Easy Tailgate Setup Ideas

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Tailgate parties are a great way to kick-off a football game or any event that you want to get a head start on celebrating.

Tailgating isn’t just for football anymore: Tailgate parties in a parking lot are a popular way to kick off any type of event – horse races, amusement parks, NASCAR, soccer matches, baseball games – anywhere you want to get a parking spot early and have some time for a pre-event party.

And this year, we can even bring the tailgate home for an at home tailgate party!

mini sliders with beer at tailgate party

Tailgate Setup Ideas + Prep

Tailgate parties can start as early as the morning of the game and sometimes can eclipse the main event. A crockpot of chili, grilled brats, cold beer, and football fan camaraderie can keep tailgater partiers happy listening to the game on a portable radio long after the first kick-off.

Tailgating can be as involved as setting up grills and having burgers with all the fixings or can be as simple as a picnic basket and a cooler set up behind your car.

Planning Your Tailgate Party

Some venues don’t allow tailgating in their parking lots. If you’re planning to tailgate before a game, call ahead and make sure it’s permitted.

In addition to the food and beverages, be sure to pack in your car a blanket, bug spray, a couple of jackets or sweaters in case the weather turns foul, and a battery-operated lantern for after dark.

What to bring for tailgating?

Chairs – Throw a few fold-up camping chairs into the back of your car. Tailgating is all about visiting neighboring tailgates, so don’t worry about having a chair for everyone at your tailgate party.

Folding tables – Card tables, utility tables, or camping tables can be set up to hold your buffet of tailgate food. Tablecloths in the team colors are a necessity.

Grill – Although a grill is not necessary for a tailgate, a portable grill is a good investment if you’re a frequent tailgater. Some football fans have packed up a full-sized Weber into the back of an SUV and fired up the propane at a tailgate party.

Bringing your tailgate party home? Just fire up the grill and make the outdoors your parking lot!

people standing around a grill at a tailgate party at home smiling

Cooler – Use the biggest cooler you’ve got, preferably on wheels. The night before your tailgate, freeze some bottles of water and use them for ice packs in the cooler, and then use them as drinking water after they melt. A large cooler doubles as a seat or a temporary table.

Team Spirit – Banners, face paint in your team colors, car decorations, flags, and pompoms are fun additions to a tailgate party.

How to Throw a Good Tailgate Party

Tailgate Party Food

If you’re inclined to bring along a grill to a tailgate party, burgers and hot dogs are always a hit if you want to avoid buns and condiments, grill marinated chicken breasts, kebabs, ribs, pork chops, or barbecued chicken.

Crockpot dishes are especially good at a tailgate party. Jambalaya, chili, barbecued pork, sloppy joes, or beef stew can be prepared in advance and brought to a tailgate party in a crock pot or insulated covered dish.

Provide lots of snacks and munchies, chips and dip, tortillas and salsa, and finger foods for tailgaters to snack on.

tailgate party foods with football

Cold beer and soda are the perfect tailgate beverages. For those particularly cold games, a large thermos of hot chocolate, coffee, spiced tea, or hot cider.

Tailgate Party Games & Fun Stuff

Tailgating is all about getting pumped up for the game. Plan some fun activities to get your tailgate partiers in game mode

Team banner making – Bring a roll of white butcher paper and markers and have your fellow tailgaters help design a team banner to hang from the side of the car.

Scavenger hunt – Put together a tailgate scavenger hunt that will provide some tailgate competition and get you mingling with other tailgaters. Some items for your scavenger hunt might be: “Sample some food from 3 other tailgate parties,” “take a photo with a fan from the opposing team,” and “find 5 footballs.”

Video – Everyone loves being on camera. Videotape your tailgate party and interview tailgaters.

Bring some games– Cornhole, Ring Toss, Frisbee, and Bocce all make for great games that do not require much space or set up to play.

Just keep in mind to follow any establishment rules, have fun, and be safe!

Tailgating adds extra fun to go to an event. If you’ve never tailgated before, start simple and give it a try.

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