Los Angeles

The Ultimate Guide to Tailgating in LA: USC Edition

Here's how to cheer on the USC Trojans and tailgate in style at the Coliseum.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

By their own lofty standards, USC football hasn’t had a great decade. There have been some good seasons, but nothing close to the thunder and lightning of the Pete Carroll years in the early aughts, or the vintage majesty of their run through the ‚Äė70s and early ‚Äė80s. But this year, thanks to a new coach, some high-level transfers, and their eternally excellent recruiting, it looks like USC is back.

USC is unquestionably the glamour program in Southern California college football, with a roster of dedicated celebrity alumni and fans that rivals (and overlaps with) the Lakers, including Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg, Henry Winkler, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. The Reggie Bush years made an indelible cultural mark on the college football landscape, both for the team’s absolute electricity on the field, and the scandal that followed in its wake. And now that USC is back to an expected level of flash, excitement, and points on the scoreboard, the bright lights are certain to return to the sideline.

Like the other college football program in town, USC has a historic stadium in the LA Memorial Coliseum. Just south of downtown, its accessibility by freeway and public transit, and its proximity to USC’s campus all make tailgating at the Coliseum an incredible experience. Now that USC is good again, fans will be back at the stadium, and more importantly, fans will be back hanging out and celebrating before the game.

Whether you’re considering a first visit to the house that OJ built or a return to the old alma mater, it’s probably time for a tailgating refresher. Here’s everything you need to know to have the ultimate tailgate experience at a USC game at the Coliseum:

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

When and where does USC play?

USC has five remaining home games at the Coliseum, and one rivalry matchup with UCLA at the Rose Bowl. They are all on Saturdays between October 1 and November 26, except for one Friday night game versus Colorado on November 11.

How can I buy tickets?

Tickets are available through the official USC ticket website and through secondary markets.

Flickr/David Swinney
Flickr/David Swinney
Flickr/David Swinney

When and where can I tailgate?

The trickiest thing about setting up your tailgate for a USC game is that it requires planning-you have to buy a tailgate permit in advance, and then the administration assigns you a tailgate location.

Because of the stadium and the campus’ location, all the parking is in large structures, which aren’t exactly conducive to grilling and revelry. So instead, your tailgate location is on campus itself, away from the literal tailgate of your vehicle. You have to transport all your stuff, but the tradeoff is an atmosphere that is several steps above a barren parking lot-the effect is akin to a broey picnic, halfway between a cocktail party and a campus club fair.

Tailgating starts six hours before the game, and ends as soon as kicker Alex Stadthaus sends it away.

Flickr/Ken Lund
Flickr/Ken Lund
Flickr/Ken Lund

What are the rules around cooking and drinking while tailgating?

Glass containers and drinking games are prohibited, and if you want to bring a keg you have to register it when you get your tailgate permit.

If you’re going to grill, you must keep it 15 feet away from structures, keep it out from under your tent, and also bring or rent a fire extinguisher. There are no tabletop portable gas ranges, fire pits, or smokers allowed.

Flickr/chenjack
Flickr/chenjack
Flickr/chenjack

So what should I bring to eat and drink, and where should I get it?

If you’re picking up a restaurant picnic, you have a ton of great options right near campus and spreading out in all directions-another perk of that central location. If you’re coming from the West, you might snag some hot chicken from Hotville, hybrid Jewish deli and burger stand favourites from Johnny’s, or NOLA classics from Harold & Belle’s.

From the South there’s Baba’s Vegan Cafe, Woody’s Bar-B-Que, or Tacos Los G√ľichos. From the East you could swing by Brooklyn Ave Pizza Co., Pikunico, or pick up some of LA’s best tacos from Boyle Heights. From the North there’s Langer’s, Pearl River Deli, and all the wonders of Downtown.

For your beverage needs, it’s worth a detour to the legendary Ramirez Liquor in Boyle Heights if it’s at all convenient. There are plenty of typical corner liquor stores close to campus, or you could stop by a local brewery on the way over, like Highland Park, Boomtown, or Party Beer. And if you’re feeling fancy there’s always Flask & Field.

If I plan to cook on campus, where should I pick up supplies?

There’s a Trader Joe’s at University Village just next to campus, and there’s a Smart & Final right nearby on Vermont, both of which should have everything you need for a classic tailgate. Even better, though, is the selection of local carnicerias dotting the area around the stadium.

Flickr/chenjack
Flickr/chenjack
Flickr/chenjack

Is there a place to celebrate before the game if I don’t want to set up my own tailgate?

The Trojan Family Game Day Experience is free and open to the public in Alumni Park, right in the middle of campus. There’s plenty of seating, screens showing college football games from around the country, and family-friendly games and activities like face painting, an Extra Point Kick game, and crafting. There are also food options, soft drinks, and beer and wine available for purchase from several vendors.

If you’re looking for an off-campus place to eat, drink, and be merry before or after the game, your options are very similar to our recommendations for Banc of California Stadium.

Can I bring food and drinks into the stadium?

You are allowed to bring food into the stadium provided it’s inside of an approved clear plastic bag, and you are allowed to bring two factory-sealed water bottles per person, but no other beverages. You can not bring any alcohol into the stadium, but there is beer and wine for sale inside.

How good is USC’s football team this year?

Only time will tell, but they are looking very good. And more than just good, they are fun and exciting, with a dynamic offense and charismatic players at premium skill positions. That is where USC has traditionally thrived, turning players into Dancing With The Stars-level celebrities, and they appear poised to do it again.

But if things don’t pan out, it wouldn’t be the first time a highly ranked USC team has tripped and fallen on its face-just ten short years ago, they fielded what some consider the most overrated team of all time.

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Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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