With football season right around the corner, fans are ready to get in on the action. True fans know that game day begins with the tailgate party. We have the tips you must know before you go, including where to park, what to wear, what to serve and more!

Choose Your Spot

Fans of the game know that choosing a tailgating spot is one of the key factors of tailgating success. You want to be close enough to the stadium and the action surrounding game day that you don’t miss out on the excitement. But you want to be far enough away that you can claim your “own” spot. And every stadium is different. (No pressure!)

  • Your Parking Spot — Choose your spot carefully. You will want at least three parking spaces (more, if possible) for the ideal set up: a space for your vehicle, a space for the food, and a spot for chairs or games.
  • Timing — Don’t expect to roll in an hour before game time and find a spot near the stadium. Many lots fill up by 6 a.m. (or — in some cases — the night before) with fans looking for a good time. Plan ahead, pack beforehand, and get up early so you can spend your morning getting to the right spot.
  • Know the Local Ordinances — Does your city have rules around noise, beverage consumption, grills and open flames? Though many city-wide ordinances are a little more lax on game day, be prepared by knowing the rules ahead of time.

The Set Up

When you arrive at your chosen spot, make it your own by displaying your team colors. Set up your canopy or tent, folding table and canvas chairs. Add a tablecloth and flags in team colors. Make sure you have a plan for disposable items, like plates, cups and empty food containers. Music makes everything more festive, so create a playlist with fun, upbeat music, and connect your phone to a wireless speaker — be sure to charge ahead of time, or choose one that can be plugged into your car’s power system.

Because most tailgate parties are a marathon (not a sprint), bring games to give your crew something to do. Whether you prefer bags/cornhole, ladder toss or throwing a football depends on your friends. If you tailgate week after week, don’t be afraid to throw some new games in the mix from time to time. This is your party — expect people to stop by and play a game or two with you. Meeting fans from both teams is part of the fun!

What to Wear

Teams work hard to make the fans part of the game day action — who doesn’t love a “white out” game (Penn State) or striping the field in black and gold (Iowa)? Check the schedule ahead of time and avoid being the odd man out during the tailgate and the game itself! Also, check stadium rules: Know ahead of time if you can carry in purses, or if you need to have clear stadium bags. (Safety first!)

Depending on what time the game kicks off, you could be tailgating for a few hours or there all day. Check the weather forecast ahead of time and come prepared for local weather. You will want to keep water-resistant parkas on hand if rain is in the forecast, or down jackets and gloves when the temperatures dip. Consider dressing in layers for the more temperate days — you can add and remove clothing as the weather changes. 

The Food

From burgers and brats, to steaks and pulled pork sandwiches, every school has its own brand of game day fare. No matter what you choose to serve, make sure you have a plan to keep foods at safe temperatures — know how you will keep hot foods hot, and cold foods (and beverages) cold. In addition, consider some ideas from the tailgating pros:

  • Cut veggies and slice cheese and relishes ahead of time. Store in plastic grab-and-go containers. Just don’t forget to grab them when you go!
  • Keep a stash of travel-sized condiments ready.
  • Bring bubble ice packs to keep dips and condiments cold. Seriously, nothing is worse than warm chip dip on a hot day!
  • Remember chip clips — you never know, the bags might not be empty at game time.
  • It’s never a bad idea to have water on hand. Freeze water bottles so they can double as ice cubes in your cooler (that you can drink later – bonus!)
  • Always tailgate with a clean grill grate. Forgot your brush? Crumple some foil and pinch with tongs for a handy DIY grate brush.
  • Grilling burgers? Keep the juices in — make a thumbprint in the center of the burger before putting it on the grill. Burgers will be juicy and won’t puff up in the center.
  • Chili is another great staple; it can be eaten on its own, or with dogs, burgers and nachos. Keep it at the ideal temp with a Crock Pot. If cooling or heating with Crock Pots, be sure you have access to extension cords and a power source. (Plan ahead for this one!)

If you intend to grill, have a plan for how you will cool and store the grill during the game. If using charcoal, bring plenty of water to douse the flame before leaving the grill unattended.

Now Go Enjoy the Game!

Need even more advice on what to bring to make your tailgate one to remember? Download (and laminate) our handy tailgating checklist that you can use week after week when you’re preparing for game day. And remember — no matter how your team does that afternoon, everyone wins the pre-game (with the right preparation!)