How to Throw a Tailgate Party

Tailgating parties are parties held in the parking lots of large events to celebrate, such as football or baseball games, concerts, or other large events.[1] The tailgate party is focused around the "tailgate" (or back) of the pick-up truck and usually involve cooking on a small grill or barbecue, and adding salads, drinks (including alcohol) and snacks. Sometimes an entire parking lot is turned over to tailgating partying, other times it's confined to people's vehicles. When the tailgate revolves around football, it's also traditional to bring along decorative items such as flags and football team

As well as being a good excuse for a party, tailgating friends and enjoy the game together. Here are some suggestions for throwing your own tailgate party during the football season.


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    Find friends and family willing to have a tailgate party with you. Be sure to tee this up with them in plenty of time to ensure you can all get tickets to the game. It also helps if you're able to all show up at the venue at roughly the same time, or even together, so you might like to arrange to meet at one house first and drive to the venue as a group.
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    Ensure that at least one person going has a car large enough to cope with all the things you're likely to need to take. The type of things needed will include folding furniture, keg, etc.
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    Figure out a list of food, drinks, and other items that people will be bringing. This part is important because good planning in advance will ensure that everything goes smoothly and that all people participating are catered for adequately. It also means that the effort gets to be shared around as each person brings along something.
    • Check the rules of the venue as to having alcohol, glass containers or kegs. Rules will vary depending on the venue. Plastic cups are probably a safe bet if alcohol is allowed.
    • Find out if there are going to be any kids so that there can be juice or soda for them, along with any food they'd prefer eating.
    • Use containers to keep everything in the right place. All of the dry items such as plates, napkins, and utensils can be carried in a plastic bin.
    • Don't forget to bring along bottle openers, garbage bags, ice, water, sun protection, and small plastic bags for taking home leftovers. Condiments, mustard, sauces, and salt and pepper are important items to bring along too!
    • Keep all cold and cooked foods in a cooler or thermal tray to keep them at a safe temperature. Perishables like meats should go into one cooler. Veggies and drinks should go in a second cooler.
    • If you're in the dark, consider using night lights.
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    Plan the food. While it's up to you what you'd like to have, it's recommended that the foods chosen either be ready to eat or take no more than 15 minutes at the most to cook - keep it quick and easy. Suggested suitable foods for tailgate parties include:
    • Barbecued steak, chicken, hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers, kebabs, one-pot-meals (chili, macaroni cheese), etc.
    • Snacks such as buffalo wings (pre-made), hero meatball sandwiches, dips, corn chips, nachos, pretzels, etc.
    • Potato salad, coleslaw, bean salad, or other salads.
    • Goodies for the kids, such as football shaped sandwiches, football cookies and football cupcakes.
    • Soda, juice, water, alcohol, hot drinks - hot drinks are as important as cold in the cold weather; coffee, mulled cider, hot cocoa, etc.
    • Cook or bake ahead where possible. Items such as baked potatoes will benefit from being cooked in advance and only needing to be heated up rather than cooked on the day.
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    Get to the parking lot early. It's nice if two vehicles come together and pick parking spaces right next to each other. Call the people who are coming and tell them where you are if they're not already with you.
    • Be aware that it does need to be in the parking lot of the designated event, not any random parking lot.
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    Set up any equipment. Start the barbecue grill so that when people show up, the charcoal will be ready to cook straight away.
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    Have fun, get into conversations with other tailgaters, and enjoy the party. Play your favorite music, have a few games like beer pong, and generally live it up. Just don't drink so much that you can't enjoy the game!
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    Clean up after the party. Plan to have enough time to clean and store everything back into the vehicles before the gates open for people to enter the event.
    • If you didn't manage to get into the event, have a TV or radio with a power converter so that you can continue to enjoy the game from your tailgate party, if permitted. Alternately, you may simply have chosen to not go into the game but to enjoy it from outside the stadium; this allows you to party on for longer!


  • Have an autograph book at the ready. You'll never know if any retired players may join in.
  • If you prepare and marinate any barbecue meat the previous night, like chicken or steak, you won't have to worry about it on the day of the event. Plus the marinated sauce and spices will give the food more flavor if kept in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Make sure you're familiar with the alcohol possession laws in your state or city. Most, if not all, states have laws governing the possession of alcoholic beverages in your vehicle. Also, each city or university may have its' own regulations. Bailing someone out of jail can surely devastate the fun pastime of tailgating.
  • If you are going to a football game, have team spirit and either dress up with jerseys or paint faces with their team colors. In addition, consider decorating your car with such items as flags, removable stickers, and other items that support your team.
  • Don't forget to have fun!
  • Trucks are the most popular vehicle to include in the party, hence "tailgate party" because the board or back of the truck is called a "tailgate". Vans and SUV's are other similar vehicles that can be used successfully.
  • You can purchase a combination grill and cooler that cooks your food and keeps the drinks cool!
  • Blankets can be a handy item to bring along for added warmth or as something to sit on, especially if the ground or vehicles are not clean, warm, or dry enough.
  • When packing anything, whether it's your cooler or your car, put the heaviest things on bottom. Jugs of water on the bottom. Veggies on top. This will keep your tailgating munchies from getting squished. Top off the remaining space in the cooler with ice. That way, it's sure to be nice and cold when you arrive.


  • Have a designated driver.
  • It's a good idea to have an instant stain removal spray on hand in case of spills on the car upholstery or carpets.
  • Recently many NFL teams have started regulating how long before a game fans can tailgate, and some teams are even considering banning the practice altogether. This is being done to help curb inappropriate behavior by fans who are usually intoxicated. Check your team's website as well as the venue's website to make sure you know all tailgating restrictions.
  • Drink responsibly.
  • Don't tailgate where it's not permitted; doing so can attract a large fine.[2]

Things You'll Need

  • Barbecue grill
  • Food and drink
  • Vehicles to hang out in
  • Ice chest, cooler, or thermal tray
  • Folding chairs
  • Face paint
  • Team jerseys
  • Music
  • Night lights
  • Generator (very optional, for the hardcore tailgater!)

Sources and Citations

  1. Wisegeek, What is a tailgate party?,
  2. Wisegeek, What is a tailgate party?,

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