Whether you're heading to Ford Field (or thereabouts) as a Lions football fan from the suburbs or you're in town to root for that other team, there are several things you should know before tailgating in Detroit. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Detroit Lions tailgating experience.
Meeting Up and Filling Up
Michigan's Blue Law, which restricted the sale of alcohol on Sundays, was changed in 2010.
Alcohol sales are now legal on Sundays except from 2 a.m to 7 a.m., which is the same for any other day. Most Lions games are on Sundays at 1:00 p.m., which gives tailgaters time to buy supplies downtown that day if they haven’t planned ahead.
Parking Lots for Tailgating
Unlike the Pontiac Silverdome, Ford Field itself has limited parking, which fills up quickly. This means that the many small parking lots in and around the Foxtown/Theatre District pick up the slack. Even so, the best-known place to tailgate in Detroit is Eastern Market, a location that's about 10 minutes away from Ford Field. Bring cash for parking lots just in case.
Eastern Market attained notoriety as a tailgating spot in 2002 when Ford Field opened. At that time, city ordinances regarding open alcohol and open fires prevented several parking lots closer to Ford Field from offering a place to celebrate game day.
These days football fans have a lot more tailgating options, but with its many advantages, Easter Market is still the most popular. It's a quick 10-minute walk to Ford Field, but shuttles run continuously for a $5 fee (round trip, every 15 minutes). In addition to more porta-potties and garbage cans than other areas, it has real bathrooms that are generally clean and in good working order.
Additionally, there is often a band for entertainment and always food for purchase. As of this writing, the cost to park at Eastern Market is $10 to park and $40 to tailgate. Tailgate passes can be purchased online or on game day at Eastern Market's Welcome Center.
Tips for tailgating at Eastern Market:
- All regulations are very strictly enforced.
- If you wish to use a second parking space for setting up a “party area,” you will be charged for a second space.
- You must get a sticker at the main office to tailgate.
- RV’s will be charged a higher fee.
- Lots open four hours before each game and close one hour after each game.
Ford Field Tailgating
The Ford Field-sponsored Bud Light Tailgate is free and open to the public. It is located on Brush Street between Montcalm and Adams 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Live music and Lions’ merchandise is available.
Eastern Market isn't the only game in town. There are several parking lots that accommodate tailgating in and around Ford Field. The parking fee is anywhere from $10 to $40, depending on how far away the lot is from Ford Field. For instance, lots in Greektown run about $15 to $20. For bigger events like Opening Day or special team rivalry games, prices may shoot up to $60.
Most lots stagger the cars to allow room for tailgating and an early exit. Word of warning: some lots have limited resources for tailgaters, so bring a garbage bag and perhaps a large, empty Big Gulp cup just in case.
Tailgating is not allowed in any parking structure. Side street lots are generally cheaper, and the farther the walk, the cheaper the fee. Earlier arrivals will also get a cheaper fee. Be careful where you park if you intend to leave at halftime: some lots will double up the cars, and your exit could be delayed. If you intend to park and not tailgate, consider parking at the casinos for free. This also offers easy access to freeways. Some downtown bars have special tailgating events on certain days, and bars in the suburbs offer free shuttles to the game.
Groups tailgating at the lots around Ford Field tend to be small (four to 10 people), at least compared to the large groups in other cities.
They are also very friendly, even to the point of lending cooking supplies to fans of the away team.
On a nice day, tailgating starts around 10 a.m., but you should still be able to find a place to tailgate if you arrive fashionably late.
When it comes time to actually head to the game, you should pack up the tailgate by 12:20 p.m. This will give you time to walk to the stadium and make it through security. If you enter Ford Field on the west side (away from Greektown), crowds might be thinner, which could decrease your wait. There are parking lots at Ford Field, but they fill up quickly.
Security at Ford Field is extremely strict, so inform yourself before you get there. Almost all items are banned from the stadium; check out the website for complete details. Not that you'll have to walk through a metal detector. You may also be patted down or subjected to a hand-held metal detector wand.
Note that these items are not allowed: purses (except small clutches or wallets smaller than 4"x 6”), umbrellas, bags (except approved clear bags), diaper bags, binoculars, backpacks, seat cushions, camera bags or strollers.
There is an "item reserve" area at entrances in case you have brought banned items. For a $10 fee, you may leave the items and retrieve them after the game ends. Be prepared to take nothing in but a cell phone, cash, credit cards, tickets, and ID. Vendors will ID almost everyone.
Ford Field has a wide variety of food and beverage options but bring your wallet. Beer is now $9, with many local micro brews available at a higher price. Food is generally of good quality, but expensive.
The Motown experience doesn't have to end with the game. If you're looking for other ways to spend time while in downtown Detroit, check out the Detroit Visitors Guide. In addition to information about museums, landmarks, restaurants, casinos and other attractions, it has practical information about how to get around town and about hotels, weather, sales tax and driving laws.
Things to Remember
- Don't bring an open container of alcohol into the passenger compartment of your car. You could be subject to a $100 fine and possibly license suspension and points. M.C.L.A. 257.624a
- Michigan has a particularly harsh Minor-in-Possession (MIP) Law.
- Be careful when driving in and out of lots. There are a lot of people roaming around.
- Park where you are comfortable. If you have a very expensive car, make sure you choose a well-lit lot with a guard.