t strictly enforced in lots and garages as long as you cover up your beverage with a koozie or drink it out of a cup.
- No overnight parking is allowed on university parking lots.
- Parking meters are technically enforced every Saturday, regardless of Husker games, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve parked at meters without paying plenty of times and I’ve only received one ticket. It was just a warning too.
- If you don’t have a parking pass for the season and want to avoid the hassle of finding spot during game day, reserve your spot here.
- Here is a dandy list of parking FAQs.
- You can avoid driving to the games by taking a shuttle to the game. For details on the pickup locations, visit the Big Red Express landing page here.
- Speaking of mass transit, you can find details on party buses that can take you and from Lincoln by visiting nebraskapartybus.com and partybusomaha.com. These are two of the more popular party bus providers in the region.
- Here’s a game day guide that will help you plan out your travel.
- Memorial Stadium gates open 90 minutes before kickoff.
- If you don’t want to sound like a total noob when discussing all things Husker football, here’s a comprehensive summary Nebraska’s history and places to check out in Lincoln. It’s dated by a few years, but the information provided is a great starting point for all fans new to Husker football.
Words From The Wise
Enough with the lecturing, let’s take a look at some advice from a few Husker Game Day veterans:
Get there early, wear comfy shoes and bring beverages in a foam cooler unless you know someone to leave a cooler with. – Carmen G.
Any attention is good attention. Be loud, be ridiculous, be creative. You playing small doesn’t help the Huskers. But no matter how over the top you are, always remember that you represent the program and the state. Talking smack to opposing fans is fine, but only if it’s all in good fun. Sportsmanship and grace, even practiced by people wearing ridiculous outfits, is always in style. – Tyler D.
First time partygoers: pace yourself. This is an all day, all night event, so don’t be black out drunk before kick off. No one wants to have to babysit.
Step up gamers: potlucks. Always a crowd pleaser. Pick a theme for each game-or, everyone bring a liquor of choice for the shotski. – Carrie L.
If you’re new and don’t have a set tailgate spot, wander. Stop and have a beer with people.
Drink local craft beers like Blue Blood. Bring beer to friends’ tailgates. Share with people nearby! – Ty P.
Most people tailgating are nice people having a good time and will welcome all to come in and join them. Keep a red solo cup and cozy with you always. Although there is open container laws, if you put it in a red solo cup its fine! Cops can’t touch it unless you give them a reason. – Paul W.
Have anything to add? Leave your feedback in the comments section below and I’ll update the article with the most glaring omissions. Follow me at @midweztmarauder to keep track of my adventures each Husker game day in Lincoln and to keep me up to date on all major happenings each Saturday.