When you’re watching the University of Florida Gators, you’re not only at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, you’re also at, “The Swamp.” This 88,000-seat stadium is home to the Gators, a championship-winning Southeastern Conference (SEC) team.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in fact, is not only the biggest college football stadium in Florida, but it’s the biggest stadium of any kind in the Sunshine State. When you’re there, in the midst of the crowd’s roar, you’ll notice Albert and Alberta Gator, the school’s mascots, happily cheering on the home team. Sports Illustrated’s 2007 Mascot Power Rankings ranked Albert Gator in the number one spot.
Tailgating at the University of Florida is a time-honored tradition, and the stadium has several RV lots, one of which offers overnight spot. Your fellow, “tail-gators,” will be right beside you, cooking, grilling, and having a good time before the game.
Before the game starts, however, make sure to head over to Gator Fan Fest, which has activities for the whole family, giveaways, and more. Two hours before the game starts, travel to the northern part of the stadium and root for the players as they enter the stadium in what’s known as Gator Walk. Chomp, Chomp!
To see the Florida Gators at The Swamp, you’ll want to buy your tickets early. People usually buy their season tickets as soon as they become available. If you’re going to just one game, expect to pay around $40 for the nosebleed seats and up to $150 for seats on the 50-yard line — prices vary depending on the opponent. Tickets for baseball, basketball, softball, and other sports are also available, and you can expect to pay less for non-football events.
Motorists will encounter several road closures around the stadium on game day, but these only start a few hours before the game. To make sure you reach your parking spot, it’s recommended you head to the stadium as early as you can. If you’re traveling from out of state to Gainesville, you may want to visit other nearby cities such as Jacksonville, Tampa, or Orlando.
RV parking and tailgating is allowed at the University of Florida, but there are a few stipulations to consider. Primarily, you’ll have to attend at least three of the six home games and might pay $450 in total, or you can go to all six games if you wish. Failure to attend at least four games will disqualify you from purchasing the ticket next year. Overnight stays are only permitted at Lot 9, which opens the evening before the game.
Gator fans might find single-game overflow parking at the Park and Ride lot about three miles from the stadium, but you must claim your spot early the day before the game.
The University of Florida uses the Regional Transit System, which has a service called Gator Aider. This shuttle costs about $10 per person or around $50 for the season. You can buy your tickets at any of the local Park and Ride locations. With the shuttle, you can park your car and reach the stadium without tiring from the long walk and Florida heat.
Onsite camping is only permitted at Lot 9, but you will have to apply and purchase a parking permit first. Be prepared to dry camp when tailgating and staying overnight in Gator RV parking. For other accommodations, try staying at a nearby RV campground or a similar place.
There are not many RV campgrounds within the city limits of Gainesville, but there are a handful of spots in nearby cities if you don’t mind the drive. North of Gainesville, in Starke, Florida, you can find the Starke/Gainesville N.E. KOA, which should have all the amenities you’re looking for during your RV adventure.
The best way to get from the parking lot to the stadium is by using the Gator Aider service. Once inside the stadium, you’ll have to get to your seat by using the stairs. Elevators are available but only for guests with disabilities.
Florida is called the Sunshine State for a reason, so it’s best to leave any heavy, warm clothing at home. You’ll want to dress like a local Gator, so wear shorts, breathable t-shirts or polos, and pack your sunglasses and a visor. Don't forget to include your Albert and Alberta Gator t-shirts and plenty of blue and orange attire.
No tailgate is complete without a grill, but keep your eye on it at all times. You’ll want to make sure that your RV has an exhaust extension, also known as a smokestack, to prevent others from inhaling the fumes. For easy cleanup, bring several trash bags and a container for removing items you plan to wash after the game.
While tailgating and watching the game is great fun, be aware of your water intake. The humid Florida heat can dehydrate you quickly if you don’t drink water often. There are multiple hydration stations in the stadium, or you could bring an empty water bottle and fill it at one of the water fountains.
With such great weather year-round, Floridians love to cook outside, especially during a tailgate. Visit the local grocery store and stock up on ingredients to whip up tailgating favorites such as hot dogs, burgers, and other easy-to-handle food. If you’re feeling fancy, buy some fresh, local seafood and grill it up for your guests. Shrimp on the barbie is never a bad idea.
For those who prefer eating out over cooking, Gainesville has more than a few trendy food spots worth checking out while in Northern Florida. Whether you want pizza, Thai Cusine, or seafood, Gainesville has it, and, because it’s a small town, prices are affordable. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium neighbors with quite the handful of eateries for Gater fans to enjoy, especially to the east.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a modern facility, and its vendors all accept major credit cards, but some concessions and vendors have separate lines for those using a credit card. If you want to speed things up, consider using the ATMs found within the stadium or bring cash.
Gators who want to look the part can shop for merchandise at the Gator Sportshop, of which there are two. Gator souvenir shops can be found in the main concourse.
Before entering the stadium, leave any non-clear bags behind. Like most college and NFL stadiums these days, The Swamp has a strict clear bag policy. If you don’t have a clear bag, you can use a clear food storage bag. Lost items can be claimed at the lobby of the main ticket office.
For most of the year, Gainesville is either warm or hot, and it’s almost always humid. Winter is not very long at all, and temperatures sometimes drop to the low 40s. It does rain quite a bit, however, and hurricanes can form in the late summer and early fall. Monitor local weather conditions as you begin each day for a smooth time with whatever the skies deliver during your trip.
For any medical issues, visit one of the eight first-aid stations inside the stadium. There are medical professionals at each station, should the need arise. For any severe medical issues, seek help immediately or call 911. There are several hospitals near the stadium.