Everything You Need to Plan a Tailgate Party
When I’m mourning the last lingering days of Indian summer, there is only one thing that can comfort me: good old-fashioned college game day. As a proud member of the Cal Dance Team, I follow my alma mater’s football team with thirsty anticipation. With three wins under our belt, a solid (and cute!) quarterback, and a #24 ranking on the BCS, it’s looking like it might be a good year for the Golden Bears! Whatever your mascot may be, there’s no time better than the present to plan a spirited tailgate. The season is fresh, so there’s still plenty of promise and hope for wins—plus the weather isn’t too cold yet. Gather up your crew and head to your favorite NCAA or NFL stadium with some brews and delicious eats. Wondering what to pack? Here’s everything you need, car tailgate not included, to host the ultimate pre-football party.
Start by planning a menu of scrumptious snacks that will soak up a booze-fueled afternoon. The ideal items can be made in advance, are easy to pack, and require little to no special utensils. You can’t ever go wrong with chips and salsa, and this super-easy recipe comes together in a matter of minutes. All you do is dump the ingredients into a food processor and blitz.
Rubbermaid 50 QT 5-Day Wheeled Cooler ($41)
A supersize cooler is necessary to pack plenty of beer and all of the tasty tailgate snacks. Be sure to store the food in waterproof containers like Tupperware, or pack the food in one cooler with frozen blue ice packs, and store the beverages in another cooler with bags of real ice.
Rubbermaid 50 Qt 5-Day Wheeled Cooler ($41)
You don’t want to end up in a parking lot miles away where no one else is tailgating, so be sure to head to your tailgate destination several hours before kickoff. If it’s a big game day, the parking lot will fill up more quickly—plan accordingly. Once you’ve arrived, take the time to set up a proper party. Cover a folding table with a whimsical tablecloth, put out a vase with sunflowers, and tie a few balloons to your car’s hood.
Office Star Products 4-ft. Folding Table ($83)
If you make everything in advance, you can use a grill to warm things. Assemble this buffalo chicken dip the morning of the tailgate, then store at room temperature in a cool place. When you arrive at the tailgate, warm the foil-covered dip on a covered grill.
Once your dip is hot, grill up a bunch of finger-licking-good bacon-wrapped shrimp. Your tailgate guests won’t be able to eat just one of these salty pork bites!
There’s no better tailgate cocktail than a classic Bloody Mary. Bring all the fixings, and let your friends adjust the heat and garnish to their heart’s desire.
After a long day of football, you won’t want to deal with bringing a bunch of dirty dishes home, so fill your car with portable plates and compostable utensils. Solo cups, a crucial element of playing the tailgate game flip cup, come in all sorts of colors, so if the traditional red is your rival team’s shade, seek out the correct color to support yours.
Solo Party Cups, Blue 9 oz. 50 ct. ($6)
For the main course, you can’t go wrong with a hearty pot of chili. Make the chili the night before the big game, and heat it over a camping stove. Serve in disposable bowls or paper coffee mugs.
No tailgate menu is complete without a delectable dessert. Chocolate brownies are a no-brainer and instant crowd-pleaser.
Games are essential to a successful tailgate, so get your hands on a beer pong table stat! Host a tournament and play a couple of rounds of flip cup. Get everyone involved by playing boys versus girls, old people versus young people, or hosting team versus visiting team. Packing a football for a little catch is also a great idea.
GoPong 8-Foot Portable Beer Pong/Tailgate Tables ($73)
Opening photo: Hector Sanchez
What's on your agenda for the ultimate tailgate?