How to Go Tailgating

Have you gone to football, basketball, hockey, or other sport games with absolute nothing to do before the game? Tailgating is a pre-event tradition for both professional and college sporting events and even concerts. The tailgate is the party before the event. Keep reading for tips to coordinating a great tailgate.


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    Try to coordinate the location with friends and family attending and park as close to each other as possible.
    • If someone has a designated space that's easy to find you can drop off your food and then park or park and haul your food. Many people bring luggage carts or wagons for ease of transport.
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    Consider going in and buying a reserved parking pass at a convenient location with access to clean restrooms, electric access, and closeness to the venue.
    • These may be highly sought after spaces.
    • You may need to build seniority, be affiliated with a company or buy from an established parker to get a really good one.
    • People often sell their parking privileges and passes when moving. Check the school paper, craigslist, alumni organization, etc.
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    Plan a menu based on the time of day you will be tailgating and the weather. Certain foods and beverages may be tradition in certain areas. Some foods can be prepared on site and others prepared in advance and brought in on platters.
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    Drive over to the stadium where the event will be several hours before the start. You'll need time to set up, prepare foods, enjoy your time together, pack up, clean up and get inside.
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    Decorate your space by putting up balloons, hanging a flag or using a particularly decorative tent. With others tailgating it may be hard for your friends to find you in a sea of people.
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    Know the party restrictions where you tailgate. In most US stadium parking lots people can bring coolers with alcoholic beverages, gas or charcoal grills, catering tables, and everything from beer cans to fine china.
    • If you have doubts you can ask other tailgaters. Since there isn't a fee to enter the parking area on foot you can do a walk through and talk to other tailgaters about the dos and don't s as well as helpful tips. Most are very friendly and will gladly offer advice.
    • So long as you stay in the parking area you are pretty much free to party as you please so long as you aren't a troublemaker.
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    Park and get set up. Set your grill up behind the SUV or truck, put your canopy up next to your grill and the T.V. under the canopy on a table or in the back of your SUV or truck.
    • Set up plenty of chairs for your group or extras if you're expecting friends. Have friends bring their own. Keep a few chairs around for those guest that may stop in for a while to socialize.
    • If you get bored of watching the other sports games on TV then you can pull out a football, baseball, or other ball that you might have brought along with you to pass around with some one.
    • Consider bringing a TV and attaching a game system with sports games or other fun games for the group attending.
    • Many tailgaters listen to pre-game shows on the radio. Make sure you have the battery strength or pack a separate radio. You don't want to kill your vehicle battery.
    • If your car isn't equipped you can have an A/C plug kit and inverter installed to operate electric equipment.
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    Listen for your phone. Your arriving friends may need direction if they can't find you.
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    Consider adding a grill platform to the back of your SUV for transporting your grill and gas tank with ease.
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    Pack perishable goods in coolers with adequate ice. Warm foods can be packed with hot packs in coolers to stay warm but avoid foods that haven't been packed safely.
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    Don't forget to have some food or munchies available after the event. People will be hungry and the post game tailgate is a great way to relax and discuss the game while traffic clears out.
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    Find out if fire barrels, fire pits, or propane heaters are acceptable for cold weather use in your area. The use of these may also depend on local drought conditions.
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    Keep cold and hydrating beverages in good supply year round but especially during warm weather.
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    Consider some common tailgate menu items. Add your own special touches. Modify it to offer more cool treats on warm days and bring plenty of hot comfort foods for cold days.


  • Table cloths (vinyl or disposable plastic for easier clean up)
  • Cozies for your drinks
  • Cutlery, salt, pepper, grill seasoning, etc.
  • First Aid Kit with burn cream
  • Cakes and pies
  • Burgers with buns
  • Steaks
  • Grill
  • Sodas, iced teas, punches, sports beverages and plenty of bottled water.
  • Chicken wings
  • Mimosas
  • Ham biscuits
  • Platters from delis or grocers that are also easy to serve. These can often be picked up on the way. Call to order in advance.

Other Supplies

  • Chips and Dips (potato, tortilla, salsa, onion dip, guacamole, etc.)
  • Hot chocolate especially if there are younger tailgaters
  • You might want to save some food for after the game so you don’t have to be stuck in a traffic jam until you get out of the parking lot. Also bring different game to play after the game unless you’re a person who does not stay late, late in the game then none of this applies to you.

Early Tailgate Menu Suggestions

  • Quiches (made at home and packed with warm packs for transport)
  • Games for kids
  • Cleaning wipes (Lysol or other household cleaning wipe in pop-up container) for sticky messes
  • Radio or TV
  • Condiments, dips, sauces, butter, margarine, lemon juice
  • Bacon or ham cooked on the grill or pre-cooked bacon
  • The best designated tailgate parking can be willed at death, fought over in divorces or occupied by certain tailgater groups for decades.
  • Table for serving
  • Wet wipes or antibacterial hand wipes for cleaning hands and faces
  • Cups for hot and cold beverages
  • Salad fixings
  • Leave in plenty of time to avoid a traffic crunch. You could hit significant traffic jams entering the parking area at peak times. Try to get there early and have plenty of time to enjoy the day.
  • Cell phone service may be questionable when so many people are concentrated into one area. Have a plan in case you can't communicate by phone.
  • Sunscreen
  • Charcoal or full propane
  • Toilet paper (in case the nearest restroom runs out)
  • Bratwurst or other regionally popular meats
  • Plates sturdy enough to hold the food being offered
  • Rolls of paper towels or napkin caddies that will prevent individual napkins from blowing away. These often have spaces for storing other items.
  • Deli Meat platters
  • Coolers with ice for drinks and coolers with ice or cold packs for food storage. Label them to avoid cross contamination.
  • Extra lighting if it will be dark before or after the event
  • Towels for clean ups and spills
  • Pack soapy wet wash clothes in Ziploc bags for clean ups.
  • Rain ponchos
  • Some may like to bring some of the above dishes if your tailgate begins around lunch time. It offers a brunch feel.
  • Vegetable platters
  • Folding chairs or club chairs
  • Potato Salad
  • Grill tools: tongs, spatula, oven mitts, etc.
  • Chicken nugget platters
  • If the game or event is sold out you can still get your friends together and tailgate. Instead of going in during the game you can listen on the radio or TV and socialize. Consider leaving before everyone leave the venue to avoid traffic. Finish listening to the game at a local sports bar.
  • If you park in a reserved space you should keep the number handy for the person who can authorize cars to be towed from it. This may be the owner of the property. Ask when you get the space.
  • Serving spoons and knives
  • Coffee served in air pots (premade) and offered with Bailey's, Irish whiskey, cream, sugar selection, etc. You can even bring coffee pots with electric warmers and large capacities for larger tailgate groups.
  • Appetizers from club stores that would be easy to transport, prepare and serve.
  • Beer, wine, liquor, mixers, jello shots, etc.
  • If you pay for a reserved space you should get to know your neighbors. By working as a community you can keep theft down, keep the area clean, know when someone is trying to park inappropriately or when your neighbor may be out of town. Often they will allow fellow parkers to user their space for friends or extra room.
  • Hot dogs with buns
  • Foods with eggs, mayonnaise, milk or other easily perishable ingredients should be packed carefully to avoid spoilage. If you leave it out for an extended time you should dispose of it and not reserve it after the event.
  • Trash bags for garbage and recycle bags for cans and glass. Bring a few extra for forgetful neighbors.
  • Folding canopy tent(s)
  • Pancakes cooked on griddles on the grill
  • In case of tailgate ruining weather you can move a tailgate to someone's house. Prepare the usual tailgate fair but watch the game from the couch. Move coolers into the den and put your munchies on a team tablecloth on the coffee table.
  • Breakfast casseroles (premade and packed to stay hot.)

Later Tailgate Menu Suggestions

  • For games that start around noon and your tailgate begins around breakfast)
  • Donuts (go surprisingly well with beer)
  • Egg salads served with nice breads or bagels (See tips for packing safely.)
  • Fruit salads
  • Bloody Marys
  • Steaks cooked on grill with eggs made in fry pan on grill


  • Use caution when packing and serving perishable goods.
  • Don't serve alcohol to those under age or over serve people of any age.
  • There will always be a few barbarous fans at a game, whether they be drunk fans or fans of the opposing team. Try not to agitate them.
  • Lock up your valuables before going into the game. Coolers left out when you go into the event are often taken or emptied by underage tailgaters.
  • Confirm alcohol consumption and open containers are allowed in your tailgate area.
  • Beware of traffic and distracted drivers.
  • Have a plan for extinguishing charcoal fires and hot coals. You don't want someone stepping into a pile of inconspicuous smoldering coals and sustain serious burns. Consider reusing a few 2 liter (0.5 US gal) soda bottles for non-potable water to pour on fires.
  • Drinking alcohol may cause dehydration and may make some sick when done in high temperatures.
  • Have a plan for controlling grill fires.

Things You'll Need

  • Vehicle or a friend with one
  • Place to park to tailgate
  • Coolers
  • Prepared food and/or food to cook on site
  • Beverages
  • Items for eating and serving

Article Info

Categories: For the Fan