Tailgate Party 101: What It Is, How to Do It & Why It’s a Lifestyle

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 31, 2022

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A tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating, which originated in the United States, often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties usually occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. People attending such a party are said to be tailgating.

Let’s look at the history, what it’s like, and why it’s so popular.

What is a tailgate party

The Ultimate Guide to Tailgating: Everything You Need to Know

A tailgate party is a social event held in the parking lot of a sports stadium or outdoor event. It’s a time for fans to gather, eat, drink, and get excited for the game or event ahead. The term “tailgate” comes from the tradition of people gathering around the open tailgate of a pickup truck to enjoy food and drinks before a game. Today, tailgating has become a popular American pastime and a perfect opportunity to gather with friends and family.

Getting Ready for the Party

To host a great tailgate party, you need to be prepared. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

  • Make sure you have the right supplies: This includes a grill, cooler, chairs, tables, and any other items you need to make your party a success.
  • Bring plenty of food and drinks: Tailgating is all about the food, so make sure you have plenty of grilled meats (here are the best types to smoke), snacks, and drinks to share with your guests.
  • Get there early: Parking spots can fill up quickly, so make sure you arrive early to secure a good spot.
  • Bring some games: Tailgating isn’t just about eating and drinking. It’s also a chance to play some games and have some fun before the event.

The Excitement of Tailgating

Tailgating is more than just a pregame party. It’s a chance to feel the excitement and camaraderie of being a fan. Here are some of the things that make tailgating so special:

  • The opportunity to gather with friends and family: Tailgating is a social event, and it’s a great chance to spend time with the people you love.
  • The chance to show off your team spirit: Tailgating is the perfect time to wear your team’s colors and show your support.
  • The incredible food: Grilled meats, snacks, and drinks are all part of the tailgating experience, and they’re absolutely delicious.
  • The music: Tailgating often involves music, and it’s a great way to get pumped up for the game.

It’s More Than Just a Party: Tailgating is a Lifestyle

Tailgating is not just about consuming grilling food and alcoholic beverages in the parking lots. It’s a lifestyle that fans have embraced for decades. The idea behind tailgating is to create a sense of community and camaraderie among fans of a particular team. It’s a way to bond with fellow fans, share stories, and get pumped up for the game.

The Cleanup

After the game, it’s important to clean up after yourself. Make sure to bring trash bags and cleanup wipes to dispose of any garbage. Leaving the parking lot cleaner than you found it is a great way to show respect for the environment and other fans.

Throwing the Ultimate Tailgate Party: Tips and Tricks

  • Grilled meat is a staple at any tailgate party, so make sure to bring plenty of it. Consider bringing a mix of beef, turkey (here’s how to smoke it), and bacon to cater to everyone’s taste.
  • Don’t forget to include side dishes such as loaded potatoes or spicy apple slaw to complement the meat.
  • Bring enough water to keep everyone hydrated and cool. It’s also a good idea to have a cooler close by to store drinks.
  • Check consumption laws in your area and make sure to follow them. Safety should always be a top priority.
  • When preparing food, make sure to properly clean utensils and containers to avoid any food-borne illnesses.

Setting Up

  • Set up your tailgate party area ahead of time to allow for easy and convenient access.
  • Make sure to bring gear such as chairs, tables, and a grill. The bigger the group, the larger the gear you’ll need.
  • Choose a spot that is outside of the main traffic area to avoid any accidents.
  • Connect with other groups around you to make new friends and have a good time.

Games and Entertainment

  • Plan ahead and bring games such as cornhole or ladder toss to keep people entertained.
  • Set up a TV to watch the game if you’re not going to the stadium.
  • Play some music to keep the party going.

Getting Started

  • Allow yourself enough time to prepare and set up before the big day.
  • Research recipes and find the perfect one that brings your dream tailgate party to life.
  • Don’t get carried away and make sure to pay attention to the time. You don’t want to miss the game!
  • If you’re new to tailgating, ask for advice from experienced tailgaters. They might have some super helpful tips.

The Key to a Successful Tailgate Party

  • The key to a successful tailgate party is to have fun and enjoy the moment.
  • Make sure everyone feels welcome and placed in a comfortable setting.
  • Be careful with consumption and make sure everyone is able to continue having a good time.
  • Realize that things might not go according to plan, but that’s okay. It’s all about the experience and the memories you’ll create.

Grub and Guzzle: The Food and Drink of Tailgating

When it comes to tailgating, food is just as important as the game itself. Grilling is a popular method of cooking, and meat is a certain favorite among tailgaters. Hot dogs (smoke them with these woods), hamburgers, and sausages are commonly consumed, but other foods like seafood, baked potatoes, and cold salads are also popular. Some tailgaters even bring their own brand of products to share with others. Here are some of the most popular food staples at a tailgate party:

  • Hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages
  • Seafood, especially in subtropical Southern states like Atlanta
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cold salads like coleslaw and potato salad
  • Snacks like tortilla chips, guacamole, and pimento cheese
  • Fried foods like chicken wings and onion rings

Alcoholic and Soft Beverages

Tailgating is not just about the food, but also about the drinks. Alcoholic beverages are a staple at tailgate parties, but it’s important to remember to drink responsibly. Many tailgaters bring their own brand of beer or liquor to share with others. Soft drinks are also popular, especially for those who prefer not to consume alcohol. Here are some of the most popular alcoholic and soft beverages at a tailgate party:

  • Beer, especially local brews
  • Liquor, like whiskey and vodka
  • Wine, especially for those who prefer a more sophisticated drink
  • Soft drinks like soda and lemonade
  • Water, to stay hydrated during consumption

Shared Food

Tailgating is all about sharing, and that includes food. Many tailgaters bring enough food to share with others, and it’s not uncommon for strangers to become friends over a plate of hot dogs or a cold beer. Some tailgaters even organize potluck-style meals where everyone brings a dish to share. Here are some shared food items that are always a hit at a tailgate party:

  • Pimento cheese, a Southern staple
  • Palmetto cheese, a popular brand of pimento cheese
  • Guacamole and tortilla chips
  • Fried chicken wings
  • Cold salads like potato salad and coleslaw

Get Your Game On: Tailgating Fun Beyond the Grill

When it comes to tailgating, games are just as important as the food and drinks. Here are some classic tailgating games that never go out of style:

  • Ladder Golf: This game involves throwing bolas (two balls connected by a string) onto a ladder-shaped target. It’s easy to learn and can be played by people of all ages.
  • Washer Pitching: This game is similar to horseshoes, but instead of using horseshoes, players toss washers into a box. It’s a great game for small groups and can be played in a small space.
  • Giant Dominoes: Take the classic game of dominoes to the next level by making them bigger! You can either buy giant dominoes or make your own with some wood and paint.

Homemade Tailgating Boards

Tailgating boards are a great way to add some personality to your tailgate. Here are some ideas:

  • Cornhole: This classic tailgating game involves tossing bean bags onto a board with a hole in it. You can either buy a cornhole board or make your own with some wood and paint.
  • Polish Horseshoes: This game involves throwing a Frisbee at a bottle on top of a pole. You can make your own Polish horseshoes set with some PVC pipe and a few other materials.
  • Washer Toss: Similar to washer pitching, this game involves tossing washers into a box. You can make your own washer toss board with some wood and paint.

So, whether you’re playing classic tailgating games or making your own DIY games and boards, there’s no shortage of fun to be had at a tailgate party. Just remember to bring your A-game!


So there you have it- everything you need to know about tailgate parties. They’re a great way to get together with friends before a game and have some fun before the game. You can also learn a lot about the culture of the team you’re rooting for. So don’t be afraid to throw your own!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.