This guide is all about tailgating for beginners. We’ll help you organize an ultimate tailgating checklist so you have everything you need, whether you are tailgating with a truck or tailgating without a car. We’ll also include tailgate game ideas and tailgating safety tips.
Congratulations, you’re going to your first tailgate! But what exactly is tailgating? Basically it’s a party held in the parking lot of a stadium or arena and people grill food, drink alcohol, and play games before the main event starts (usually a football game).
So maybe some friends are traveling in to town and one of the things they want to do is tailgate. Or maybe you’re traveling to a new city and decided that part of experiencing the city would be to catch a game while you are there. Or still, maybe you traveled specifically to a city to watch a game and even though you’ve tailgated before, you are in a new place and are out of your element. Either way, after reading our tailgating tips and tricks you will feel ready to tailgate!
Essentially, tailgating involves vehicles (hence the name), but that doesn’t mean you need one. What if you’re traveling and don’t have a car? What if you don’t want to pay for parking? What if its your first time and you just don’t know what to do?? That’s ok! We’re going to show you how to tailgate without a car.
The first thing we recommend is a small cooler with wheels and a handle. You’ll be able to bring along your own drinks and snacks easily. Freeze some water bottles to help keep the cooler cold and pack some sandwiches and chips. We’ve gone to tailgates even though we didn’t have tickets to the game and a cooler like this was a lifesaver as we hung out in the parking lot listening to the game over the radio. If you are going in to the stadium though, you won’t be able to take your cooler, so make sure you have a friend that can store it for you.
Next, make sure you have a clear tote bag. The NFL enforces a strict stadium bag policy that limits the size and type of bag that can be brought into a stadium so make sure your bag is clear and does not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″ (small clutch bags are still allowed). Since you are tailgating without a car you will be traveling light, but you will still want a bag to keep some stuff in.
A third tailgate item we recommend is a folding chair. You are going to be there a few hours, so better to not be on your feet that whole time. You’ll want a chair that is light too since you’ll be carrying it to and from the stadium. Again, make sure a friend can store it if you plan on going into the stadium after the tailgate.
A tailgate that we went to without a car was for Superbowl LI in Houston, Texas. It wasn’t a traditional tailgate, per say, but we traveled to Houston for it because there were plenty of activities, concerts, and food. For the nine days before the Superbowl, there were food trucks, live performances, and games in an area that was about the size of 13 football fields. It was free to enter too, so we went and really enjoyed the festivities.
Since you are tailgating without a vehicle, most likely you will be getting dropped off by a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft. Most stadiums now have designated drop off areas for these services, so keep that in mind if you are meeting friends. Look ahead at the layout of the stadium and/or area and if you want to be dropped off at a specific place, make sure you work that out with your driver ahead of time.
If you are tailgating with a truck, you will obviously be able to bring more to the party!
This part of our tailgating for beginners guide is mostly going to focus on tailgate food and cooking. Try to get most of your meal prepping done at home; this includes chopping, marinating, and the forming of burger patties. We recommend having at least two bigger coolers, one for drinks and one for food. If you can have a third cooler for the raw food, even better. Make sure that when you pack your coolers that you place whatever you will need first on top.
Make sure your grill and BBQ utensils are clean before you start to tailgate and think about the best way to pack up and take home a dirty grill. Have the appropriate amount of fuel you’ll need to last you throughout the party, because it’d be embarrassing to run out! Also, it’s a good idea to have finger foods and snacks ready for people to munch on while the grill is getting ready.
Have a couple of tables to be able to spread out the food and drinks. You may also want to consider a portable food warmer.
Plan on getting to the stadium/arena early so you have plenty of time to set up. Keep in mind that there will be traffic, so think ahead to find the best route. If you’re planning on joining other vehicles, try to get there at the same time as some stadium policies enforce directive parking. Once inside, consider the layout of the facilities. Is there running water nearby? Where are the public restrooms?
Assume that everything you take with you to the tailgate will also be going home with you. We recommend using plastic table clothes because they look nice and it makes cleaning off tables a breeze. There may not be trash cans readily available, so take plenty of trash bags and assume you’ll be taking trash home with you too. Nothing should be left behind when you leave; don’t be that guy!
Besides the food and drinks, a big part of tailgating is playing games with friends. The obvious tailgate drinking game is beer pong, but we’re going to suggest some family friendly tailgate games. These games are important to have at your tailgate since there may be kids around or there may be people in your group that don’t drink. Games that are popular at tailgates and that we always see people playing are cornhole, ring toss, and some kind of disk or Frisbee throwing.
Whether you’re tailgating without a car or with a truck, always keep an eye on your belongings. Go slow in parking lots, whether you are driving or walking; other drivers and/or pedestrians might not be paying attention to where they are going. It’s a good idea to have a first aid kit and a small fire extinguisher, just in case things get a little crazy with the grill.
Keep an eye on your food and make sure it is kept at the right temperature; getting sick at a game is no fun! The sun might be blazing, so make sure you have sunblock and are hydrating (with water lol). Never drink and drive! Have a designated driver or use a ridesharing service.
Music livens any party so you might want to bring a portable speaker. For electronics, charge them before you start but also make sure you have a way to charge them once you are tailgating. You might want to invest in a power inverter that you can use with your car.
If the game is in the evening, bring portable lights (preferably solar powered ones so you don’t have to worry about batteries). Keep an eye on the weather and plan accordingly. Bring umbrellas and raincoats for wet weather or pack blankets for cold weather.
Now that you have an idea of the essential tailgate items you need, here is the ultimate tailgate checklist that you can save and print!
So there you go, hopefully you have found this tailgating for beginners guide useful! We hope that you have lots of fun! And if we’ve missed anything or if you have additional tips for our other readers, feel free to leave them in the comments below! 🙂
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