When it comes to tailgating, I love the food, the friends, the lawn games, and the random interactions with strangers. But let’s face it, I’m really here for the booze – everything else is a plus. In my opinion, some of the best tailgates can be totally impromptu. Stopping for a case of Miller Lite and a Styrofoam cooler and breaking out cornhole in a parking lot can be a great time.
But there is something very rewarding about a tailgate done right. And that is what I have been in search of ever since that first magical moment when a warm can of Natural Light hit my underage lips outside of a Dave Matthews Band concert.
For the longest time, I thought tailgating was restricted to the grimy, sticky and unforgiving surface that is the stadium parking lot. That all changed recently and I haven’t looked back.
Last summer, my friends and I headed down to the ballpark for a Phillies game. It was the kind of scheduling – 7:05 start time on a Saturday – that makes my eyes light up, as it gives you maximum time to tailgate. Pulling into the stadium around 1:30, we were stopped by a security guard.
“You guys plan on tailgating,” he asked. The car was packed with coolers, lawn chairs, a grill, a cornhole set and it was almost 6 hours before the opening pitch. The answer was pretty obvious.
“Well you can’t do it here. This is a no-tailgating lot.”
For the longest time, I thought tailgating was restricted to the grimy, sticky and unforgiving surface that is the stadium parking lot. That all changed recently, and I haven’t looked back…
We were pretty taken aback at first, but eventually learned that tailgating was banned only in the parking lot surrounding the Phillies’ stadium (The Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers all play their games in the same gigantic concrete wonderland, so there were plenty of other parking lots literally across the street).
Still though, this was where we had always come for Phillies games. We liked the idea of drinking our beers directly on the site of the old Vet, seeing the line-up cards that they put out before each game and being able to run to the gate to buy any extra tickets that we needed.
Talking with the security guard, I learned that the ban stemmed from a perfect storm of drunkenness earlier in the season (College Night + Dollar Dog Night = Booziness). I also picked up another piece of information, something that has changed my tailgating life for the better – FDR Park.
FDR Park is located across Pattison St., and is a slightly longer walk to the stadium than the other parking lots. However, there is totally free parking, plenty of picnic tables and grass instead of concrete. In a word: Perfect.
Thinking about those parking lot tailgates – hot asphalt, people crammed together, urine flowing freely, not to mention underage drinkers getting a little too rowdy, I count my blessings that we discovered FDR Park.
The trees that line the park provide plenty of shade and it seems like the crowd that gathers is decidedly less stumbling drunk and more just having a good time. There is plenty of table space for the grilling, lots of grass for bocce or tossing a football around and for the ladies, a nearby port-a-potty.
Also, other than being across the street from the stadium, the park has no relationship with the Phillies. So while there are plenty of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard jerseys, there are also family reunions, softball games and good old fashioned barbecuing. It is not hard to strike up a conversation with another group of people and playing against strangers in a game of cornhole or flip cup is not unheard of.
FDR park just might be the best little secret in the Philadelphia tailgating scene. You know what, maybe I should just stop right here…