Knowing how to properly tailgate is a key component to a memorable night. Tailgating is a sort of mini-party that takes place in the parking lots of large events, such as sporting events and concerts. Tailgate parties get their name from how the party is centered: around the tailgate (or back) of a pick-up truck. These parties typically involve cooking on a small grill and having a few drinks out of the back of a truck. A good tailgate party can set the tone for an unforgettable of cheering your team on or watching your favorite artist in concert. How can you make sure that you have the ultimate tailgate experience? Here are a few pointers to step up your tailgating game:
Arriving in Style
Showing up anything but early to the venue parking lot pretty much guarantees a less than optimal spot. Try to arrive four hours before the event starts so you can set up and start cooking. If you eat about 2 hours before the event starts, you'll have plenty of time to socialize and clean up before heading in.
Bring The Right Vehicle
I mean, sure you can tailgate out of a hatchback or sedan, but for the ultimate tailgate experience, you need a pick-up truck. After all, tailgate parties get their name because they take place around the back of the truck. If you don't have a truck, see if you can't borrow a friend's truck who'd be willing to tailgate with you.
Don't Trust The Weather Report
While you can be sure that they'll get the temperature range right, you can't be sure the weatherman won't wrongfully predict a sunny day. The weather is extremely dynamic, that's why weathermen can only at best predict it. Bring a canopy to ensure your tailgate doesn't get ruined. Bonus points if the canopy boasts your teams colors. Even if it is a sunny day, everyone will enjoy the shade.
Hosting a tailgate without doing prep work the night before is a recipe for disaster. You'll feel rushed, your food likely won't taste as good, and you may not even finish tailgating before the event starts. Here's what you want to have done before going to sleep:
- Marinate your meats
- Label coolers (soda, beer, meat, etc)
- Freeze water bottles
- Load up your car with the non-perishables (coal, grill, trash bags, condiments, etc)
Now is not the time to get lazy. When you prepare you become the tailgate king or queen! Create a preparation checklist that works for you every time. Before you know it getting ready will be second nature and you won't be that guy standing around hoping to borrow some propane.
Throwing a memorable tailgate party by oneself can take the fun out of the actual party. Instead of spending the entire time managing everything, delegate tasks to the folks who came with you. For example, you can have your spouse or kids serve food while you take charge of the grill. If you're a bachelor/et, ask your friends for help with certain tasks such as pouring drinks. No one will mind. In fact it makes them more a part of the event.
Make Your Drink Selection Diverse
First and foremost, you must have ample amounts of water, specially if it's a hot day out. One neat trick is to freeze many bottles of water the night before and use them to keep your coolers cool. As the ice melts and the day progresses, you'll have ice cold water. You'll want to bring a diverse alcohol selection, but you also want to be mindful of the weather. If its cold out, consider warmer drinks, such as hot buttered rum. For warmer climates, a long island iced tea or screwdriver over ice is perfect. Bonus points if you make jello shots in your team's colors. Whoever is in charge of drinks may want to monitor how much people drink so things don't get out of hand. I know I have missed a game or two keeping track of a friend who forgot this was just the beginning of a long day of fun!
Bring Enough Food
A good tailgate party has enough food to feed your guests and then some. Try to cover all the bases: salty, sweet, savory, etc. Putting your food in tinfoil pans can keep it warm and save you some hassle on clean-up. You might consider bringing:
- Hamburgers or hotdogs to keep it simple. A smoked pig is great if you have the equipment to make it happen!
- Condiments and bread for hamburgers and hot dogs. Make sure this is on the list. Everyone has a favorite of their own
- Steak, chicken breast, and sausage are pretty much a stadium standard
- Cupcakes decorated to match your event. Don't judge me, miniature anything is awesome and you sure as heck cant beat miniature cake! You might be laughing now, but wait until you are surrounded by people who want to taste your sweets! I have never got as much attention as I do with some nicely decorated cupcakes.
- Side dishes, such as macaroni or baked beans
- Potato chips
Bring Proper Cooking Tools
Without proper cooking tools, your tailgate party could go awry. When bringing tools always try to bring extras in case something breaks. Try to bring a quality portable grill that won't fall apart on you in the middle of your tailgate. I personally bring the propane-powered Coleman RoadTrip LXE to all my tailgates. Having a propane grill comes in handy since some events don't allow charcoal grills (check your local listings). One of the things that can be a game changer for tailgating is a portable generator. It isn't something you will want to invest in right away but something you will want to start saving for once you have purchased all the necessities.
Having music in your tailgate area adds a nice touch to the atmosphere. Be mindful that your music isn't too loud or that your lyrics are not obscene; you wouldn't want to ruin someone else's tailgate. Many folks play music right from their cars, but this can drain the battery. I recommend bringing a portable generator to hook up a small sound system to. The added bonus of a generator is a power source if you need one.
Games are a fantastic way to pass the time while everyone is waiting for the event to start. One game you'll see often at tailgate parties is cornhole. Other game ideas include ladder toss and trivia. Depending on the crowd you're with, you can even include a few drinking games like beer pong.
Make Your Spot Look Nice
In case you haven't noticed I am all about cool points. Your tailgate's appearance is the first thing people notice. It's a good idea to compartmentalize so that your guests know where to go for food or drinks. Color coordinating your spot to match your team's colors is always a good idea. Keeping trashcans around will keep your spot clean and speed up the cleaning process after.
You'll be surrounded by dozens of tailgate parties at any event. Being amicable towards your parking lot mates can go a long way in creating the ideal atmosphere.
Leaving a mess for others to clean up isn't a good way to represent your team. If you took precautions such as keeping one or two trash bins around cleaning up won't be too hard. Depending on how much traffic your tailgate had, plan to start cleaning thirty minutes to an hour before heading in.
These are just a few quick ideas. What do you do to make your tailgating experience the most memorable? Leave your ideas in the comments below and check out our other reviews and recipes on the home page.