Tailgating Party Ideas
Start by shopping for supplies like napkins and cups in your team's colors. And don't forget to decorate yourself — dress in your team's jersey and get your game face on by painting it.
Once in the parking lot, show your spirit and help friends find you by tying helium balloons in your team's colors to your antenna or roof rack and/or flying your team's flag. Get a flagpole kit or, for cheapskates with a sun roof, improvise by using PVC pipe or duct-taping two broom handles together, zip-tying or taping the flag to the top of your "flagpole," sticking the whole contraption out the sun roof and closing it most of the way to hold your makeshift flagpole in place.
Set out folding chairs and a table and decorate with team pennants and other team paraphernalia. Then put the tailgate down (assuming you have a pickup, SUV or station wagon, that is) and have a ball!
Before you go, check your stadium's website to find out how early the parking lot opens, when it closes and whether drinking is allowed in the lot.
Once you get there, look for a primo spot next to grass and/or at the end of a row so you can spread out a little. Your goal should be to get to your space several hours early to set up and then start serving food an hour and a half before the game to give everyone time to eat and clean up.
Finally, remember, you'll have to pack whatever you need with you, so make sure you've tackled everything with this checklist:
- Burgers and buns
- Hot dogs and buns
- Chips and dip
- Salt and pepper
- Brownies or cookies
- Potato salad, coleslaw and/or other salads and sides
- Cooler #1
- Beer and/or other alcohol (if permitted)
- Soft drinks and/or lemonade
- Coffee, tea, cider, cocoa and/or other hot drinks
- Water (to drink and for cleanup)
- Cooler #2
- Lots of ice
Tableware and Cleaning
- Plates and bowls
- Serving tools
- Wet wipes
- Trash bags
- Charcoal briquettes or propane
- Matches and lighter fluid
- Hot mitt
Clean-up and Comfort
- Large storage bags
- Leftover dishes and/or resealable plastic bags
- First aid kit
- Hats and raincoats
- Towels and blankets
- TP for the porta-potty
- Canopy tent (if you want to get fancy)
- Playing cards
- Face paint
- Portable stereo
- TV with antenna
- AC adapter or generator
- Extension cord
Paint each other's faces and start your own pep club. Some tailgaters cheer for drinking games, while others pass, preferring to toss a ball or Frisbee around. If the tailgate party at the next truck over is game, challenge them to a pickup match of touch football.
Catch all the pregame action with a portable stereo or TV — or save the ticket price, keep the party going, and watch the whole game in the lot! To stay entertained during the long wait to leave the stadium after the fourth quarter, keep some playing cards on hand.
Since grilling out is a time-honored tailgate tradition, think barbecue favorites: burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw. If it's chilly, consider bringing, well, chili (in its own cooler to keep it hot).
Kick things off with a chips-and-dip appetizer and score big with brownies or cookies (iced with team colors, of course) for dessert. And don't forget salt, condiments and all the things you'll need to clean up your portable feast after the party.
Feeling lazy? No referee will call out of bounds if you bring sandwiches or takeout.
Beer is the usual tailgating drink of choice, but you might also offer mixed drinks, sodas, lemonade and/or water.
If it's huddling weather, a warm drink like coffee, cocoa or hot cider (recipe below) is an automatic touchdown. Top off hot cider with a little brandy for those thirsty for a tipple. Just be sure your stadium allows alcohol — check its website to find out.
Hot Spiced Cider
- 1 gallon apple cider or juice
- 4 cinnamon sticks
Combine the cider and cinnamon sticks and heat until boiling. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for one hour.