How to Tailgate: The Cars and Gear for a Great Tailgate Party

how to tailgate

Pre-game tailgating is a ritual as revered as the sporting events themselves. Friends and family come together year after year to eat great food and cheer on their team. Some tailgaters have such elaborate setups, their guests don’t want to leave the parking lot when the game starts. So, what’s the secret to a mind-blowing tailgating experience?

Rec Rooms on Wheels

Great tailgating starts with the right ride. But which to bring? Larger vehicles like trucks and minivans have more cargo room but use essential parking lot space. Smaller vehicles may maneuver better through traffic, but once you fit in your gear friends may have to hitch their own rides to the game. Whichever way you go make use of any handy, tailgating-friendly features your vehicle has, like folding tables, reversible rear benches, built-in coolers, even game stations and live satellite TV or internet.

Or go all in and follow the lead of inventive fans who create dedicated tailgating vehicles from old vans, RVs, ambulances, and school buses. These mobile monuments to sports are often bedecked with flags, signage, and custom team paint jobs. It’s all in the name of team spirit, and it certainly makes them easier to find in a crowded parking lot!

Keep guests cool with shady tents and iced drinks. Once the sun sets, they’ll appreciate extra lap blankets and a portable space heater.

A Space to Call Home

how to tailgate

Just like choosing the right home, selecting a parking spot for your sports-mobile is about two things: good neighbors and “location, location, location.” Some tailgaters return to the same space game after game. Arriving six hours before the whistle blows is a small price to pay for snagging a primo parking spot. You don’t want to be too far from the bathrooms (or too close). You don’t want to park a mile from the stadium either. And score the extra point for a shady spot and a patch of grass when the weather’s still nice.

You can’t always choose your neighbors, but don’t be afraid to step across that painted white line. Once you connect with a fellow tailgater over a brat and a brewsky, you may find yourselves teaming up again and again. After all, dedicated tailgating partners means double the fun and potentially half the work. You handle meat and drinks; they bring sides and utensils. You have the cornhole set; they’re connoisseurs of Kan Jam. If your kids get along with their kids, hold onto them for life! Before long you’ll be on each other’s Christmas card lists.

Go the Extra Foot(long)

No discussion of tailgating would be complete without food, glorious food! Whether your crowd prefers burgers and chips or veggies and dip, bring lots of it. And keep things simple. You want to enjoy yourself too, not spend the whole time at the grill. Make ahead what you can. Be sure to keep everything the right temperature so food poisoning doesn’t ruin your guests’ experience. To make your life even easier, keep a clean tool box loaded with tailgating essentials in your trunk—salt, pepper, sugar, utensils, skewers. This is also your chance to create themed food—as in anything that resembles the other team’s mascot. Playing the Rams? Serve lamb kabobs. Hopefully, it won’t be the only victory you taste that day.

We’d love to hear your ideas for scoring a touchdown this sports season. What are your best tailgating tips? Leave us a comment below.

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