Football may be America’s favorite pastime, but tailgating has become nearly as legendary as the sport itself. Just check out the parking lot at any NFL or college game—what’s happening on the field is almost secondary to the action outside the stadium.
But tailgating doesn’t mean throwing a 12-pack and some chips in your car—game day can be the perfect chance to throw a fabulous party! Whether you’re rooting for your favorite pro team or your college alma mater, check out our guide to hosting the best tailgating party of the season.
Get up and get to the stadium plenty early—no need to fight the crowd and end up barbecuing on a scrap of concrete, uncomfortably wedged between chain link fences. Find some grass, spread out blankets, and claim your party space for the day.
If you’re meeting friends there, make sure that your bash is easily spotted. Bring a flag or windsock and tie it to a car antenna or portable flagpole to prevent your pals from having to wander aimlessly around the parking lot .
And if you don’t have an NFL team nearby, don’t worry—you can still enjoy the pre-game fun. Meet your fellow sports fans at a local park or hostess them sans truck on your apartment balcony instead!
At the heart of any successful party is delicious food. Of course, hot dogs and burgers are the classic tailgate standby—but don’t be afraid to mix things up and experiment with creative new recipes.
Try creamy homemade hummus and grilled salmon skewers for a healthy twist on dips and BBQ, or grill up these chili-rubbed steak tacos. If you have a pre-noon kickoff, consider a brunch menu: cinnamon rolls, zucchini bread, and an egg casserole are all yummy crowd-pleasers for a chilly morning.
Whatever your menu, make things simple on game day by prepping your food the night before.
Beyond the Beer
Naturally, beer and the occasional bottle of wine are bound to star on your drinks menu, but try adding a festive cocktail to the mix, too. For those of you lucky enough to experience football season without snow and ice, a red wine sangria or homemade lemonade will hit the spot. The rest of us can bundle up with a warm mug of cocoa, spiced cider, or a hot toddy.
Plan a Pre-Game
Whether you’re at a stadium or a park, it’s always fun to have activities (other than drinking) going on. Encourage team spirit by offering a prize for the most decked-out fan. And bring a frisbee, bocce balls, or horseshoes to keep things lively while you’re preparing food or waiting for the game to start.
Of course, keep it classy and show your fellow tailgaters a little common courtesy—no blasting them with your music, encroaching on their space, or throwing the ball around where it might land in the middle of their spread.
Pack Like a Pro
Turns out, the matches are actually just as important as the grill itself if you’re planning to cook your food. So pack ahead of time with all the essentials you’ll need—think camping, without the sleeping-on-the-ground part. Use our checklist to get started!
- Lighter fluid
- Grill scraper
- Oven mitts
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Paper towels
- Plates or bowls
- A bottle opener or corkscrew
- Coolers stocked with ice
- Canopy or umbrellas (for shade or rain)
- Chairs or blankets to sit on
- Suncreen, first aid kit (better safe than sorry!), and hand sanitizer
- Garbage bags for clean-up and ziplock baggies for leftovers
- A radio, iPod, or portable TV
- Games and activities
With just a little pre-planning, your pre-game party is certain to reach MVP status. So don your team colors, have fun, and happy hosting!