Fall Tailgating Tips and Ideas


Tailgating can be a sport unto itself. There’s nothing like getting geared up to see your favorite team play. Whether you’re just getting started on your tailgating adventures, or consider yourself a tailgating pro, there are a few tips and ideas that will help make the festivities more fun for you and your family and friends.


5 Ideas for the Tailgating Rookie

If you’re new to tailgating, start by keeping the festivities focused on food. Here are five essentials to get the pre-game party started. You’ll find that all of the items fit in the trunk for easy transport.
Portable grill Portable Grill: Food cooked on the grill makes for satisfied taste buds -- and is the standard way to feed your crowd when tailgating. That’s why a portable grill is essential. The latest portable grills look and feel small, but can pack more than 150 square inches of cooking space. Make sure to bring enough charcoal, as most small portable grills tend to use this kind of fuel.
Plastic bins Plastic Bins: Pack a medium plastic bin with everything you need to enjoy your food and drinks. Include hand sanitizer, plates, cups, plastic utensils, paper towels or napkins, and heavy-duty trash bags to toss everything in when you’re finished. Stay a step ahead of the next game by replenishing those items you’ve used soon after returning home.
Pop-Up Canopy: A pop-up canopy makes sure that come rain or shine, you’re ready. There’s instant shade on hot, sunny days, and protection from a steady downpour if it rains. A standard 10 foot x 10 foot canopy offers 100 square feet of space. Look for canopies that have weather-resistant, UV-blocking covers and anchors to keep your temporary tailgating home in place.
Wheel cooler Wheeled Cooler: Wheeled coolers make toting beverages to and from your car a snap. A standard 45-quart cooler will fit easily in your trunk. You can pack the cooler with cans and bottles before leaving home, and pull the cooler to your tailgating space. While ice chunks will do the trick, larger pieces of ice stay frozen longer and will keep your drinks colder, too. Consider “upcycling” larger containers like empty 2-liter bottles, fill with water and freeze them for use as ice “bricks.” You may also want to consider buying a separate bag of ice that’s for use in cups, rather than filling cups with the ice that’s freely floating inside the cooler.
Folding chairs Folding Chairs: Now that you’ve got it made in the shade, folding chairs provide a place to relax after you’ve finished cooking, or simply want to take a break and cool down with an icy beverage. For the easiest transport to and from the car, and to save space, pack folding chairs that come with their own bag. You may also want to consider folding chairs emblazoned with your favorite team’s logo.

6 Ideas for the Varsity Tailgater

If you’ve already got a basic tailgating setup, kick things up a notch with enhancements to your gear and entertainment when you’re on site.
Larger grill A Larger Grill: Upgrade your grill and get a few accessories. With a larger grill, you’ll be able to serve more food to your friends and family. Depending on the size of your new grill, you’ll likely be able to cook all your hot dogs and hamburgers at once. This will save you time since you won’t have to cook your food in shifts. A portable grill with side tables will give you more working room to prep and place food when it’s done. And with the extra grill space, you may want to throw on some veggies -- and pack a few handy accessories like a grill basket or topper to get them cooking. Bring a good set of grill cooking tools that include long-handled tongs, a spatula and a fork. You may even find some of these items in your team’s colors.
Folding table Folding tables: Consider adding a folding table to your setup to accommodate the additional food. A longer table allows you to separate it into zones for easy access to plates, cups and utensils, side dishes and condiments, and cooked food. With two tables, your options expand even more. Use one for food prep, and the other for eating. Make place settings in advance by tying together plasticware and a napkin with a ribbon in your team’s colors.
Portable speakers and radio Portable Speakers and Radios: For the hours before the game kicks off, bring a portable wireless speaker to keep you and your guests entertained. If it’s enabled with Bluetooth technology, you’ll be able to stream and control your music from any Bluetooth-enabled wireless device, like your phone, tablet or PC. Another option is to bring along a heavy-duty radio and MP3 player built for jobsites. You can be sure it will stand up to the occasional spill when you’re at the tailgating site. Make sure to keep your devices charged up and ready to go with an on-the-go charger, or extra batteries.
Bins and Totes: The larger your tailgating setup, the more important it is to think through how you store things on-site and where to put trash. Bring along a utility bin or rope handled tub. They can serve a variety of purposes. Line one with extra large trash bags to serve as a trash can or recycling bin. Or use the tub as an easy-access extra cooler filled with ice and drinks. You can also use the tub for storing snacks like bags of potato chips, or stack it with a few comforts of home such as extra blankets should the weather turn cool.
outdoor lighting Outdoor Lighting: Just because daylight starts to fade doesn’t mean the party has to. LED flashlights and lanterns with handles or magnetic feet mount to just about anything and allow you to light up your tailgating site for hours after the sun has gone down. Consider keeping a lantern near key areas such as the cooler so guests can see what beverage they’re grabbing when it’s dark, or for safety, place one next to trash bins and metal containers where hot ashes have been dumped.
Tailgating games Tailgating Games: Whether you want to go the DIY route, or show your team spirit with a pre-made cornhole toss with your team’s logo, getting in a few friendly games can add another layer of fun when you are tailgating. You can build your own cornhole toss game, or try your hand at making a ladder ball toss game or tailgating game table. Consider bringing a bucket of sidewalk chalk for the kids, or a set of pails into which they can toss a small ball.

5 Ideas for the Tailgating All-Star

The Tailgating All-Star aims to go pro with the pre-party. That means enhanced power options, extra cooking and preparation space, and team spirit galore.
Team gear Team Gear: From gnomes to garden flags, area rugs to banners, showing team spirit is a must for the Tailgating All-Star. And when it comes to celebrating, it’s never too early or late in the season. Put up a Christmas tree that’s literally donning your team’s colors, or adorn it with ornaments specific to the team you’re rooting for. You may also want to deck out a pre-made wreath in ribbon or ornaments to match, and hang it prominently outside your tent or canopy.
Utility Carts: With a large grill in play, you’re likely to have more food to prepare. A utility cart can bring versatility to your tailgating. The wheels make it easy to move your outdoor cooking setup wherever you need it. Use the top for chopping and cutting — perhaps lemons for lemonade, or veggies to put on the grill. The cart’s open storage will keep condiments at hand when you need them and out of the way when you don’t.
Portable generator Portable Generators: To bring the comforts of home to the tailgating site, you’ll need power on-hand. A portable generator can supply power for electronics such as HDTVs, sound systems, portable fans, a mini fridge and more, making them indispensable for the Tailgating All-Star. The latest portable generators offer hours of power and quiet operation -- a normal conversation can be heard over the generator’s hum. For double the power, look for parallel-run compatibility, which allows two generators to run together at the same time. To make sure your party isn’t interrupted, calculate the power output you need and give yourself some wattage cushioning for running a few smaller items if need be. And don’t forget to pack a few heavy-duty extension cords to ensure that power reaches your electronic devices.
Portable heater Portable Heaters: It’s bound to be cool on a few game nights. In addition to wearing extra layers, consider a portable heater to keep you and your guests warm. With a generator on hand, you can plug in your electric heater. Other portable heaters run on propane, and depending on the size of your heater, require a can or tank of propane like you’d use with a grill.
Outdoor Furniture: Although extra folding chairs will ensure there is plenty of seating for guests, consider making your setup even more comfortable with a few pieces of outdoor furniture. A simple sectional or well-padded patio chair are an instant upgrade to your tailgating setup. Outdoor furniture is built to withstand the elements, and can be put to use once you are back at home. Consider bringing a patio umbrella or two to expand your gathering outside of the tailgating canopy. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials, with varying degrees of resistance to moisture and UV rays.
See our Tailgating and DIY Football Party Pinterest board for more ideas.