The Complete Guide to The Cotton Bowl

Who’s playing in the Cotton Bowl?

The Clemson Tigers rounded out their undefeated 2018 season last weekend by winning the ACC Championship. You can check out their season recap here. The Tigers will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are also undefeated at 12-0. Take a look at Notre Dame’s season here.

Buy Clemson gear

Buy Notre Dame gear

Where is the game played?

The Cotton Bowl will be played in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Arlington is centrally located in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and is also home to the MLB Texas Rangers. AT&T Stadium (sometimes referred to as Cowboys Stadium as it was called prior to the AT&T naming rights deal) opened in 2009 and has hosted a Super Bowl, CFB National Championship, concerts and many other events. Locals sometimes refer to it as “Jerry (Jones) World,”  or even “The Death Star” because of its Star-Wars look.

Where can I buy Cotton Bowl tickets?

Tickets are sold out, so you’ll have to check out the secondary market for some if you need some. The screen in the middle of the field is massive, and it definitely draws your eyes to it. When I go to a game there, I try to sit in the 200 level or below. Any higher and you’ll be tempted to watch the big screen more than the actual field. So if you can swing it, go for 200 level tickets.

Party passes (standing-room tickets without a seat) are ok, but if you want to be able to see the field, you have to get there when the gates open and run to claim a spot. If you don’t you’ll be trying to look over someone’s shoulder and won’t have anything to lean against. That can make it a long night, especially if your team comes out on the short end of the score board. There are plenty of areas to sit behind the viewing areas, so if you need a break you can find a cushioned chair to sit on, but you’ll lose your spot if you want to go back and watch the game.


You can buy parking the day of the event for some of the Cowboys lots around the stadium, or there are many private lots along Collins street that you can park at as well. Private lots get more expensive the closer to the stadium they are, but you can expect anywhere from $20-$100 depending on location.

There will also be plenty of parking passes available on Seat Geek, Stubhub, Ticketmaster etc. before the game. Most of them can be digitally downloaded to your phone.

Looking to tailgate? Check out my review of all the lots around the stadium by clicking here

Where should I stay?

I think this would depend on if I was traveling with kids or just adults. The Dallas area has a lot more to offer as far as nightlife, but I think Fort Worth or Grapevine (north of Arlington) might be better for families.

If I’m staying in Fort Worth, my recommendation would be the Omni downtown followed the Worthington. If you want to stay in Dallas, the Omni Dallas is nice or one of the hotels on the north side of downtown. AirBNB might be an affordable option for a group of people splitting the cost.

If you want to be closer to the stadium, staying in Arlington is an option but there aren’t really any huge hotels so options are more limited. You could easily stay in Grapevine and be close enough to Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth to knock out activities in all areas.

What is there to do in DFW?

This depends on where you are staying. If you’re in the Arlington area, you could visit Dallas and Fort Worth as each is about 30 minutes away (depending on traffic) from the stadium.

Mid-cities (Arlington and Grapevine area)

  • Six Flags over Texas (Arlington) – theme park very close to AT&T Stadium with tons of rides for all ages.
  • The Texas Rangers won’t be playing when you’re in town, but be sure to check out other things to do in Arlington
  • City of Grapevine – Lots to do around here, including the Gaylord Texan Hotel Ice exhibit. Kids will love this experience. Think two-million pounds of ice sculptures and slides at nine degrees (they do give you big coats). Grapevine is known as the Christmas Capital of Texas, so there might still be a lot of holiday activities in town. There’s also a hotel with an indoor water park (yes, it does get chilly at times in Texas) and a few wineries as well. You can check out more stuff to do by clicking here.

Fort Worth

I love Fort Worth, and if I had to pick where to stay in DFW, this would be it. Traffic is a little lighter getting to Arlington than from Dallas and there’s plenty to do.

  • Visit the Stockyards
  • Go downtown to Sundance Square – tons of shopping, restaurants and more.
  • Go eat – Fort Worth has a wide range of food. My favorites to keep it local is Reata and Bob’s Steak and Chop House both located downtown. You can also check out the West 7th or Magnolia areas. There are a lot of restaurants and bars.
  • Other stuff to do in Fort Worth


I’ve got to admit, I’m a little more familiar with Fort Worth (I live about 15 minutes south) than Dallas. Here’s what I’d suggest you do/see in Dallas.

Where should I eat?

If you are visiting Texas for the first time, you should probably do Tex-Mex and BBQ. There are tons of places to eat both in Fort Worth and Dallas, but I’ll narrow down a few below.

My favorite Tex-Mex option is Pappasitos. I know they are a chain, but you can’t beat their fajitas. Go with the steak or chicken with flour tortillas and the mantequilla sauce. They have a few locations in Dallas, Fort Worth and there’s even one about 5 minutes away from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

For BBQ, you have a few options, but my hands-down favorite is Heim BBQ in Fort Worth. I have never tried anything there that wasn’t amazing. You won’t go wrong ordering brisket – they’ll ask you if you want a lean or fatty cut – go with the fatty if you want even better flavor.

Get there early if you are going on the weekend, because lines get really long and when they are out of something, they are out. If you’re staying in the northern part of DFW, I’m also a fan of Hard Eight BBQ.

What should I do on game day?

I’d eat a decent breakfast near your hotel or en route to Arlington and plan to arrive at or around the stadium around lunchtime. That would give you 3+ hours to experience the scene in and around the stadium before kickoff.

  • Texas Live! – This is a brand new, restaurant and bar area with tons of TVs that will host a big pre-game concert.Cotton Bowl Texas Live
  • Tailgate! – looking to set up a tailgate (we can do it all for you! for more info click HERE)? AT&T Stadium has a great tailgating scene for college games. Check out all the tailgating rules and regulations on the Cotton Bowl parking website. Make sure you show up early to get a good tailgating spot.
  • Cotton Bowl Fan Zone – you’ll need your ticket to get in here as it is located in the plazas inside the stadium gates. Games, pep rallies, photo ops and more!
  • ***ALERT – AT&T STADIUM BAG POLICY*** – this is not a drill. They will turn you away or make you toss that very expensive purse before you go in. Leave them at home and make sure you know the rules! Click here for more info or click here to buy a bag for the game.
  • Make sure you head into the stadium at least an hour before kick. Lines can be long and you don’t want to miss kickoff! Worst case you get in early, find your seat and grab something to eat/drink before kickoff.

That will do it for my Cotton Bowl rundown! If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out! Email us at

Have a great Cotton Bowl experience!

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