Tailgating has become one of America’s favorite pastimes, and more of us are venturing out to college campuses and mega-stadium parking lots on game days. But for newbie tailgaters, the experience can be a bit overwhelming – so planning ahead is key.
The chaos and hubbub that greets you at the gate is actually part of the appeal of the tailgate: incoming crowds jockey for the best parking lot positioning, advertisers rove around trying to get their marketing messages out, and event handlers try to control it all. If you’re setting up a tailgate party, you’ll need to do some basic planning beforehand and make sure you have all the bases covered, so you and your guests can have the very best experience before the big game.
Finding the stadium
Obviously, one of most important parts of any tailgating party is getting there with plenty of time to spare. That’s easy for home team followers who live close by, but for others, having the right traffic info, directions, and stadium layout knowledge can save a lot of hassle on tailgating day. Also, be sure to get up and on the road early enough so you can be there well before the main event gets underway!
If you’re making your way to a tailgating event, there are some smartphone apps that can help: Use the Pro Football Stadiums app for Android and iOS for directions, seating charts, and more. If you need a lift to your tailgating spot (or a ride home after), snag a ride with Uber or Lyft. If you’re riding public transit, One Bus Away can be a big help as you make your way to the stadium.
Once you’re successfully hunkered down, you may need to check your team’s stats or resolve an argument about some obscure football factoid. The NFL and ESPN apps can help, and they’re available for multiple smartphone platforms.
Food and drink
Another part of good preparation involves what’s usually the centerpiece of the event: food and, of course, beer. No matter what kind of food is destined for the grill, or what kinds of homemade sides are on offer, some preparation tips are extremely important:
- Consider the temperature, both in the car and around the stadium
- Think about how, and how long, to keep food safely (inside a cooler, on a table, etc.)
- Figure out how to serve food at the party (this is a big one, since space and resources can make tailgating chowdowns difficult)
- Plan for storage of leftovers, or disposal of trash if your aftermath won’t fit in provided stadium trash cans
As a general rule, you’ll want to make sure you have more than enough of everything: food, coolers, ice, napkins, paper plates, utensils, sanitizing wipes, etc. Once you’re there, you won’t be able to stock up, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Here are a few menu ideas to make your fellow tailgaters drool. For a hassle-free game day, consider items you can prep at home and finish on the grill – just as delicious and a lot less work. And remember, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Ask guests to bring a menu item to share (grillables, side dishes, dessert, beverages, etc.) so everyone can contribute to the pregame feast.
- Chili or vegetarian chili and jalapeno cornbread
- Beer brats
- BBQ ribs
- Chicken wings
- Potato salad
- Veggies and dip
- Don’t forget dessert — chocolate chip cookies and/or brownies
There are even mobile apps to help you plan your tailgating cuisine. For drinks, take a look at Beer Wizard for iOS, which offers helpful tips on beer and food pairings, as well as various flavors and brands of the traditional tailgating beverage. (And don’t forget to bring some non-alcoholic drinks as well!) For the grill, check out Grill-It! for recipes or Weber’s all-in-one On the Grill app, with triple-tested recipes, shopping lists, grilling tips and videos, a grill timer, and more.
Bring your gear
Most tailgate parties wouldn’t be the same without the old team spirit. Think about everything you need to show off your allegiance, both in the parking lot and inside the stadium. This includes:
- Hats and jerseys (must-haves for the average ‘gater)
- Big banners or homemade signs
- Paint for faces (or, for the very zealous, arms, necks, etc.)
- Other accessories (noisemakers, fuzzy mascots…)
You’ll also want to be sure you bring gear to protect you from the elements. Part of the fun of football season is you never know what you’ll get weather-wise, so if the forecast looks at all iffy, remember to pack raincoats, umbrellas, warm jackets, hats, gloves, etc. If you have a small canopy tent, and your tailgating venue has enough room to accommodate it, the shelter will be much appreciated on a rainy day.
There are even a couple of mobile apps that can help you as you assemble all the items you’ll need on game day. The Tailgating Planner app helps event coordinators remember to bring everything from tables and tableware to food, beverages, and condiments. You might also try organization app Evernote to help you remember all the crucial details for game day.
Another important part of hosting a tailgate party is ensuring that all your guests have a good time. This starts very early on in the planning process (when you’re looking at who to invite!) but it can also be helpful to bring games, etc. to fill up those hours before the actual event. This part of tailgate planning can be as simple as packing a Frisbee or football to toss around, a game of cornhole, or some other popular dexterity-tester that lets you show off your skills during pre-game festivities.
If you follow these tailgating tips you’re practically guaranteed a good time on game day – even if the matchup doesn’t go your team’s way. Get out there and make the most of football season!
P.S. Don’t forget the Stadium Horn app! You’re welcome.