Tailgating at CU Boulder is a time-honored tradition for students, parents, alumni, locals, and anyone who enjoys football, camaraderie, and the thrill of seeing a live buffalo stampede through an arena. On game day, fans gather at Ralphie’s Corral (named after Ralphie, the aforementioned live buffalo) near Folsom Field for pre-game fun including games, CU marching band performances, music, and spirited rallying cries.
The festivities aren’t just limited to Ralphie’s Corral, however. Boulder is a small city, and when it's game day at the University of Colorado Boulder, it’s game day all over the Rocky Mountain community. Show up the night before for the Pearl Street Stampede, a beloved Boulder tradition that brings the CU marching band to the brick-lined streets of the city’s iconic dining and shopping district.
Other tailgating opportunities abound, including unofficial events at local businesses in the community. In addition to taking part in an unforgettable tailgating experience, going to a CU football game allows you to experience the charming, outdoorsy City of Boulder, where RV camping and mountain scenery are both readily available.
Tailgating at Ralphie's Corral has been a free activity for Buffalo fans. Unofficial tailgating events may charge a small fee for parking or entry. Tickets for CU Boulder games are available for individual games, three-game plans, and for season passes.
In recent years, fans have expected to spend anywhere from $50 to 100 on single-day tickets and at least $225 on a season pass. Season passes are usually mailed around July. CU students, alumni, and faculty should inquire about discounts. For popular games, including those against rivals such as CSU and Nebraska, buy tickets as far in advance as possible.
Boulder is a very condensed city that uses an easy-to-navigate grid system. Leave early to beat the game-day traffic and it’s a short drive to Folsom Field from just about anywhere in or around Boulder. The majority of traffic will be around campus. Narrow roads, pedestrians, and bicycles may cause challenges and delays near Folsom Field.
RV parking is available in Lots 414 and 470 during CU football games. The cost may run about $100 per RV space. Public parking for cars is available in multiple lots around campus and can be purchased at a discount in advance or by cash or credit card the day of an event. Motorists can also find other RV parking options off-campus.
Public transportation in Boulder is incredibly comprehensive, easy to use, and affordable. If you park your RV off-campus, a number of bus routes will be available to get you where you need to go. The HOP bus is your best option for getting to tailgating events on-campus. This route picks up at stops around town every 15 to 20 minutes and offers passes for just a few dollars. There are also cabs, rideshares, and shuttles in Boulder.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be a CU college student with a dorm room, you won’t be able to stay on-campus during a football game. Tailgating events do not permit overnight camping, but it is easy to get to and from Folsom Field from within the community. RVers will find a number of RV campgrounds in and around Boulder with easy access to both tailgating events and the area’s mountain parks.
Whether you crave access to the local boutiques and farm-to-table restaurants of Boulder neighborhoods like Pearl Street and The Hill or you want sweeping views of the Flatirons and access to rock climbing in Boulder Canyon and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Boulder. Keep in mind that RV campgrounds within the city limits are more likely to have amenities like wifi, cell service, pools, and laundry facilities while those on the outskirts of town promise a more rustic experience. Golden Gate Canyon State Park beckons travelers to enjoy the outdoors and rests about 25 miles from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Getting around campus during a CU Boulder tailgating event is easiest on foot or by bike. Expect dedicated pedestrian-only areas and bike lanes to help aid with this. An official tailgating event at Ralphie’s Corral is held on a lawn, so it may not be suitable for bikes and other wheeled vehicles. Overall, the CU campus and Boulder are both compact and pedestrian-friendly, allowing for short walks to and from tailgating areas, parking areas, and Folsom Field.
One word: layers. True CU Buffs fans start tailgating early when the mountain air is especially cold. Later in the day, those same folks typically find themselves removing jackets and sweaters. Dress in layers any time of the year, including a light t-shirt or tank top underneath and a sweatshirt or fleece on top. Colder months will call for hats, gloves, scarves, and durable footwear. Oh, and don’t forget to show CU pride with plenty of black and gold.
For the full CU experience, you might want to plan on tailgating, going to the game, and joining post-game activities. Have all the gear you need for a long day including outdoor cooking equipment if you plan to grill while tailgating. Bring cash if you prefer to purchase food from vendors. Remember to grab blankets, cameras, and seat cushions (these must be under 18” and cannot have covers, zippers, or pockets).
Bring basic first-aid supplies, such as band-aids and aspirin. Fans may also want warm gloves and wool hats for cool mornings and evenings as well as sunscreen, sunglasses, and baseball caps for sunny afternoons. Pack more water than you think you might need, as dehydration occurs more rapidly at higher elevations (Boulder sits at an elevation of 5,328’).
Outdoor cooking is an encouraged and cherished tradition at CU tailgating events. Veteran tailgaters cook everything from eggs and bacon to entire Thanksgiving spreads. If you’re decked out sufficiently in CU gear, you just might get offered a plate or two. If you’re looking to do your own cooking at Ralphie’s Corral, stock up on groceries at any major chain or local organic shop in Boulder. Outdoor cooking rules at RV campgrounds vary, especially in more natural settings frequented by bears.
In direct proximity to Ralphie’s Corral and Folsom Field, you will find a number of college student-friendly restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. This neighborhood, colloquially referred to as The Hill, is ideal if you’re looking for burritos, pizza, and cheap beer. If you are in the mood for a sit-down restaurant or a more upscale cocktail bar, head to Pearl Street, which is about 1.5 miles from campus.
While many people choose to cook or bring their own food and drinks to tailgating events, you will find concession vendors at Ralphie’s Corral. Alternate tailgating events also offer food from the grill and beer tents. Inside Folsom Field, concessions are located at Balch Fieldhouse, the East Concourse, the Buff Walk, the Indoor Practice Facility, and on the Southwest Plaza. Food and drink vendors inside the stadium typically open up two hours before kickoff. Bring cash, as not all vendors may be equipped to accept credit cards.
When leaving tailgating to enter Folsom Field, give yourself about an hour to get through security. The process may include bag searches, metal detectors, electronic wands, and additional screening measures if necessary. Speed up the process by ensuring that all bags larger than a small purse are clear plastic and are no larger than the allowed dimensions (which have been 12”x6”x12” in recent years). Firearms, selfie sticks, alcoholic beverages, strollers, umbrellas, bikes, skateboards, and pets (other than service animals) are not allowed inside the stadium, though some of these may be permitted at tailgating events.
Weather in the Rocky Mountains can drastically vary depending on the time of year or even the time of day. If tailgating earlier in the spring or early fall, fans might expect warm, sunny weather with occasional afternoon rainstorms. If tailgating later in late fall or winter, days may still be very sunny (Boulder has 245 days of sunshine per year), but snowfall is possible. Take steps to avoid exposure by drinking fluids and having sun protection and layered clothing with you anywhere in Colorado.
Medical assistance is available on site in the event of an emergency. Go to Gate 11 or Gate 3 at Folsom Field or text CU 69050 if you cannot get to a station. At tailgating events, first responders will be present to assist with medical needs. There are also several hospitals and emergency care centers located in close proximity to campus.