For a stress-free tailgating experience in Baltimore, know these helpful tips and tricks on when to arrive, head into the game and how to avoid sitting in traffic.
When To Arrive
When to arrive at M&T Bank Stadium depends on your parking situation. If you’ve purchased lot tickets in advance next to the stadium, arriving four hours prior to kickoff is enough time to get settled, set up the grills and get down to drinking and cornhole merriment. On the other hand, if you’re seeking tailgate parking in one of many private lots downtown, an extra hour can make all the difference when it comes to location. While some lots claim they don’t open until four hours before the game, those that arrive five hours prior can often still access the lots and claim spots, paying the attendants upon their arrival. (Note: Baltimore follows first-come, first-served tailgating practices, meaning reserving spots for friends arriving later is usually not possible. When tailgating with a group, the rule is arrive together to tailgate together.)
While there’s not yet a need to camp out overnight, the best advice is to arrive as early as possible but no later than two hours prior to game time – and even this will guarantee a hectic and frantic parking experience. Besides, all Ravens fans deserve ample time to kick back and relax before an action-packed football game.
When To Head Into The Game
Most Baltimore tailgaters will close up shop and head into the game about one hour before kickoff. During the regular season, this leaves just enough time to get through ticketing and bag inspections, grab a final beer or hot dog and head to your seats without feeling rushed. Even if you’re not keeping an eye on the clock, you’ll get a good sense for when it’s time to go as tailgaters will subconsciously start preparing for the game by forming a huddle before advancing to the stadium together.
However, what many rookie tailgaters may not take into account is that clean up must occur even sooner than one hour before game time, as spots must be cleaned up before leaving. Depending on your setup and average cleaning speed, an extra half hour (or more) may be needed to pack up equipment and dispose of trash. Remember that cooking gear requires time to cool off before packing away.
Also, if you’re tailgating out of town, it helps to plan a little extra time to head into the game since the most direct route to the stadium may not be well known in advance.
How To Plan Your Exit And Avoid Traffic
The number one way to avoid traffic after a Ravens home game is simple enough – don’t be in the traffic. Especially after an earlier game win (1 p.m. or 4 p.m.), it can be advantageous to spend the next hour at a local restaurant or pub celebrating the victory instead of counting headlights. Within a short walking distance from the stadium, there are usually after-game activities along the Inner Harbor. Plus many bars have game-day specials to accommodate enthusiastic fans.
If an extended celebration is not possible, then accept the inevitable. Although Baltimore traffic cops do their best to keep traffic moving, it naturally will take some time to get out of the parking lot and away from the main stadium roads. However, planning an alternative back-roads route prior to the game can cut your traffic time down considerably. The two main tracks out of Baltimore are I-95 or I-83. Finding ways to avoid these or stay off them as long as possible until you’re farther away from the city can help. The most important component here is to make these plans before the game, not after, as it can be critical to investigate the roads you’re taking to ensure safety and avoid getting lost.
Of course if you’re a fair-weather fan and the game is not going well, an early departure might be the best way to go. But even if you do get stuck in traffic, don’t forget that this last part is an important piece of the tailgating experience. Take advantage of the closeness to talk over the amazing plays of the game with your new neighbor and break out some leftover snacks and sodas to make the ride home a real celebration.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
Keri Ann Beazell is a Baltimore writer following the latest developments in arts and culture, natural wonders, lifestyle and pets. She enjoys promoting thought-provoking discussions, education, new ideas and smiles among readers. Follow her on Twitter at @KtBlue16 and online at Examiner.com