Tips for Hosting the Ultimate Tailgate Experience

As almost any sports fan or concert-goer will tell you, the event is great, but half the fun is the time before, otherwise known as the tailgate party. It is a time filled with friends, food, and adult beverages. But a great tailgate doesn’t just fall into place; it takes time and preparation to master, so we’ve gathered some tried and true strategies for hosting the ultimate tailgate.

Location, Location, Location

Just like in real-estate, having a good parking spot is crucial. After purchasing your event tickets, investigate your best options. You want to be close to the venue – It’s crucial to be within walking distance, but a little distance can be good if you don’t want to pay high parking prices.  You’ll also need to research if the lot or garage has any rules regarding tailgating. Some don’t allow it, others have rules about what type of grills you can have, and others are open to almost anything. A lot of this information can be found online or by calling the attendant.

Protip: Another piece of information you’ll want to have is where is the nearest bathroom is located. Some lots have bathrooms, but don’t assume or you might find yourself in a dire situation.


While it might be tempting to just wing it, I can promise you that you will forget something crucial. Nobody wants to be that person running around the lot trying to borrow things from their neighbors. Creating a menu and then a supplies list is a great place to start (working on a list infographic). Pack as much as you can the night before. That leaves you plenty of time to hunt for some of those items that might be misplaced. Nothing is worse than searching for something when you should’ve been on the road 15 minutes ago.

The night before is an ideal time to sort out all your food. It is a great time to make your burger patties, slice toppings, and make sides. Cook as much as you can the night before. Some foods are best right off the grill but cooking the night before will keep you from spending your entire day cooking instead of enjoying friends. A 6-pack holder makes a great condiment carrier and can be easily handed around to all your guests.

Ice is a main ingredient to any tailgate. It keeps your beverages and food cold. Nobody likes warm beer or potato salad. Ice does its job best when it has less work to do. By that I mean refrigerate your drinks the night before so that your ice won’t melt before you make it to the lot. Always grab an extra bag. You might think you have enough, but chances are you don’t.

Protip: A way to keep things cold is to freeze a couple water bottles before throwing them into the cooler. They will help to keep everything else cold and should be thawed by the time you get back to the car after your event. You’ll appreciate the hydration after a long day.

When you’re filling your coolers, take a minute to label them with what’s in them. You can do this easily by cutting the name out of the case and taping it to your cooler. Nobody enjoys searching for a drink while they are elbow deep in ice.

Paper products such as plates, Solo cups, and napkins are great to have in a Tupperware container or tote. That way any extras can be easily cleaned up and stored away for next time.

Protip: Before you leave triple check that you have your tickets! Even if you plan on using your phone as your ticket, printing out a back up never hurts.

The Setup

Once you make it to your destination, find a spot where you can start setting up for the day. While you are doing this be sure to take note of your surroundings. Try not to leave your car doors wide open if someone is trying to park next to you. And just don’t be that person who parks crooked or blocks someone in.

If you have a canopy, it should be the first thing to go up so that anyone meeting you there can find you. To make it even easier to find, you could purchase some balloons or a flag in your team colors. This will give your friends a marker to find you that is easier to spot than “the silver truck.”

After the tent is up, next is the tables and grills. When choosing a location for the grill, consider which way the wind is blowing. You don’t want to smoke out your guests. Then you can begin laying out your spread. Finally, grab your different games and start enjoying the party!

Protip: To help keep your tailgate bug free, throw some sage or rosemary on a charcoal grill as a natural mosquito repellent.

Be a Good Neighbor

No matter what team you support, or what event you are attending, everyone is there to have a good time, so be kind to your neighbors. Some friendly competition and teasing is part of the atmosphere but don’t be excessive. Many lots won’t tolerate any aggressive behavior and will call the authorities. Getting kicked out would be a major buzzkill, so keep it friendly.

When it comes to games such as cornhole, can jam, and frisbee it is usually the more the merrier. If you want to start a game and invite your neighbors to join in, it can be a great icebreaker.

A major part of being a good neighbor is cleaning up after yourself. Bring trash bags and use them. Bonus points if you have one for recycling. A great way to upset your neighbors is by filling your space and theirs with trash. It attracts bugs, smells, and is generally disrespectful to not only your neighbors, but to the lot attendants or city workers who will have to clean up after your mess.

Generally, just be respectful. If you brought a generator, try to make sure it isn’t so loud that it is drowning out everything else. Keep your music at a reasonable volume and make sure your belongings such as chairs or coolers don’t encroach into someone else’s space.

Before you head into the game, make sure to pack everything up and clean up your space. Once you leave your event, you’ll want to head home. You also don’t want to tempt any passersby with a free tent or tables.

Safety First

As with all things, safety should be a priority at your tailgate. One of the first things to go in your car should be your first aid kit and jumper cables, if they aren’t already there. It is very easy to drain your battery without realizing, and you’ll want to have something on hand in case your grill master burns themselves or someone gets a cut.

You also need to make sure you have a designated driver if you plan on drinking. If you are unsure of driving at all, simply call a Lyft or Uber to get you home. A friend can drive you back to get your car the next morning. Uber even offers $15 off your first ride, so you’ll have no excuses.

Staying hydrated is also critical. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent and paired with the sun and warm temperatures can lead to dehydration. Take plenty of water and drink it throughout the day. You don’t want to miss the event because you are in the back of an ambulance or at a medical tent getting fluids. Staying hydrated will also help prevent a hangover the next morning. It’s a win-win.

Tailgating can be a great time if you put in the effort to prepare by finding a great location, prepping your food, being respectful, and staying safe. By taking these steps you’ll be sure to have a day filled with fun, food, and friends that you’ll remember for years to come. Oh, and don’t forget your tickets!

Do you have any great tailgating tips or recipes you want to share? We want to hear them in the comments below!

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