Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls–it’s that coveted time of year once again. The autumnal season, when the days get shorter, the breeze gets cooler, and tailgating festivities begin! Now, it’s easy to throw an average-to-mediocre parking lot party–it takes almost zero effort to simply show up with some Coors Light and a bag of chips (chips optional). But with just a little bit of preparation, you can take your tailgate from decent to dominating in no time!
1. Have a Well-Stocked Beverage Selection
It is easy to neglect hydration when there are greater things at stake (such as your home team’s record), and it’s even easier to contribute to your own dehydration by imbibing on sugary and/or alcoholic beverages. As such, it’s a wise idea to stock some coolers with water (hey, you’ll thank me for this suggestion later!) and some non-alcoholic beverages (juices, sodas, smoothies–whatever) for those who won’t be indulging. And ice–don’t forget plenty of ice,ice baby.
When it comes to beer, wine, and cocktails, variety is the spice of life. Encourage your friends/frenemies/fellow tailgaters to bring their own drinks whenever possible. If you are feeling generous and/or have been selected to provide the majority of the booze, remember to mix it up. Hard alcohol like vodka or whiskey will mingle well with some of the non-alcoholic beverages mentioned earlier. Beer is the Beverage King of tailgating, and you’d be wise to grab a variety of brews (light, dark, local, etc.), as there is never too much of a good thing here. Wine is pretty simple; grab a red and a white–anybody more picky than that can bring their own.
2. Provide Actual Food (bowls of ketchup or mustard and mini-olives do not count)
It’s a known and non-negotiable fact that if you want to have a successful tailgating experience, there needs to be good food. Again, utilize the people that you have joining you, and ask them to bring a side dish (note that this implies more than just chips…at least you’ll get some dip out of the deal too). Great (inexpensive) options include chili, pasta salad, rolls (with butter!), and macaroni and cheese.
Should you find yourself responsible for the big feeding-of-the-evening, nothing beats barbecuing some hamburgers and hot-dogs on a portable grill. If grilling isn’t an option, go the taco route. Just cook the meat beforehand and keep it as warm as possible until serving. Spaghetti, fried chicken, and pizza are all also outstanding make-ahead options. Just make sure there is more than enough food–football games are long, and hangry people are intolerable.
3. It’s the Little Things In Life…
Like forks. And plates. And napkins. These little (easily forgettable) details can mean the difference between eating comfortably and awkwardly watching people try to eat potato salad out of their own cupped hand. Don’t forget an abundance of cups and trash-bags, as you’ll undoubtedly never have enough of either.
4. Show Some Spirit!
The love of the game is, after all, what brings out the tailgater in all of us. So naturally, you have to go all out! Paint your face, put on your favorite jersey (sleeves optional), and wear some thematically appropriate jewelry (like the infamous beads pictured above). Without team spirit, tailgating is just a giant parking lot picnic. Let’s be honest, it’s not that hard to “sport” team hues in pretty much any capacity, from the roof (or shelter) over your head to the Koozie in your hand. Stick with your teams primary colors and/or logo, and you’ll be fanning it up in no time.
5. Bust a Move!
In what is sure to be a game-changer for everybody involved in your tailgating escapades, please remember to bring music in some capacity. If you have the technology (and the big screen) available to actually watch the game from the parking lot, this will be as simple as bringing a docking station of some sort. If you’re going to tune in to a local radio station to actually listen to the game (read: you have no T.V.) make sure to have some alternative music source. Nobody enjoys awkward silences, and music covers a multitude of sins.
So, there you have it–5 winning ways to up your tailgate game! Now, go rule the parking lot while proudly supporting your team.