How to Throw an Amazing Tailgate Party
Are you considering throwing a tailgate party for you and your friends? Not sure where to start? I’ve done a lot of tailgating, so I thought I’d run down some general thoughts and tips that I think might help you.
What is a tailgate party?
This might sound silly, but one of the biggest google search terms around the word tailgating is “What is a tailgate party?” So I think it’s a good idea to explain what a tailgate party actually is.
A tailgate party is a gathering of people, usually at a sporting event, at which various beverages and/or food are consumed. This is usually done before or after the event, and might involve a truck tailgate, but now has evolved into a lot more.
People can spend thousands of dollars putting on a tailgate party and many corporations host tailgates for their clients before they send them into the game.
Where will you be tailgating?
Where will you be tailgating? Will you be hosting the tailgate party in the parking lot of a stadium or in your backyard?
If you are hosting your group at the stadium, make sure to check out what rules and regulations apply to that venue. Some stadiums have restrictions on what types of grills and coolers they will allow. They might also restrict where you can tailgate. Sometimes it is best before you purchase parking passes to check with the general information line and tell them this is your first time doing a tailgate. They are usually very helpful, but sometimes you might want to talk to a manager or director that knows the scene.
The next thing you want to think about is how many people will be planning on coming to your tailgate. If you are only hosting a small group of 5-10 people, a cooler packed with drinks and snacks might be enough. If someone really likes to grill, you can purchase one of these portable grills. It even comes with a lot of the supplies you’ll need for your smaller tailgate.
If you are hosting a larger group, keep reading. It will take some additional planning but tailgating with a large group can be one of the best ways to kick off a game day.
If you are expecting 15 people or more, you’ll want to probably think about catering your event – unless someone in the group loves to smoke meats and/or grill. Keep in mind that most smoked meats take a while to cook, so those might have to be done beforehand.
That brings me to first tailgate party pro tip: prep your foods as much as possible before your event. When you get to the tailgate, you might not have as much time as you expected. And most people would like some time to relax a bit during the tailgate. The more you knock out before your event, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your tailgate party with your friends.
If you decide to cater the event, get a general headcount of how many can make it and decide what kind of food you want to bring in. If your tailgating guests are coming in from out of town, they might want a taste of the food in the area. So if you’re in the southwest, maybe you’d want to go Tex-Mex. Tailgating in Philly? Maybe bring in some cheese steaks.
Check with a few local restaurants around the stadium and ask them if they will come and set everything up for you. This is a huge help as you’ll be doing other things like decorating and coordinating pickup/drop off as well.
BBQ is always a good option, and can be easy to serve. A good mix of 2-3 different meats and some large helpings of side dishes should get you covered. You can sometimes find places that will come out, set up, serve and even clean up for the right price. It wouldn’t hurt to go by and sample the menu before to make sure they know what they are doing when it comes to BBQ.
It’s also a good idea to pick food that is already cut up. Sometimes people might be standing and eating, so you’ll want to get something that they won’t need a knife to eat.
Depending on the food you pick out and how they present it, you can expect anywhere from a $5-$20/per person cost for catering your event. Again, this can vary widely depending on if they are setting up the food themselves or you are picking it and setting up yourself?
You’ll want a few tables as well depending on how many people you think might sit down and eat. It’s also a good idea to get a few taller cocktail tables so people will have somewhere to set down their drinks and plates while they are standing.
You’ll also want table cloths (some rental companies will provide these with the tables) or you can pick up some of your own. I’m a big fan of THESE because they don’t blow away and look great too. You can also purchase table cloths featuring team logos and colors at Party City. They will have other decorations too, including napkins/plates/balloons etc.
If you have the taller cocktail tables, putting out some barstools like these would be a good option as well. You can also place these barstools behind a row of chairs facing a TV to give people more seating options while they are watching other events.
Protection from the Elements
Canopies are always a good idea when you are hosting a tailgate. It keeps food cooler and keeps people out of the sun. The typical pop up canopy is 10 foot square and will comfortably fit around 5-10 people. If you have a table for your food, that will take up some room, so plan for an extra canopy for food and drinks.
With canopies, I’m a big believer in you get what you pay for. They are a little more expensive, but I love the Eurmax brand of canopies. They aren’t cheaply made and will replace parts if they happen to break. THIS LINK will give you a great package that comes with sandbags (to keep the canopy from flying off) and a few walls as well.
If you have a huge group, you might want to think about bringing in a larger canopy like the one shown in the picture on the right. A rental company will charge you around $600 for a 20×20 so plan your budget accordingly.
If the weather will be cold, it might be a good idea to add some canopy walls and few tank-top heaters like THIS ONE. Cutting down the wind can be a huge factor is making your tailgate more enjoyable.
Many rental companies will also rent stand up heaters as well, but keep in mind these will usually have to placed outside the canopies.
What kind of crowd are you hosting? A few coolers of beer and water is definitely the easiest, but if you are looking to really impress, a nicely stocked bar can make for a great tailgate. Find out what type of group will be attending your tailgate. You might also consider hiring a bartender to work your tailgate.
Tailgate Party Pro Tip: If it is hot, people tend to drink different types of alcohol then when it’s cold. Make sure to adjust your supplies accordingly.
If you are hosting out-of-towners, find a few local liquors or wines and include them. If you contact the companies directly (and depending on the size of your tailgate) you might even get them to throw a few bottles in for free.
Are kids coming? Juice boxes or Capri Suns are a huge hit for the kids, so if they are coming, make sure to have something for them as well.
What will your guests be doing at the tailgate? It’s always a good idea to have some sort of TV setup to watch other games that day. Find out what is on that day and determine what type of TV setup you’ll need. Will you need satellite because the big game is on ESPN? Check out ways you can get TV at your tailgate by clicking HERE.
If there is not a lot on TV (maybe you’re attending a Monday Night Football game) you might be ok with just getting a decent PA speaker with a bluetooth connection for playing music.
It’s also a good idea to have a few tailgating games like cornhole, washers or a football to toss around.
Make sure you give everyone attending directions on where they will park and how they can find your tailgate in the parking lot. You can fly your company flag/banners or tie balloons to vehicles around your tailgate to make it easily recognizable.
So to summarize the above, I put together a checklist of sorts that might help you when you are planning. What you’ll need to figure out:
- Venue – rules and regulations
- Food – grilling or catered?
- Setup – tables, chairs, decorations, etc.
- Shade/cover – Do you need a canopy? Fans? Heaters?
- Beverages – what will you be serving? Beer? Liquor? Both?
- Entertainment – TVs and tailgating games?
That’s a decent start to a tailgate party. What did I miss? Feel free to leave a comment below and I can update the post with additional tips as they come up. Thanks again for checking us out and enjoy your tailgate!