How to Throw a Tailgate

Tailgating is a blast! Whenever there’s a good game coming up I gather all my football crazy friends and head out for an afternoon of pre-game fun. Here are my secrets to planning an easy and fun tailgating party.

1. Go Together & Be Early

When you’re going as a group, you want to make sure that you get an area with enough room for everyone. A good way to prepare for this is to meet at one house before the event and caravan together. You’ll all arrive at the same time and can park alongside one another. Make sure to be early to get a good spot!

2. Make a List & Check it Twice

Plan ahead and assign who will bring folding tables for the food setup and let everyone know to bring their own chairs. If you plan on grilling, make sure the gas tank is full and that someone has room for a portable grill in their car.

3. Plan the Menu

Traditionally, tailgate parties involve plenty of hamburgers and hot dogs, but I like to mix it up once in a while. You always want to make sure you have one hearty dish and plan side dishes that go alongside it. Consider bringing a slow cooker along for homemade chili or meatballs. They’re warm, filling and homemade — doesn’t get much better than that!

If you’re low on time and want to serve store-bought items, just put your own twist on them. Not to say there’s anything wrong with an XXL size bag of Doritos (my favorite!) but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up.

  • Veggie tray with hummus instead of ranch dip
  • Blue corn chips with mango salsa instead of regular chips and salsa
  • Artisan bread with flavors like olive, garlic or cheese
  • Fresh hoagie rolls instead of regular hot dog buns

4. Decorations

My favorite part! There’s only one thing to do here — go all out with your team colors, that’s what the day is all about! Think about fun ways to incorporate it down to the very last detail. When the Trojans are playing, I make sure to even get plastic cutlery in our colors.

5. Drinks

Setup a separate table as a drink station. Make sure to bring plenty of ice and a huge ice chest for cold beers. Create a signature drink like sangria or margaritas as an alternative to beer.

6. Cleanup

Don’t forget to bring what you need to make cleanup a breeze. If anyone brings containers or platters, make sure they are labeled so they go home with the rightful owners. Always bring a couple large trash bags to pick up all the plates, cups and napkins.

Photo credits: Elizabeth Lamont