You might be tailgating for a few hours, or you might be setting up shop in the morning in anticipation of an exciting night game. However long you’re planning on popping down the tail of the truck (or whether or not you even have a truck), you’ll need some tailgating food ideas and tailgate game ideas to keep the party moving.
In a rush? Check out our ultimate tailgating checklist—that way you don’t forget anything during rush out the door. And it should go without saying, but don’t tailgate without repping in your team t-shirt.
Ultimate Tailgating Checklist
- Team t-shirt or team sweatshirt. You can’t be the leader of the tailgate without also being the #1 fan. And you definitely can’t be the #1 fan by showing up in pants and a denim jacket. Invest in team spirit to set the right mood for the tailgate. If you want something better than a t-shirt or sweatshirt, check out some ideas for wacky tailgate outfits.
- Food and drinks. More on tailgating food ideas below.
- Proper heating and cooling devices. If things are going to get frosty, personal heaters and a whole bunch of blankets will be essential. If things are warm, pack up with plenty of ice and maybe some shades and personal fans.
- Seating. Is everyone responsible for bringing their own chair? Or are you providing them for the group? Either way, you might want to take as many chairs as you can pack.
- Utensils, cups, paper towels, and trash bags. Napkins are light and fluffy, easily blowing away when you’re not watching them. Opt for paper towels to let everyone wipe the wing sauce off their happy mouths. It’s not an ultimate tailgating checklist without paper towels. You’ll also need utensils and cups to deliver the goods to people, and plenty of trash bags to keep things clean.
- Music. Bluetooth speakers are cool, but there are even better ways to deliver the music. Investing in a record player, cassette boombox, or CD player gives you a great, retro way of delivering sound. Plus, you’ll completely sidestep Mr. “let me play a song.” His antics won’t even begin to work on your record player or boombox. Need some inspiration for the best tailgating music? Check out this list of 10 great but cliche tailgating songs.
- Face paint or temporary tattoos. These are awesome tailgating party favors that get your whole crew on the same page. It’s a fun tailgating activity that adds team spirit, momentum, and carries over into the game.
Tailgating Food Ideas
Not a tailgating classic, but can you really explain why it isn’t? Breakfast is relatively cheap, loaded with delicious options, and easy to make for a whole bunch of people at the same time. If you want to set up a whole food buffet line, you could make breakfast burritos for the whole team. On a different level, chicken and waffles may be the best sports meal that exists. Waffles are pretty easy to make on site with some batter and a waffle maker, and you can outsource the fried chicken if you need to. Douse with some syrup and butter and you’ll fill up everyone before they get in. If you eat chicken and waffles at a tailgate, you won’t even need to spend loads of money on a snack once you’re in the stadium. Plus, you’re the tailgate that had chicken and waffles.
Chipotle is famous for making tasty bowls of rice, beans, salsa, and meat. Your tailgate could also be famous for the burrito bowls. They’re a perfect tailgate option, whether you find yourself in the middle of Southern California heat or on the east coast in the middle of freezing cold temperatures. Just name the bowls after your team mascot, even if it’s a weird one. Pick one meat and focus on grilling or smoking that. You can bring the rice, beans, salsa, corn, veggies, lettuce, and guac from home—or better yet, assign each person coming to the tailgate to bring one of those items! Burrito bowls are a great way to enlist a little extra help from your friends.
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Once you’ve run out of tailgating food ideas, you’ll need some tailgating activities and tailgate game ideas to keep everyone entertained. Don’t force it, and keep in mind that if you don’t love doing it then other people probably won’t either.
If you tailgate often, you need to come up with some superstitions and rituals that you and your friends are convinced will help the team win. Even if it is something simple, like pouring one out for the kicker or setting up a picture of the coach, it can be an entertaining way to run the atmosphere of the tailgate. Need some inspiration? Check out the best rituals, superstitions, and traditions that pro athletes use.
If you have enough people, and you’ve got the right crowd for it, you could also run a bar trivia game! Pair everyone up and hand out scorecards. Of course, this will require a good bit of pre-game work on your part. You could either make up your own questions and theme it after your team and your city, or look up some generic bar trivia questions and make it funny.
Set up a prize and play a team-related bingo! You can get a ton of different free bingo sports cards online, or even look for a card that relates to your favorite. If the prize is something that everyone wants, like a team-related accessory, things could get interesting. Plus, it’s easy to play bingo while enjoying the food at the same time.
Let everyone get into the spirit of the game by bringing face paint and allowing everyone to paint each other’s faces! It’s a great way to pass the time while you’re waiting for the gates to open and the game to start. Plus, even non-football fans can get excited about cheering on the team once their face gets filled with paint (or a tasteful temporary tattoo). Wondering how your favorite college team got its color?
Competitive with your friends? Competition can get your emotions fired up and bring the whole crew together before you scream your hearts out for the home team, and cornhole may be the best tailgating game that has ever been invented. All you need is a pair of boards and a handful of beanbags, so it’s easy to take with you and easy to set up. Also, you can play cornhole in jean shorts and a tank top or bundled from head to toe to avoid the chilly temperatures. You don’t get sweaty, yet it counts as an athletic activity. Plus, cornhole comes in your favorite team’s logo and colors. You can even eat food and play!
For people that are tired of tossing bean bags but still want to toss something at something else, there’s ladder toss. Ladder toss is a game much like cornhole with two racks on each side, each with a variety of rungs on the ladder. Teams throw a single object, two balls with string that attaches them, trying to get the ball and rope to hook onto the ladder at the other side. It’s even smaller and more portable than cornhole and a great substitute if you're looking for games to play when tailgating at home!