Tips for Terrific TailgatingTips for Terrific Tailgating 

Make your next tailgate party an event your friends will talk about even after the season is over. These tips will show you how to plan the best tailgate party ever!

What's better than a picnic? A picnic combined with your favorite sporting event!

I'm talking about tailgating parties of course! Just like picnics, tailgating parties are fun and festive outdoor celebrations. Traditionally held on or around the tailgate of a vehicle, most tailgate parties happen in the parking lots of stadiums and sports arenas. Ever-increasing in popularity, tailgating parties are a testament to our obsession with the great outdoors and our love of eating outside. Each year during football season, parking lots at stadiums across the country are filled with excited fans sharing their favorite tailgating foods and traditions before a "big game".

While nobody knows for certain where tailgating parties first originated, it's likely they began when die- hard sports fans started arriving at football games early enough to socialize with other fans. Since socializing and eating just seem to go hand-in-hand, it was inevitable that food and drinks soon became part of the gatherings, enjoyed on or around the only available flat surface- the tailgate! More and more people soon joined in, and before you know it, the tailgate party was born! Regardless of their origin, today tailgating parties have evolved for some fans into competitive, public spectacles. Serious tailgaters pride themselves on elaborate settings for their parties, complete with team-based themes and all the comforts of home!

So how do you get in on all the festivities at the next big game and make your tailgating party the talk of the season? Our hints and tips will have you on the road to becoming a tailgating all-star in no time!

Have a Pre-Party Gameplan -  No matter what kind of tailgate party you decide to do, pre-party prep and planning are your keys to success.

  • Do a timeline to help you stay on track. Plan out what needs to be done each day leading up to the day of your party.
  • Make a list of all the items you plan to take and check them off as you pack.
  • Plan your menu and do all the prep work a day or two in advance. Keep it simple and choose foods that can be cooked ahead, cooked at the stadium on a grill (or a combination of both). Consider including snacks and salads from your local grocery store or deli, such as potato or pasta salads, chicken wings, and cookie trays.
  • Plan to arrive 3 to 4 hours early and stay 1 to 2 hours after the game.
  • If possible, check out the stadium parking lot in advance and scout the best parking spots. You want a spot at the end of a row or next to a grassy area. This gives you more room to tailgate!
  • If you plan to bring alcoholic beverages, check with the stadium to make sure it's permitted. Some collegiate conferences have rules prohibiting alcohol at games.
  • Invest in a large (14-gallon or bigger) plastic tote to keep all your tailgating gear organized. After a party, clean up all your gear and re-pack it so you're ready for next time!
  • Plan to have the food ready 1 to 1 1/2 hours before the game. This gives you enough time to eat, clean up and extinguish fires.
  • Make sure your friends can find you. Tell everyone where you are and consider flying a flag from a portable pole or tying helium balloons (in team colors of course!) to the tailgate so your site is more easily visible in a sea of other tailgaters. Hint: Telescoping window washing extension poles work great for flags (use zip ties to attach your flag to the pole).
  • Ask for help! You won't have fun if you're stressed out from doing everything yourself so don't be afraid to enlist the help of friends and family. Ask everyone to chip in to help cover costs.

Must-Have Items - Bring these items to ensure your tailgating party will go smoothly, no matter what!

  • A good cooler or ice chest with wheels and a handle
  • Disposable plates, cups, utensils
  • Serving pieces and utensils
  • Condiments: salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, etc.
  • A folding table and chairs
  • A blanket or tablecloth
  • A portable grill
  • Matches or a lighter, charcoal and lighter fluid if grilling
  • Extra ice
  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Plastic ziploc bags (handy for so many things!)
  • Paper towels and wet-wipes
  • Bottle openers or a corkscrew
  • Jumper cables
  • Rain  gear
  • Bug repellant and/or citronella candles
  • First aid kit
  • Sun block
  • Toilet paper (trust me on this one!)
  • Antacid

Menu Suggestions

Tailgate party foods should be fun and easy to eat. Choose foods that can be eaten with your hands, or with a fork or spoon.  Basically, anything that you would take to a picnic is a good bet for your tailgate party menu- hamburgers, hotdogs, bratwurst, sub sandwiches or pulled pork sandwiches are all great choices.

Consider trying:

  • Bratwurst
  • Pork Chops
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Pasta Salads
  • Potato Salad
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies

Remember Food Safety - These tips will help you avoid food spoilage and reduce the risk of food poisoning.

  • Do not transport partially-cooked foods as these are optimum conditions for bacteria to grow. Foods should either be completely cooked before leaving home, or cooked when you arrive at the picnic.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot!
  • Pack food in cooler or ice chest just before leaving for the picnic.
  • Keep eggs, dairy products, and uncooked meat chilled in the cooler or ice chest until just before cooking or serving.

Make it Fun - Remember that tailgating parties are social gatherings so make sure to bring the fun!

  • Have everyone dress in team colors. Bring face paints in team colors and have fun painting each others faces.
  • Decorate your tailgating site in team colors with banners, pendants and balloons. There is no such thing as "too much" here!
  • Make new friends - meet your tailgating neighbors to share food and swap recipes.
  • Show your team spirit by choosing tailgating gear based on your favorite team. 

Conclusion

If you are thinking of hosting a tailgate party at your favorite teams next game, remember to plan, prepare, pick a great menu and keep it fun. And as always, remember that here at BigOven you will find everything you need to make sure your party is the talk of the season! 

Want Even More Tailgate Party Ideas?

Here are some related searches on BigOven:

by BigOven editorial team
Add unlimited recipes. Organize in custom folders. Find recipes for your diet. Try BigOven Pro Free