You’ve reached the page with the most detailed information
you’ll find on tailgating at Soldier Field on the internet, from a fan that’s
there every week. I’d like to be able to say “Chicago Bears
Tailgating-The Best Tailgating in the NFL”, but unfortunately I can’t.
Not because we Bears tailgaters don’t throw an awesome party–we do–but fans
tailgate in Chicago almost in spite of the organization rather than because of
the organization’s support. Unfortunately for Bear fans, Green Bay is the
model for how tailgating should be supported and encouraged by an organization.
That’s the first thing that must be noted when discussing
Chicago Bears tailgating. Despite the organization’s claim that they love
the tradition and support Bears tailgaters, the reality in my mind is that they
don’t and would rather you come into the stadium hungry and sober to eat their
bad, overpriced food and drink their expensive beer.
Below is a discussion on the facts of Bears tailgating, how to
navigate the scene, and what pitfalls you’ll be faced with if you’d like to
have a few drinks and some food in the Museum Campus parking lots.
The Brutal Facts
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like pulling into the
parking lot before a Bears game on a beautiful September morning on Chicago’s
lakefront. Green Bay’s organization manages their tailgating phenomenally, and
encourages it as a part of the gameday experience. But Lambeau’s ambience can
not compare to Chicago’s picturesque lakefront. The following are things
to know if you’d like to tailgate before a Bears game:
The only way to be guaranteed a parking spot will be available
whenever you’d like to arrive is if you have a parking pass for the South Lot,
Waldron Deck or North Garage. And the only way to get a pass is to be a
season ticket holder and win a lottery in the offseason. But yet, there
is still a catch with the Bears–the lottery you would apply for does not
differentiate between tailgating lots (South, Waldron) and non-tailgating lots
(North Garage). So even if one were to win this lottery, they may be
stuck paying for non-tailgating passes.
So that leaves cash parking for anyone without a pass, which
includes our group. In 2004, the Bears banned canopies, open fires
and deep fryers from the lots, so in order to get one of the extremely limited
number of grass spots where you are able to use a canopy to block wind, plan on
getting there before 7 a.m.
Cash parking lots are at the Field Museum, the Adler
Planetarium, Burnham Harbor and 31st Street. The current cost (2005) to
park a car is $35, RVs and buses are $75. Be prepared to change plans on
the fly, because the Bears/city/General Parking change the availablity of lots
each week without notifying fans in any way. Meaning if you parked in
Burnham Harbor one week and liked it, you may plan on parking there with a
group the next week and find it blocked until 10 a.m.
Good luck if you can navigate all the Bears’ restrictions and
still have a good time. We always do, after shedding the stress of
getting things set up.
Bears/Soldier Field Tailgating FAQ
The tailgating questions have really heated up this year, so
it’s about time I posted the most frequently asked questions and the small
number of answers I can provide.
What’s the general deal with Bears parking and tailgating?
The general deal is one of three things. Either (1) have a parking pass, (2)
plan on getting to the museum campus before 7 a.m. for a Noon game or 9 a.m.
for a 3 p.m. or night game, or (3) park in the loop (Wabash, State, Michigan,
etc.) and walk or take a bus over (no tailgating).
OK, so where do I get a “parking pass”? You either
already have one or you buy one on E-Bay for an incredible markup. The Bears
hold a convoluted lottery every summer, where you bid for a parking pass. If
you win, great, but if you’re a tailgater, you may still win a non-tailgating
garage spot. So to a guy like me, it’s not worth trying for the lottery. As far
as passes are concerned, if you have a pass for the Waldron Deck or the South
Lot, you can tailgate there. Lots open at 8 a.m. for Noon games.
I don’t have a parking pass, and I want to tailgate. What do I
do? As already mentioned, above all else, plan on getting down to the
area before 7 a.m. for a Noon game. All cash parking spots will probably be
gone by 8:30. And trust me, you don’t want to be one of the last people making
people move their bag games so you can try to find the last parking spot. As
far as where to go if you want to cash park, your choices are the Adler
Planetarium lot or 31st Street, about 1.5 miles south of the stadium. As of
2006, the Planetarium was $35, 31st street $16. And the Bears/General Parking
jacked the Planetarium price to $50 for a car for one playoff game until Mayor
Daley intervened to stop it for the championship game. As far as I know
right now, 31st and Adler lots open at 6 a.m. on gamedays.
I don’t want all that hassle or I’m coming from out of town and
just want to tailgate with someone, what should I do? Can I just walk up to
someone and join their party? You may want to go to the Bears’ official
party, outside of Gate 0 for some games. Google “Chicago Bears Tailgating”, and
the second thing that will pop up is a link to the Bears’ tailgate party. (HA,
love it, I’m first. Me, the schmuck, just a fan). You may or may not be
able to find someone that would love to have a stranger crash their party….no
guarantees there. Try to go to one of the many Bears message boards out
there and post that you’re going to be in town to see if anyone is feeling
benevolent that week.
Can I just bring a six-pack and walk up to the stadium?
DON’T DO IT. Since 2005, the city has started to enforce no alcohol around the
stadium. Read carefully: they will not hassle you in any of the lots
(Waldron/South/31st/Planetarium) but DO NOT carry beers up to the stadium. As
you leave the lots they will force you to throw out any open containers. And
trust me, don’t hide one extra for the walk, they’ll catch you and who needs a
So your word is gold and after I read this you’re guaranteeing
me that this is how it will be for the game I’m going to? Unfortunately,
ABSOLUTELY NOT. I wish I could guarantee anything about tailgtaing but this is
why I say the Bears suck about this. I have a group of anywhere from 6 to 20
cash parkers I try to regularly tailgate with. Several times we have made
specific plans to meet near the Planetarium or Burnham Harbor
lots, and we arrive to find the Bears/General Parking have decided to not
open that lot on a given day or delay the opening to 10 a.m. So then you have
to audible….I’m doing the best I can here but there are no guarantees when it
comes to parking around Soldier Field. As said above, the Bears would much
rather you park in the loop, walk over at 11:30 and drink many of their $7
beers and eat their overpriced and crappy food in the stadium. So I swear
they pull this crap just to be difficult and hope dedicated fans/tailgaters
give up and give in on tailgating.
Were can I find more information? The team’s official
web site provides a gameday advisory every week to update fans on anything
special they need to know about that week’s game. I don’t pay much attention to
it because the main thing it says every week is that the Bears encourage
everyone to use public transportation and not park near the stadium.
www.soldierfield.net and www.soldierfieldparking.com for maps and more specific
I’m going to a [college game, concert, soccer game] at Soldier
Field, what specifically will the conditions be for that event? Sorry,
I have no idea. The only thing I can tell you that should make you feel better
is that the Adler Planetarium and 31st Street Lots are public parking lots for
McCormick Place and the Museums, so you should be able to park there and
tailgate. Since it’s not a Bear game, you may even be able to try the reserved
Bear game lots (south and Waldron). But sorry, I have no way of knowing for
Please leave a comment or read what others have said about Chicago Bears Tailgating on the
Chicago Bears Blog.
Click here for the Chicago Bears Blog tailgating page. Feel free to post anything about tailgating, if this page was helpful, how was tailgating, etc.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not monitoring the blog comments every second
of the day and it’s not intended that you’ll get a response from me by posting
on the Tailgating blog page. Sorry, it’s intended for general comments on
Chicago Bears Tailgating. I DO NOT WORK FOR THE BEARS OR THEIR PARKING VENDOR
SO PLEASE DON’T ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE ASKED OF THE BEARS OR THEIR
PARKING OPERATIONS PARTNERS. Thank you. I will respond to any
reasonable general questions on Bears tailgating as time allows.